Small businesses don’t always come about because of a defined plan. Tina Rodas, owner and maker of Hi Tree, discovered that she could open her own business after crafting for family and friends. Her adorable, woodsy aesthetic reflected in her handmade toys helped her stumble across a new career. Tina shares some insight into her business and offers up some small business advice.
Name: Tina Rodas
City: Los Angeles, California
Store Owner Since: 2007
Opened on Storenvy: 2013
What is your favorite vacation destination? It definitely has to be Cape Town, South Africa, even though I’m currently typing this from beautiful Siena, Italy. I love traveling!
How did you get started running your own business?
Back in 2007, when my daughter was 2, I would stay up late at night when she was sleeping and make bags, toys, and pillows for her to play with. I had a lot of friends express interest in purchasing some of my designs and that’s when I realized I could start a business.
What has been your favorite experience as a store owner?
I LOVE making my own schedule, my own rules, and generally doing things my way. I’m a pretty independent person and I always knew I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I also love getting great feedback from happy customers.
What has been the hardest challenge running your business?
The hardest challenge is making my own rules and schedule because sometimes when I just don’t feel like working and I really have to, there’s no one there to make you do it. It’s a double edged sword! I’m always getting better at it though.
What do you think is easily overlooked when it comes to best business practices?
When it comes to running a handmade business, it’s very important to master your craft. Especially if you want to be taken seriously. Your product should be the BEST of its kind. The only way to do that is to make and remake over again, refining the design constantly.
Can you tell us a bit about the sustainable materials you use and the inspiration behind them?
I LOVE FELT. It’s a wonderful material to work with because it is a sustainable material and it’s so easy to manipulate. I always use the highest quality materials I can get my hands on which means I look for materials with a high wool content. They are long lasting and look much better than their cheaper acrylic counterparts. Quality materials are more expensive but I think it’s worth the extra expense. Besides, you should be doing your math to price your finished products accordingly!
What advice would you offer other small business owners getting started?
It’s important to be self sufficient by learning as much as possible about search engine optimization, photography and creative writing. It can be very empowering to have a handle on all aspects of your business. It’s also important to pay yourself. I can’t stress this enough. I spent years underpaying myself and it’s no fun being a starving artist. Most importantly, if you want to do something, no matter what anyone says, just keep doing it. There’s no magical advice: it’s dedication, diligence, and research that’ll get you where you want to be.
Read more about Hi Tree and shop the store here.
Photography by Jack Strutz www.adayspent.com