Hi, Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business. Please do mention the monthly revenue for our readers as well.
My name is Stephanie Troiano, and I run an online boutique called FoxWood Provisions. FoxWood Provisions is a collection of the brands Gypsy Rose Threads(which offers vintage band t-shirts that I’ve distressed or customized in some way, handbags, and zipper clutches), Two Arrows Leather, which offers hand-stitched leather items like wallets, wrap bracelets and key chains; and The Binding Tree( which offers leather journals).
I also make dreamcatchers, creative incense bottles, and will be soon adding some ceramic items that I’ve made to the store, but these don’t have a brand yet 🙂
I started back in 2012 with leather journals, then expanded into other small leather items, eventually into handbags and zipper bags, and most recently the band t-shirts.
Honestly, I end up keeping more of the shirts than I list for sale, which probably needs to change at some point, but it’s a testament to why I started this in the first place.
I love having fun with it. Because I don’t really do any active marketing for the brand, I am bringing in about $400 per month between all the brands. Not a bad little side hustle at all.
What’s your own background. Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
My background is mostly academic. I have a B.A. degree in Psychology and an M.S. in Counseling, and I work in the business consulting and recruiting space as a headhunter at the moment.
I’ve always been pretty creative and enjoyed working with my hands to make things from scratch, or make existing things custom. I also like taking items that have been thrown out or discarded and rehabbing them to create a recycled item with a new look and feel, so this is my creative outlet for that.
It’s definitely something I lose track of time with and that I could spend all day doing. I find that when I’m in that headspace, it’s like bliss. What I’m doing begets more creative ideas and everything just flows.
I came across a craft class on bookbinding that was being offered locally in 2012, and that’s where this all started. The class taught me the basics of sewing pages into a leather book cover, and I took it from there.
The expansion of other items I sell evolved from there with the more I learned and research about leatherworking.
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
I design things based on what I like as I feel that’s where I’m most inspired. Although it would be incredible if this became my main source of income one day, I never started this to get rich. I wanted to make things that I liked using and wearing, and so that’s how it’s stuck.
Initially, once I decided to get serious about selling, I did spend some time researching material options, sizing and dimensions to best utilize material without creating a lot of waste, but otherwise, the design comes from what’s on the market.
I see things in everyday life and am inspired by them. It might be an actual journal or something else that I think would look cool on a journal. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? I don’t like to make things exactly as I see them already, but better or more unique, more custom.
If I’m using a bag and say, “man I wish this had __________ in it” or “it would be cool if this bag had a __________ inside for your keys” or whatever, then I’ll try to make that, because surely someone else has thought of that too.
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business
I started selling the first of what I made, which was only leather-bound journals, on Etsy in 2012-2013, having no idea what I was doing really. I didn’t do much research on competition, the market, or anything like that. I just dove into it.
I still use Etsy today but have since done my due diligence in terms of research, what I should be charging for shipping, etc.
About 4 years ago, I decided that I wanted to branch out from just journals and developed a handful of other items, like leather wallets, key chains, sewn and stitched handbags, leather pouches, and distressed vintage band tees.
Since I had so many more items, I decided to create a website to showcase everything and as a way to tell my story.
From there, I created social media accounts so customers could more easily find me and follow to stay updated on new items or updates.
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
I do have a couple repeat customers who’ve purchased through my Gypsy Rose Threads brand, on the t-shirt end. Some friends of mine will hit me up once in a while for a new bag or leather clutch when I post something new.
I don’t really have a set in stone strategy for retention though, aside from offering quality goods and customer service that makes someone want to come back. This is an aspect that I want to do a better job of cultivating because if customers have a good experience with you, the likelihood that they will come back is greater.
I want to definitely take advantage of that better than I am now.
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
Right now I don’t spend nearly as much time on this part of my life that I want to. I daydream about new ideas and create new ways of making things, custom items, different designs, and I just don’t put as much time into it as I’d like to.
This involves all aspects of the business, from the making to the marketing. I want to invest more time into the creation of new items to build up stock, as well as learning how to really reach larger audiences.
I want more social media presence, more email marketing touches on existing customers, and a greater reach by attending a craft fair or show to display my items and get my name out there.
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
Yes, definitely! It’s not only financially uplifting but psychologically and spiritually uplifting! I find it really cool that people value the work I do enough to pay me for it. It’s something I create from scratch. It starts as a small little spark in my imagination and then turns into a brush fire until I figure out how to make it a real item.
Then once I perfect this item, I’m so stoked on it, I find making my stuff personally gratifying. It’s rad to sell things of course, but even if I didn’t sell them, I’d wear them myself and be proud as hell that I made something I thought was cool enough to wear.
The fact that people pay for my stuff is the most humbling experience. I still can’t believe it.
I don’t have a large production, no warehouse with stock, and no one helping me do it, so every item that goes out is personal and significant to me.
That others find the things I make attractive enough to buy for themselves or as a gift for someone is just a super added bonus.
What tools or services did you use?
In terms of actual tools for the trade, I use just about everything I can. Any leather tool, punches, blades, mallet, cutting mats, etc. to my handy sewing machines.
In terms of digital tools to market the business, I use Etsy for listing items and take advantage of their platform that has built-in marketing and shipping dashboards. I built my website using the Wix platform and just customized the look and feel of it to match my aesthetic.
For social media marketing and advertising, I use Facebook and Instagram. I do have a Twitter account for FoxWood Provisions, but don’t use it much.
What are your key challenges today? How are you planning to tackle those?
Currently, I see time being the biggest challenge for me. It’s not just a matter of not having enough time, but now I am able to manage my time. I don’t currently cut out enough time in my day to devote to my business and the aspects of it that I want to grow.
Sure, the reality of it is I do have a full-time job and other responsibilities that come along with being an adult, so I don’t have as much free time to dedicate to this that someone without a 40+ hr a week job has, but the way I spend my outside work time is my decision, and the time I do have doesn’t get allocated to this venture as much as I’d sometimes like.
It’s a matter of what value I place on this, how I want to grow it and what I’m willing to do to get there. Better time management on my end.
Many times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
I don’t think business is only for men, but we know that historically this was a cultural belief that many of us and society have shared.
Women weren’t even allowed by law to work until the ’20s, but only started entering the workforce in the ’60s, so for a very long time “the way things were” dictated that men worked and women stayed home to tend to their families and the household. It was something that was ingrained in American culture, and sometimes still is in ways.
We are a bit more progressive these days, and I feel like women are more empowered than ever now. We’ve always had the skills and talents to contribute to the world and society, it’s just that now people are more open to it and paying attention.
I personally love the idea of a woman-owned business. It’s badass! I am one, so rock on.
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi ! This is Misha.
I interview women founders in building profitable businesses?
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell-all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to get started.