Blog Series: Morris Makers
Maker/Owner: Jenny Maras
Business Name: Junk By Jenny
It is safe to say that Jenny was one of the very first I people I met in Morris. In fact, she was on the hiring committee when they were interviewing for a new Family and Consumer Science teacher. That was just over five years ago and I do not think either of us could have predicted where we would be at today with our businesses or how close we would become over those years. As a newbie teacher, I used to ask her how to line up a field trip and where to make copies but now when we see each other over the noon hour we chat about SEO for our blogs and Instagram hashtags.
Jenny is full of big ideas and is able to execute those plans while paying attention to the finer details along the way. I have seen her transform her garage and backyard into a beautifully styled shopping boutique with a whole bunch of junk. She has already accomplished so much with Junk By Jenny and she has shown no signs of stopping in the future.
Everyone, meet Jenny!
1. Provide us with a little background about yourself.
I'm a farm girl at heart who married her junior high school , who is now commonly known as Junk Hunk. We have 2 kiddos who run circles around us most days and wouldn't have it any other way. I met my best friends in elementary school and loved them ever since. To put it simply, I'm as nostalgic as they come and love traditions. I am a high school teacher by day and a junker by night. My preferred drink of choice is coffee, at all hours of the day and night. I am the super freaky fan girl at a Kenny Chesney concert. I enjoy all holidays, but begin preparing for Halloween in August. Someday, I'll own a vintage VW convertible. I am detail-orientated and exploding with creativity most days. I am proud to say I am a small business owner, chasing the American Dream.
2. Tell us about what it is you make or the services you offer.
Junk By Jenny is a combination of TV shows American Pickers and HGTV's Flea Market Flip. I am on a constant quest to find cool old pieces that maybe need a little love in the form of elbow grease or a fresh coat of paint. I love metal baskets, chairs, and never resist a pedestal table. I never can have enough paned windows or large, orate frames. I used to have a deep love for old doors, until I was pinned under one in a dumpster, in a rainstorm, wearing a dress. This happened one morning before school and a student had to help me old. It was memorable for both of us.
3. At what point did you decide to take your entrepreneurial leap of faith?
My life as a junker really was born out of an identity crisis. For the longest time I thought of myself as an antiqu'er. I even had personalized license plates that read ANTIQU'ER. I found myself constantly frustrated with the expense and high-end nature of the antique industry. Instead, I always seemed more drawn to the rusty, crusty pieces that most in the antique industry would turn the other way at. Fast forward 10+ years and I took the plunge with a website, tax ID number, and some business cards. With a pile of treasures to share, Junk By Jenny was born.
4. Where do you gather your inspiration?
Like many, Pinterest serves as constant inspiration. I love paging through magazines. In fact, a bucket list item of mine is to be featured in a magazine someday. I tune into HGTV when time allows. But really, most of my inspiration is generated in my mind...especially in the quiet hours in the morning over a cup of joe.
5. What has been a highlight since beginning your business?
My highlights come on any picking adventures I go on. These adventures often involve my family and an empty suburban and trailer, only to be filled to the brim. I adore the folks I meet on my adventures and have experienced a piece of their history. I scour old groves, barns, or buildings to uncover the relics of the past. The people often become emotional, but also are overcome with peace knowing their unforgotten treasures will have new life with me. Picking is often a real, raw experience...and, time after time is what I love most about Junk By Jenny.
6. Tell us about a challenge you faced and how you went about overcoming it.
Upholstering chairs still scares me. My most epic fail was my attempt to paint a fabric chair, with the keyword being ATTEMPT. Pinterest made it look so easy. It sat in my garage and even my dungeon basement for over a year as I dealt with my failure. On a whim, my son and I gutted the thing and started new. I ended up painting the wood a robins egg blue and upholstered with a duck cloth. It really was cute. The fear still burns inside of me though.
7. What do you see in the future for your business?
2 Words: Red Barn. I so badly want a beautiful old red barn. I would host four seasonal sales and DIY classes. I would also need little goats, peacocks, and a loyal farm dog as companions. There would need to be pumpkins....lots of pumpkins. I also dream of an old fashioned soda shop in the barn's loft. I constantly remind myself to not quit my daydream.
8. What advice do you have to share with someone thinking about the entrepreneurial route?
Entrepreneurship is so much more than being your own boss. It fuels a burning passion deep inside. For me, like many, I transformed a hobby into a revenue-generating business. I would suggest doing just that. To draw from the advice of one of my coffee mugs, "Find your tribe. Love them hard." A new entrepreneur needs to surround themselves with other kindred spirits. They also need to have a varsity level team of supporters. I couldn't do what I do without my junk hunk (my husband), my kids, family and friends. It also is important to apologetically, but kindly say no from time to time. Finally, outsource to people who have the know-how that you lack, whether that person designs your website, oversees your finances, or simply offers the constructive criticism that we all need from time to time.
9. How can people purchase your products or services?
This upcoming October will mark the 4th Annual Junk By Jenny Fall Sale in my yard. It is always during the fall break at school because it works well with my teacher schedule. The event includes early-bird deals, hot cider, a bargain cave, and a cozy fire. New this past October was the addition of my "Junk After Dark" promo, allowing customers to enjoy half off deals. Beyond Morris, I am a vendor a Junk Bonanza in the Twin Cities in September and April. In mid-July, I will be at Market on the Farm, a new event at a beautiful horse farm near Willmar. Finally, my website is a great place to read about all of my stories of the people I meet and I places I go.
10. Where can people find you online to follow your creative journey?
A big thank you to Jenny for participating in this blog series, Morris Makers, which highlights crafters/entrepreneurs in the Morris, MN area that have at one point played a role in inspiring me to begin my creative journey with Amanda Nygaard Designs. The hope of this blog series is to shed light on the person behind the scenes and to encourage others to pursue the dreams on their minds as well.
Please check back Monday, June 26th for the next interview. Interviews will be published Mondays and Thursdays for the rest of the month of June.