Our Retailer Profile for May is a little bit different than our usual interview. Not only is it a look at a talented maker & entrepreneur. It’s also the story of a young HoneyBee Heroine with an interest in business. Learn all about Julie & Madeleine Grace in this month’s profile.
Nestled inside a cozy bungalow on the east side of Terre Haute, Indiana, you can find a carefully selected collection of beautiful handmade goods. You’ll see exquisite ceramics, beautiful fabric, artistically designed greeting cards, fine jewelry & leather, and nourishing bath & beauty products.
Venus+Vine is a distinctive shop with a surprising beginning, born out of the interest of a young girl and the encouragement of a savvy mother.
Creating Opportunities for Her Daughter and Herself
Julie M., owner of Venus+Vine, recalls a conversation she had with her daughter, Madeleine Grace, when she was 7 years old. Julie’s daughter badly wanted to take part in their local Farmers Market.
“At the time we weren’t making any of the products we do now,” recalls Julie, “but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to teach her some real life lessons about business. I agreed to a year trial period.”
The two of them decided to make bath & body products, christening their new company Pure GRACE Soap in honor of the “junior” partner.
For 25 weeks straight, Julie and Madeleine Grace got up at 5 AM every Saturday morning to start their day at the Farmers Market. With little experience in formulating, Julie became a self-taught skin care expert, developing products and adjusting to the weekly market response.
The market season ended, and Julie took on an increasing role in growing the business. As Julie describes it, Madeleine Grace liked the idea of keeping the company going, “but she wanted to take a backseat and spend some time being a kid.” (editor note: Now age 10, Madeleine Grace still helps out as a product tester, but is less involved in the day-to-day running of the business.)
Before the next year’s Farmers Market had even begun, customers were asking how to get a hold of Pure GRACE products all the time. Responsive as ever to customer response, Julie saw the potential for a brick-and-mortar location. She found a “fixer-upper” location and spent nearly a year on DIY renovations (learning what she needed from YouTube videos).
After a lot of hard work, Julie & Madeleine Grace had a production studio and retail space. Venus+Vine was born, with a name inspired by the nickname of Julie’s son, Thomas. Julie says, “To me, the name symbolizes beauty and nature, which I believe our products also symbolize.”
Step Into A Store That Celebrates Makers
It’s not surprising that a shop run by a maker and renovated by hand is infused with such a love for handcrafted goods by other small makers.
“There was no question about what type of maker I would like to include in my shop when it opened,” Julie shares. “I like to support and pay back those who, like myself, are making something because they have a passion for it.”
In her shop, Julie works hard to cultivate the same kind of experience one has at the Farmers Market. It’s a chance to talk with customers, catch up on families, and share stories with each other.
“My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is the customer interaction, hands down,” Julie confides. “I draw so much happiness and energy from my customers. They make the long hours and hard work much more pleasant, and their support and smiles mean the world to me.”
And that hard work can be quite challenging sometimes. Running the business often takes priority to running the shop, and there’s never enough time to do it all. Echoing the sentiment of many entrepreneurs, Julie confesses, “I joke that if I had known what it would have entailed, I probably would never have done it, but I’m so glad I did.”
Advice for Young Entrepreneurs: “Don’t Quit”
The road of entrepreneurship is never completely smooth. But that’s never deterred Julie, who says, “I come from a long line of independent, strong women, so I never gave it much thought that I couldn’t figure out a way to make my dream of being a small business owner happen.”
Every setback, every challenge, every negative thing held the opportunity for Julie to learn, improve, and grow.
Julie tells the story of one such setback.
“A couple of years ago, I pitched a new specialty grocery store chain in my town. The pitch went well,” she recalls. “They loved my products and then they went with someone else. I was a little down about it for sure, but after the initial shock I realized I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I designed a much better line sheet, updated my products and pricing, spent a lot of time learning who my target customer was and what she liked to do. The next time I was invited to pitch it went much better!”
Julie also gained a renewed perspective from the initial failure. She says, “I also realized looking back that I could have never kept up with the inventory demands that client would have needed at the time, nor would I have had the cash flow to facilitate the time between making product and getting paid for it.”
It’s the same kind of grit that Julie offers as advice for any young entrepreneurs and girls with other Big Dreams. “First and foremost, don’t ever stop,” Julie advises. “Don’t let anyone tell you your ideas are silly. If you are passionate about it, if you feel it in your soul, keep moving towards it even if it’s just a little bit at a time.”
Julie continues, “Second, create a life for yourself where you can feel happy and proud of what you do. Remember to give back when you can in whatever manner you can. Finally, be nice. Life is hard enough. Be as kind as you can to everyone around you. Be an example for the next young girl.”
It’s a wisdom that has helped Julie to build a life that she loves, raising kids who recognize the opportunities around them and understand the hard work required to make the most of those opportunities. And you can see it for yourself every time you walk through the door of Venus+Vine and talk with Julie.
You can find Venus+Vine at 115 South Fruitridge Ave in Terre Haute, Indiana. If you go, make sure you say hi to Julie for us!