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Not Every Seed Sprouts

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Many years ago, when I was a young kid fresh out of high school, I got my first full time job at one of the largest collision repair shops in the United States here in Lake Oswego, OR. I started as a Lot Attendant (a glorified car washer), and over the course of 1.5 years I worked my way up to Lot Manager. This new position had me being in charge of everything on the lot. I oversaw all of the other Lot Attendants. I was in charge of final inspection and polishing every car before it went out. I had my own bay in the shop, scheduled all customer rides after a drop off and delivered finished cars to customers, etc. I love mechanical stuff, I love cars, and I loved being able to work in a shop. I had endless amounts of fun learning from all of the mechanics and body techs, and every Friday before they left I’d give their cars a detail as a way of saying thank you. The guys at the shop loved having me there, and I started to build some great bonds with a lot of them. The work was grueling manual labor, but I was young, strong and loved it.

Fast forward to the end of my first run at this shop. Our manager moved on and we got assigned a floating corporate manager to oversee everything for a few months while we hunted for a suitable replacement. To put it bluntly, I was not a fan of his way of interacting with employees. As he quite literally arced his neck to look up to me and walked around with ILS (invisible lat syndrome), he quickly made a name for himself in the shop lunch room every day. I kept a professional attitude through the first couple of months, until he told me I needed to shave every single morning since I was driving customers around. I saw no rhyme or reason for it, as every single man who worked in the shop had a beard. I called the owner of the company and talked with him about how ridiculous of a request it was. I was fired the next day, and told I was nothing by this floating manager. This was, as one would imagine, a shock to me. Everybody was blindsided and couldn’t believe I was let go. I left on good terms with all of them, but harboring a strange feeling inside.

For the first time in my working life, I understood what it felt like to be expendable. Here I was, dragging half cuts of cars (literally half of a car, cut down the middle) across the concrete lot with 1 hand like a strongman. I streamlined the lot in numerous ways. Every shop was always clean so the bodymen and painters could work without any clutter. The shops ran like a well oiled machine under my oversight, and then it ended in a flash because I questioned authority.

A few months later I got called back after that manager had moved on, and was asked what it would take for me to work there again. I told them I’d happily come back for a $3 an hour raise, to which they immediately said yes to. They knew my worth, as did I. So, slightly apprehensive but excited to see the guys again, I returned. 3 months later, I was an hour late for work due to extenuating circumstances the night before. I hadn’t slept all night, and my alarm stood no chance after I had been up for nearly 40 hours. I was fired by the new manager over the phone when he called that morning, refusing to even talk to me about it. Once again, I had gone from a valued employee to disposable. It was at that very moment that I decided I wanted to work for myself in the future. I had no idea how I was going to go about doing that, but I knew I needed to make it a reality.

I didn’t immediately start a business. I was a young kid after all, with absolutely no idea how to even start or what I wanted to do. I ended up working a couple of other jobs over the next couple years, went to college for a few years, and aimlessly stumbled through life trying to find my purpose along the way. All the while, the notion of working for someone else in your typical corporate setting became harder and harder to stomach every time I thought about it. So, I started down the road to self employment. And boy was that a winding, wild journey.

I am a fine artist, specializing in photo realistic portrait drawings using both graphite, charcoal, and colored pencil. It is a skill that not many have, and definitely not something that comes easy to people as it did to me. Knowing that I had such a skill, I tried to start a “business” out of it. although I got many orders over the years, it was nowhere near enough to pay the bills, think about growing a family, or buying a piece of land in the future. I wanted so badly to be able to make my way in this world with my artwork, but finding people who were willing to pay a fair price for a one of a kind portrait was beyond difficult. So, I shelved that idea.

I am a moderate giant, standing nearly 6’4″ tall, and have had a full beard for many years. So my next business endeavor was to start a beard care product business. Beard balms, beard butters, beard oils, mustache waxes, handmade wooden beard combs, etc. I jumped head first into this, and actually had a fair bit of success for the first couple of months. I marketed my business like crazy on social media, designed awesome looking packaging for each product, experimented with different manly/woodsy scents that people loved, and created a whipped beard butter that hadn’t been done before. I thought this might be something that would work, but alas, competition presented itself immediately in the form of everybody around the country stealing my coveted beard butter and selling it themselves. I had not the capital or the manufacturing ability to keep up with these larger companies, and eventually the orders stopped coming in. It was an extremely fun couple of months, but I ultimately shelved that idea.

Fast forward a couple of years, and upon finding out we were expecting our first child, I decided it was time to kick it in to high gear. My next business idea was to build overlanding tow along off-road trailers. For those not familiar with these, they are all terrain camping trailers that you can tow behind your vehicle but will go many places a normal trailer would never be able to. I researched the market for months, planned out build designs, had every single piece I needed planned out and in online shopping carts ready to buy. One morning, after finalizing all parts needed online, I stood up to go use the restroom and fell into a wall. I was unable to walk for a month. After many trips to the doctor I finally landed at a chiropractor, had imaging done, and was told my spinal cord was crushed in 3 locations in my neck, I had 6 more herniated discs throughout my thoracic and lumbar spine, my vagus nerve was crushed, and I should by all accounts not be able to walk. So, I shelved that idea and spent the next 8 months learning how to walk again after that last spell of “fall into a wall”.

A year after that last adventure into wall falling, I walked out into my horribly neglected garage and just stared for what felt like hours. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was time to find something that stuck. As you all probably know, I worked for the next 3 months building a proper shop in my garage. I had no idea what I was going to make, but I knew if I was to succeed I needed a workable space, so that was step 1. The rest is history, and you’ve all probably seen at least part of the journey. But even in this, there are things that didn’t go as I had planned. My first idea was to make nice cutting boards and sell them to Realtors as closing gifts for their clients. I emailed over 100 Realtors in my area. Half of them didn’t respond. The half that did didn’t even acknowledge my pitch, and simply said “are you interested in buying…?” So, that plan was out of the question. Next move was to sell at our large local farmers market. 4 months of 12 hour days every single day batching products to sell ended in a rescinded invitation due to new “pandemic rules” which cut nearly half of the market space and left myself, as well as long time vendors, high and dry. Another plan gone.

You may be wondering why I just told that long story. The reason is this. Had I given up after my first business idea failed, or my second, or my third, I never would have ended up where I am today. I have a thriving business doing something that I love, I am fortunate and blessed to be able to work from the comfort of my own home which is a huge help and relief to my wife who is mothering 2 baby girls under 2 years old currently, and I answer to no corporate entity any longer. None of that would have become a reality if I would have thrown in the towel years ago and went to find a minimum wage job. It took a tremendous amount of patience, planning, and much trial and error to find the thing that worked, but it was worth it in the end.


When you plant a garden, not every seed sprouts.

Does that mean nothing will grow in your garden? Of course not. It simply means that some seeds, for whatever reason, were not meant to grow. This same idea is very real in business, and we need to be mindful of that as we start our journeys towards business creation/ownership. Just because you want to do something, does not mean that it’s the right time nor the right environment for your idea. I can take a picture and draw it perfectly. I have an incredible talent. But at the time, I couldn’t make it happen. Now I’m in a community full of crushers like Nero, HandDrawn, AJRhino, etc, who make beautiful works of art. I’m not resentful at all, because hindsight has shown me that it just wasn’t the right time. But now I get to do something else that I truly love, and it ended up working out better for me in the end.

Every single thing that happens in this life was ordained by God before any of this even existed. Above all else, we need to remember that. God’s plan will always unfold exactly as He deems it. It does not matter how much we want our plan to work. His plan is the only plan, and instead of fighting that plan at every perceived inconvenience, we must put our faith in Him and simply say “time to plant a new seed”. After all, if we gave up on the garden after the first seed failed to sprout, we would never get to sow the bountiful harvest later that came from planting more.

Until next time Bears, Onward!

-Woodshop Bear

IG: www.instagram.com/littlebearwoodshop

FB: www.facebook.com/LittleBearWoodshop

YouTube: www.youtube.com/littlebearwoodshop

www.littlebearwoodshop.com

Business

New Product Announcement From Ferrell Custom Wood Designs

We have combined our passion for music with my Dad’s passion for woodworking to bring you our exciting new product, Wooden Cell Phone Amplifiers, that require no power!

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Hobbit Bear here from Ferrell Custom Wood Designs. We have combined our passion for music with my Dad’s passion for woodworking to bring you our exciting new product, Wooden Cell Phone Amplifiers, that require no power! They come in different selections of pine, cedar, and oak for various acoustic tone options. So you can amplify your favorite music or podcast, and custom fit any cell phone to boost your sound on the go, at family picnics, in your garden, or your work area. Just drop your cell phone in the holder, crank up the volume on your phone and enjoy your favorite music or podcast.

Please message me on The Beartaria Times App @Thehobbitbear to get yours today. It’s easy to ship and affordable at only $60, with shipping straight to the comfort of your home. Keep up with all my latest products and music on BTA page as well.

I want to thank you all for your support and, as always, onward to Beartaria!!!

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Arts and Crafts

Too Many Mittens

My mom has always loved seeing her children be creative, so she was thrilled when I showed interest in learning how to make mittens. So, in 2016, she taught me how to make wool sweater mittens.

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By: Charity (@trailerparkgirl on BTA)

My mom started making wool sweater mittens sometime around 2014. She got the idea from visiting a local Mennonite-owned store. She found patterns online and started out just making them for the family. We’re a family of ten, so there are plenty of us to make mittens for.

In 2015, at eighteen, I became her right-hand businesswoman and began photographing her mittens and selling them on Etsy. My younger sister, Madeline, drew the mitten in the shop logo.

My mom called her shop “Too Many Mittens.” She may or may not have gotten the idea for the name from the 1958 children’s book “Too Many Mittens.”

It’s one of a few books she remembers from her childhood. My mom grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the story takes place in Michigan. 

My mom has always loved seeing her children be creative, so she was thrilled when I showed interest in learning how to make mittens. So, in 2016, she taught me how to make wool sweater mittens. I found them to be pretty simple to make. Very fun, too. I already had some experience with sewing, so it didn’t take long to get the hang of mitten-making. The excitement of pairing different wool sweater fabrics together and adding cool buttons to the cuffs was enough to get me hooked.

We make the mittens out of wool sweaters from thrift shops. And we line the mittens with fleece. My mom and I have had a blast sifting through thrift shop clothes racks in search of funky wool sweaters. We’ve gone through hundreds of wool sweaters in the past several years. Sometimes I see a sweater that I love so much that I’m tempted to keep it for myself to wear. But then I think, “Nah, that’ll make some really cool mittens.”

A few years ago, I invested in an embroidery sewing machine and lots of machine-embroidery thread. It’s been lots of fun to play around with different designs on mittens. They really give mittens extra character. The machine was definitely worth it. And it was fairly affordable. I use a Brother SE625. 

Now, in 2022, my mom is far too busy for making mittens. She’s focused on helping raise some of her grandchildren. So, my mom decided to let me take over Too Many Mittens. I’m planning on adding other handcrafted goods to our shop in the future, like cold-process soap. I’ve been playing around with soap-making since 2018. I’m currently working on perfecting recipes. My goal is to have soap available by Spring 2023. I’m even trying to get my younger sister to design the labels for the soap. After all, it is tradition. 

One day, I hope my mom will have some extra time on her hands so that she can get back into making mittens. She really enjoyed it, just like I do. Together, we have sold over 350 pairs of mittens. I’m grateful for the time we’ve been able to bond because of our mutual love of mitten-making. If I ever have a daughter of my own, I plan to teach her how to make wool sweater mittens and so many other wonderful things.

Visit my Etsy shop, Too Many Mittens, Here!

Bears get 15% off with the code: TRAILERPARKGIRL

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Business

What Time is it? SLIME TIME!

“I want to start my own business. I want to start a slime shop. I’ve wanted to do that for years!”

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By: Winki Bear

Ever since our daughter was two years old, she has always had the desire to please people. She wanted to start a home restaurant where she could create her own menu. When people would get their bill, she wanted it to say “FREE .”Through the years of her childhood, we have taught her the value and importance of hospitality and giving and how that can meld together with the value of her time and skills. Teaching her what costs and benefits mean through her weekly allowance for doing her chores and coaching her through the spending and saving process was an important step for her to realize that her hard work of cleaning the house every week will end up as a good or service of her choice if she desires it. Once that concept sank in, she was ready for the next step. 

Since the beginning of her educational path, Norah has always been homeschooled. However, when we moved to Missouri in December of 2021, we were now out of the city, away from family and away from tons of distractions. As we got settled, since we don’t live on a farm or have a huge plot of land to work yet, like many bears here in Missouri do, my husband and I realized she had a lot more time on her hands. So, we decided one day to sit down with her and have a loving conversation.

“Ok, Love, we have some options for you to think about. You have a lot more time available outside of your schooling now, and we want you to choose how you are going to fill that time. You can either pick a school subject, an extra-curricular activity you would like to expand upon, or start your own business.” 

It did not take her long to choose. “I want to start my own business. I want to start a slime shop. I’ve wanted to do that for years!” “Perfect!” We were excited to start this adventure with her but wanted to do it in the right way so she would get the best education out of this experience and have a lot of fun. 

The first thing we did was discuss with her what her brand wanted to be and what her shop was going to be called. “Products are so fun to make, but the brand and image of your shop are what sells your product.” This took time and a lot of rough drafts. We had her draw out a few logos and play with quite a few names. She finally settled on Boba Bear Slimes. She chose that because she loves boba tea, she is a bear, and the last part is obvious. We sent her rough draft logo to Bytesize Bear, who is a master at digital art, and she created what is now Norah’s logo for Boba Bear Slimes. The next thing was for her to start a slime journal. She needed to create an outline for her business. What products would she need? Where would she find these products, and how much will they cost? What will her packaging and shipping of the products look like, and what would she need for that? How is she going to label her products? Being supportive through this process was key, as she was only nine years old when she started this adventure. We incorporated all of these tasks with her homeschooling curriculum, so it wasn’t overwhelming. Once she had this outlined, she then moved on to writing down the slimes she wanted to create. Norah keeps a log of every slime with the name, the type of texture it is, the scent, the color, and the add-in that comes with it. Then comes the fun part, making the slime. 

It didn’t take too long to acquire all the essentials for creating her little individual masterpieces of art. Once she had everything, she started bringing her hard-outlined work into reality. Mixing glue, dye, scents, glitter, and the like in big batches was just the beginning. Putting the semi-sticky and wet textured slime into jars and giving them name labels, scent information, and in some cases, price tags along with the most important, the Boba Bear Slime logo, is just as long of a process as making the gloppy toy itself.    It takes Norah about three days to create a batch of 24 slime jars. She also attaches a complimentary bag of ‘Activator’ with instructions just in case the slime gets too sticky, which happens over time. With every slime she sells, she also gives a sweet treat which is her way of saying “Thank You” for supporting her shop.  

Boba Bear Slimes was first created in July of 2021 and was first introduced to the realm at The First National Beartaria Times Festival right here in Missouri. Since then, she now sells her products in a local downtown boutique here in Lebanon, Missouri, called Crazy Daisy Boutique. She has her own Etsy shop and has attended two craft fairs which she has almost sold out of her slimes every time. Norah has learned the value of hard work and organization and how much it pays to stay focused and persistent, and consistent. Her advice to anyone who wants to start their own business: “It’s not as easy as you would think. Do a lot of research. Don’t just jump right into it. It’s not going to be as easy as watching a YouTube video. They had to plan things and make rough drafts and create logos and figure out financial details. If you follow your passion, it will always lead to success.” 

You can find her products on Etsy, the Beartaria Times app by contacting Norah @Bright Light Bear, or locally in the Crazy Daisy Boutique in Lebanon, Missouri. 

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