One Year in Business: Recap

One year in business for Amanda Nygaard Designs. How did that happen so fast?? I remember typing into Google “how to start a business” like it was yesterday. Looking back on the year, I can recall numerous times where I felt like I had a mountain of knowledge to climb in order to reach that next mark I was dreaming about.  

How do I register with the State of MN as a business?

How to set up a business checking account?

How do I go about mailing packages from my house?

How to set up an event display and what do I bring?

How to keep track of customer communication, sales, and purchases?

How to create an interview series?

How to create a website?

The list goes on and on.  But looking back, it is amazing to see how much I have learned mostly from trial and error but also from friends in the creative community.  Originally, I started Amanda Nygaard Designs as a creative outlet.  A way for me to have that little bit of "me time" to do crafty things which is when I feel most like myself.  At the time, we were living in our house for about two years and over those two years I created several home decor pieces.  My husband and I enjoy DIY projects and since the time we moved in, our 1969 rambler was beginning to feel more reflective of us and the look we were originally intending.

Around that same time, I noticed a few friends beginning small businesses (Junk by Jenny, Rinkles, and Freckled Designs Co.) and I thought, why not me?  

The Beginning:

August of 2016 we had a 2 year old, a 4 month old baby, and I was gearing up to begin working full time since maternity leave.  But I felt in my heart it was time to put my creative projects out into the world and start a small business, one that I have wanted from a very young age.  You see, in high school when people asked what I wanted to be when I got older, I would respond with either saying a wedding planner (anyone watch Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner??) or that I wanted to own a business.  I never knew what that business would be up until recently.  


The month prior in July of 2016, I got my feet wet while participating in a local craft vendor event.  The process of preparing for the event was exciting and the best part was actually creating the ideas I had in my head.  August was when I started to get the ball rolling in obtaining a business name, getting a tax id number, signing up for a checking account, etc.  It is always encouraged for small businesses to have some sort of business plan in place before opening shop.  I didn't.  It was just a hobby.  But after such a long time of pondering the idea of starting a small business, I decided to just get started and let it evolve as life evolves.  This quote by Walt Disney best represents why I started Amanda Nygaard Designs:

"The way to get started is to avoid talking and begin doing."

-Walt Disney

Along the Way:

Over this past year, I started selling hand painted signs with my own designs.  It has since evolved into almost 100% custom work.  After a lot of trial and error, I have come up with several sign dimensions that I feel or “top sellers”.  Then customers contact me with a sign request (edit - I am slowly closing down the sign portion of my business as of May 2018) and since I have a variety of signs pre-made, I have a shorter turnaround time with preparing a draft and creating their sign.  

There were many late nights building signs in the dark and cold garage and also a lot of evenings spent sitting at our dining room table hand painting and packaging orders while drinking a glass of wine. With two kids and a husband, I have always tried to be mindful of the time I put into the business, being sure that it does not carve away time from them.  Often times I would wait to work on projects until after the kids went to bed or save it for weekend nap times.  

Looking back, I am so glad I participated in the following events because it provided an excellent opportunity to network and surround myself with other people in the creative industry.

  • December - Brooten Craft Fair

I was on the fence to sign up for this event, but I knew a family member would have a booth next to me so I saw it as a bonding opportunity.  The event was a good experience in terms of gauging audience interest and the mechanics for setting up a booth.  At this event I met Mandy Brower, who had a Mary Kay booth and was also in the midst of planning the first Lakes Area Wedding Expo.  We connected and she encouraged me to try to market my products towards the wedding industry.  Again, I was on the fence but I decided… what’s to lose?

I have to admit, I was n-e-r-v-o-u-s driving to this event.  This was something that I had never done before and I was going to be next to a lot of established businesses in the wedding industry.  Fortunately, this was another event that I gained a lot of knowledge about paying attention to audience interest, how to market my products, booth set-up, and what my follow-up communication would look like if someone was interested in purchasing a custom sign.  My mom attended this event with me and it was fun to have a super fan by my side all day. At this event I met more people in the wedding industry such as Tessa from Gathered Oaks which lead to another event in July.

My sister and brother-in-law opened a taproom in Fargo and we collaborated with our cousin, Stephanie, to have a combined LuLaRoe party and Amanda Nygaard Designs display in their mezzanine.  I stretched myself leading up to this event in trying new designs such as macrame, weaving, and painting on canvas.  It was a great learning opportunity for me to try new skills.  The best part of this event?  Family.  My parents, siblings, and a few cousins were able to attend and have fun into the night.  

When I find interesting businesses or people online, the first thing I look at is their About page.  I want to know more about them and the story of how their business took shape.  So I decided to try my hand at planning and organizing a local interview series that highlights local makers in the creative scene.  It was very well received and brought so much joy to the highlighted individuals and joy to me as well.

  • July - Gathered Oaks Open House

Gathered Oaks is a new event venue in Alexandria, MN that recently opened.  I was asked to be a vendor at their Open House.  At this time, school was out and the weather had been beautiful which made late evenings preparing for the show highly enjoyable.  The atmosphere of the event was very relaxing and so many people attended the event in good spirits and low stress.  This provided a nice opportunity to talk to a lot of people in the Alex area as well as the surrounding communities.  A few former classmates from my high school, Bertha-Hewitt, even stopped in which was such a fun surprise to see them in that setting.

The Future:

I am so excited for what the future holds for Amanda Nygaard Designs.  Almost everyday I run ideas past my husband, some WAY out there and some minor and easily attainable.  My confidence has grown and I appreciate the quirks about me more than ever before.  I am creatively free and that is a great feeling.  If I have an idea of what I want to make, a new interview series, or a new way of marketing my products, I have the confidence and tools to go about researching and trying something new.  I hope to keep creating as long as my heart is telling me to keep putting one step in front of the other.

Growth Ideas:

Branding - I would love to fine tune my web presence and have a mission statement and core values.  

Providing creative jobs - This may be years down the road but if I were to be blessed with having the opportunity to create a job that encourages creativity, that would fill me up with all sorts of good feels.

Flowers - As many of you can see on my social media pages, I have enjoyed playing with flowers lately and have been thinking about offering services in the future.  Stay tuned!

Home Design - I will be going back to school online this fall for Architectural Technology in hopes of getting into the residential drafting scene in the future.  Stay tuned!!!

Thank you, thank you to all those that have followed along in my journey and have supported my small business.  I believe that God has a plan for everyone and my advice to you is to listen to His signs.  Listen and look for the sometimes very subtle and sometimes very clear directions He is trying to point you in for your next chapter or season in life.