“The greatest skill you can have is persistence. Persistence is very spiritual and if you keep focused on the feeling of being your own boss, and keep doing everything you can, from where you are, with what you have, things will come together for you.”
Tell us something no one would know about you (until now).
I trained to become a professional make-up artist when I first left school. I was sure I would start a wedding make-up business. My first full-time job was in the music products industry – with the idea of funding my makeup artist business – but I progressed in the industry and worked in it for my entire career, until more recently cutting back my hours due to the success of my current business.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t recall ever having a “dream job” or something I thought I would be when I was a child. Hopefully, that just means I was in the moment and living without adult concerns! In my later teen years I liked the idea of Psychology (and then I found out how many more years of school I’d need to do).
Where did you grow up?
Melbourne, Australia. East Bentleigh to be precise.
Where do you live now?
The Dandenong Ranges town of Gembrook – it’s my favourite place in the world and I even get to work from home, looking out on the mountains and forest.
What inspires you?
Determination, persistence and a belief that if you really want something, nothing will ever stop you. I am massively inspired by people who have overcome adversity and struggle to achieve their dreams. I’m also really inspired by passionate activists who take a stand for what they believe in, even if it means their own safety or future is compromised.
How did your Side Project come about?
My company makes custom snow globes, which effectively started when I was watching an episode of Sex And The City. Carrie (SJP) picks up a beautiful New York snow globe and shakes it. It symbolised the “shaking up” of her life with Aidan, just before they broke up. I started searching for that globe, and in the process discovered there was very little in the way of really beautiful snow globes, as opposed to kitschy, tacky travel globes. During the search, I came across snow globe kits and thought maybe I’d try my hand at making one myself. The result was my first work “Mare & Foal Under Winter Bare Tree” and I was smitten – both with the process and with the results. I started making them for friends and family, learning from all my mistakes, of which there were many.
At the same time, I had been learning a lot about passive income, building websites, SEO etc, and somehow the two passions fortuitously collided. I saw that the niche for custom globes, whilst small, was wide open. So I built my website and before I knew it, I was overloaded with single custom globe requests.
What stage is your Side Project in?
Four years later, I still offer single custom snow globes, and have taken on an extremely talented young sculptor to ensure my settings are of a very high standard – he is infinitely more talented than me and has allowed me to say yes to so many more unique requests (of which there are many)! My single custom globes sell for between $599 USD and $1599 USD depending on production time and intricacy, and I usually have a six-month waiting list. I also offer a snow globe design giftware range (print to order on Zazzle.com), and last year I started offering a Limited Edition annual design – the first one in 2015 was called “Cherry Blossom Time” and the 2016 design is “WinterGreen”. I only offer 50 globes and to date, I’ve sold 70% of the 2016 design.
However, my main business focus is offering quantity production to companies, associations and institutions. I have an amazingly talented small and specialist production team based in Southern China, and our work has encompassed thousands of snow globes for Quentin Tarantino (gifts for the cast and crew of his feature film “The Hateful Eight”, Netflix (for the TV Series “Narcos”, for actor and comedian Steve Martin (gifts for those actors and comedians who presented his AFI award in 2015), high profile record company Third Man Records, historic buildings and fashion/clothing designers. I just delivered custom globes to New York, Brisbane, Toronto and London for the international cast of Tim Minchin’s musical “Matilda” and have several more high-profile projects in production for 2017. Most of my clients are based in the US.
What’s your day job/what was your day job?
I have worked in the music products industry since I was 19 – so coming up to 28 years! I made my way up from entry level retail positions to work for the industry’s leading manufacturers in product management, marketing and sales management. In June 2016, I made the decision to permanently reduce my hours to 2 days a week, and that’s in a contractor role with a family wholesaler I have worked with since 2012. It works well in keeping my week balanced, although it is getting to the stage where I may need to focus on my business 100%. It’s a scary leap, but when you get to the point where it makes sense, it’s a lot easier to make that decision!
How do you balance the nine-to-five with your Side Project?
It’s not an issue for me anymore with only working 2 days a week for someone else. However, for the longest time, it was just about the hustle. I would come home and work on my business, I’d get up early and work on my business and most weekends I would work on my business. I took annual leave from my full-time job to work on my business. I didn’t take actual holidays for a few years. I’m not saying that’s healthy, but I wanted it so damn bad I was prepared to do it. And to be honest, once I stumbled on the right idea for me, it never really felt like work anyway. I loved every minute I got to work on my business.
Limited Edition Cherry Blossom Time
“It’s a scary leap, but when you get to the point where it makes sense, it’s a lot easier to make that decision.”
When was the moment you thought, I might be onto something here?
There was a point about 12 months in, where I started getting really stressed out with single globe requests – people wanted them, they wanted them fast and they were prepared to pay extra to get them made faster. I literally had people asking “How much extra can I pay you to get it by Christmas?” They were trying to throw money at me, and I couldn’t take it as I didn’t have the strategies or structure in place. But, you learn as you progress, and now I offer a VIP package that is $1599 USD for a 120mm custom snow globe, delivered in 8 weeks. I probably get about 7-10 requests for that package each year.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
In all honesty, this business is my true purpose and I have never found myself unmotivated. Well, not yet at least! I know it because every day that I get to sit down and work on it, I look forward to it and enjoy every minute – and it goes so quickly. There is some stress at this time of year with shipments and deadlines, but it’s all worth it when my clients tell me how much they love them.
What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered and how did you overcome it?
Up until Christmas 2015, I had relied on my manufacturer’s shipping method for all shipments. It was fast and reliable, but it was also extremely expensive. In mid-November 2015, all the shipments I had booked in for Christmas delivery tripled in cost, overnight. It’s a strategy used by some shippers in China where they reduce the flight availability and increase the cost massively. I had already quoted my clients and there was no way I was going to tell them they had to pay triple the cost, so I had to cover it. From that moment, I set my sights on setting up a better shipping option. It took some months to find the right shipper, but we have used them this year and they have been fantastic. We still have a few things to iron out, but right now it’s working so much better, and I can rely on their quotes being firm.
What has been the best piece of advice you have ever been given and who gave it to you?
From 2006 until 2012 I worked for two gentlemen who have become my friends and mentors. We went through a horrible experience with the company going into receivership, but I would do it all again to work with them and benefit from their incredible culture and wisdom. They taught me that there is nothing more powerful in this world than the conversations you have with people. The way those conversations go, and how you manage them has the power to change lives. You are responsible for managing the conversations in your life, and if you do it right, everything changes. I believe my business is the success it is because I have taken responsibility for providing everyone I work with, the highest, most detailed and helpful information I can. I do not assume anything, I offer clear instructions and make clear requests to people. It’s amazing what happens when you take this level of responsibility for outcomes and I’m so grateful to John Helme and Tim Mason for teaching me this.
How do you want to make your mark and what legacy will you leave behind?
My driving force is customer service. It’s always been something I love to do well, and it comes very easily and naturally to me to treat my customers with respect. I am not bothered about fame and fortune or leaving a mark, other than to ensure that everyone who deals with me has an outstanding experience.
I wrote in a recent half-year goals review: “I treat every single one of my customers like gold, and from a personal, pure level of communication. I offer unconditional guarantees unseen in any other gift making company in the world. I stand behind my products with fierce love and a desire to never, ever leave anyone unhappy with anything they’ve bought from me with their hard earned money. I do not take their investment lightly, and I will do everything in my power to rectify problems. My customer IS ALWAYS RIGHT.”
As for a legacy, I believe that my work gives people the gift of expressing their deep love, gratitude and respect for someone else, in a totally unique and impressive way. That makes me pretty happy, to have been a part of that expression of love in the world.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your Side Project and how do you overcome it?
Snow globes are a very traditional and hand-made product, and they take time and care to make – an average of about 60 days from confirmation of design. I often receive requests, particularly at Christmas, to produce hundreds of globes in 2-3 weeks. It’s impossible, and I hate having to say no. There’s the combined frustration of a lost sale, but even more so the feeling I get at having to turn someone down. It doesn’t sit well with me, but I have worked on my level of acceptance that this will likely always happen, nobody else is going to “get the gig” because it can’t be done and ultimately, it can be a good thing for a business to have a little scarcity built into the mix!
Limited Edition Wintergreen
“They taught me that there is nothing more powerful in this world than the conversations you have with people. The way those conversations go, and how you manage them has the power to change lives. You are responsible for managing the conversations in your life, and if you do it right, everything changes.”
Who are your top influences in your life, in terms of your career and helping you to focus on your Side Project?
There are several people who have impacted me, and who I’ve learned from over the years. I’ve gained most of my knowledge for free through podcasts (I used to do a LOT of driving for my day job) and I cannot recommend them highly enough. It all started with Pat Flynn’s “Smart Passive Income” podcast. The guy is a gun and he gives away so much rich information it’s ridiculous. Just listen to him. I’ve also learned from the awesome guys at The Fizzle Show, Tony Robbins, Jay Abraham and so many others I can’t remember them all! I also did some one-on-one business coaching with Kate James at TotalBalance.com.au and she was incredibly effective in helping me see where I could ramp things up. There was a lot that changed for my business after seeing Kate, and I would recommend her.
How do you fund your Side Project?
When I first started the business I just bootstrapped everything. I built the website myself, bought some basic materials out of my own spare cash (of which there was not a lot) and paid for a basic logo. I was lucky enough to find that the kind of money I could charge for a handmade piece far outweighed the cost of materials – it was more about my time, and I wasn’t worried about how much of that I put in. Over time I started getting quantity orders, and I always get a 50% deposit before we start production; final payment occurs just before we ship. I rarely have outstanding invoices, unless I choose to ship prior to final payment due to deadlines. But I’m lucky enough these days to have a nice buffer balance in my business account which covers whatever is needed. And my clients are always super helpful in ensuring fast payment. It’s never been an issue for me.
What is the most satisfying part of your Side Project?
Because I make something that is purely for pleasure and giving, there is a huge reward in that when my clients see their snow globes for the first time. They are by nature a rather magical sort of product, and I revel in hearing how much my clients love them at first sight. That just makes me happy – everything else can be going wrong, but if I get confirmation of delivery and an email or phone call from an excited and satisfied customer, it makes my day.
Do you have other Side Projects?
No, I’ve found my sweet spot these days. I have however been making websites for my sister and a very close friend. I enjoy the process and am able to do it for free for them. But I don’t think I would enjoy taking money for it or being in a traditional client relationship for website building.
What advice would you give to others who are thinking of ditching the day job for their Side Project?
The greatest skill you can have is persistence. Persistence is very spiritual and if you keep focused on the feeling of being your own boss, and keep doing everything you can, from where you are, with what you have, things will come together for you. But, I would also say, look at how you can bootstrap. You don’t have to spend thousands on having a website built when there is so much free information out there to show you how to do it yourself. Don’t be lazy, don’t get discouraged and don’t think you have to go into debt to start a business. I often think how so many businesses loan to start-up and they’re running behind from the start. Educate yourself and don’t give up.
Does your Side Project make you more productive/happy in other areas of your life?
Without doubt. I no longer have to do the peak-hour commute, I choose when I work and I don’t have to answer to anybody, least of all demanding and unreasonable bosses!
How can people find you and your Side Project?
My website is www.queenofsnowglobes.com/
My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/queenofsnowglobes
My Instagram handle is @queenofsnowglobes
I also co-run a snow globe collector group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/snowglobecollectors/
Queen Of Snow Globes Creator & Director Leah Andrews