This week’s Work-At-Home Success story comes from Mandy Nagel. She is the founder of I Thought of You, a woman-owned company selling sustainable and Fair Trade products that are not only beautiful, but also have a beautiful stories behind them. All of their items transform lives in a real way by offering sustainable income opportunities for people in developing countries.
1) How did you get started working from home?
I Thought of You actually started on the road, an idea sparked after I met a group of talented jewelry makers in Indonesia. These talented individuals were using natural materials found abundantly in their environment to create beautiful, eco-friendly jewelry. Their local market lacked the opportunity to sell their handiwork to sustain a reasonable living for their families. I purchased quite a bit of jewelry to bring home with me, I wanted to test the market and be sure others found these pieces as stunning as I did. After the positive response I received from the US market, I began working with this team of artisans to design and create a deeper selection of products to really get this business up and running.
Since then, we’ve created partnerships with artisans in several additional countries. We continue to grow our mission of spreading hope, providing opportunities for hardworking people, and expanding the style we offer as we continue to explore more natural materials to work with.
2) How did you choose the work-at-home career you do?
My passion has always been to help people. I first discovered I was a leader when I realized I had the potential to affect change for a movement much larger than myself. Although enjoyable, my corporate job left me in a position where I felt I wasn’t able to make a difference. I wasn’t able to find an outlet where I could leave a real mark, so I decided to create my own opportunity.
3) How did you get started (basic initial steps)?
We operate 100% online, so the first step was to get our web presence up and running. We wanted our website to not only present our products in a beautiful way, but really tell the story of positive change that happens with each purchase.
Like any small business, we operate on thin margins. Even more so, we support our artisans which takes an additional chunk from our budget. With these considerations, we felt an online store was more appropriate and allowed us to reach a larger audience while still keeping our artisans fully supported. Life in developing countries can be quite different from ours, they are incredibly resourceful and use every bit of everything. Using these lessons learned, we wanted to strategically use our resources as well.
4) How did you get your first client or customer or job?
After launching to sell our products over Thanksgiving weekend of 2014, we were perfectly positioned to offer holiday shoppers a Fair Trade alternative to jewelry, scarves, home decor, and more. Our products were very well received and was a wonderful platform from which to grow.
5) How do you market your business?
We love to tell the story about our makers and our products.
Our Made From Fruit orange peel items are especially popular because of their unique look and light, natural scent. Artisans collect discarded orange peels from street juice vendors in South America then roll them into roses, spirals, twists, and other unique shapes. They go through a sun-drying process to harden them to a hard leather-like texture, but still retains the natural oils to give the piece a citrus scent. Peels can either be left as their natural color or colored to one of many bright hues using natural dyes.
6) What does your usual day look like?
To begin each day, I review, re-prioritize, and add new items to our list (because it’s never completed, no matter how many hours you work!). Lists keep us organized and able to tackle items in order of priority.
From there, we touch base with any emails that have come through since the last working day and review our social media pages. It’s so important to stay current on your social outlets. We love continuing the conversation with our fans on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram and want to keep these areas on-topic and positive.
Afterwards, we split off and let the day run its course. We’re a small team right now and the quick growth we’ve experienced has pushed us to move quicker and refine our tactics more quickly than expected (a great problem to have). Our up-to-date system ensures nothing falls through the cracks and keeps business communications clear and focused.
7) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
Organization is absolutely key. We’re a small startup and everyone wears many hats. During any given day/hour, I could be traveling to a developing country to meet with our artisans, doing upkeep on our website, packing and shipping orders, interviewing and onboarding potential Curator applicants (independent sellers who sell our Fair Trade products and make a commission on each sale), or photographing products for our social media pages. We’re growing quickly and our customers and fans sure keep us busy (in the best way possible).
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to work from home?
Explore something that you’re passionate about. Being able to use my marketing and design experience for good is my passion, and I’m thankful to have found it relatively early-on in my career. To date, we’ve purchased over 47,000 pieces of Fair Trade goods from our hardworking partners, and I hope we can steadily grow that number in the weeks and months to come.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she’s been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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