Do you want to live a more CREATIVE life? On this episode, I talk with Chair Whimsy founder Wendy Conklin. She is a designer, an artisan, an educator and an entreprenista.
A visionary thought leader, Wendy is leading a MOVEMENT to live more creatively. Her brand includes custom chairs, online courses, business retreats and more. Wendy's new book is entitled Life Whimsy: How to Think, Play and Work more Creatively.
Many people dream about making their passion project their career but few are able to turn their dreams into reality. Enter Wendy Conklin, who transformed her hobby into a powerhouse brand, Chair Whimsy, inspiring clients the world over to bring a sense of whimsy and joy into their living spaces.
Wendy was an educational consultant, busy writing books and helping teachers implement the latest in teaching techniques. While she enjoyed her job, she felt there was something missing from her career. She’d always had a creative streak but wasn’t sure how to incorporate it into a lucrative business. In 2012, she took an upholstery course and was hooked. It wasn’t long before friends began asking Wendy to help them “zhuzh” up their homes. Realizing she was onto something, she opened an Etsy store, offering custom refurbishing of antiques and flea-market finds.
Before long, Wendy found herself juggling her full-time job and the Etsy store, to the point something had to give. She realized that her misery as an employee was greater than the fear of becoming an entrepreneur. Springing into action, she took out a loan, asked for a six month leave of absence from work and set out to make her hobby a viable business. Within two days, she knew she could never return to her job and with the determination to make this new venture a success, she dug in.
Traction came quickly but in order to really make her new business soar, she knew she needed some outside advice and began working with a business coach. Contrary to popular belief that offering more options is the key to success, she niched down to a single focus - chairs. Wendy always had an artistic bend and by deciding to play by her own rules of fun, joy and lots of color, her Chair Whimsy brand caught flight, capturing the imaginations of clients around the world. In addition to her custom refurbished chairs, she expanded her line to include a collection of her unique designs made by artisans in Italy as well as fabric selection services.
In 2020, Wendy introduced her first course, DIY Upholstery, to teach others the joy of creating their own works of art. The response prompted her to create five more courses: Styling with the Chair Stylist, Sourcing Swoon-Worthy Fabrics, Fabric Mixology, Just the Bottoms, and The Business of Chairs. Dovetailing with the pandemic, the courses struck a nerve with thousands of women looking to learn a new skill while brightening up their homes. In under 18 months, sales for the courses hit over $500k. Encouraged by Wendy’s enthusiasm and gentle instructions to play, create and not worry about somebody else’s rules, these “Whimsies” are living the Chair Whimsy motto of “create the life you desire and a home that inspires you to live more creatively.”
Wendy lives in a personality-filled home in Round Rock, Texas with her husband, two daughters and little furry friend Maui, where she enjoys greenhouse gardening, mixing tasty cocktails and renovating motorhome as the “Camper Revamper.”
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