I discovered Deborah Thomson, aka Figgie Shoes, when a photo of hers went viral on the photo sharing site Reddit. I immediately asked The Google for more information about her and have been a fan ever since. When I talk about beautiful artistry and work, her name is the first to come up.
Unfortunately, between her incredibly busy schedule and that she resides in Canada, I haven’t met this lovely soul face to face. However, it doesn’t take long to know she’s a gem. Without further ado… meet Deb.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Figgie [shoes] was the third business I’ve started. I was homeschooled, and as a requirement for our high school graduation, my dad told my siblings and me that we had to start a business and operate it long enough to learn what it takes to survive independently. I guess his entrepreneurial spirit was passed on to me, considering I’ve stuck with it ever since!
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
My first Figgie company, Figgie Photography, was primarily a wedding photography business. A few years into that, I was asked by another local photographer if I could paint her shoes for her wedding. I’ve been an artist since I was old enough to hold a crayon and have designed clothes since I was 6 years old, but coming back around to fashion and art so many years later was an unexpected part of God’s mysterious plan! After painting the first pair of bridal shoes, and after having worked in the wedding industry as a photographer for several years, it was a good and natural fit to specialize in bridal designs. I love painting designs to represent other occasions and styles though, and always love being asked to do something a little out of the norm! Handbags, cufflinks, Christmas ornaments, you name it!
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
“Don’t quit your day job.” By that, I mean that starting my [photography] business was done slowly. I worked a full time job and saved as much as I could. My savings are what funded my photography gear initially, and I continued to work that job until my own business was making at least twice what I was able to earn with my maxed-out hours during the day.
Also, “learn to take breaks,” but I’m still learning that one. 😉
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Saying no to people and learning to not take things personally. I’m still learning both! You invest so much of yourself into your craft, that when a client is unhappy, it’s incredibly hard not to feel it personally. Learning to say no has been a difficult but VERY necessary part of being a business owner. I hate to say no, and as a result, I would end up being overcommitted and overwhelmed, resulting in all kinds of messes that bring about unhappy clients! They go hand in hand, and I still struggle with both to this day. (Hiring an assistant has helped with that tremendously!)
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Being a person of integrity always, ALWAYS pays off. Learn to brush things off. Rise above. Treat people the way you would want to be treated. Resist the urge to be defensive. Your character will speak for itself.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
Failure is a part of personal growth and business in general. The hard—but necessary—part is learning how to work your way out of that low because failure is not a description of myself (or yourself) as a person but the result of an attempt at progress. Learn from your mistakes and move on!
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
Sleep! On a more serious note, the family reunions at Christmas that I’ve had to miss due to too many pre-Christmas deadlines and the friendships I’ve lost or that have become strained. In an effort to please everyone, sometimes that can have the most devastating affects on your own attitude and cause irreparable damage to relationships.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
On a personal level, meeting my husband-to-be, Iven. ☺ We were first introduced several years ago when I was first starting out as a photographer and I took photos of his band. Years later, his bandmate asked me to photograph his wedding, and Iven was his best man. I can’t really say that was a success as much as just my favourite story and biggest blessing that came from being a business owner.
On a business level, that’s hard to say. Featuring three collections at New York Fashion Week and painting a pair of shoes for the wife of Canada’s Prime Minister have been highlights, but I don’t feel as “successful” about those as when I hear back from a bride that her shoes were her most cherished part of her wedding outfit. The personal connections and impact my art has had in telling a couple’s love story is far more meaningful. ☺
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Honestly, I’m not a big reader! I have a list of books I want to read at some point, but most of what I’ve learned has been from talking with people and asking a lot of questions, then learning by trial and error. I read blog articles from time to time on marketing and business, but couldn’t even tell you what blogs they were found on. I’m a people person! 😉
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
I have four, and in no particular order…
1. What’s your end goal? If it’s to have more free time, talk to someone who owns a business in the same field already and think long and hard before diving in. Owning a business generally means you rarely, if EVER, get time off. There can be pros that outweigh the cons, however, depending on what your business is.
2. How badly do you want it? You can bet no matter what kind of business it is, it is going to be HARD WORK. Most things in life worth having are. But you better know going in that that’s what you want.
3. What makes your business/service unique? Your success or lack thereof will have a LOT to do with how badly your customer base wants or needs what you have to offer. If you offer the same thing as 1,000 other people, you’ll be left having to compete and compromise in ways that may not make it worth it.
4. Is it all about the money? If it is, consider finding something else. Even something you love to do now will become the thing you hate the most if it’s all about the dollar signs.
Find more Figgie love here: www.figgieshoes.com