Interview: Sandy Schmidt of You are Special Patterns and the Olde Country Cupboard

Note: It is with profound sadness that we report, Sandy Schmidt passed away on Sept 5, 2013.


Sandy Schmidt of Starke, Florida, cancer survivor and mother of one, shares her experiences owning two businesses simultaneously. 

MG:  What is the name of your business?

SS:  I have two pattern companies You are Special Patterns and the Olde Country Cupboard.

MG:  Where do you sell your products?

SS:  I sell my products on line via facebook and my blog, plu in CountrySampler magazine and craft shows.

MG:  How can our readers find your products?

SS:  I have 2 pattern lines: and

Primitive Doll by Sandy Schmidt

MG:  How has new technology affected your personal life/business? What technology tools do you use?

SS:  I use the internet exclusively. Since I joined facebook , I would say half of my business comes from it. I started a wholesale site on facebook and it has surpassed my wildest expectation.

MG:  Where do you find inspiration for your products?

SS:  I love dolls and Christmas, most of my ideas come late at night , just before bed. I love Raggedy Dolls, most of which I have on my You are Special site. Christmas items are on the Olde Country cupboard site.

MG:  Define your style?

SS:  I would define my style as country/primitive. I don’t do the extreme prim, love it but don’t use it in my patterns. I find that in my area, the more cutesy country sells better.

MG:  How many kids? Age/Gender?

SS:  I have one Daughter Samantha Flanders who recently started her own craft business SouthernBelle Scentz. She has always helped with shows, but has taken over the tart and some of the sewing for me.

MG:  Tell me about your typical day.

SS:   I stay up late usually go to bed around 3:00 am. Get up about 10:00, do pattern orders, start on sewing orders in middle of afternoon, take a break for fixing dinner and catching up on emails and such. then usually start back to sewing after dinner, not unusual for me to sew 10-12 hours a day especially closer to show time, it is more like 14 hours a day.

Raggedy Annie by Sandy Schmidt

MG:  How do you juggle work and family?

family life, It is just me and husband at home, daughter is married and lives down the street. It is easy to craft, hubby works shift work, and is usually working 12 hours shifts in the daytime or night shift, then sleep after night shift, So I have a lot of time to myself. When I want, easy to take time off and be on my own schedule.

MG:  Three tips you would like to give to moms who are thinking about starting their own business?

  1. Start out slow, don’t take on more than you can handle especially with small children. My daughter rarely took naps, so it was extremely hard to sew and craft when she was little, I was a stay at home mom and really didn’t start my pattern business till she was in kindergarten.
  2. Go to shows and see if you product sells, if not, be willing to adapt your product for the market.
  3. Have a good support system in your spouse, make sure he is behind you 100 percent, because of the time involved. Hubby used to entertain my daughter when I got stressed with orders, he would always take over once he got home and told me to get my orders and stock done, he has always been behind all the way.

MG:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

SS:  I was diagnosed with lymphoma stage 4 cancer 2 years ago. been through chemo, now in remission. So hoping to take my business to next step through wholesaling and going to a big wholesale show next year. I advertise in Country Sampler, but want to make my business grow, for my daughter to take over one day.

MG:  What else would you like to add?

SS:  I guess what else I would to say, it is a very competitive business and be prepared for a lot of hard work. Nothing is more satisfying to me, than to hear, someone tell me they love my dolls. I love being at a show and looking up and seeing aline of customers willing to stand in line to buy my products. It fullfills me in a way, that is hard to understand, crafting takes my mind off my illness and keeps me sane. I want to leave a name for myself, that people will be recognize long after I am gone from this world.

My Story by Stephanie Hall

by Stephanie Hall

This is a story.  No wildly passionate, bodice ripping scenes; no crazy antics or wild chases of any kind.  Just a story.  About a woman. With two children.  And a marriage.  And some plans for the future.   This woman had just hit 39.  She was in a marriage that was doomed; things had just fallen apart, but they agreed to tough it out “for the kid’s sake”.  In truth, fear was the dominating factor in the decision to remain.  But that will be another story.

This is about a lump.  Yes, *that* kind of lump.  Two weeks after her 39th birthday, she discovered a lump.  It was about the size and density of a small stone.  If you have any gravel about, the lump was about the size of an English/Green Pea.  (Why is it we always use food as a reference?  Because everyone will know exactly the size mentioned?)    Lumps and bumps were not unusual for her, she has fibroid cysts in both breasts.  They become inflamed and quite painful if too much caffeine is consumed at the wrong time during the month.  If you understand, I am sorry.  If you don’t understand, that means you are blessed to have never endured this phenomenon, so be grateful.  So, like I said, lumps – no big deal.  Small, hard irregularly shaped lumps that spring up quickly – a very big deal.  And at 39?

She went to the doctor, who was quite condescending.  After all, she was “Just a woman” not an MD, so she wouldn’t really KNOW  anything about this medical stuff.  Really?!?!  That doctor was summarily fired and a new one found.  It was the Physician’s Assistant who decided further investigation would be good.  This lump grew maybe a centimeter or so within the 2 weeks it took to find a new doctor.    After a couple more weeks of “watching” it, the PA said, “I know you are going to worry constantly until we do something, so let me schedule a biopsy.”  Again, what is it with the condescension?  And the PA was a woman, too.

Insurance companies were notified, parents had been notified earlier, but the info about the next step was shared, too.  Moms have a way of worrying that cannot be beat.  The insurance company gave the go-ahead on the minor procedure.  Schedules were set, arrangements were made and plans were in place – until the day before the biopsy.  During the time spent on those plans, the lump grew, then “super-novaed”  It got smaller and harder, as if that were considered possible, and became a bit more irregular in shape.  Nerves were frayed.  But everyone gave great effort to holding on and having a positive attitude.

The day before the procedure, the day before! Said insurance company called and stated, “well, you are either going to have to pay out-of-pocket or get a second opinion.  We could not have possibly approved this without a second opinion.”  They did give the approval, the notes were in the charts, in the Day-Timer with names and times, but hey, it was a classic example of the Golden Rule.  They had the Gold, so they were arbitrarily making up rules.  The procedure was canceled – the clinic was quite gracious since it was such short notice.  That impressed me.

A new surgeon was located – one who had the approval of the insurance company.  The insurance company recommended him.  And he had a cancellation that allowed the second opinion to happen the following week.  It was a long 8 days.   The weekend was the hardest.  No work to go to; not much to focus on but the constant background thoughts.

The big day finally arrived.  At the appointed time, the woman went to the new surgeon.  She had absolutely no history with this person or his practice.  But the “pinch hitter” had a very kind office staff.  His nurse was extremely gracious and thoughtful.  She even took extra steps to ensure the patients comfort while waiting for the doc.  And he did not take long to arrive!  This man was on the spot – more doctors should be like him these days.

“at that moment, I knew I had received a miracle.”

So the doc arrived, the nurse was with him and the additional exam began.  The doc poked and prodded.  He asked, again, exactly where the lump was located.  He checked.  He checked again.  He asked the nurse to check.  The patient checked.  They even examined the breast on the opposite side just to make sure there had been no confusion.  There was no confusion.  The lump was gone!  It had completely disappeared.  Nothing.  It was, as they say ‘solid gone’.  The doctor reviewed the notes from the other surgeon.  He reviewed the notes from the previous exams by the OB-GYN.  He looked puzzled, he checked for the lump again.  Then he started to smile.  I really cannot remember exactly what he said, but it was something about luck, fate, faith and dodging a bullet.  But at that moment, I knew I had received a miracle.

Since I gave away the “surprise” ending in the previous paragraph, let me say I had no idea how heavy that had been until that moment.  I was in shock.  I got dressed, thanked the doctor, paid the bill and headed out the door.  There were smiles all around in that office; most were still unsure if it was a miracle or malpractice, but I assure you that lump was there!  And I most assuredly knew it was gone!  I called my Mom with the good news.  Her only response was “Well, I knew it.  We’ve been praying for you in bible study group since you told me about it.  I just knew it was going to be alright.”

For my part, it was a semi-game changer.  I would like to tell you I suddenly became the most gracious person in the world.  I would love to tell you I suddenly found huge faith and have walked a narrow path since.  But the truth is, I did not.  I was relieved.   Greatly relieved.   I had watched my horse-riding partner go through chemo and radiation for late stage breast cancer.  It was not pretty.  Her gorgeous long, thick, lush, full-bodied hair came out in clumps on her pillow.  She succumbed after only a few months.  But while watching her , I made a decision.  I too had long luscious healthy hair and I have made a decision.  If I was ever faced with chemo, radiation or anything of the like, I would cut my hair and donate it before starting treatment.

I was not facing treatment.  Thank God.  But I DID still have the hair.  And I immediately made an appointment with an experienced hairdresser.  I do not know who got my hair, but whoever it was received two 14” pony tails and two 16” pony tails.  And I hope they were able to enjoy it.  Now there is too much grey for my hair to be an acceptable donation.  But I would do it again in an instant if someone else needed it.  As for my “attitude of gratitude”, that took a bit longer to develop.  Develop it did and my life has changed.  Since I have been focusing on what I have and being thankful, more good things have flowed into my life.  Great friends, good times, laughter – daily laughter – the deep from the soul laughter that cleanses and refreshes.   I still remember those dark days.  When I encounter a friend or acquaintance who is fighting the good fight, I do not share my story; some of them just do not understand why me and not them.  And that’s okay.  I understand their feelings of fear, frustration and worry.

30-Day Gratitude Challenge

Gratitude is defined as the state of being grateful; a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation.  Saying “thank you” isn’t just about good manners.   It is an attitude that defines and guides.  It helps you choose your path, your destiny.  The more that you are genuinely grateful for, the more you will have for which to be grateful.

Today, I am going to share a few details about my personal experience with the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge – sending one heart-felt greeting card per day for 30 days.   I am on day 14 of my challenge and I have sent over 50 cards.  I just can’t stop at one!  Chances are, some of you have received a card from me.  If you haven’t, do not fear, you will!

I am going to share with you why I choose to do, HOW I am doing it and why YOU should do it, too.

I have a friend who is a diligent card sender. She remembers every birthday and Christmas. Occasionally, I open my mail box to discover a card from her “just because.” She even sent a Mother’s Day card this year!

Every time I receive a card from my friend I feel appreciated and loved.   It is such a small gesture but means so very much!

Gratitude is the best Attitude.

Gratitude is the best Attitude.

I want to be more like my friend.   I want others to know how very much they are appreciated by me! That is why I am taking a 30-Day Gratitude Challenge to send one heart-felt greeting card each day.

As of today, I have sent over 50 gratitude cards!  Honestly, I had no idea my list of people whom I am grateful for would be so long!  But each day, the list gets longer. And as the list gets longer, I feel more blessed for having each of these people in my life.  What a wonderful feeling!

I think everyone should feel this good! If you’d like to add more blessings and wonder into your life, that is why I am sharing my experience with you today.

About a month ago, I was introduced to Send Out Cards, an online tool I now use for my custom furniture business to help with appreciation marketing.  Appreciation marketing is a topic for another blog post.

It didn’t take long for me to also see the value of Send Out Cards 30-Day Gratitude Challenge.  According the Send Out Cards founder, Kody Bateman:

“Our goal is simple:  We would like to, collectively, share gratitude with over 1 million new people by the end of July.   Unlike most challenges, the Gratitude Challenge will not only affect you – it will benefit the lives of the 30 other people who receive your messages of gratitude.  That is the power of the Gratitude Challenge!  Imagine 1 million people knowing they are appreciated. And that will just be the beginning…”

A few days into the challenge, I choose to send my husband a gratitude card.  I typed the words that came from my heart onto the card and clicked send.  Then my card was printed and stuffed into an envelope and that is when the magic started to occur.

Think about this… what happens when you mail a letter?  It’s not like email where you click send and moments later the other persons inbox dings “You’ve Got Mail.”  When you send a greeting card over a dozen real-life people (postal workers) pick it up, sort, carry and deliver it to your recipient.

I believe that there is energy – positive and negative – that surrounds everything.  I also believe that I control – with my thoughts and attitude – the energy that surrounds ME.  When my attitude is one of gratitude that is some powerfully positive stuff!

When I wrote, from my heart, a message of gratitude to my husband, it created positive energy around the card.   By the time my card reached my husband, a dozen sparks of positive gratitude had already been fired off.

The morning he received my card, my husband sent me a quick “got your card” text message.  However, that night, as we sat on the couch I noticed his hand on my knee.   <smile>

As a society, we have forgotten how to show appreciation.  We go about our daily business expecting people to do things.  We spend more time complaining and expecting than we do appreciating.

You have probably discovered that the more you complain about how bad things are, the worse they seem to become.

Well, the opposite is just as true!  The more you appreciate the people and circumstances around you, the more you find to appreciate!

Did you know that appreciation is the number one motivator in the workplace?  Employees who feel appreciated are more productive and loyal.  Whereas, almost 50% of people who quit their jobs state lack of feeling appreciated as the reason for leaving.

Imagine a world where everyone feels acknowledged and appreciated.  YOU can create this world around you!

Take the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge with me, starting today.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.

Write down 30 people who you appreciate and starting today, send one of those people a card, every day, for the next 30 days.  If you like, you can use the form found on my gratitude challenge website.  I will even give you two free cards to send via my Send Out Cards website.  Contact me via the form here.

I promise you, if you take this 30 day gratitude challenge with me, pretty soon, more and more will be placed in your path worthy of your appreciation.  And when it does, would you do one little thing for me?  Would you send ME a gratitude card?

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”  –  Tony Robbins

Interview: Diane Long of D’s Stitcheree

Diane Long

Diane Long, owner of D’s Stitcheree in Surprise, Arizona

Diane Long, owner of D’s Stitcheree in Surprise, Arizona offers some candid advise based on her 20 years of home-based business experience.

MG:  Tell us how you got started?

DL:  I started D’s Stitcheree in 1992 after my children were grown. My oldest son was in the Marines, my youngest son was a Junior in High School. I had always wanted to own my own business. Owning an Embroidery business just came at the right time. I was working a full time job outside my home. Now I was able to be home when my son got home from school, do a job that I loved AND make money at it.

MG:  What advise would you give a woman looking to start a home based business?

DS:  Learn as much as you can about the business you want to start then have faith that you can do it AND… ALWAYS keep your business money and personal money seperate. Also, surround yourself with other women business owners even if they are not in your business. We need to be a support for each other. Like I don’t know what I would have done without you all over the years.

Dogs Rule Embroidered Tote Bag

Dogs Rule Embroidered Tote Bag by D’s Stitcheree

MG:  What would you have done differently?

DL:   Things I would have done differently: I would have paid into disability and set up a retirement account. I never gave any thought to the future and here I am, 20 years later, 60 years old and NO retirement. I have paid into Social Security but we all know how that is going.

NOTE: are 7 women business owners who have offered moral support to each other for over a decade and business advise to other women looking to create a work-at-home business.  

Glow in the dark pillowcases by Comfy Cozy, inc.

Interview: Peggy Schafer Vincent of Comfy Cozy, inc.

Peggy Schafer Vincent, founder of Comfy Cozy, inc.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only dream but also believe.” – Anatole France

Peggy Schafer Vincent is the mother of  2 boys ages 12 and 14 and founder of Comfy Cozy, inc.  She designs magical glow-in-the-dark pillowcases and apparel from her home-based business in East Fallowfield, Pennsylvania, about an hour west of Philly.

MG:  Where do you sell your products?

PV:– Hoping to branch out to catalogs again and retail stores this fall.

MG:  How has new technology affected your personal life/business? What technology tools do you use?

PV: It makes my head spin, eats up precious time and makes me crazy. That being said, I wish most of the new technology had been around when I started my business 17 years ago! I’m amazed at how “easy” it is to launch a new company and immediately have social media and internet outlets to introduce it to the world.I didn’t own a computer or printer when I started my business, had to go to Kinko’s to make copies of artwork. When I finally got a computer, you had to PAY for the internet by the minute, web site creation was a nightmare. I went to the library to use their computer software or “borrowed” the software for my home computer. There was no cell phone or email – ACK! How did we EVER make it this far??

MG:  Where do you find inspiration for your products?

PV:  trade publications, etsy artists amaze me, not sure what else to say here….

Glow in the dark pillow case by Comfy Cozy, inc.

Glow in the dark pillow case by Comfy Cozy, inc.

MG:  Define your style?

PV:  whatever. For someone that came out of the fashion industry, I’ve long since lost a defined style.

MG: What did you learn in the fashion industry that helped you become a better business owner?

PV:  Having worked in the fashion industry teaches you just how quickly trends can change.  For my business, I choose to have designs that are more classic and timeless than trendy.  Simply from an investment standpoint, it keeps costs down and reduces inventory.  That being said, for clients that want custom designs, I’m always happy to create the design they want.

I also worked both sides of the fence in the industry.  I was buyer for a major retail chain which gave me a lot of power to negotiate price with manufacturers and have input in the product line.  I was able to request exclusive colors and products, change design elements and packaging.

When I became a Sales Manager for a manufacturer, I was able to understand where our buyers were coming from and didn’t see their requests as “demands” but appreciated that they knew their customers and only wanted to merchandise that would sell on their floors.

All of this helped when I started my own business because I had no misconceptions about what ANYONE would want:)   My experience also taught me how to price my product for both wholesale and retail business.

MG:  What is the best way to sell to a catalog or retail store?

PV:  Reaching the buyer is often the hardest part of selling to anyone.  Be prepared for lots of “no’s’ and talking to the wrong buyer before reaching the correct one.  Have all your information in a short, sweet sales pitch.  Everyone’s time is limited and most buyers aren’t going to be swayed with a big song and dance presentation.  Know their markets, the type of merchandise they sell and the price points.  If your products don’t meet all of these needs, they aren’t going to be interested.

MG:  Tell me about your typical day.

PV:  My typical day is about to change. Up until this week, my day included a 2.5 hour job at our elementary school as a recess aide. I’m happy to report that I have resigned as of tomorrow:) School will be out for the summer so my boys will be home for a couple weeks. The first week of July will change again. My oldest will be going to be a Counselor in Training at a Cub/Boy Scout camp for a month. That leaves me with one child. I foresee lining up lots of “kid exchange” days with his friends so I have a couple full days alone.

My plan is to be up by 6am, take the dog for a walk/run and be in my office by 7am.

Getting in a few hours of work, do something with #2 for a bit, then work a few more hours. The interruption with my recess gig was a total drain on my productivity, so I’m looking forward to being able to work for more than 2 hours at a time. (I can give you a more organized hour by hour plan if you’d like).

MG:  How do you juggle work and family?

PV:  not very well – depending on how you look at it. When my kids are home I tend to let the boys activities and/or actions distract me. Their “playroom” is in the basement under my office and boys are NOT quiet when they play. When my kids are in school and it’s just me and my dog, I am productive and focused. At the end of the day, I am a mom first and business owner second. Some days I want it to be the other way around so that I can grow my business.

Glow in the dark pillowcases by Comfy Cozy, inc.

Glow in the dark pillowcases by Comfy Cozy, inc.

MG:  Three tips you would like to give to moms who are thinking about starting their own business

PV:  Just three?  I could go on and on:

  1.  know your market
  2. don’t create/buy/order inventory until you have a market. This is not field of dreams and customers won’t always come out of the cornfield!
  3. don’t go into debt thinking that in a few years you’ll be able to pay it back
  4. keep your finances separate. i always have and know too many folks who didn’t – not a good idea)
  5. stay positive about your product
  6.  keep positive, encouraging people around you
  7. get help – you do not know it all!
  8. never give up – but know when you have to change

MG:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

PV:  WOW – big question! In 5 years my oldest son will be in college and #2 will be in 11th grade. I can’t even imagine it at this point. Professionally I want my business to be on solid footing. I don’t have a goal to have a HUGE business, but successful to the point where it is financially viable, helps support our family and be a creative outlet. I have an idea that I may NOT be doing exactly what I am right now and that Comfy Cozy may morph into a different company with different products…we shall see.
Within 5 years I want to have written and published 2 books, maybe 3.

MG:  What else would you like to add?

PV:  Being a small business owner and mother are the 2 most difficult and rewarding jobs in the world. Combining them and working out of your home is a gift and a curse!

In addition to my line of Glow-in-the-Dark pillowcases & Keepsake Calendars, I also offer Custom Screen Printing services.

My main focus is to work with small businesses to print apparel and other accessory items (totes, towels, blankets etc) that help promote their brand, business or logo wear for employees.  I offer options to fit their budget, have low minimums and pricing that they can afford.  I offer the same services to organizations (Scouts, Schools, Clubs, Churches, Sports Teams) and keeping the cost down so every member can afford a shirt or sweatshirt.

To see examples of the Custom Designs, click on this link:

Get Connected with Peggy Vincent   I  Facebook  I  Twitter   I  Linkedin  I Pinterest

Silver Earrings by Gramcracker Designs

Interview: Tracy Peck of Gramcracker Designs

Tracy Peck, Gramcracker Designs

Tracy Peck, Gramcracker Designs

Tracy Peck, owner of Gramcracker Designs,  is a jewelry artist based in Spring, Texas.  She is a mother of two, grandmother and full-time student.  Tracy began her jewelry business in May of 2011.

MG:  Where do you sell your products?

TP:  Mainly craft fairs.  Working on getting it all online also.

MG:  What craft fairs do you participate in?

TP:  Usually anyone I hear about in time. I just recently did one at an elementary school – traffic was non existent due to the art show in the Woodlands that day. I also had a booth at the Woodlands Harley Davidson dealership, they had a fundraiser for wounded veterans set up by a 4 Wheeler club. I also donate to fundraisers, usually I give a couple of pair of earrings. I am trying something new for the upcoming fundraiser, I donated two gift certificates.

MG:  I noticed your website isn’t quite up and running yet. Can you tell us about the process you used to choose a web designer and launching a new website?

TP:  My oldest daughter decided I needed a website and took on that process. She is still working on it. She works full time, has a husband and almost 2 year old. Trying to get our schedules together to get it finished. I was told not to change anything (challenged by this task).

MG:  Have you considered any other online venues to sell, like etsy?

TP:  Tried Etsy with no results. Everyone I have talked to about Etsy has had the same results. Woodlands on line has been a great source for selling earrings. That one I post new earrings on every few months.

Silver Earrings by Gramcracker Designs

Silver Earrings by Gramcracker Designs

MG:  How has new technology affected your personal life/business?  What technology tools do you use? Some parts of technology have made it easier some I am still learning so they are still challenging me.

TP:  Tools I use are computer, internet, cell phone (not a smart phone, just a dumb one 🙂 ), texting

MG:  Where do you find inspiration for your products?

TP:  Various places, mainly looking for new designs

MG:  What are some of your favorite ways to network?

TP:  Word of mouth. I always carry a few pair of earrings with me to show. Both of my daughters and a few neighbors are great models. My girls always get new pair when I get new charms in. They tell people where to get them from.

MG:  Define your style?

TP:  Casual, affordable

Peace Earrings by Gramcracker Designs

Peace Earrings by Gramcracker Designs

MG:  I know you were a Girl Scout leader for many years, can you tell us how THAT experience has affected your business (ie what did you learn from selling GS cookies?)

TP:  Yes, for 12 years. 3 of those years as Service Unit Director serving 3 districts, while advising an older girl troop.   Hum, I think my GS experience would be in the planning and demo areas of the business.

MG:  Tell me about your typical day.

TP:  Currently full time college student, started business to fill up some free time and now it is my relaxation

MG:  How do you juggle work and family?

TP:  Currently it is just my husband and I at home.  Things are supposed to slow down when the kids leave.  I have yet to see that.  I think we actually got busier.  With just Dave and I here our schedule is not so structured.  He works full time with plenty of overtime which allows me to attend school full time and not worry about having to have a job to cover any extra.  The jewelry actually contributes to the fun account.

With my school schedule I do have time to take care of house, study and work on jewelry.

MG:  Three tips you would like to give to moms who are thinking about starting their own business?

TP:  DO IT!  Get in a networking group.  Be active in marketing your business.

Get Connected with Tracy Peck: