Interview: Natalie Jost from Olive Manna
There are just a few things that are certain in life. For starters I love my mom. That’s ain’t changing, rain or shine. I love cupcakes. That’s pretty much tattooed in me for life. Know what else is rock solid? I L-O-V-E Olive Manna!!! But I’m sure you already knew that, right? Ever since I started this blog I’ve been parading Olive Manna products because I’m simply addicted. There should be a help group for this, lol.
Anyhoo, today I’m bringing in the lovely Natalie Jost, mastermind + heart behind Olive Manna to share with us some sweet backstage insides that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. So please grab a cup of tee + pull up a chair + hold down tight, because you’re in for a ride with today’s Q + A!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hmmm… I’m tall, about 5’ 10”, Mexican-Irish, grew up in California, moved to Indiana after becoming a Christian in 2000. I love mexican food and movie theater popcorn, and I’m just learning to cook at age 33.
2. How long have I been an designer?
I’ve been designing (imagining things and making them a reality) since I was a toddler, my first creation being a Christmas ornament I fashioned from my hair ties when I was five. My professional career came when I was working in customer service in 2003 and saw that my company’s website needed an overhaul. It was my first major website design and really launched my career as coworkers and friends began to hire me.
3. When did you decide to turn your talent into a business?
After my twins were born I discovered web design to be too risky to do with little ones demanding my attention all the time, so I decided I’d sell some of the design elements I had developed over the years: templates, Photoshop brushes and patterns, etc. Then quite a few people, my non-designer blog readers, began asking for my designs to be on physical objects they could buy. So it all kind of snowballed from there.
4. Where do you create?
My ideas come from everywhere, but implementing those ideas takes place in my basement studio, which has been remodeled a couple of times to now include the entire back third of the floor. I also do a lot of work in the dining room, kitchen, and living room in and around the kids when I can. It’s sometimes the only time I can, and it’s also fun for them to see what I do because they may carry on the business someday!
5. Describe your creative process.
I’ve tried to answer this question so many times and I always feel so cliche when I do. I really don’t have a “process” I don’t sit down to design something, I just do it. It seems to come to me by accident. Mostly I find a need for something in my own home and I get an idea to make it myself. In doing so, I generally go through a few different concepts to find the one I like best and then if I think others will find it useful as well, it is fairly cost-effective, and it fits with Olive Manna, I add it to the shop.
6. What is your favorite thing about being an designer?
I am totally tickled by the fact that people like my stuff and buy it. It’s just amazing to me that I can have an idea I think is cool, and instantly find out if others think so too. Sometimes they don’t and it doesn’t sell, but that’s good too. I learn something about people every day. And of course, the extra income is nice too, so we can have things like Internet, our large two-bedroom home, and an occasional pizza on a Friday night.
7. What advice would you give to other creative entrepreneurs?
a. Train yourself right away to believe about yourself what you would have others believe about you. A woman I know (I’ll call her Jane Jones) was afraid to sell something with her name on it because she didn’t think it would mean anything to anyone. But I told her, “If you let word leak that there’s a “Jane Jones Bag” available, people will want to know who Jane Jones is and why they don’t already know about her. They’ll have to have her bag, simply because she’s Jane Jones. Of course it’s not as instantaneous as that, but it does happen, people do think that way. Take pride in what you do and others will see that and want what you have.
b. Don’t think that because someone else is successful selling something that you will be too. Do what you love first, not what you think will sell. There are a LOT of people all over Etsy who seem to build their entire shop around what someone else is doing. A few in particular I see a couple times a year with a new product set that is different from a few months ago because they’re clearly seeing a trend and trying to go with it. Trouble is, at the same time they’re copying ideas, they’re trying to compete in price so they price themselves too low and chances are, after a few months they’ll be on to something else again because they’re not making any real profit. Do what you love, price to make a living, and move on.
c. Be prepared for wholesale inquiries before you think you need to be. I wish I had been! Have a price list, a simple spreadsheet will do. In fact, Google Docs is amazing for this. I have a spreadsheet of all of my products with suggested retail and wholesale minimums. I publish it (click SHARE in the top right corner and choose “Publish to web…”). No one sees it unless I give them the web address to the file, but it’s there when I need to. I add to it or change it, then re-publish it. Then when someone asks, I can give them the link, OR, from that same “publish” window, you can actually give them a link to a PDF version of the spreadsheet, which is even more secure and professional. Some folks will ask for a catalog, so it’s nice to have something like that if you can, which again, you can do with Google docs. Make a new document or presentation with photos and details of your products, then save it as a PDF. Very smooth, and all online, so not a file on a hard drive somewhere, which is nice.
8. What inspires you beyond belief?
Everyone around me. I’ve always been a “people watcher”. Wherever I go, I watch people live their lives and I imagine their lives, the homes they live in, the family they have, the feelings they have. I listen to people talk about things that bother them or things they love and it inspires me to make things to make their lives easier and more beautiful. I also read blogs and watch people on twitter–not in a creepy way at all. I pay attention to the things people want and try to give that to them, without compromising what I like of course, because I have a long-standing rule that if I don’t like something or won’t personally use it and find significant value it in, I can’t ask anyone to buy it from me.
9. What’s your favorite handmade possession?
My grandmother made me a set of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls when I was little. She embroidered the body right where the heart would be, with a message to me from her, on Ann and Andy. They’re really special to me. She also made a TON of barbie doll clothes for me too, including a matching set for me. I don’t think I have my outfits anymore, but I hope my mom still has the barbies and Ann & Andy in the attic, because I’ll be back for those one day!
10. In 10 years, where do you want to be?
I would love to have an Olive Manna shop, the brick and mortar kind, but my small Midwestern city isn’t great for something so niche. Maybe if I can convince my husband we need to move to a small town on a coast, somewhere a trendy niche shop would fit… but realistically, I’d like to see my girls more involved in running the shop (my twins will be 13, AJ will be 18). Then I can simply dream things up and let them run with them. That would be great.
11. Any important links we should know about?
Natalie, this was amazeballs! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for opening up to us + for being the world’s best supplier + an amazing friend + for being a tsunamic source of inspiration. I’m so blessed to have met you on this creative journey!
Now, let’s show Natalie some support in the comment section below + some social media lovin’!
Psst… if you saw something you liked, don’t forget to use your special heartmade reader coupon code “MAYICARLES” upon checkout to get 10% knocked off from your Olive Manna purchase. Sweet stuff, right?