Time line: sarah + abraham

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

photo by Summer Knobloch Photography

Last month Stacy Amoo-Mensah shared a time line showing how she went from a kindergarten teacher to a graphic designer. Someone on Formspring asked if all of the contributors could do the same. This is one of my favorite topics, so I’m happy to go next!

At the beginning of 2007 I’d been a stay-at-home-mom for four years (my kids were two and four). I was so happy to be home with them, but I also wanted to find something to do that would be a creative outlet and intellectually challenging. I had an idea to start an online business selling religious-themed children’s artwork designed in a clean, modern style.  I created a few designs, and then I forgot about the idea for several months.

In July I returned to the idea, created some more designs and began working on a business plan. In October my husband had an opportunity to leave his corporate career to work for a political think tank.  It would provide him with great experience in the field that he really wanted to get into but also came with a huge pay cut. I started to wonder if I could earn enough from sarah + abraham to make up the difference. We didn’t realize this at the time, but that pay cut turned out to be a huge blessing.  Without it, I don’t know if I ever would have put enough energy into sarah + abraham to make it a reality.

Here’s the rest of my story in a time line format…

  • October 2007: Came across Mahar Drygoods while researching online children’s boutiques, noticed their site was designed by Aeolidia, and contacted Arianne at Aeolidia.  She suggested that I start out selling on Etsy or Big Cartel.
  • Later that same day… opened an Etsy shop.  Had six sales in my first month (two of them to friends) and nine sales in my second month.
  • November 2007: Started a blog. Created a really basic website with a link to my Etsy shop. Began contacting blogs asking if they’d feature my products.
  • January 2008: Began using silhouettes in my designs. Began offering gift tags, greeting cards, and note cards. A blog reader commented on my blog suggesting a flashcard-style 8×10 print which was a big hit and is still one of my bestselling items today.

  • February 2008: Began offering stickers, invitations, and birth announcements in response to requests from Etsy buyers.
  • Purchased a printer (I had previously been outsourcing all of my printing).
  • Discontinued my religious-themed artwork (I was receiving a lot of positive feedback but not many sales).
  • March 2008: Reached the break-even point!
  • June 2008: Began working with Aeolidia to create an e-commerce website.
  • July 2008: Reached 1,000 sales on Etsy.
  • Purchased a Nikon D40 Digital SLR camera, light tent, and Photoshop to improve my product photography.
  • September 2008: My e-commerce website went live.
  • October – December 2008: Began offering calendars, mommy calling cards, and gift labels based on suggestions from blog readers.
  • Began offering notepads after learning from Kelli at The Hootie Coo Card Company that I could make them myself.
  • June 2009: Began offering water bottles after I saw them at Lima Bean Kids and Dacia shared with me where she was having them printed.
  • August 2009: Hired a part-time employee, Jen, to come over three days per week.
  • September 2009: Began sending out a monthly newsletter based on Jen’s suggestion that we set up a calendar of monthly promotions (this has increased my sales significantly).

  • November 2009: Launched the olliegraphic line through a collaboration with illustrator Meg Bartholomy.
  • January 2010: Duplicated all of my equipment and inventory so that Jen could set up her own home office, enabling her to work more hours and not spend so much time commuting.
  • February 2010: Launched Oh My! Handmade Goodness.

The most amazing thing to come from all of this, to me, is that a few months ago my husband was laid off, and we’ve been able to live on my income from sarah + abraham while he works on launching his own not-for-profit organization.  We’re sharing parenting and household responsibilities in a way that I never imagined possible. We’re both working from home, available to our kids, and my husband is able to volunteer at their schools and coach our son’s soccer team.

Of course it’s not all sunshine and lollipops.  I usually work an average of 45 hours per week, and I’ve worked as many as 65 hours in a week. My schedule is unpredictable – I’ve had as many as 46 orders in one day, and there are still days when I have no sales at all.  I’ve also had my share of negative experiences (but I choose not to dwell on those!)  Overall, I absolutely love what I do.

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Do you enjoy the time line format? Who would you like to see a time line from next? Whether it’s someone who’s an OMHG Contributor or someone else, please leave a comment to let me know, and I’ll see what I can do!

If you have any questions about sarah + abraham, check out my Formspring page – I love answering questions!

20 comments

  1. courtney v says:

    thanks for sharing. i love your products.

    funny that you posted this today – my most recent order from you is going to the recipient tonight at their baby shower. i excpect lots of ooohs and aaahs. maybe you will get some new customers out of it!

    i’ll be back shopping again soon!

  2. Dawn says:

    I’m such a huge fan of your work! It’s so hard to put faith in yourself when things don’t go according to your ‘mental timeline’!

    Thank you so much for sharing, this has helped me keep things in perspective and moving forward with my own ventures, and yes, I would love to see more contributor timelines.

  3. i enjoy the timeline posts. being a small business myself, i find great value and interest in them.
    my husband was also laid off and my wedding business has been the busiest yet. it helps having him home with 4 kids under 6. having 9 month old twins has been a challenge when trying to grow my business.

  4. Vari says:

    Thanks for the post Sara! I’m a graphic designer and have recently set up my own home based invitations business as I have a 10 month old baby boy and was paid off whilst on maternity leave. I’ve always dreamed that it could one day be a viable full time job. My husband is looking to change career and would be taking a huge pay cut also. Your post has given me faith that we could do it in the not s distant future!

  5. sara says:

    I have a terrible memory… I had to go back and look at my sarah + abraham blog to be able to write this post. I’m so glad I have that blog as a record of where I started from – it’s really fun for me to go back and look at every once in a while.

  6. Joanne says:

    Sarah, your time line/success is admirable! BTW, my husband has worked for non-profits all our lives. He sleeps well. I do wish I had dared to start a business as early as you did, but let’s face it, the internet has changed everything for artists and “handmade”. It’s never too late . Just today my alphabet book was included on your blog by Marla. Thanks! I am inspired and looking forward to more timelines.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s such a great example of something wonderful coming out of what all of us might label as bad – lay offs, pay cuts etc. I love your products, blog and great business advice.

    Thanks,
    Bevin
    p.s. I loved Chicago! Paper Source was great!

  8. Meagan says:

    This is awesome & so encouraging. Thank you so much! Sometimes I get too caught up in things & want everything to happen all at once, so it’s nice to see how things work out. You don’t have to have everything up front. Businesses need time to grow!

  9. I love the time line format posts too!
    Always so inspiring and encouraging, it’s true.
    And having the time line of how things went and how they’re grown, step by step, give a bigger vision of all the process.
    And this is for sure a thing that it’s really hard to have and draw for ourselves along the journey.
    Thank you so much for sharing it Sara!

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