Myra of Twigs and Honey (photo by Elizabeth Messina)
I’ve had a crush on Twigs and Honey for years now. Whenever I’m in need of a mental break, or just a little pick-me-up, I head to this Etsy shop to soak in the gorgeous photographs. Myra, the force behind the wedding accessories company, is not only an amazingly successful woman but a very generous one too because she agreed to share the story of how she went from a research analyst for forecasting to Etsy star. Get out your notepads because she gives out a lot of advice in her interview.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I started the business as a hobby after planning my wedding to my husband, Matt, back in 2007. What started as a creative outlet to offset my government research job, has evolved into my full-time occupation. I had always been an anxious, busybody while I was growing up, taking up many artistic hobbies from sewing to painting to clay figurines. I loved to make tangible art but didn’t know how it could sustain the livelihood I envisioned so I got degrees in science and set off to save the environment.
When I became woefully unsatisfied, my creative interests really saved me and for the past 5 years, I really haven’t looked back. From modest beginnings as a little adornments shop on Etsy, I’ve grown the company into a full-fledged brand not limited to accessories but also including a how-to book, fragrance, cover-ups and bridal gowns. I have bigger goals for the future and additional lines in the works, so the creative career path continues and I just have to say that I’m thrilled to be doing what I love.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
One of the biggest challenges has been to stay one step ahead. I feel like when I started, there were very few that did exactly what I was doing. Etsy was relatively new and we were about to head into a handmade revival. Since then, I feel like there has been an endless stream of copycats and competition. Everyone and their second cousin seems to make hair accessories now.
Staying ahead of the curve by setting myself apart through innovative designs, identifiable branding and pushing myself each season to top myself from the last have been the constant challenges to overcome. I try to overcome the challenges by reminding myself to stay the course and look forward.
Throughout the years, I’ve focused on remaining true to my beliefs and morals (i.e. don’t cheat, “steal”, or take advantage of others), not taking shortcuts and working hard overall. It doesn’t get easier so when things get tough, you have to work harder and wiser.
Bridal Bird Cage (photo by Elizabeth Messina)
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
One of my biggest ‘fist-pump’ moments is actually a bit of a secret! It’s really under wraps but involves television. Have I got you excited?
Less cryptic, I’ve been really proud of having the opportunity to write a book, Adornments, and have my dear friend, Elizabeth Messina, photograph it.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
I try to make good decisions so as to minimize doubt. I already worry enough, so by focusing on making the smartest business decisions, I don’t have too much in the way of doubts for my future creative direction.
There are some additional lines I’ve already designed that I’ve had to put on the backburner due to time constraints but, hopefully, I’ll be able to revisit those in the coming years.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
For some reason, I have the exact opposite. It probably sounds crazy, but I can’t turn it off – that is, the constant creative drive. It’s a problem! I’m continually thinking of new designs and am perpetually inspired by the world around me. I eat, sleep and think about designing. Like I said above, I’m an anxious person and always have been.
Doesn’t it seem like some of the greatest talents in the world (art, music, writing, etc.) seem a little bonkers? Call it OCD or an addictive personality, but since I was young, anything I did, I had to be obsessive about it. I don’t just do things. I have to master whatever it is I’m doing and I’ll keep working on it until I do. I’m incredibly competitive (to a fault?) – so since I chose to make a living in the creative field, and since it is always evolving, I’m a bit maniacal about it and am never short on inspiration.
Bridal rhinestone headpiece (photo by Elizabeth Messina)
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
This is a constant area I’m working on. In the first 2-3 years of the business, I would work an insane amount of hours. Over a hundred hours a week! Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. I would either not sleep for 3-4 days at a time, or sleep maybe 1-4 hours a night maximum if I was lucky. I solidly did this. Isn’t that nuts?
A huge help was to finally relinquish a little control and delegate some of the work out to others. Of course, that could only happen when I had enough revenue to afford it. Nowadays, I’m still overworked, but I do get much more sleep. My typical day starts out by waking up early and checking/answering emails and other correspondence. I usually do this even before the sleep is out of my eyes. I then make my daily cup of tea, take the dog out, tend to the birds (all 3 of them!) and get back to work by about 8:30am.
Every day is a little different after this point. I do check inventory most days and restock supplies as needed. Many days, I will spend the rest of the day until about 9:00pm working on customer orders or wholesale orders, which includes producing, packing and shipping. Other days will be broken up with some time spent on social media, working with my contract workers, designing new styles and working on special projects. There isn’t an exact schedule I adhere to since it’s always changing. After finishing up for the day, I eat dinner with the better half and we curl up on the couch and watch a movie or tv show.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
Building a marketing plan and reinvesting into that plan.
I am very conservative about spending and for the business, I’ve been completely self-financed. So to bring myself to spend money on marketing has been a challenge! What I can say is that I always reinvest into the business. The profits I make from sales are first earmarked for operating costs, taxes, supplies and my marketing budget. My marketing budget includes ads, photo shoots, bridal shows and any other fee for having an internet presence.
By always setting aside funds for marketing, I ensure that my hard work is seen and seen in a way that best represents the brand. There isn’t one exact marketing choice that stands out as the best move… it is more about the marketing strategy on the whole and making sure that a good portion of the profits from the business are reinvested to ensure the ongoing success of the business and continued growth.
Myra at work (photo by Elizabeth Messina)
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Align yourself with good, honest people. One of the best things I have done for myself and the business has been to build relationships with amazing, talented and inspiring individuals. Network intelligently. To be honest, I didn’t choose my friends to benefit from them but what happens when you befriend wonderful persons? They lift you up and help you in ways that cannot be measured or “bought”. They inspire you to be better. They grow with you.
If you surround yourself with bad influences, eventually, those people will have an effect on you. Whether my cherished friends help in life or business, it doesn’t matter – it trickles into every aspect of my life. As I spread the good word about them, they do of me. When one friend has a success, we all celebrate! When one needs help, we all pitch in. Positive in is positive out. Sometimes, we can’t do it alone so make sure you have a great support system that you can call on when you need that extra something.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Farming with my husband. Haha! What I mean is that I’d love to move onto a larger property out of the city, build our dream home and do some subsistence farming. In 5 years, I hope to be spending more time with my husband.
You can find more of Myra’s work in her Etsy shop: Twigs and Honey
On her Facebook page: Twigs and Honey
And on Twitter: @twigsandhoney