I started a business over Christmas. Accidentally. That’s the only way I know how to describe what happened.
A few years ago, I made a tablecloth for my dining table using a canvas drop cloth and some Sharpie markers. I found the inspiration on Pinterest when I pinned some kid-decorated drop cloth curtains. I’ve made these table cloths as gifts for family members and friends over the years. Why? Because I’m always on a budget. And I like to doodle. Every time I made one, my friends would encourage me to start a business.
And I would shrug them off.
“It’s canvas drop cloth and Sharpie markers. That’s not a business.”
“I’m not a salesperson.”
“Why would anyone pay me to make one of these? It doesn’t cost much to make one.”
I would roll my eyes at the absurdity of starting a business with something so … silly.
Back in November, my friend Jami called to ask if I might be able to make something using my hand lettering as gifts for two of our mentors, Yvonne and Menielle. Jami and I had just finished taking Yvonne and Menielle’s Bible class, and Jami wanted to give them a special gift at our last class.
Jami said, “Maybe a throw pillow with one of the verses from class on it?” I said, “I could make them tablecloths. It wouldn’t take me that long.” Jami gasped, “Seriously?! You could make TWO of them?! Over the weekend?” I replied, “It really doesn’t take me that long. It’s not a big deal.”
She texted back later, “Seriously, You are so awesome. I know this sounds odd, but I was just saying the other day that Kelly has the most awesome handwriting. This is so your gift – giving thoughtful gifts!”
When I read her text, I rolled my eyes. Jami exaggerates. This is really not that big of a deal.
I worked on the tablecloths over the weekend and wrapped them up before our last Bible class. When Yvonne and Menielle opened their gifts, they both teared up. They hugged and cried with us. They both sent me a thank you note, telling me how much the tablecloths meant to them. Yvonne showed everyone in her neighborhood, her bridge club, and even made her landscaper (I know!) come inside to look at her new tablecloth.
I started to see that maybe my little tablecloths weren’t so silly. They were meaningful. And I needed to stop short-changing my talents.
Then, in December, I made a table runner for a Christmas Gift Exchange party. I needed to bring a $10 gift. My van was in the shop, and I didn’t have time to go shopping once Tyler came home from work. So, I took some canvas drop cloth, hemmed it with heat bonding, and hand lettered Christmas song lyrics onto it. Voila! A gift that didn’t cost me a cent and fits in at a Christmas party.
During the gift exchange, my runner was “stolen” three times. Tugging was involved. And name calling. Good Christian women were fighting over something I made.
After the party, I had several friends request a runner of their own. They were all so complimentary, and I would say, “Guys! This didn’t cost me anything! I made it because I couldn’t go shopping.” To which my friends would reply, “Kelly! This is amazing! I write like a serial killer! You could make $100 a piece off of these.”
Reluctantly, at the encouragement of my closest friends, I posted a couple of pictures on Facebook with some price quotes, and within a couple of weeks, I had 14 orders with the promise of more to come. As I started making and delivering these tablecloths and runners, I began to see how this silly little talent of mine was actually a gift to others.
When I delivered a runner to one of my dearest friends, she cried as she touched each of the names of her children and grandchildren. She read over each passage of scripture, choking back tears. We hugged and cried together. My friend Jami asked me to make another tablecloth for her grandparents full of treasured memories from all of her cousins, and Jami texted me pictures of her family hugging and crying over each memory.
Through this process, I’ve remembered something I say all the time to my kids:
Words are Powerful.
They are. And this little tablecloth business of mine with my hobby doodlings and imperfect seams has turned into meaningful gifts for my friends and family. And I’m no longer saying, “It’s just some fabric and Sharpie markers.”