Lessons Learned

Nov 17, 2016 | Business Topics | 0 comments

My business is only a few months old and I’ve learned quite a bit about small business ownership during these short months of incorporation ranging from QuickBooks to wholesale accounts to tracking my mileage.

Even though I’m new to the business end of things, I’ve been painting furniture for almost 5 years. You would think I’ve got it down by now but I still struggle from time to time.

My latest piece taught me some important lessons, which I’d like to share with you. Hopefully you won’t repeat them!

Let’s meet our subject.

I picked up this cherry drop leaf table at the new spot that my Mom and I discovered a few weeks ago.  It’s hit or miss based on my budget, but on that particular trip, I hit the gold mine.  I scooped up this table for a few reasons.

1. It has hand cut dovetail joints.  (Looking at the joinery on pieces is the first thing I check out when purchasing.)  When they’re uneven like this, you know they’ve been done by hand.

2. The top is solid wood – no veneer.  Now I don’t have anything against veneer, but it’s always so nice working with a nice solid wood top.  As you can see, the original finish was very…how shall we say…orangey-red.  (This photo is not an exaggeration.)

The coolest part of this piece was a secret compartment behind the main drawer where I found a plethora of goodies inside.  I was taking the table apart and noticed bits of paper sticking out from the back.  After removing some screws, I was able to wiggle the “secret” compartment out.

Check out what I found!

Did you catch the date on that National Geographic?  May 1944!

These papers dated back to the 1950’s.

The Christmas bulletin under the dusty clock pendulum was from 1984.

Once I was ready to go, I got stuck on my color choice for the bottom of the table.  This piece was tough to get into because of the color of the top.  It was so orange-red that it limited the colors I could use to paint the bottom.  I’m a huge fan of leaving wood tops on pieces and I didn’t have the heart to paint such beautiful…orange…wood.  I thought that Miss Mustard Seed’s Boxwood would be a good compliment because red and green are opposite on the color spectrum.

Because the finish on the table was super glossy and smooth, I scuffed up the surface a bit with some sandpaper to help my milk paint stick. I thought about using Bonding Agent with my first layer of paint, but I went against my better judgment and mixed it plain. Sure enough, large spots chipped away and I made more work for myself.

Lesson 1 – Go with your gut.

To seal in the chipping spots, I applied a layer of Tough Coat to the entire piece. Tough Coat is a fantastic product that has tons of uses, just like Hemp Oil.

After my Tough Coat dried, I didn’t mix a new batch of Boxwood. I used the paint from my first coat and applied it again – without stirring. (Seriously, what was I thinking?)

Lesson 2 – Don’t cut corners.

After that coat, I was tired. The night was wearing on and I wanted to get this table finished and out the door the next day to one of my selling locations. I was totally rushing and nothing good ever comes from that. I applied a coat of Hemp Oil and tried to convince myself that I liked the finish. The Boxwood milk paint was completely streaky and didn’t look anything like what it should. I should have stopped right there and reapplied, but I persisted.

Lesson 3 – Don’t rush.

To make matters worse, I applied Antiquing Wax to try to conceal the streaky appearance of the milk paint. While Boxwood with Antiquing Wax is a beautiful look, it wasn’t executed well at all on my part. Folks, it looked exactly like pea soup. I brought the table over to my staging area and just sat and looked at it. There was no way I could take this to a store and be proud of it. It was straight up ugly.

Lesson 4 – Don’t compromise.

There was no way that I could take photos of this table, watermark them with my business name, and try to represent Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint with a finish like this. I shook my head at myself and felt slightly ashamed that I tried to whip this project out so quickly.

As of late, I feel that the Lord has been calling me to rely on Him for literally every aspect of my business. He wants me to consult Him, wait on Him, and pray about every decision I make…right down to the color that I paint my pieces. Now that may sound totally crazy to you, but my entire business was founded upon a story of transformation. God transformed me like a piece of furniture. I was dinged up, my finish was horrible, and quite frankly, I probably looked like pea soup. My reliance on Him comes from a heart of gratitude and I have complete peace knowing that I have ordered my business in accordance with His standards.

The biggest mistake I made with this piece was that I didn’t rely on Him at all. I just forged ahead with my own plan, cut corners, and sold out on my standard of work. In the end, it was an epic flop.

Lesson 5 – Seek the Lord.

Usually when I make mistakes, there’s a time of restoration that immediately follows. My time of restoration came yesterday in a “sanding day”. Because I work out of our apartment (on the second floor no less) I can’t take my pieces outside and sand them down. Our complex is super quiet and there aren’t any outdoor outlets where I can plug in my sander. I’m sure our downstairs neighbor already wonders what the heck we’re doing as we’re lugging furniture up and down our stairs every other day. He doesn’t need me to get sawdust all over his patio furniture too.

I loaded up the pea soup table as well as an oak washstand into the Marshmallow (our white Nissan Frontier pickup) and drove the short ride over to my parents’ house.

I spent a few hours sanding down the tops of these pieces and as I worked, I sensed peace because I was doing the right thing.  I was coming back to my standard.  I feel better about the pea soup table already as it sits in the corner quietly waiting for its re-makeover.  The orange-red color is completely gone from the wood and I have a super smooth blank slate to start over.

I’m still sorting out my options with that piece, but I do have a plan for the oak washstand.

And yes, I prayed about it.


Welcome to my happy place!
I'm Jenn Baker - Milk Paint lover, photographer, blogger, and QVC Guest Host. Click below to learn more about me and my creative business.  LEARN MORE ABOUT JENN

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