As we celebrate our 12th year of creating, selling, and shipping our products all over the world, I’ve been reminiscing the past years in business.
I thought I would share a bit of history with you about the beginnings of Homestead Emporium, and how we got to where we are now!
During our first years of marriage, and being a mother, I had worked as a nurses aid/care aid with the elderly, then I switched to work as a waitress so that my husband and I could swap care of the children. He worked weekdays, with me working evenings and weekends. By the time I was very pregnant with our 3rd child, I was running a home daycare during the day and working some evening and weekend shifts as a waitress. It was a busy time!
Once our third was born, I decided to focus on just home daycare. On the side I sold Avon and we used those funds for all the extras, Christmas, birthday’s, vacation etc..
Through selling Avon, as silly as it may sound to some, I actually learned a whole lot about running my own business. All my life I had always enjoyed making things and selling them. Over the years I had made crafts from tole painting, to children’s clothing, to baked goods. Pretty much anything I enjoyed making, I made extra’s to sell. Once I started selling Avon, I learned more about the business side of things, rather than just the creating side.
After our twins came along, I was still babysitting in my home to help make ends meet but mostly before and after school care, and one full time child. I was also once again selling Avon, this time in a new area since we had moved from Ontario to Vancouver Island, BC. Around the time that our twins were toddlers I learned about cloth pads. At first I truly thought that the idea of cloth pads was totally gross! I researched, as I always do, and researched some more. Decided it really was gross, and didn’t think about it too much.
Then one day I realized that I was getting rather tired of the issues I was experiencing from using liners daily. After having 5 children, daily liners were a necessity. Suddenly I thought what would be the big deal about just using cloth liners? Surely it was no different then simply wearing underwear. In the case of simply keeping myself feeling fresh every day, cloth liners certainly sounded much more comfortable than the paper and plastic liners I was using, and throwing away, every single day. I realised I could stop throwing away all that money if I simply made up a few cloth liners instead! I had been sewing for years,so it seemed simple enough! So that’s what I did. I took an old flannel nightgown I had, cut it up into our current 8inch Comfort Contour shape, put some layers together, and sewed it up! I didn’t have a fancy snap press at that time, so I simply used a teeny tiny safety pin to pin the liner to my undies so it wouldn’t fall out when I used the bathroom. 😉 What a great way to first try cloth!
Well… after that point using paper and plastic pads became history.
When I started my period that month and had to use the paper and plastic pads, it literally took about 30 minutes before I was rushing to my sewing machine to make myself some cloth menstrual pads. Now that I had experienced how much more comfortable cloth was, I just could NOT go back to paper and plastic products! During this time I had been doing more research as well and learned more and more about the chemicals in disposable pads and the health concerns due to those chemicals. My eldest daughter was getting closer to the age of beginning her cycle, and the thought of my four girls all using chemical laden pads, when there may be a simple alternative option, was enough to drive me to keep researching and to reconsider my initial thoughts of “that’s gross!”
From this point I had been discussing with my female friends and family all that I was learning about cloth pads. A few asked if I could make them some pads to try. I worked out some trades (one of my very first trades was for essential oils! little did I know how involved I’d become with essential oils years later!) and even sold a few pads. I wasn’t really making any kind of an income, but I was able to trade for things we needed, and gifts. Basically if I’d sell some, it’d be enough to buy more fabrics. Things went that way for a while, simply selling some pads to buy more fabrics, buy necessities, and upgrade my sewing machine, etc.. At that time I was simply calling them Peggy’s Pads! Then at one point it became clear that perhaps this could become a real business opportunity, no matter how small. It’d be a good way to replace Avon, and no longer be a ‘middle man’ but instead create and sell my own product. I’d finally be a true entrepreneur!
Soon after, Homemade Mama was ‘born’.
I still love the name, and miss it. I still feel like I am ‘homemade mama’.
However, Homemade Mama grew up to become Homestead Emporium because I felt it was necessary so the business could become a true family endeavor, and not just mine. By that time all of our kids were growing up and becoming creative too, and I saw an opportunity for them to join in and work alongside if they so desired. So Homestead Emporium was then created. We first opened shop on Hyenacart in 2006 as Homemade Mama, and then changed it to Homestead Emporium.
In 2010 we opened our second shop on etsy! Great decision as we reach a huge worldwide market via etsy!
Along the way we’ve had a few employees behind the scenes, besides just our family. First we had my good friend Jenny, she was the first one to help me out by posting all the product listings on Thursday nights for Friday’s stockings. Then came Heather, another good friend who did the same for a time until she went back to school. For quite a few years now, we’ve had our wonderful helper Wendy! Wendy comes with a bonus, her husband Ryan, they make a great team and have created MANY short cuts behind the scenes to make listing our products much more efficient. I don’t even understand how they do it, with all their talk about ‘codes’ etc.. All I know is that they’ve cut our listing time by about 95%. No joke! On a side note, if you have a small biz like me, go check them out at evening design and see if they can help you make your biz more efficient too!
With every employee I’ve had, I stress the importance of family first and try my best to let them work in a way that fits their family life. Each of our past and current employees have been moms, and each one works from home. 🙂 I love that! My rule is that when the business does well, the employees do well too, whether straight out employees, or simply my family working for me. This means that as business has increased, I’ve also increased all wages. I believe in spreading the blessing. It’s never been about making ME rich. Never. Although if that ever happens, I won’t complain and I’ll be happy to have everyone that’s working alongside become rich with me. 😉
Back to the history of Homestead Emporium.
Our menstrual products have proven to continually be our mainstay in both our shops. Sometimes I think maybe we should have kept it as Homemade Mama…
Yet, as the girls work alongside me almost every day, I don’t regret the change because I want to keep the doors WIDE open for them to create and sell anything that they might try their hand at. Who knows, one day when life slows down a little, maybe my husband may get into some woodworking and/or crafting of some sort too. 😉 In the meantime, Elsa is very busy with all our facial products, cotton balls, facial sets, etc., Julia works behind the scenes pretty much full time, cutting, putting on all the snaps, managing, packaging, running the Pad of the Month Club and our Instagram account. 🙂 Shaylah helps everywhere that she’s needed including helping with shipping, but she mostly works within the home, running the kitchen like a boss and making sure that when Julia and I are working upwards of 12 hours to complete wholesale and co-op orders, or instock deadlines, that the whole family still eats well and the kitchen stays tidy. 🙂
Plus, being Homestead Emporium also leaves me open to be creative in many other ways, including blankets and anything else my busy brain comes up with! My brain is hardwired to never stop coming up with ideas. If only I had the spare time I need to match the brain power. 😉
Homestead Emporium is truly a family thing, and not just about me, the original Homemade Mama, so I’m happy to stick with the Homestead Emporium. Plus, we’ve created a real homestead on the prairies since our meager beginnings when a homestead was just a dream that seemed far away, and almost unattainable. Yet, here we are today!
The name Homemade Mama may suit me, but Homestead Emporium suits the Willard Homestead family best! And in this business of ours, it’s always truly been about the whole family and what works for all of us and everyone involved, and not just me. 🙂 I hope it will continue that way for many years to come.
So what are you waiting for? Jump on in with us into the wonderful world of cloth pads! We’d love to have you join us!
Visit both our shops today: