Denise Freidhoff is a trained chef who enjoyed her career but always felt like something was missing. See how this military wife traded in her chef's hat to become a jewelry designer over at Lauren Nicole Gifts.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
After high school, I went to cooking school and worked as a Chef for many years and then later became an accountant. My husband is active-duty Army, so it was always difficult to change jobs every few years. It seemed that as soon as I settled into a job and made friends, it was time to move again.
I found that I really needed a creative outlet and something of my own that I could take with me everywhere. I slowly started making and selling crafts at local craft shows for fun. In 2004 I started a really small website with six products (monogrammed hair accessories).
My true passion was jewelry, but I had no idea where to start. For several years, I continued to build up my website with monogrammed gifts while spending time studying jewelry designs and taking classes.
Two years ago, I started adding handmade jewelry to my website which is now filled with all of my jewelry designs. I love designing custom pieces that are meaningful to my customers. It has been a wonderful experience to work online and meet lots of people and small business owners. I am hoping that someday when we stop moving, I will be able to open a small jewelry and gift store.
How did you fund your business?
I originally started out making ribbon headbands and embroidered gifts for fun. I started selling them and using the money for more supplies. Later I used some of our savings to buy additional equipment. It took a few years for the business to completely fund itself so that I could quit my job. I will never make as much money running the small business as I did working for someone else, but is really worth it.
What did you do before launching your own business?
I worked as a chef for seven years, and then as an accountant for 12 years. I enjoyed both careers, but I always felt like something was missing.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your home office?
I spend about 40 hours a week processing and hand making custom jewelry orders. I spend another 10 or more hours a week designing new pieces, updating the website, and doing all of the paperwork for the business.
How would you rate your success?
I rate my success by how happy I am when I go to work each day. I worked for a lot of different companies before starting my own business. I love what I do, and it is the best feeling in the world to create a necklace or piece of jewelry that has sentimental meaning for someone. Even though I work a lot more hours, I don’t feel like any of it is real “work.”
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
Because I have a small online business, I sometimes struggle with all of the updates and changes that need to be done to my website to keep it current and searchable by search engines. It can also be a real challenge to market the website due to a really small advertising budget. One of my biggest challenges is our constant moving. My husband is in the Army, and we move a lot. I finally got much faster at tearing down my workshop, moving it, and setting it back up.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Create some type of business plan and do your research before starting a business. Starting a new business can be very costly, and mistakes are easy to make. An inexpensive way to start is to open a shop on Etsy or a similar type of website. You can try out some of your products and learn from the process. You can work out the kinks, further develop your products and make sure you really want to run a small business before you invest more money.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I find it easier to run a small business instead of working for a corporation. I end up working more hours, but my time is flexible. Everything I do for the business is online so that I can work anytime and easily re-schedule anything. I can easily schedule around military moves and my husband’s crazy schedule.
Thanks, Denise for sharing your story!