You Can Be More Than One Thing

Aug 18, 2021 | Business Topics | 16 comments

As I sit here at the computer, the sky outside is bright blue, filled with lofty white clouds. The breeze is blowing steadily, pushing them from one end of our neighborhood to the other. The puffy white shapes that started in view are blowing away, heading off on a new trajectory.

I’m smiling because it’s a perfect setting for me to write about the changes that have come to Eight Hundred Furniture. As time has gone by, I have realized that I am also traveling on a new trajectory. At times, I wasn’t even aware it was happening.

Now that my world is quiet, and the 2021 QVC garden season has ended, I have finally had time to reflect on the evolution of my business.

Where did it all start? How did I get here? Where am I going?

So let’s go on a journey, dear reader, to the beginning of my business. Come open the door to that 800 square foot apartment, and join me on the floor in front of my first paint project. Sit with me in the driver’s seat of The Marshmallow for the first time. Feel the excited anticipation of being on national television for the very first time.

As we go through my memories, and inch closer to the present day, I invite you to continue on with me into my next chapter of creative entrepreneurship.

Let’s go back to where it all began…

Where it All Began

When I first started my business, I was living in an 800 square foot apartment. I was newly introduced to this thing called “chalk paint” and was painting practically every piece of hand-me-down furniture I owned.

Soon after, I started selling some of my pieces on Facebook Marketplace. As I fell in love with furniture refinishing, I came up with the name “Eight Hundred Furniture”, proving that beautiful things can come from small places.

After Marc and I got married, we moved in together and rented a larger apartment.

Antique trunk painted in Marzipan Milk Paint
This trunk was staged right outside the front door of our 2nd floor apartment

Around 2016, it became clear that it was time for me to leave the world of public education. The institution was sucking me dry, and I wanted to have the freedom to run things MY way. Together, Marc and I agreed to turn my furniture refinishing hobby into a full-blown business.

After registering with the state and forming an LLC., I started selling my pieces in shops. Eventually, I rented my first antique booth space.

Eight Hundred Furniture's Old Booth at Morgantown Market
My old booth space at Morgantown Market

Soon after, I became a retailer for two paint lines that I still love to this day – Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint and General Finishes.

One of my first Milk Paint displays at Painted Table Designs

Then, we bought a truck to help with the furniture hauling. I affectionately called it “The Marshmallow”, and we still have it to this day!

White Nissan Frontier

Moving to the In-Law Suite

As my business slowly took over our apartment, and I was working on establishing some capital, we decided to move in with my parents. Not only would this help me grow my business, but it would help us to save money for our first home. The suite had a full sized basement, which became my workshop. It was (and still is) a FANTASTIC space!

Antique washstand painted in Layla's Mint by Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint

I would refinish the pieces downstairs. Then, Marc and I would bring them upstairs to be staged and photographed upstairs. Finally, everything would be loaded up in The Marshmallow and delivered to my antique booth spaces.

Washstand in Farmhouse White Milk Paint
Can you see our refrigerator in the mirror reflection?

This business model worked for quite a while. From 2016 until the end of 2019, things were chugging along pretty well. In October 2019, an incredible opportunity presented itself.

Transitioning Away From a Brick-and-Mortar Presence

One of my friends shared that QVC was looking for a personality to represent its newly-formed private garden brand called “Marigold“. She thought I’d be perfect for the job, so an audition was set on the calendar.

When it was my turn to audition, I was shown a product and given 5 minutes to go over its selling features. Then, I was brought on set and seated next to Carolyn Gracie. They mic’d me up and told me to start once the light on the TV camera turned red.

After doing so many Instagram and Facebook lives, and all the hours I spent in the classroom, it wasn’t scared at all. The light turned red and Carolyn and I talked easily for almost 10 minutes.

In about a week, I got a call with an offer to be Marigold’s representative on air. Before I knew it, I was on national television!

Jenn presenting Watering Cans on QVC
This was one of my first airings with Stacey Stauffer. Can you tell I was excited?

As I began to be on air more frequently with QVC, it became clear that I couldn’t handle the demands of being on TV while maintaining my antique booth spaces at the same time. I didn’t have time for workshops anymore. Working regular hours at the shops where I sold was next to impossible with the constant “on call” nature of live TV.

I’m given roughly 3-5 days notice when I’ll be on air. Some days, it’s only a few hours!

Jenn presenting kinetic bird spinner on qvc

It became clear that my time of having a physical retail presence was over. There simply wasn’t enough time to go around. Together, Marc and I decided talked it through and realized the time had come to pull out of my antique booth spaces and take everything online.

Purchasing Our First Home

It was right around this time that we purchased our first home! We moved in August of 2020, right in the middle of the COVID pandemic. House prices were skyrocketing (and still are), so we were fortunate to get in when we did.

Our new home

As we were moving out of the in-law suite and into our new home, we had to decide what to do with my leftover inventory. There were unsold furniture pieces, home decor and paint supplies that needed to go somewhere. To simplify our lives, we decided to keep my paint stash with us, and store everything else back at the in-law suite.

All seemed right with the world until it was time to start the 2021 Marigold season.

A COVID Curveball

During a “normal” QVC season, I would go into the studio, grab my products from the warehouse, lightly stage them, roll them onto the set, do the presentation, and put everything away. There were people to help me with makeup and I could rent clothes to look presentable on air. The products were stored at QVC, and I didn’t have to worry about sound or lighting.

QVC Logo

That all changed when COVID hit. We couldn’t be in the studio for safety reasons. As a result, QVC quickly pivoted and adopted a Skype-from-home model. The regular program hosts still came into the studio, but guest hosts Skyped in from home instead of physically coming into the studio. Most of the employees began working from home as well.

Suddenly, all of the things that were previously handled by QVC now fell on my shoulders. I had to find space in our townhome for over 100 products in the Marigold line that were being shipped on a daily basis. Shelving carts, live plants and staging props needed to be purchased. My space needed to look like a garden.

The next thing to tackle was where I would broadcast from in our home. We had only been in our house for 4 months, so things were still being organized. The dining room had the most space, so we hastily painted one wall for a tasteful backdrop, leaving the other half untouched.

The Skype-from-home business model quickly became all-consuming, and we lived in a constant state of disorder. Our home was literally taken over by Marigold, and it was all we could do not to trip on light stands, ethernet cords and garden stakes.

Marigold needed to leave our house ASAP, so we took it over to the in-law suite. To make room, I sold all of my leftover furniture and home decor that we had been storing from my former booth spaces. We paired down quite a bit and moved Marigold in just as it was getting warm enough to go outside for airings.

My parents have amazing gardens and a beautiful property, so it made for a gorgeous setting! That arrangement carried us through the remainder of the 2021 garden season.

Jenn outside under Cherry Trees selling Marigold Planters for QVC

To put things into perspective, all of that transitioning happened over the course of 1 year. We moved houses, a business and a full line of garden products multiple times over.

You Are More Than Just One Thing

This all brings us up to the present day. At the moment, I’m enjoying a much-needed break. My last airing was August 12, so I think I’m pretty much done for the 2021 garden season. Right now, I’m busy with weekly blogging for Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, crafting their weekly newsletter, doing product photography and fulfilling online paint orders.

Now that I have some time to breathe, I’m reflecting on my business and I’m wondering something…

Am I still Eight Hundred Furniture, or have I transformed into something else?

It’s a tough question to grapple with, because up until now, I’ve always been Eight Hundred Furniture. It’s always been about the pieces, the prep work, the paint colors and the process.

So who am I now?

I was reflecting on this the other day, and I came across a timely Instagram post from author, podcaster and photographer, Mary Marantz:

Her words spoke directly to my questioning mind regarding making pivots in your established business identity. How DO you get up the courage when you know it’s time to pivot? How do I go from being “furniture” Jenn to this new blogging / photography / television Jenn?

In Mary’s words, I don’t have to choose between one or the other. I get to be BOTH. One does not disqualify the other. I can be a product photographer AND TV host AND blogger AND sporadic furniture refinisher AND whatever else comes my way.

Jenn Baker, Eight Hundred Furniture, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint, Witches Fly North 2019, Miss Morgans Milkweed Antiques, Lebanon Expo Center, Milk Paint

All of the skills that I have developed over the years of my business are launching me forward into new opportunities.

I have directly applied the lighting and staging skills I gained from furniture refinishing to my Skype-from-home QVC airings. My days in the classroom prepared me for public speaking, being on social media, and ultimately, national television. My passion for Milk Paint has allowed me to support incredible brands from the back-end with blog posts and photography.

Pink Grapefruit by Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint

So I’m not just “Furniture Jenn” anymore. I’ve grown into a Jenn with a new name (which I’ll share soon)!

What’s Next

I am SO excited that you have been here for this journey, dear reader. It doesn’t matter when you joined. Whether you’ve been here from the start, or you just found me a few days ago on Instagram, I’m so thankful for you!

My path has not been straight (whose is?) but it is uniquely mine. Perhaps my reflections today will give you courage to dive into similar questions in your life. Maybe you’re on the precipice of a new venture, developing a new identity, pivoting or adjusting. Are you afraid of what may happen? Do you doubt your decisions? Have things changed without your realization?

I’ve got good news for you – we’re all in the messy middle together.

Fun fact – I just got a haircut, and it’s now 8 inches shorter!

I’m going to take you along for the ride into this next beautiful phase of my business.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen some work I’m doing in the basement workshop. It’s just the start of things to come.

For now, cheers to you, and everyone else who is in a beautiful season of change.

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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