Hey friends! My name is Elizabeth Wheaton and I am the owner/designer for Wheaton Whaley! We specialize in custom home decor and accessories. I started the business in 2015 while pregnant with my 1st child. Insomnia kept me up and I needed something to take my mind off things. I never dreamed it would turn into the business it is today, but I’m so glad it has! Our company employs 7 workers, most of whom are creatives as well. Working for Wheaton Whaley gives them the ability to work from home and continue to pursue their dreams! We believe that a pillow can make ALL the difference in a space!
Was starting a business always in your plans or did a specific event or opportunity inspire its fruition?
Starting a business was NOT in my plans. I was previously in corporate America as an HR professional and really did love my job! After getting pregnant with our 2nd child, my heart just wasn’t in my 9-5 anymore. It was hard to let it go, but the shift has been great for the business.
This really started as a hobby, but it grew organically and now is our sole source of income. I think that I realized pretty quickly that this business could be more than a side hustle, and when I figured that out, I changed the way I approached risk. I was OK with buying fabric that wasn’t for any in particular because I knew someone down the line would love it.
How did you determine your target audience/customer?
When I started, I put things on a local buy/sell/trade group. I wasn’t sure what ppl would want, so I just bought things I liked. Turns out, people like what I like! :) Once I figured that out, I focused on targeting people like those in that group! My target audience has shifted and grown throughout the years. I work with customers on the daily, but I also work with designers! I love that because I am the designer and still one of the creators, I have the ability to work with any style or budget.
Did you have any challenges in the early stages of your business?
In the beginning, an over-saturation of the market was my biggest struggle...and that some of the bigger companies could buy in bulk and charge less, meaning I could compete. As I’ve grown and developed, I’ve found that even though there are tons of pillow makers out there, there really aren’t many that do what I do. I do fun details and extras that set my brand apart, and I think that’s why clients come back time after time.
What marketing tactic has been the most profitable for you revenue wise?
I started out my shop on a large marketplace, and although it did bring me contacts and sales, I feel like it inhibited my growth. I didn’t take risks, branch out, or use other local/small businesses to help my brand grow. My biggest encouragement for businesses looking to grow is to take the leap. Hire that social media consultant. Get a great accountant. Make strong connections! Those ties and contacts are what has really pushed my business to the next level.
How do you create appealing imagery or videos to showcase your products?
I tell everyone...you don’t need fancy equipment. I sew on a basic Brother machine. I take pictures with my smartphone and edit them through Google. It’s all about being yourself and having a distinct brand feel & vibe. In an online world, pictures are key. I don’t use a fancy camera, but I did invest in a great editing program (Canva). I also scroll through instagram constantly to see what people are reacting to. Take cues from things you see!
Have you had to adjust your business or marketing strategy to remain competitive?
Since this started as a hobby, there was very little planning involved. I legitimately pushed $100 of fabric from fabric.com one night at midnight and then never looked back. If I had it to do over, I probably would have planned a little better...but then I wonder if the journey would have been as much fun!
Do you tend to put more emphasis on having a unique product or unique brand position in a market with many direct competitors?
I think my products are my brand...and them being unique is what makes us successful.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
We will celebrate our 5 year anniversary the end of August, and that is the biggest accomplishment I can think of! Most businesses don’t make it past a year or 2, so for us to be seeing the 5th year is incredible. And it’s not lost on me how fortunate we are!
How has having the right fabric supplier made the difference in your business?
I cannot do what I do without fabric suppliers. Finding resources that are quick, reliable, and easy to work with is KEY! I’ve worked with fabric.com since the beginning and have had a great working relationship. I saw the creation of the Fabric Business Program and it has made a huge difference in how I source items. fabric.com is my first option when looking for new and exciting fabrics, but I also know I can depend on them to have the basics I need.
Which top 3 fabrics do you recommend to owners in your field and why?
I honestly don’t think I could pick 3 favorite fabrics. I can pick some favorite brands! Lacefield Designs has been a favorite for me and for clients. The median pricing and exceptional quality make me choose it again and again. Schumacher has been around for over 100 years and they are consistently a client favorite. Their vast options and classic designs set them apart from other brands. P Kaufmann is another line that has incredible outdoor options. And their price point is great for those people on a tight budget.