Monday, July 20, 2009

How Does She Do It?? -Weekly WAHM Series Part II

Many work at home moms, myself included, struggle with the duties of caring for the house and family on a daily basis- I have started a weekly feature where I search the net to find extraordinary mothers who have found and mastered a way to maintain a home business as an indie crafter.

How Does She Do it??" Is a series of interviews with indie moms of children from birth to teenage years who have graciously volunteered to share their skills, lessons & experiences with us. There will be two guest posts every week starting July 13th, 2009 all Summer long.!!!

Here is this week sensational soap crafter Rebecca D. Dillon

Rebecca's Soap Delicatessen-

) Tell us about yourself: (background, family, personality.

I’m from a pretty average American family. I grew up as part of the struggling middle class in the 80s with a mother who was always trying to give my brother and I whatever we wanted and therefore living a bit beyond our means. My mom was always doing arts and crafts with me and taught me how to bake. I attended college locally at Roanoke College where I studied a bit of everything including photography, screen printing, graphic design, pottery, 3-D design, drawing, painting, art history, poetry and even writing. It took me seven years, but I eventually managed a BA in fine arts. I love making soap, blogging, shopping and reading anything related to the paranormal.

I've been married for eight years now and have a twelve-year-old son from a previous relationship. My son is the best helper I could ask for and will do a multitude of weekly chores for his allowance, which goes a long way toward helping me out. He's also a great student and rarely gets into trouble, which makes thinks a lot easier on me. He's pretty well rounded. He's active in sports despite having exercise induced asthma, pulls straight A's in advanced classes, is learning how to target shoot at the range from his bio father's girlfriend, plays a mean hand of Texas Hold 'Em, and is heading off on a mission trip next week to a South Dakota Indian reservation. He's also planning on attending Harvard to study law, and if that falls through, well, he's a tried and true UVA fan and they have a law program as well. I couldn't ask for better.

On a more personal note, I have struggled with severe depression all of my life. Several years back I was diagnosed with agoraphobia, and last week I was diagnosed with bipolar. So I'm sort of a mess all the way around some days. Getting things done can be a constant struggle for me because of the bipolar and agoraphobia but I push through because I'm stubborn - and very much the typical Gemini - and do what I can when I can. I also hate that there is a negative stigma attached to mental illness so I talk about it freely because it's really not something that people should feel ashamed of. Everyone has issues of some kind. Some just have a harder go than others.

2) How or why did you make the decision to pursue your art career and work from home?

I started my business in 2001 while I was still working outside of the home. I didn't really take it that seriously when I first started up. Like a lot of folks giving a first time business a go it was more of a hobby than anything else. Around 2005 I was diagnosed with agoraphobia. It was so bad that I was at the point I was having panic attacks over and over, practically non-stop, everywhere including my home. The only places I was panic free were in my office and my bedroom. Finding the appropriate medication to treat the panic took a few tries so at that point I made the decision to stay at home for a while and left my job. I was lucky that my husband had reached a point in his career that I was able to do this. Within a year though I was bored out of my ever-loving mind and striking up conversations with random strangers in Target. Then one-day hubby and I just happened to be walking downtown through the local city market, and I made a spur of the moment decision that day that I was going to sell downtown. The next day I called and got things set up, and the day after that I was officially a vendor. I worked through the panic attacks and didn't sell on Saturdays for several months until I was able to work up to the point that the market was a comfort zone for me. Once I established my local business, I moved on to focus on my online business in January of 2008.

3) How do you balance work and spend quality/downtime with them during a busy or hectic workday?

This is an especially big challenge for me. Going undiagnosed with bipolar for so long and having my medication for the agoraphobia stop working every six months or so I would go through long periods of depression. I'd have good days and bad days. Good weeks and bad weeks. Some weeks I'd function and others I just didn't. So the weeks that are good I make product like there's no tomorrow which allows me to balance things out for when I'm so unfocused I'd skip from thing to thing to thing and couldn't get anything done. Or the weeks I was just simply exhausted all of the time and could barely get out of bed. If I start to feel stressed, I know that if I don't stop and slow down it will only get worse. My health is more important than making soap because in the end, if I don't stop and slow down, I'll be even less productive and for far longer. So I stop and chill out in the bedroom and watch bad TV or I read book after book. Occasionally I'll party like a rock star. It all depends on the mood I'm in. However, I've just started on a mood stabilizer in addition to the medication I take for the anxiety and depression so hopefully it will work and I can get into a more regular routine.

4) Do you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed out? If so how do you diffuse or deal with these moments during business time?

All the time. If I'm working at home I just stop and take time out for myself and do things that help me relax. If I'm down on the market I usually have to pop an Ativan or grab a drink with lunch. Sometimes I'm able to mellow out just by having someone watch my table and I'll walk around and chat with the vendors. But my situation is sort of unique.

5) Please walk us through an average day at home

I can't. It's never the same. It's never consistent. I am chaos. The one consistent thing I do however is a lot of marketing on the computer whenever I get out of bed. And when I get out of bed depends on a myriad of circumstances.

6) Is your craft your primary source of income? How do you manage during slow sales times/seasons?

Yes. I am officially a soap maker. I make above the poverty line at my craft. However, as I HATE paying taxes I buy personal property to offset some of my profit and opened a traditional IRA last year so I could pay more to myself rather than into social security and Medicaid. After all, who even knows if it will be around by the time I retire. Not to mention it is not possible to live comfortably on social security alone.

For slow seasons you just have to budget. The last quarter is obviously the best one, so I keep enough cash in the bank from my profits then to be able to pay all of my bills for the first quarter just in case.

7) As a soap crafter, how do you safeguard all your materials/supplies?

I store everything in sealed containers in my cool, dry basement. It's their happy place.

8) As a seller, what are you do and don't you would advice to running a home business?

1.Do it legal. It's worth the effort for the deductions and to show income if you decide to branch out and need to get a loan.

2.Give 100%. You can't expect to get 100% if you aren't giving it. You only get a return on the time you're willing to invest.

3. You must spend money to make money. That's just how it goes.

4. Marketing and word of mouth are golden. Nothing sells a product better than a referral from someone who has used your product. Remember that. (If you're new to selling online I wrote a little article to help you get started marketing.,com_content/catid,35/id,8162/task,view/)

9) What advice would you give to other mothers who want to take that "leap of faith" but are afraid to?? Or have little or no support system?

You cannot expect to make it working for yourself if you aren't willing to take a risk. Just look at the number of companies that made it starting from scratch with one person and one idea and almost nothing else. You have to believe in yourself. And if you can't do that, no one else will believe in you either.

Life is a risk, but you live it. Working for yourself is a risk, but you can do it. If you fail, you fail. You pick yourself back up by your bootstraps and go at it again. Mark Lim of Poison Apple failed his first go round. He tried again and went at it a little differently and it worked the second go round.

10) Where else can we learn more about you? Any other sites/shops?

Social networking:

Main website:

Blogs: - My soap blog. - My handmade shopping blog. I give props to other awesome artists.

Other business: - Check out the staff page. This was my husband's big risk this year. He invested in a tattoo artist we knew for three weeks.

FANTASTIC- Thank You so much for sharing your amazing story Rebecca!-You best is yet to come;-)

***Check out our trailblazer "How Does She Do It Indie Mom Interviews

Audrey Hussey - KaBoogie -

Delilah Pearl-Gloria's Jewelry Box-

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JoyousTreasures said...

Thanks for this interesting interview! I enjoyed reading!

kaboogie said...

#1. I am so proud of you. My mother has suffered agoraphobia since I was born. I know it ALL. Grandmother had it also. You fought, and broke the pathology of sensitization. So hard to do.
#2. Excellent advice on business! Going to read your marketing tips.
#3. NY - You write really great questions! Truly! great piece, ladies!

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