As one who writes daily, I appreciate journal products that inspire and intrigue me. Since I spend much of my time handling journals, as well as notebooks and planners, discovering finely crafted, wonderful to hold, uniquely hand-designed, one of a kind journals is a passion of mine. I believe creativity fuels creativity. One of the reasons I love buying a hand made item from an inspired individual is because I know that the one who is crafting the item takes pride in their work, and is passionate about their chosen area of expertise. I understand this…I feel the same way about my writing. It’s personal. It’s my passion. I want my words, dreams, goals, passions, plans and pursuits to be held together by something beautiful, unique…inspired.
This brings me to the exquisite work of Terri Bradley of Speckled Fawns. I had the pleasure of connecting with Terri awhile back through a Planner Group on Facebook. We shared a mutual
love OK, let’s be honest- OBSESSION…for planners, notebooks and journals as many do in these great communities of like-minded people. But Terri’s life took a turn and she found that her love for leather and creative passion culminated into one incredible journey! I have been amazed and awed watching this woman beautifully metamorphosis from journal loving, planner pal to Creative Entrepreneurial Artisan Extraordinaire! Um…say that three times fast, I dare you!
Terri now spends her days in her West Chicago residence creating leather notebook covers, bags and beautiful accessories and is in the process of expanding her growing by (fawn) leaps and bounds business.
One thing I might add for my friends who might be new to some of the terms I’m throwing out today: Traveler’s Notebooks (TN for short!) are simply leather covers which hold multiple notebooks with colored elastic bands. There are many artisans who create beautiful styles based on the original design concept which originates in Japan and goes by the name Midori. The variety and style of craftsmanship is developed over time and is as varied and unique as the person who makes them. Each artisan gains many loyal fans through these designs and styles.
I am grateful and delighted that Terri took the time to answer a few questions for me, and I hope you will enjoy her sharing her journey with us here. I think it is a perfectly inspiring story to start our 2016 and consider, one never knows where a new year might lead!
I hope you will grab a cup of coffee and get comfy on the couch with us as I just throw out some informal questions to this wonderfully inspiring woman!
Stay tuned to the end for a wonderful giveaway!
Terri, what were you doing for work before going full-time with Speckled Fawns?
I was working for Allstate as a control traffic engineer for our 12 call centers. I was lead traffic control specialist in our Central Command Center.
Was creating leather products and journals something you always wanted to do or did this sort of come up ? Do you have any former experience or knowledge that lends itself to this work?
I never thought or dreamed I would get the opportunity to create and play with leather everyday. I was 16 when I purchased my first leather purse with my first paycheck. I still remember the purse it cost $30.00 and was a designer bag in deep burgundy leather. My moms friends used to tease me and her because I had spent so much on a purse. It was just beautiful leather and I cherished it for years. I don’t have any experience in actually making leather products at all just the relative relationship between the journal and time management.
How did you get started?I feel there is an intimate relationship between the planner (person) and their book. I decided to try to make my own, since I was spending so much money on purchasing covers over and over. I watched a YouTube video and made my own out of scrap leather.
Was there one thing that prompted this? Maybe boredom and the want to create my own special, perfect TN (Traveler’s Notebook). There is something soothing about working with leather. I can truly do it from dusk to dawn. Most often the only reason I leave my shop is because I force myself to.
When did you know that you wanted to go from hobby to business?It was timing; everything seemed to be timed perfectly in such a short period. I really had not planned to go into business for myself. After trying and being told for so long I was next in line for promotion and again not getting it I was prompted to think about my future and what would make me happy. I worked for years to develop our department and received the credit but not the promotions. They kept going to young bloods. The final straw and epiphany came when a Directors son who called out twice a week because of admitted hangovers got the last promotion I realized I was not valued the way I thought I should have been. It was a good thing. It prompted me to realize my job was just a job and not who I was. Soon after that my mother became ill and I really didn’t get the support I was due at my job as others did. I became severely unhappy and just threw myself into crafting leather on the weekends. I couldn’t believe how happy I was crafting leather just for the heck of it. I joined several online communities and posted a picture of a bad TN I had made and someone offered to buy it. It was downhill from there. One picture then literally within 24 hours I knew something special was happening.My husband saw how happy I was and bought me an industrial machine. Within a few weeks I left my job and never looked back.
Can you give me a mini timeline of Speckled Fawns as a business?
I think I sold my first TN on PayPal in March of 2015. After numerous requests I was asked to open an Etsy store. I had not heard of Etsy and had held back for a while. Many people on Facebook would only purchase from Etsy as I was told. So I opened in June of 2015 I believe, and so it went.
Where do you see SF one year from now? A year from now I hope to be still growing and producing products that make people happy and that become part of their everyday lives. Possibly in a little building in a small town as a stand alone business.
What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced with this journey so far? Keeping up with the demand. Trying not to have false humility, but I still can’t believe people want what I make. Secondly, staying organized. Ironically being a fellow “planner tramp” I am finding it hard to find a flow. I had no idea I would have to manage several social media sites, answer a bazillion e-mails, Facebook chats and Etsy chats while keeping up with finances, managing tax and legal matters as well as creating, making buying and selling. It blows my mind as one person to try to keep up.
What has been the most surprising thing?
How fast this all happened and the support of the TN community. If it were not for the support of the community I would not have been successful. Quite frankly I know it was the plans he had for me and I give him all the credit. I know he put me in the right place at the right time.
What has been the most important lesson you have leaned…personally, professionally, and spiritually?
There are so many on every level to many to mention. But, professionally other than the obvious is that people treasure these TN’s. They are part of their everyday lives and they want me to make one for them. They put their lives, thoughts and treasures into these leather notebooks and I get to share that with them everyday. I get to craft something someone else wants. I get to go with them to coffee shops and their little quiet places. I have had the privilege to send them all over the world. Speckled Fawns has TN’s in Germany, Thailand, The Netherlands, Oxford University, India, Japan, UK, and other countries most of which are repeat customers.
Professionally is that I am running an actual business. I must continue to educate and grow in all aspects of running a small business. Especially since it pretty much fell into my lap. Take nothing for granted and continue to grow.
Spiritually, at the end of it all, God is in charge. He is the reason I am where I am and in good and bad times he is recognized as my CEO. I pray and declare daily to be able to act with his wisdom.
What are you discovering is your unique offering in the Leather journal making field? Stylewise? DO you have a favorite model/creation?
I think at the time of the spurt it was the chunky spine width with stitching. For now I will keep with the reinforced spine and pockets since those seem to be my signature panel. I feel like I have not found my voice so to speak since I still like to experiment with so many different offerings. Most makers have a signature look while mine seem to be a bit of a mixture. At first it was frustrating not to have a signature look then I realized I needed to be ok with not having one. I’m not one to follow the crowd and need to own that. I do have a favorite that will be put back onto the market soon. It’s the thicker durable leathers one was the Mohican.
As an entrepreneur and Planner Girl, what one tip would you like to share with planner pals and other creatives?
Believe in yourself and your worth. It’s natural to feel like you fall short because we have such high expectations of ourselves. Know that while you may not know your worth someone else does. They may not say anything to you but we watch and follow others. We are inspired by others in one way or another.
Push through even when you want to stop and never give up on your dreams. If you don’t know what your dream or vision is keep going it will happen sooner or later.
I truly still find it very difficult to take the compliments that come. It boggles my mind that people like what I make, its something I never saw coming. I wonder if I will ever understand it but maybe its a good thing that I don’t. It keeps me wanting to improve and make better products. I have such a long way to go with my skills and will continue to make an effort to improve. My customer deserves to have the best and I have a long way to go yet. I am living a dream I didn’t expect and can’t put into words how happy I am doing this in such a special community. So much is right there in the palm of your hands. Life, traveling, adventure, sharing, intimacy, honesty, and leather…..
Terri is in the process of renovating her basement into a small business establishment and looking forward to all of the things to come in the days ahead on her journey!
You can shop her store on Etsy: Speckled Fawns
Join her Facebook page for the latest creations and up to date info: Speckled Fawns Facebook Group
Terri is offering a wonderful Kodiak Field Notes sized Traveler’s Notebook for one lucky winner. This is a Rafflecopter drawing. Contest is from Saturday January 16th and closes Sunday January 24th at 12:00 Am. Winner to be announced Monday January 25th.
I will be sharing my Speckled Fawns Journals in an upcoming post/review…of course if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you probably have already seen my Speckled Fawn lovelies. Special thanks to Eileen Kim for sharing her fabulous photo of Terri’s beautiful workmanship.
Thanks to Terri, for being being available and putting up with my Planner Trampiness. Grateful for you, lady!