“It just blew up!” I’m sitting in Kristin Melissa’s immaculately neat home office listening to her describe what happened with her business in 2006. Her beautiful one year old daughter Bellamy is happily making faces at me through the glass table as she crawls around with Ruby the Bassett Hound, Kristin’s constant work companion. Kristin started her company, I Do Originals, in 2006 after what she has quoted as a “Happy Accident.” She is a talented calligrapher and for her own wedding in June of 2006 she personalized table runner for her own big event. She posted pictures of her wedding, which included customized parasols, into a popular wedding forum hosted by the wedding magazine, The Knot. The forums soon exploded with comments on her beautiful work and she received thirty emails the first day after she posted the pictures from brides wanting to know where she purchased her custom parasol.
Kristin is classically trained as a counselor, which is what she was doing, and happily so, when all this took place. A New River Valley transplant from near Philadelphia, PA, she attended Radford University for her B.S. in Psychology, then obtained a M.S. from Virginia Tech. Despite her science/education background, she is very business oriented and quickly recognized the opportunity. Initial market research showed her that this is very much a niche market and that there weren’t many people providing this product. She also realized that she wouldn’t require much overhead if she kept her business limited to the internet instead of trying retail space. She started responding to brides via email to give them what they needed and soon launched a web site. The business is now internet driven and marketing is entirely by word of mouth (or in this case, word of email).
Her business grew at an astonishing rate. She was immediately inundated with orders, beginning with thirty and counting. She would work all day as a counselor and then all night filling orders. Soon people were asking for other custom products such as aisle runners and candles. Kristin found suppliers who could keep her stocked and was soon running at full capacity. She soon realized that she could not keep her clients happy and work full time as a counselor and so left her safety net and threw herself full time into her new business.
Its success is obvious. In preparation for this story I researched her business website and soon found that she is wildly popular. She has been featured in numerous wedding magazines, including Bride, the Knot, Unveiled, Belle, The Kentucky Bride, Brides of North Texas and many others! My wife is a wedding photographer and has seen her parasols and aisle runners at weddings in the New River Valley.
Thanks to the internet, her business is not limited regionally. She ships her products all over the United States. She finds international shipping to be very risky with such a fragile product and so limits international shipping. Despite her hesitations with international shipping, Kristin soon realized just how popular her work is when international brides-to-be in Hong Kong hired a courier service in New York to get what they wanted! She now ships internationally to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia and beyond through the courier service. Now that is ingenuity!
Every artist and/or business owner has their favorite story, and Kristin is no exception. When I asked her about her most memorable experience, her face lit up and she immediately started smiling. With no hesitation, she said, “Well, my biggest client contacted me when I was eight and a half months pregnant with Bellamy.” As if on cue, Bellamy gives me a huge smile and points at me through the glass table. Kristin was contacted by an event planner in Australia who needed twenty-one parasols in, drum roll, two weeks. At that moment, Kristin was buried in orders that she was trying to get out on time and trying her best to begin maternity leave. She attempted to hand the order off, but the client responded with, “No, I have done my research and you are the only person that can meet what I have planned.” The planner went on to explain that the groom in the marriage was the famous golfer Greg Norman, aka “The Shark.” It is Kristin’s policy to not cater to one client over another, but in this case she took the order for fewer parasols than twenty-one and got everything done in time!
I enjoyed my visit with Kristin, Bellamy and Ruby very much and felt once again, very humbled by the ingenuity, perseverance, dedication and work ethic of the small business owners here in the NRV. Look Kristin’s business up at www.idooriginals.com and fall in love with her beautiful work. If you want a parasol, aisle runner or candle customized for your wedding plan ahead. Kristin has a three-month backlog!
*Photography courtesy of Laura’s Focus Photography