Stride Stories: The secrets of running a successful creative business with a family

Stride: How did you become self-employed?

Michelle: I used to work full-time, but I've been fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom to my 2 kids since my daughter was born in 2000. Over the years, I found an interest in making bath and beauty products, and people really wanted to buy them. When my kids got older, I had some free time on my hands while they were in school, so I decided to make the leap to being a work-at-home mom.

Stride: Did you have a previous passion for bath and beauty products?

Michelle: As long as I can remember, I've loved making things with my hands. I think it comes from my grandmothers, who were both really creative women. Several years ago, I realized the beauty products I was using weren’t the healthiest options for me or my family. I started out making real, natural soap for just my family, and it turned into a business from there. Here we are, Cosmic Bath & Beauty, almost 6 years later!

Stride: How did you make the financial leap with your business?

Michelle: My husband, Arik, works full time, so technically he was my initial investor. I started purchasing a few natural, high-quality ingredients that were fairly inexpensive. I had such low start-up costs, that I didn’t need to pull much money from our household income to start Cosmic. Also, I re-evaluated our home finances. It was easy to recognize things we didn’t need, like cable, and remove them from of our lives to make Cosmic work.

Stride: What helped you grow this business and keep it financially sustainable?

Michelle: I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family. My husband and the kids help out whenever I need them – whether it's lending a hand in the studio during busier times, or helping out at craft shows and fairs. Also, I’ve been honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses, and I do best when I'm goal-oriented and give myself deadlines. Last year, I made it a goal to have a really beautiful website created, one that really represented me and the line. Lastly, I have always reinvested my revenue, which has allowed me to grow the line organically over the last six years.

Stride: How has being self-employed opened up your life?

Michelle: Loving what you do every single day is extremely rewarding. As a mom, I’ve been able to run my business AND be there for my family. Although I put in a lot of hours, it almost feels like I’m not actually "working." My schedule is so flexible – I can arrange my day based on my family's schedule and work on tasks based on my own energy and flow, to increase my productivity.

Stride: What is your best business tip that you would give other independent workers?

Michelle: My absolute best business tip is to stay the course. It takes a certain amount of courage to put yourself out there and charge for a product. We’re in this world where everything is so instant. We are constantly hearing news stories about these companies that explode overnight, and it’s really easy to just give up on your dream. I see so many people start and then think, “Oh it must not be good enough,” so they quit. Stay the course. There are people out there, customers out there, that want your product.

Stride: Will you always be self-employed?

Michelle: Yes. I’ve worked in offices where you sit in meetings, and it takes the longest time to make decisions to change things. When you work for yourself, the greatest gift you have is freedom. For example, every year when the kids get out of school, I implement my summer hours. I get up early while the day is still cool, and I begin my work in the studio while everyone else is still asleep. Most summer days I'm done working in the studio by noon, so that leaves the rest of the day open.

Stride: How has Stride helped you in your freelance journey?

Michelle: Anything administrative kills my creative fire. Insurance is one of those things that is so complicated, especially with the new regulations. Etsy contacted sellers saying they had partnered with Stride, so I went to the site and plugged in some numbers – you actually calculated what my costs might be with the different plans. I chose the one I was interested in and was done. Then I got this letter and email from you guys checking in. Usually, you never hear from an insurance company once they have your money. I didn’t feel like that with Stride. Your customer service is so good.

Stride: As someone who works with health-related products, is there anything about the health care system that you would want to fix?

Michelle: Oh my goodness yes! My biggest problem is that I can’t use my health insurance to see my naturopath. I’m 38 right now, and I feel healthy as a result of working with her. I would love to see health insurance cover more preventative and alternative health. I’m okay paying more so everyone can have health care, but at the same time having more options would be awesome.