MOMpreneur: Stacey Hsu of Original Sock Dogs

Please meet MOMpreneur Stacey Hsu of Original Sock Dogs!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve always had a passion for creating characters—whether through drawing, sculpting, sewing or writing. As a kid, this passion was fueled by the mountains of comic books I kept stashed in my closet, and the chapter and picture books that were so tightly wedged into my shelves that I had a hard time pulling them out! (It’s still that way now, in my studio and in my daughter’s room.)

Original Sock Dogs are handmade, one-of-a-kind plush art, intended for collectors over the age of 12. (Most of my customers are adult women.) Each one has its own name and story, and 10% each sock dog adoption fee is donated to the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, where I am also a volunteer. I also make custom Original Sock Dogs (and cats, and ferrets, and bunnies…) based on people’s pets.

What prompted you to start a business? And, how do you stay energized about your work?

Really, it all started the moment I decided to become a volunteer at the Humane Society. I’ve always loved animals, and decided it was time I do something meaningful to help them. I spent time with the dogs and cats, socializing them, giving them lots of TLC and doing other things to help out the staff. When it was time for the shelter’s annual art auction, Art Unleashed, I wanted to make something unique to donate as artwork. The Original Sock Dogs were born, and were such an overwhelming success, bringing in well over $100 each, that I decided to continue creating them, and continue donating a portion of the profits to the no-kill animal shelter. Knowing that each dog I make is not only making someone smile, but also helping a dog or cat find a forever home, keeps me going. (It’s also very fun to make the little guys!)

Ava

Lolly

How do you balance family life and work? Scheduling?

There’s just no easy answer for this. I work my creative time in when I can—during naps (when they happen) and after the kids/husband go to bed at night.  I don’t want it to be “work”, or take away from time with my family. Something always has to give though, so for me it’s sleep. There’s a quote that I always think about by Emerson, “Money often costs too much.”  I try to avoid this! Fortunately, I absolutely love what I do, and spending time making the dogs and other plush in my studio is how I unwind and relax—it’s my “me time”.

Tell us about your workspace.

Um…organized chaos? In addition to being a plush creator, I am also a plush/antique toy collector. And with all the other rooms in the house being occupied, it’s really the only place for my collections to live. At the moment, it’s pretty crammed with sewing supplies, children’s books, toys to entertain my 9 month old, Steiff animals, 1930s composition dolls, half-finished projects, etc. I really need to vacuum.

 

What do you do to escape work and family life to just be you?

This doesn’t happen very often, and when I DO find myself with a spare moment, I am usually either on my computer or sewing. Occasionally, I feel ambitious and pick up a book. Or I take our (real) dogs for a walk. I also escape the house on my own once a week on Saturdays to volunteer with the Ray of Hope adoption program. We take dogs from KCK Animal Control out to Petsmart to find them homes. It has reduced the euthanasia rate from about 90% to around 1%. Amazing!

What advice would you give to moms that want to start a business? Any parting words of wisdom?

Make sure your business is something you have an undying passion for. It’s so easy to let life get in the way, so you have to be excited to get back to it every day, and be creative in finding the time. When you have little ones, you have to be very flexible with your “work hours”.  You’ll also need to be conscientious about the not-so-fun part of it all, like taxes, registration, keeping track of orders and shipping, so if you don’t love it to pieces, it won’t last.

Get your family on board, especially your spouse! They’ll need to be ok with you needing some time to focus on your business. Personally, I think it’s healthy for kids to see that mom has something else going on in her life other than “mom duties”!

One of the most important things in terms of sustaining a business is to treat your customers like they are your best and dearest friends, and be as real and authentic as you can be while remaining professional. Be kind to them, go above and beyond their expectations every single time. Whether it’s taking extra care in wrapping their orders, handwriting a thank you note, sending along a little something extra for repeat customers…be good to them and remember that they are your biggest advocates and can also provide you with valuable feedback. Many of my customers are repeat purchasers (or “adopters” as I call them); one has even purchased 50+ Original Sock Dogs. It adds up!

Of course, I also feel that it’s a wonderful thing to set up your business in a way that it gives back. I wanted to help animals, so I formed a relationship with my local no-kill shelter. As an added benefit, I got a spot on their web site for my link, went on live TV to present them with a check, and am linked in to many of their events. It’s nice knowing that I’m creating something that does good—it not only makes the customer happy, but it’s also helping a cause that I care about.

And remember—you don’t have to be Martha Stewart. It’s ok (and much more sane) to keep your business small, especially when you have small kids around.

Love what you do, and success will follow.

To see more of Stacey’s art work visit her Etsy shop Three Red Trees.

And, her wonderful blog.http://threeredtrees.typepad.com/


 Mommyality combines Mommy and Reality. You never know what's going to happen, nor do you want to know. Read more from this author


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