I RECENTLY DID AN APARTMENT REFRESH. No major overhaul, changed up some of the artworks, got some new chairs for my desk, added some greenery. And when it came time to find something to hang above my bed, I had my heart set on an oversized, chunky knotted wall hanging of some sort, and in my internet research came across Heidi's Etsy store; Macramania. I placed my order, and got an email from Heidi a few hours later asking me if there was a strict deadline I needed it for? I said no, and she replied saying she would try to get it made before her fourth child was born, which was in two days :| The hanging arrived to me in NYC a few days later, and I knew I had to interview this woman for the SW Foundation. This is a MUST read for anyone looking to turn their hobby into a business, Heidi's story is similar to mine; She started on a market table stall, hand making everything from her living room.... Ah, wait, she also left a job as an eye Doctor, is raising four daughters, and did you catch the fact she made my wall art monstrosity & got it to the post office to be shipped to me 48 hours before giving birth to her fourth child? So she is actually nothing like me, she is a superwoman. Here is her story.....
NAME: Heidi M. Martin
TITLE(S): Founder, CEO
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Momma. Devoted. Creative. Observant. Funny.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? I have always had an eye for details, precision and design. I loved physics and became a Doctor of Optometry before having children. The day to day grind of 9-5, repetitive office work, and lack of flexibility quickly became a motivator for me to try something else to help me balance being a mother and a professional. I worked as a medical transcriptionist from home for several years, but after daughter #3 came around my husband and I decided to pair down to a single income in order for me to be with our children full time. I happened into creating my first piece of macramé one day after seeing something I liked on Pinterest. After spending a combined 10 hours over three days teaching myself several different basic macramé knots, my first plant hanger was complete. It still hangs in kitchen today holding one of my favorite spider plants!
At first my macramé was simply a way for me to decorate my home being creative and thrifty. After a few pieces grew into a small collection, I decided it was time to open a little stand in the local weekly umbrella market downtown. The market was a huge confirmation for me, helping me to realize that I now had more than a hobby ~ I was really talented but didn’t want to admit it. Around the same time I started placing items for sale on Etsy, but lacking any real confidence that my shop would materialize into anything “professional”. I mean, a woman couldn’t just learn a new skill, open a business, and expect to be successful and contributory to her family while pregnant and raising three kids – could she? I could. I did.
Today, I spend between 3-8 hours a day working on the various aspects of my business. My business is called Macramania because that is what my “studio” and life is truly like. In between being a wife to my wonderful husband, a loving mother helping with homework, breastfeeding and caring for our 2 month old, carting kids to ballet, book club, choir, and all the other things moms can relate to, I create custom order wall hangings and other unique macramé.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is you elevator pitch on what you do? I was born and raised in a small in Northern Michigan. After graduating high school, I attended Michigan State University, and went on to become a Doctor of Optometry by 2002. After working only a few years in the office, I quit my job as an Optometrist to be able to work from home as a medical transcriptionist after having my first daughter. After my third daughter, I quit my job altogether to have the luxury of staying at home and raising my children. Born out of a desire to create and decorate my home on a budget, I taught myself how to macramé. At first, macramé was something I just plain enjoyed. It was therapeutic for me to spend a little time focused on something outside of being a mom. Over the course of 18 months, my hobby became a little extra spending money, which became a business, which has become very successful for me and my family.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) Couldn’t be farther from what I thought I’d be doing. I didn’t have a clearly defined plan, but I sure never could have imagined this!
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? Yes! I feel accomplished and successful both personally and professionally. My personal definition starts with my family and growing my relationships with the people I love. I adore being at home with my family, and able to work, design, and create pieces I love. Find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally)? I want to continue designing and creating beautiful pieces of wall art, and continue to hear how much my customers love the item when open the box. It is a tremendous source of satisfaction to know that other women appreciate and enjoy my work. I now have work on display in at least 12 countries around the world, and I would love to begin travelling again for new artistic inspiration as the kids grow up.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? Um, not exactly. I’m actually an eye doctor by training. So, you could say that I have an “eye for detail” *eyeroll*
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? After quitting my job to raise my children full-time, I didn’t expect to be doing anything professionally. I had the image of a 1950’s housewife in my mind, destined to be really good at starching bed sheets and men’s dress shirts. Creating my own business from home, doing something I enjoy, to make and income rivaling my husbands has been incredibly rewarding.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? My workspace is totally non-traditional. Being both mom and artist brings the phrase “home office” new meaning. Converting the family room to a studio has been quite a progression over the last 18 months. My husband is no slouch in the woodshop, which allows us to collaborate on things like work space. My staghorn fern wall is something I love, and inspires calm and creativity while giving me the sense of being in a beautiful garden whenever I’m in my studio.
What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey? Frustrations have been many over the years. I don’t enjoy dwelling on those, but rather focus on the positive aspects. I’m not fueled by frustrations, but rather the things in life that bring me joy.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? There is no crying in macramé. Ha! Seriously though, I often do feel overwhelmed when I’m 15-20 pieces behind. The best coping for me is simply to buckle down and push through. I can’t go to bed when I’m feeling overwhelmed so I just finish what I need to do – exhausted or not.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? My husband thinks I do, and I am probably in denial. I can acknowledge that pressure has increased with my growing business, but it has also brought some benefits with it. I have created some pieces I would have never imagined when feeling most pressured.
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I have a very good support system in place. When I get behind, my husband can help pick up the slack with the children and the house. Sometimes he will even take a day off to allow me time to focus on what I need to continue being successful.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? Absolutely. Creating my business has given me a huge sense confidence. This has spilled over to my personal relationships in so many positive ways. My daughters can learn from my example, seeing me at work. Before my business, we had chosen and were committed to living on a single income so that I could be a mother. My husband is a flight nurse, which sounds glamorous but isn’t the most lucrative profession. Easing the financial burden has been very helpful for us, creating an environment where we can focus more on our relationship and family and less on pinching pennies.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How? When I started, I had few connections and only a basic knowledge of online commerce models like Etsy and Chairish. Besides my husband, there wasn’t really anyone to bounce new ideas off. Over time, I have developed new connections, customers, and friends through markets and sales. This didn’t happen overnight, and until I had my business connections I just had to rely on my family.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Unfinished orders. Crying babies. Breastfeeding. My husband’s snoring. When I get a new idea for a piece and need to get it quickly sketched on paper and into knots.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? No, its been a natural evolution that had to happen the way it did. Early on I needed time to develop my craft, so it was okay to be growing slowly. I think of that time as when I grew my roots. Once established, I really began to grow and bloom so that everyone else could see.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Do it all (almost all) over again and cherish it! Getting pickpocketed in France, chased across the desert on a camel, meeting my husband and falling in love, our beautiful children, and our life together. I am a product of my history, and without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? First person who comes to mind is Justina Blakeney. She’s been an online presence that I’ve drawn inspiration from since starting my business journey. She isn’t afraid to try new ideas, techniques, styles, and expresses a love for design that parallels my own. Her style encourages women to express themselves by making a departure from the traditional mainstream, sometimes even saving money while repurposing. I feel that creating spaces in our homes that are personal, vibrant, calming, and inspiring are essential for healthy minds, making connections with our loved ones, and happy lives.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? The people I love to be around generally have traits of loyalty, devotion, eccentricity, and being able to find humor in almost any situation..
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? It does. It has to. For me, there is no question the life is always ultimately more important. I love being a successful entrepreneur, but let there be no illusion that I am a fierce mama bear first. My balance comes with my cast of supporting characters – my family and friends. They are always there to level me out when work and life get out of balance either way.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? Very early on in my business there were times when I felt like this would never be much more than a little hobby. However I didn’t really consider quitting because the platform I started on (Etsy) required minimal overhead, startup cost, stock, and most importantly I just enjoyed what I was doing even if it didn’t become moderately successful.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? That macramé belongs in the 70’s, that you gotta be a hippie to appreciate it, that its totally easy to make.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Learn, apply, imagine, create. Don’t let your mind be limited by what you see in a magazine or online. There are endless possibilities of new artistic expressions and applications. Don’t be afraid to fail while trying something new. Something as simple as macramé can become so fresh and new when re-imagined.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? I would. What I do doesn’t seem like work most of the time. I read an article in Forbes recently about women and Etsy that summarizes why my business doesn’t feel like work – “64% of sellers think that doing something they enjoy is more important than making money”. While I could be making 3-4 times more money as an Optometrist, I am easily 30-40 times more happy doing something I love and being able to make my family the priority in my life at the same time.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? Our legacy is one of the most important things we have in life. My legacy will be demonstrating to my 4 daughters the strength, confidence, imagination, and perseverance that will empower them to become strong and independent women capable of whatever they choose to do in life. I want them to shed any notion that their success is dependent on anyone else, but also that in a healthy relationship they can be strengthened and enjoy the kind of marriage I do with my husband.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? I think my story is relatable for many women, and many of them may be going through the same process I did when deciding how to achieve my home and career balance. For many, the thought of leaving secure full time employment is unthinkable. I want my story to spark something in them that makes them wonder – could I do that, too?
What are some of your favorite quotes?
“ I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship” -Louisa May Alcott
“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door” – Milton Berle
“ If you are not willing to risk the ususal, you will have to settle for the ordinary” – Jim Rohm