Calling all small business owners and future crafty entrepreneurs! If you read the Spoonflower Seller Handbook and wanted more tips on how to grow your small business, you’re in luck because today we’re introducing the first installment of our Small Business Handbook. Over the next few months we’ll be welcoming creative entrepreneurs to share how they’ve grown their business through meaningful mission statements, top-notch product photography and so much more. At the end of this series you’ll be fully equipped for success and will even learn how to go about building relationships with Spoonflower designers who can help your products stand out with one-of-a-kind designs.
In article one, we’re talking all about turning your day dream into your day job through action-oriented goals with the help of Shay Spaniola, founder and designer of home décor brand bunglo. After launching her business online and at Neiman Marcus, West Elm, Anthropologie and Bloomingdales in 2014, Shay has made a name for herself and caught the eye of the leaders in the home dec industry and beyond (just one look at her accomplishments and you’ll see why!) We can’t wait for you to get to know this #spoonflowermaker’s story.
Shay: I began my entrepreneurship journey at the age of five by selling my coloring book pages on the playground for a quarter. In third grade, I turned my hemp necklace hobby into a side hustle and started a photography business at the age of 18. I have a passion for creative business and living life like art.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, I received a BFA from the University of Michigan and shortly after graduating, moved to southern Spain to teach english. I spent my 20’s traveling as a documentary photographer and artist.
During a 3-month trip to India and Southeast Asia, I began working with watercolors in a small notebook and turning them into patterns. My first collection was very much inspired by the colors and textures of these places, I named it the Rishikesh Collection, after the small northern town in India where I stayed at an ashram.
When I arrived back in Austin, I found out about Spoonflower and I had printed my favorite designs on the Linen Cotton Canvas. I bought a sewing machine and learned how to sew my first pillow off a youtube tutorial! I ruined my first few samples as I didn’t really know what I was doing so I began practicing on a plain muslin fabric to save money. Once I got my first pillow constructed, I moved to my beautiful Spoonflower fabrics. I tested multiple fabric weights and fell in love with their Silky Faille and Linen Cotton Canvas.
I had created a vision board for my new company – I placed store names on the board such as Neiman Marcus, West Elm, Anthropologie and Bloomingdales. I decided to name the company bunglo, as I realized each country I visited had a different definition of a ‘bungalow’. In India, it’s a river house, in Miami, a beach home, in Chicago, a city dwelling. My goal for the brand was to bring the colors and experiences from abroad into our everyday living spaces to create a global feel with a mid century vibe.
I set out to reach my goal of selling my new pillows to these stores. I started with Anthropologie. As I previously worked there as a visual merchandiser in their Austin store, I tried to contact a few people that still worked there to see if they could help connect me to the pillow buyers. None of my connections played out. I emailed, I searched LinkedIn, I contacted every person I knew who may have been able to help. One day, my Dad mentioned to pick up the phone and call them. I thought this idea was rather crazy – I mean, it couldn’t be that easy! But I did. I picked up the phone, called their 1-800 number and asked for their pillow buyer. A second later, I was transferred to the right department, got their information and sent them a few samples (that I had sewn at my apartment in Austin). A few months later, I got an email with a purchase order for 14 of their stores. Today, I sell a collection of duvets, shams, sheets and pillows to their stores. They’re one of my best accounts. I also ended up getting orders from all the stores on my vision board – I still can’t believe everything I wished for came into play.
Scaling a company isn’t always easy. I made many mistakes over the past five years as everything was so new. I kept thinking to myself, ‘I wish there was a manual to starting a creative, e-commerce/wholesale business to help me.’ So I did just that. I began documenting my experiences, spreadsheets, conversations and lessons to eventually help ladies like me in the same shoes! In late 2018, I launched the Creative Entrepreneur E-Course to help creatives launch online businesses with ease. I walk a limited number of students through marketing, digital advertising, product development, business organization, press, branding, sales, wholesale, tradeshow planning and a full finance toolkit (made for creative minds!). Many of the women I work with use Spoonflower fabrics for their products. It’s amazing to see how my failures turned into a full guide to help people avoid them.
Focus on three actionable to-do’s everyday. Keep a long to-do list with everything else that needs completing but only look at a 3 point to-do list each day to keep you focused, feeling accomplished and to help avoid overwhelm!”– Shay Spaniola, founder of bunglo
When you’re focusing on what you love, it will never feel like you have to get it done, but rather, it’s all you can think about. I’ve created a series of systems to help organize my multiple businesses so I’m able to work on my businesses and not get too stuck on the day to day to-do’s. I share the complete breakdown of these systems in my Creative Entrepreneur E-Course and also offer advice in my monthly newsletter.
I truly believe passions can fuel dream jobs and the first step is to take the first step. There’s no such thing as failure, only giving up.
I’d love to connect with you. Follow along with @shayspaniola for business advice and photos of my daily life, and @thebunglo for fabrics galore!
Are you feeling inspired to grow your business thanks to Shay’s go-getter attitude? Apply for the Spoonflower Small Business Grant.
About the Guest Author
Shay Spaniola is a painter, photographer and entrepreneur based in Austin, Texas. She’s passionate about living a life fueled with purpose and creativity. She’s traveled around the world with her camera in hand, grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and believes everything happens for a reason.
She launched her home décor brand, bunglo, at Neiman Marcus, West Elm, Anthropologie and Bloomingdales. In 2018, she opened an online marketplace for the modern bohemian called Indigo and Sage and launched the Creative Entrepreneur Course, a 12 week bootcamp to help artists turn their passions into businesses!