Here at The Sunday Sparkle we wanted to recognize all the hard working mothers, students, retirees, driven, gutsy creatives that contribute to the great community of Etsy. Some of these shop owners work multiple jobs, create to the wee hours of the morning, spend their weekends sewing and painting, their days off shipping and billing, all in the name of artistry and entrepreneurship. We applaud you and are happy to start a new feature, which will honor Etsy shop owners, and today we begin with one hard-driven, pretty southern mama.
Jennifer Mills was born in Morristown, Tennessee. Jennifer is a wife, mother of three boys, student, photographer, designer, and creator of Mills Design Co. A wonder woman who started the endeavor when her middle child was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, Jennifer left her job as florist to begin extensive speech, occupational, and physical therapy. That same year her husband was diagnosed with a genetic disorder which causes him to have diabetes, pancreatitis, gout, and neuropathy. He had to take a medical leave from work and then weeks later, Jennifer found out she was pregnant. Wow. What a year!
While taking care of her family and going to school with a full-course load, she started to sell antiques and original art work on Etsy, but the real inspiration came from her mother-in-law’s attic, a set of olive green velveteen smocked cushions. She saw the cushions and said, ”I know how to make these! My mama taught me when I was about 8 years old.” Jennifer started making and selling the pillows, and in months she had over a 100 orders. Soon people started requesting for special orders, and now she averages 10-15 pillows a week, as well as 4-5 vintage-inspired dresses.
Jennifer is a true testament of how hard work, talent, and a supportive family makes anything possible. Jennifer says “aside from earning a degree and doing something I thoroughly enjoy, my kids have learned the importance of education and hard work by watching me over the last few years, and that makes me proud.”
Please visit Jennifer’s Etsy site HERE to see her beautiful pillows and dresses and become a fan on facebook HERE.
The Sunday Sparkle: When did you start your etsy shop?
I opened shop on December 19, 2009. I had been TRYING to sell antiques and some of my original artwork on Ebay, but I just couldn’t seem to grasp the right customer base. After months of sporadic sales and rediculous fees, I was feeling horribly discouraged and ready to throw in the flag…Then a friend introduced me to Etsy. I opened my account, listed a few items and waited. It took a few months, some trial and error, and lots of patience…but after I had those first few sales, I knew that I had found my spot!
TSS: How would you describe your shop?
Well, I’m a small-town girl, and I think Mills Design Co. represents that. When people come to my shop, they find pretty things that they won’t find at the mall. I like to think of myself as classy with a hint of trend!
TSS: Describe a typical day in your life?
Oh boy….I get up at 6:30am, clean myself up, start breakfast, get our two “big” boys up and ready for school. After I get them to school, I come back home, throw some laundry in the washer (yes…it IS a daily chore), and go to my “office” (aka, the corner in the den that contains my desk and my organized clutter). I usually get the orders that are completed packaged and ready for the mail lady. I work on my incomplete orders until my wonderful hubby has lunch ready. I eat and do some pre-school lessons with Owen (our 3 year old) and then it’s back to work until 2:30, when I go get the “big” boys from school. Then it’s speech, occupational, and physical therapy for Griffin (the 8 year old), whatever errands I have, and back home to start dinner and help the kiddos with homework. Then baths, stories, and bed for the kids…Then MY homework (still trying to finish my Bachelors Degree), and more orders if I don’t pass out on my laptop!
TSS: What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
I usually try not to work on the weekends unless it’s a top-priority order, and we love to take the kids fishing or to the Knoxville Zoo. Weekends are also when we try to find some good estate sales, which is where I find the best vintage merchandise for my shop. And of course, eating and shopping is always nice on a day off!
TSS: What inspires you?
Oh, I’m totally inspired by the 1940′s era. I’m really into pinups and that style. Aside from that, my family inspires me. We are very close, and my kids genuinely respect the work that I do, and the effort that I put into it. In 2007 my husband was diagnosed with a genetic disorder which causes him to have Diabetes, Pancreatits, Gout, and Neuropathy. He spends a lot of time in the hospital and he is unable to work now, but he pushes me to be successful at anything I try. When I decided to go back to school, he said to me, “That’s good…but I won’t let you stop until your done.” And he hasn’t… When sales are low and money is tight, I get frustrated and say, “I just need to go get a normal job, so we’ll know that we have a check coming in every week.” And he says to me, “Yeah…and you’ll be miserable, because you won’t get to be with your family as much as you are, and you won’t love your job as much as you do.” He’s absolutely right. I have a passion for what I do, and I can’t imagine life any other way.
TSS: What is your favorite thing in your closet?
Well, on a normal day it’s my old ratty jeans! If I don’t get up in the morning and get dressed in REAL clothes, I don’t get anything accomplished all day…Everybody always assumes that I spend my days sewing in my pajamas, but I just can’t get motivated unless I put some jeans on! If it’s a weekend and we’re going out, I love love LOVE my little black dress. I like to pair it with different shoes, sweaters, or accessories.
- Thank you Jennifer! You are a true image of grace and inspiration!