The Transcript Is Auto-Generated and May Contain Spelling And Grammar Errors
Wendy Conklin 0:00
If you were to see some of my chairs, they would probably stand out, and people who know me and have seen a few said, Oh, I can always tell your chairs on Pinterest when I see them on Pinterest, I know they belong to chair whimsy.
You’re listening to business entrepreneur radio. This show was created for entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers, and dreamers who want to learn from the experts of today and drastically shortcut their own success to build a business that supports their dream lifestyle. Since 2011, Tyler Jorgensen has been interviewing business thought leaders from around the world a serial entrepreneur himself, Tyler also shares his personal insights into what’s working in business today. Welcome to biz ninja, entrepreneur radio.
Tyler Jorgenson 0:50
Welcome out to business, entrepreneur radio. I am your host, Tyler Jorgensen. And today, I have a guest who is going to share an amazing story because I have heard this guest’s story a couple of times about her project and what she teaches people to do. It’s so untraditional from a lot of the guests that we’ve had on the show. And it’s emotional because I don’t know what it is. And we’re gonna talk about it. So Wendy Conklin. Welcome out to the show. We’re going to talk about chair whimsy.
Wendy Conklin 1:20
Thanks for having me.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:21
So, all right, I usually ask this question; I’m going to do it the same for you. Because I think it’s gonna be interesting. What, When was the moment that you first realized that you were an entrepreneur,
Wendy Conklin 1:31
you know, honestly, it was much at much later than when I actually was, you know, I grew up kind of thinking entrepreneurs are kind of weird people, like who would do that kind of thing. And the funny thing is, is, I just didn’t picture I didn’t call myself that until probably about four years ago, honestly. But I was doing the work. And so that’s, that’s what I thought was kind of funny is like, Oh, I guess I am one of those. And what I also realized is like, my temperament is probably the perfect kind of temperament to be an entrepreneur because I’m a self-starter. I don’t need accountability. You know, I’m going to if I say I’m going to do something, I do it. You know, so I think having those traits, and they’re just innate, I didn’t really develop them. It’s just kind of what I am, and how I am kind of the typical workaholic type of person actually worked out well.
Tyler Jorgenson 2:27
Yeah, self-starter high integrity, those are all really good things. For those of the listeners and people watching the show, who don’t know what chair whimsy is, give us the overview of what chair whimsy is, and you know, how you came up with that idea.
Wendy Conklin 2:40
So, you know, I typically introduce myself, as, you know, I do chairs, and I teach other people how to do what I do. But that was kind of a long process, because it started about 10 years ago, when I had a different career, I had been in education, I had previously been a teacher. And then I became an author and a presenter. So I would travel around the country training teachers, school districts, superintendents, on curriculum that they would buy from our company, so they may buy one of my books, then I would just go and train them on that. And so I took an upholstery course 10 years ago, exactly during this fall. And just because I wanted to always learn. And I was always trying to do things to make me like better at my job. So all these outside things, you know, I wanted to be a better writer, I wanted to be a better presenter. So I would challenge myself outside of my work to get uncomfortable, take some risks, learn something new. And so upholstery was just one of those things that I was checking the, you know, checking off the box thinking, Okay, I always wanted to kind of learn this, let’s take some classes and have some fun. And by the end of it, I realized, Oh, I kind of liked this, I have like five chairs I’ve done now let’s, you know, put them up on Etsy and see if I could just make some money. So it was just all a hobby, it was just, you know, something to try. And after I sold a few then that idea planted in my mind. Like, I wonder if this could be a thing. You know, I wonder if I could really make money at this because I was selling my chairs for so cheap. Because I didn’t have the guts to you know, I didn’t have the guts to price them where they needed to be. I thought well, I’m just a beginner and everything. But that’s kind of the beginning of the journey. And it took me six and a half years before I could quit my day job, you know, that side hustle it grew into, and I needed it to make more, you know, my income is necessary in our family. So, you know, I had daughters that were in middle school in high school getting ready to go to college, you know, how can I I mean, I could not just quit my job to do my my dream, you know, something that was it was painful. You know, it’s a very painful process.
Tyler Jorgenson 4:48
Well, I think that that that is actually something that I encourage entrepreneurs a lot of the time is when you’re trying to make the transition from employee to business owner and to you know, there’s not just jump All right, it’s okay to build it on the side and maybe take a little bit longer. But build it with some certainty, there’s a fine line between like courageous, and yes, being chaotic and just throwing caution to the wind, right, especially when you have people you got to take care of. So politely, since some of our guests are going to be listening to this without the aid of visual, I’m going to do my best to describe what you do. So you find old, high back chairs that have upholstery on them typically, right, I’m sure you probably do other types. And most of the time, those chairs are kind of bland and boring. And you repulsor them with vibrant colors and patterns and designs in it. And then you teach other people how to do that, too. I feel like there’s so much more to that there’s like an emotional side to that, right. Like, talk us through the emotion that goes into redesigning a chair like this.
Wendy Conklin 5:53
So they are mainly antique and vintage chairs, although, you know, I may find some new chairs. So I just want to make over, you know, in the past, like 10 years or so we’ve kind of gone through anyone who pays attention to design, you know, we’ve gone through the farmhouse movement, the shabby chic movement, before that it was a lot of whites and phases, you know, some modern movements, you know, wear a lot of black and white, I’ve always loved color. I’ve always worn colorful clothes, colorful earrings, I mean, things like that, just like it. And whenever I was taking those upholstery courses, I remember looking around the room, and it like dawned on me that Okay, anyone can learn upholstery, it is just a skill, like you learn the steps, right? But not everyone has a good eye for design. And that’s what I realized, even in that moment. And of course, it’s a subjective, because that’s what I liked. But, you know, in my mind, I’m thinking, you know, okay, I have this, like, I can figure out putting mixing and matching patterns together, color schemes, I can do really bright things on these chairs, which at the time nobody was doing. And I really had to just get my courage up and say, You know what, I don’t care if other people like this, this is what I really love. And when I was able to do that, and just go with what led me up. That’s what really set me apart. First of all, like really meeting myself and colorful chairs. And if you think of the the name chair whimsy, that, that gives you a visual idea of what you’re about to see, you know, you know, playing grain SEC chairs, it is colorful, there’s lots of florals or stripes or polka dots. I mean, there’s, you know, so I try to do a lot of mixing and matching. And I really do let my emotions guide me when I’m designing like, if I see something that takes my breath away. I know it’s the right choice, you know, and sometimes it takes a while to kind of figure it out. But that’s, that’s kind of the general thing. If you were to see through my chairs, they would probably stand out and people who know me and have seen a few they said, Oh, I can always tell your chairs on Pinterest when when I see them on Pinterest. I know they belong to chair whimsy.
Tyler Jorgenson 8:07
Yeah, yeah, you it is very whimsical, right? You have you do have a distinct, vibrant style. That I think because you will let your motion into your design and into what you’re doing. It definitely stands out. Now, you mentioned that you when you first started this, you did a few as a hobby, and then you decided to sell them. But you undercharged. So talk to me a little bit about pricing, how much are these kinds of chairs going for? And then how did you move up and figure that out?
Wendy Conklin 8:35
My chairs typically run if you have a dining chair, let’s say they’re typically $1,200 apiece, now, plus the cost of fabric and then shipping on top of that. So if you do it, Senator, you can imagine it’s going to, it’s going to add up. But when I first started out, I just looked this up yesterday, because I’m working on a book and I wanted to write in the acknowledgments. The very first person I should thank was my very first order that came from Brooklyn, New York. And it was a gal and I looked it up and I thought, oh my gosh, I only charged her to $200 for this chair. And that included the cost of fabric. And you know, you see, you can tell like, you know, and this is the biggest thing among artisans and makers is they never ever charge enough. Like it’s, it’s something about valuing your worth, and your perspective. And we make all these excuses as to why we don’t charge enough. Why, why ours isn’t worth enough why no one will ever pay. But what I’ve realized is that it’s all perceived value from the buyer. You know, like when something’s a higher price, we look at it and think, oh my gosh, that must be very valuable. But when there’s something low priced and if you catch yourself on this, it makes sense. But a low price thing you we often say what’s wrong with that? You know what’s wrong with it? You know what, there’s got to be something wrong, that it’s right to eat. And so like if we can detach ourselves from that emotion and trying to tie it to, you know, oh, we’re not that good. And all the excuses we give, if we will, if we will kind of back up and start, okay, what it what is the chair cost me to buy? You know, what are the materials? What are the fabrics, you know, what are all the things and start adding that up and then figure up your time that you’re putting into it. And, you know, for me, like, I’m getting faster, because I’ve been doing chairs for 10 years, so I can do them much faster than I did in the beginning. In the beginning, I was learning and I can kind of say it was okay, that sort of my prices were lower, because I was practicing, you know, I was probably learning some things. But now I kind of have some set prices. And every year, I do raise my prices, because the demand for how many people want them. And what I can personally fulfill is, you know, really goes down. And I mean, I saw the prices have to go up. Yeah, at that point. That’s
Tyler Jorgenson 10:58
basically it’s basic economics, right? It’s just makes perfect sense. Yeah, what’s fascinating, we work with a lot of local boutiques and crafters and people trying to get into the business side of it, and going through their cost of goods and helping them understand it’s not just, it’s not just the products, how many hours did you spend on this and they and then it’s sad a little bit the first time they have the realization that either they’ve been working for free or less than minimum wage, when they thought they were building a business. And I’m like, No, you’re not building a business yet. You’re not even building a job yet. Like,
Wendy Conklin 11:34
and that is heartbreaking. That is heartbreaking. I mean, I remember I would get around to January 1 every year. And I would go back through and total up okay, what did I make, and like I was breaking even. And it was so heartbreaking to me because I was working my heart out at two jobs, okay, because I had my regular job that I had to keep. And every evening, every weekend, I was working out my shop, trying to do tear orders trying to grow that business. It was really, really tough until I just, you know, I finally had that epiphany like, oh my gosh, I’ve got to raise my prices and being pressured by a business coach at the time. You know, like, yeah, you need to, sometimes we need permission, we need someone to give us permission, or or order us around that you better raise those prices, you know, whatever you need, whatever your personality needs, but I, for me, that’s what it really took. And so if I just abide by a wool, and I don’t get emotional about it, but I say okay, when I start getting too many orders, and I can’t keep up, this is when my prices go up. And in every time I do it, trust me, I get sick to my stomach I hate I’m like, Oh, great, here we go again. But every time I keep getting chair orders. So I mean, it just it never stops, you know, and like one of my gimmicks that I say because I’ve got a group of ladies in my business, the chairs course, that’s kind of like a coaching style course. And it’s for ladies who want to flip and sell like what I’ve done, and they’re starting out. And so, you know, I always tell them, you know, if something is not selling, raise the price, and see what happens, because often it will sell when the price goes up, you know, so, and that’s kind of a fun little experiment to try. I mean, you could always change the price back down if you need to. But I have found more often than not that prices. When you raise those prices, you’ll you’ll end up selling the thing that was hard to sell. So it’s just very strange how that works.
Tyler Jorgenson 13:31
It is and it’s amazing how much pricing is an internal issue? Even though it should it shouldn’t be? And what happens sometimes is we think well, well, I would never pay $1,500 for a chair. So nobody else would either. I’m like, well, there’s people driving cars that you don’t drive. There’s people buying houses that you don’t buy, like, just because you wouldn’t they are they also aren’t the ones that are going to go do it themselves. Right. So it’s okay, that the it’s not a moral issue between the two personalities. It’s just two different buyer types, two different personality types. And I think it’s okay, yeah, we do sometimes need that permission, that reminder and that coaching, how important in your experience is, is having a business coach, is that been super helpful for you?
Wendy Conklin 14:16
Oh my gosh, just been life changing. Like I will never, ever go without one. So you know, I’m in my third one right now. And I’m going into my third year there. But it has been instrumental because I don’t need accountability for that. But what I do need is advice, advice from people who are smarter than me who can see because other people can see your business from different way. You know, you can’t see it when you’re in when you’re in it sometimes, and they can see you from different perspectives and give you that good sound advice. It needs to be someone you trust. I think your morals need to align all of that, you know, we you know, you and I have the same one so, and she’s pretty amazing. And I mean, so a lot to me, it’s been life changing. It was my first coach that really pressured me into doing a course my very first course, which is my signature one. And I didn’t want to because all those same thoughts like, well, who’s gonna pay me to do that, you know, to learn from no one wants to learn from me? Can’t they just go to YouTube and learn this? And she was like, no, they want to learn from you. And I was like, really? And I remember I put up a post on Instagram and Facebook and an ask, okay, if I did a course, would anyone want to learn? I was like thinking, Oh, it’s gonna be crickets today. And I mean, like, so many people commented, I couldn’t believe it. And so I was like, All right. Now,
Tyler Jorgenson 15:37
yeah, yeah, that’s really cool. So in your background, before, you know starting a business and really becoming the queen of whimsical chairs on on on Pinterest, right? I think your your images and your art has really like, left you right? It’s beyond you. Because it just gets shared all around the the around really around the world. So But before doing that you were in education? Is there anything that you learned from Ed, the your career and education and you’re an author and presenter, right, your previous careers? Is there anything that played into what you currently do? How does that supported you as an entrepreneur,
Wendy Conklin 16:15
every bit of it has an you know, when I left that job, I thought, Okay, I’m done. I’m done with teaching, I’m done with, you know, writing, and all the things because I didn’t see how that was going to play into doing chairs, you know, but my, my business like kind of quickly evolved in, when I was challenged to, you know, hey, when do people want to learn for you, you need to create this course that can teach them to do what you do? Well, that, totally my teaching skills came right back out of the closet, you know, from it’s like, oh, well, I know how to teach. I know how to put a course together because I was a curriculum writer, you know. And so it was like, Wow, all those things from my past has helped me, you know, I know how to talk to adults and teach them because that’s what I have been doing for about 15 years after I left the classroom to do it with school districts. And so I knew how to talk to mainly women, and that’s who I now have as my audience. So like, every single thing has helped me with my business today. And just the fact of trying to be creative in the way that I show my content, like, because I am a content creator. I mean, yes, I create chairs. But you know, when you have a business, and you should take care of the free advertising, which is Instagram, Facebook, tick tock, you know, Pinterest, YouTube, I mean, like, all this is free. And so but it’s a lot of work to And so creating content for those things, where you can think about, okay, what’s a creative way I could show this, or get my message across that I want to tell people about X, Y, and Z, you know, all of that, from my past, has come into play in this job that I have now in creating content on a daily basis. So I mean, it’s just, it’s so cool, to see how that you know, all the things you do in the past somehow, I think, do come around and help you with whatever you end up doing at this moment. And in the future. So who knows what that’s going to be, you know,
Tyler Jorgenson 18:12
yeah, I think especially if you have a learning mindset, right, if you have a goal, if you’re open minded to growth into learning, then you find lessons in the past and lessons and what you’ve done. So you’ve got this going all started as a hobby turned into a business. Let’s talk through what that means. Right? So you started selling some courses? How much are you have you? How much have you done in courses? Like, is this a real business? I mean, I think sometimes people hear people are selling stuff online or teaching courses, and maybe there’s a little bit of money in it. So I
Wendy Conklin 18:41
think I am very lucky, in that I have a skill that a lot of people want to learn or if they hear about, like, they may not be sitting there going, I want to, you know, planning, they want to learn this, but when they hear about it, it is something like Oh, wouldn’t that be fun to learn? And so, you know, I’m gonna start right there because I’m not sure that every course can be, you know, a million dollar course type of thing. But it’s done, it’s done done. You know, the courses have done really well. So not only have that, but I have other little courses, like, you know, how to search for great fabrics online. Because everyone started asking me where do you get your fabric so I was like, oh, I need to have like a $37 course on that you know, kind of thing. But my signature course is DIY upholstery. That’s the first one I started with. It’s $347 Or have a payment plan. And my last so I opened it up four times a year so I do these you know, pressure launches four times a year to or bigger ones in that I do like a Facebook challenge. The ugly chair challenge with them and people have to learn the design behind doing you know, once you know how to design a chair and how much fun that is. Okay, well then you need to learn upholstery to do to actually do the work. You know, doing upholstery isn’t sexy or necessarily a blast, you know, but it is it is It’s fun to know how to do something so that you can update your chairs in your home, or if you want to make a business out of it, or give them as gifts or whatever you want. But so I opened it four times a year, and I just had my biggest launch back in August, and it’s open for five days. And I made $176,000 176,000 on that five day, which is my biggest I’ve ever done, you know, but over time, I have probably, I mean, all my courses together, and I just started my upholstery course three years ago, but that with all the other little courses together, I’ve sold well over a million dollars in three years. So amazing. It’s, it’s done really well, surprisingly, and, you know, it’s so it’s been great for me, because it’s changed my family’s life, you know, but it’s been good for the people who are taking the course because they’re learning something new. Something they, they want to learn in a lot of people who take the course, are older people, older women who are finding like a new lease on life. I mean, they’re, they’re realizing, Oh, I have purpose, I can design how much fun this is. And they’re really learning to express their personality and their creativity onto a chair, which is so much fun to do, you know. So yes, the typical stripping a chair and, you know, repair in the chair, and all that kind of stuff, that’s not necessarily fun. But you it’s the means to the end. So you know, you want to make things so that you can design and the design, that’s really where all the fun part happens for my students. So it’s, it’s benefiting me and my family and the people I can help. But it’s benefiting the people who are taking the course too. And that is so rewarding to feel like, you know, I’m making a difference in people’s lives, you know, a stupid little chair business, and you know what, how I would refer to it, but the stupid little chair business has literally changed people’s lives. And even people who don’t buy my chairs, or don’t do my courses, I get messages from them on Instagram and Facebook saying, Every morning, I look for your posts, because I’ve suffered with depression my whole life, and they just bring me so much joy and happiness. And so it’s like, yeah, I don’t really sell chairs, I don’t really sell courses, I sell joy, you know, or bring joy, you know, and so it’s just so fun to be able to see that. Like
Tyler Jorgenson 22:25
I said, your chairs are emotional, they they evoke a lot of emotion. And they do that whimsy that the mismatch patterns and the bright colors like they’re they lift their uplifting, right. And so yeah, that’s interesting is, I still hear you talk, like a little bit hesitant about talking about your course not being stupid, right? Like, it’s actually amazing. And it’s done these great things. Yeah. And you want to like bring it back down. But talk to us about some of the success like people who have gone through the course have had. So it because you said that some people just do it as a hobby. But other people are actually doing it and turning it into, you know, a profit center. Right. So what are some of your students been able to do after taking your course?
Wendy Conklin 23:06
When I did my ugly chair challenge? Like probably it’s been a year and a half ago, I did the first one. And, you know, this one lady joined the challenge. It’s because it’s fun. It’s like $10 to join. So it’s easy. It’s an easy, yes, you know, and it’s about designing the chairs. So this one lady ended up joining, he ended up joining my course subsequently right after that. And we got on a 10 minute coffee chat, Zoom meeting, to you know, just meet each other and things like that, because it was a bonus for signing up early. And she told me that I’m an accountant by trade. And she said I thought it’d just be fun to do the ugly chair challenge that I had no intention of doing, you know, chairs. And this was a month after she joined that we had this meeting. And she said that I have just finished my first set, I’m putting them up for sale. And like she has gone on to sell chairs and that wasn’t even on her radar, you know, anything she thought she would do this accountant, you know, who you would think you know, would be more of a, you know, non creative type person has found her creative vibe there, you know. So that’s been really fun to watch. I have other women in my business of chairs, courts who are selling and you know, one of them, she probably could quit her day job, but she’s like two and a half years from retirement right now. And so she is going to stick it out to get that full retirement but she is so busy taking custom chair orders and shipping them all over the US. So she’s got a really great design aesthetic that people are seeking her out for. So she’s been super successful. You know, I have another gal in my business two chairs course who has been doing upholstery for years, but just couldn’t make money. And so now she’s starting to bring in money. She’s raised her prices, but she’s also creating her own type of course. She does big comfortable chairs and so she’s going to do a course on that and I’m going to help support her because I don’t want to do that kind of course you know, it’s not it’s not that bad. Love, and it is something she loves. And there’s some of my students and people that I know that want to take that next step further. And so it’s, it’s really fun to kind of sit back and think, Wow, this is these are people who are just like reaching for the moon that probably had never thought about doing that before. So it’s amazing how it can spark them as well.
Tyler Jorgenson 25:20
I love that now entrepreneurship and running a business isn’t without its challenges. What’s one of the major challenges that you’ve had to face over these past few years? And how did you overcome it?
Wendy Conklin 25:30
Gosh, there’s so many to choose from. Yeah. You know, I think really, some of the main things are all the little nitty gritty things that have to be done in a business, you know, when you’re the CEO, the owner of a business, you not only have to produce the thing, like I do, like with the chairs, I It’s not like I can go hire somebody to produce a chair, when’s the chair? Because when I do a chair, it’s all in the moment in the design, like where I’m putting the fabric, you know, because I call this chair styling, you know, so, you know, it matters, it’s flower peeking in over here, does that look better than down here, you know, so it’s, it’s all that. So that’s not something that can necessarily hire out. But I can hire out people helping me to strip the chair down or to sand the chairs or things like that. So one of the big issues has been trying to get help to help me get all the stuff done, even though the content I have to create, but how about answering my info emails or organizing my retreat that I do for creative business women like getting the T shirts ordered, and all the logistics and going picking up the food for the retreat and the wine and things like that, making sure everyone is has everything they need and communicating with them being my point person. So I’ve been able to hire like virtual assistants, neighbors who wanted a part time job, who are super organized, people like that. So that has been a big problem. And now just being it being willing to hire people and pay them hourly, like I don’t have to worry that I gotta have a full time person. It’s like, you know, Project, Project that out, you know, this person their project and pay him by the hour to do the work that you need to do, or need to get done as you just possibly can’t do it all
Tyler Jorgenson 27:14
yourself. You mentioned that this business has given you in your family, it’s helped your lifestyle, it’s been a blessing to you and your family. What is one non business item on Wendy’s personal bucket list that you’re going to accomplish in the next 12 months?
Wendy Conklin 27:30
I don’t know. Because all I think about is my business. But it’s because I want to Yeah, Oh, totally.
Tyler Jorgenson 27:35
I just think it’s amazing. Like, you know, we get to travel again, you know, are there things, you know, things like that?
Wendy Conklin 27:42
Yeah, yeah. Well, so I have been traveling some recently. So that’s kind of fun. What I love doing the most is, this just sounds kind of crazy. But what I what really makes me happy is when I can play. And part of that play is like doing my own makeovers in my house. You know, I love like redoing a room like putting up wallpaper, I wallpaper I do it all, you know, and I love figuring out the design. So that is like my happy place. That’s where I can be real creative. I don’t do it because I have to do it because I want to so I treat my house kind of as my palette where I just experiment and show my creativity. And so something always needs to be updated. And so that’s what’s fun for me. And then I can turn that into content for my followers to because it inspires them and gives them ideas what they can do as well. So it kind of is twofold. I don’t really mean for it to be a work thing, but it’s something I do just for fun and that truly is playing for me. It’s what I really enjoy doing. So if I say what I’m going to be doing in the next 12 months yeah, it’s gonna be more of that
Tyler Jorgenson 28:56
courtroom makeovers. I love it. So everyone, wherever you’re listening and I hope that you go check out Wendy Conklin and chair whimsy. I think you can find her on all the socials under chair whimsy and chair whimsy.com And to all my businesses wherever you’re listening or watching it is your turn to go out and do something.
Thank you for tuning in to business inja entrepreneur radio. What you didn’t hear was one more very important question that Tyler asks each guest if you want to be a fly on the wall when the real secrets are shared, go to biz ninja.com/vip and get your access today. Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss any future episodes. And our one last favor. If this episode was meaningful to you, please share this podcast with a fellow entrepreneur so they can grow along with us is ninjas. It’s your turn to go out and do something