I am SO excited for this first Small Business Spotlight! I roped my awesome friend Camilla in to being my guinea pig for the series. She has an AMAZING photo-prop business called Avonli Cottage. I’ll let her tell you about it!
Hi! My name is Camilla and I am the woman behind Avonli Cottage. I have a fireball toddler girl, and an amazing husband.
Tell us a bit about your business. How did you get started?
I specialize in newborn photography props. I hand make bonnets, pants, headbands, etc for newborn photography setups. I was first a photographer, and when I began to specialize in newborn photography, I realized how much I loved the props, and knew I could make them. So Avonli was born.
What is a typical day in your life?
Hmmm typical day. Because I have a daughter at home, I have to balance a lot around here. The size of Avonli requires that I work a lot of hours, but I’ve been implementing new ways to reduce those hours. I have two amazing women who sew for me, so between the three of us we can keep up with the orders, and two men who make props for the company. I also work with an awesome crochet vendor and a knit vendor who I do resale for. Monday and Wednesday my daughter is in preschool/daycare, so I try to pile the majority of my work into those two days. Those are my shipping days as well. On the other days, she and I have a morning routine that involves a walk and the park, and then she goes down to nap at noon. During her nap time, I answer emails, make items, and package. It is definitely a full time job, but one that lets me have flexible hours which I love. Some nights I’m up till two am, because I would rather play with my daughter that day, and that’s okay with me. 🙂
Where do you work?
I have a studio space in my house, thank heavens. I had a custom made cutting table that folds up into the wall, and a LOT of storage built into the closets, as well as a custom work table and wall storage organizer. I also put down hard wood for the flooring- I was tired of all the threads getting stuck in the carpet and vacuum, lol. It’s nice to have a separate room for that, it helps keep me sane. 🙂
What is your favorite thing about running your own business?
Getting to know so many awesome people. And seeing my items in use. That really is so gratifying.
What is the hardest thing for you in running your business?
Time management. There are times that I want to just quit, but I feel like we have been so blessed with Avonli, it is something I need to do. So as a family we make our schedule and do our best to stick with it. My husband has been extremely supportive, which makes it so much easier.
What surprised you the most when you started your business?
Fortunately, I had been a photographer before Avonli, so I wasn’t a stranger per se to small business. When I was a brand new business owner with photography however, I was surprised at how much it costs to effectively run a business legitimately. That means paying taxes, accounting, materials, equipment, etc, etc. My prices went up, fast. Lol. I didn’t want to be paying to work! 🙂
What advice would you give to other business owners out there?
Don’t undercharge. When you first start out in an industry, especially an arts one, its easy to mimic and undercut the competition. You will be kicking yourself later. I did. Lol. You will build a client base quickly when you are cheap, but when you actually have to charge what will make it worth it, then very few of that base come with you. Sit down and really chart out what it will cost to have that business. What will be your start up costs? What equipment will you need? What is your gas cost if you travel? How much will you be paying in taxes? Do you need to charge sales tax?How much does it cost to set up a business legally with the state? Etc, Etc, Etc. Then when you’ve done that, you will know a little better about what you have to charge in order to make that money back quickly.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere. Movies, books, fabric. I walk down fabric aisles like a crazy person, touching fabrics, trying to find interesting texture. Seeing certain materials will help me visualize how that material will look in a design. I also love vintage- I use a lot of vintage designs to inspire new ones.
What is one thing you would have done differently in the beginning?
Be true to who you are. This is easier to apply to an arts business. I wish I would have specialized immediately in photography- I tried to do everything, an never turned down paying jobs. I burned out quickly. It took a long time to get back to why I loved photography in the first place. So now I only shoot two types of photography, and having Avonli, a specialized organic newborn prop company helps a lot. I don’t try to do it all. I stick to my style and brand and it takes a lot of stress away. I think specializing can apply in a lot of fields.
What do you do when you’re NOT working?
Roasting marshmallows on a campfire, hiking, swimming, reading, and anything that doesn’t require a camera or sewing machine. 🙂
If you won the lottery today what is the first thing you would do?
Jane Austen country baby. Hahha. I SO want to go to Europe, England especially. After that, I’d wait for the real estate market to burst again and buy a ton of rental properties. 🙂
What did you want to be when you were little and do you think you ever will be that?
I wanted to be an attorney. Yea, I was a weird little kid. Maybe someday. At the end of my bachelors degree I was prepped and ready to start applying, but I just didn’t feel good about going to law school at that time. Maybe in the future it will open up.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m bilingual. Also, I had a parasite once. His name was Benji.
Where do you hope to take your business in 5 years? 10?
I hope to still be kicking in 5 years, and still be growing. If I’m not, then I hope I’m at least doing something I love like I love Avonli.
Thanks so much for having me!
Want to see more amazing props from Avonli Cottage? You can find her on Facebook and her Shop
A HUGE thanks to Camilla for letting us talk here!
Do you know a business I should consider interviewing for an upcoming Small Business Spotlight? Leave a comment or email me with a link to their information and let me know! Wish I would have asked a different question? I will be changing up some of the questions in the future, so if you have something in particular you would like to know be sure to let me know!
Thanks everyone! Happy Tuesday!