Deborah, who attends GetSetUp classes courtesy of New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) and Association on Aging in New York (AgingNY), is a retired nuclear medicine technologist. She has an encore career as an entrepreneur with a successful Etsy business, Vase Place, selling custom glass suction window vases. Her unique designs are filled with flowers grown in her own garden. As a participant in the Startup Accelerator Program, she's ready to take her business even further.
A family emergency, a change of plans
When her son-in-law was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2000, Deborah left her full-time job to be on-call for her daughter's family when they needed her. It was a time of stress and worry. To help cope, she turned to two of her biggest passions - crafting and gardening.
"At the time, I was using vintage housewares and turning them into home decor and garden pieces. That helped me to find peace and center and grace during a very difficult period. I made so many of my little creations that I thought, 'Well, now what do I do with them all?'”
She signed up for a local craft event where her vases were a huge hit. Fueled by the positive response from her customers, she invested in equipment and supplies and began to expand.
Among her creations are those inspired by spirituality, music, and the flora and fauna in her garden, but the common thread is that each one is lovingly created and lovely to look at.
Her bestsellers are her dragonfly vases.
“The dragonfly is sort of my totem. There's a little story behind it where the dragonflies start out as nymphs underneath the water, and they watch the other dragonflies climb up the plant material and leave. And they all think, ‘Well, where is he going?’ He never comes back to say where he's gone or what's happened to him. Then the next nymph comes out of the water and turns into a beautiful dragonfly and flies away. To me, it represents ascension and transformation. We really don't know sometimes why things happen. But we have faith that all will turn out well.”
Each design is custom-made. She starts with just the raw materials such as the charms, suction cups, and vases and then does all the jewelry work and wirework freehand. While the idea for her vases is original, she feels the inspiration comes from sources greater than herself. As she says, "It comes through me, not from me.”
She credits the popularity of her designs to their uniqueness and their ability to generate a joyful experience.
"It makes people smile when they see the vases. So I like to say that I create joy. That was why I got into doing what I do - to bring joy back to myself through a very difficult period and to bring joy to others.”
Another secret to her success is top-notch customer service. She wants her customers to have a personal connection and experience from placing their orders to receiving their custom-wrapped vases in the mail.
Time to grow
She was an early adopter of Etsy and has been on the platform for years. But, a few years ago, she started questioning whether she wanted to continue or retire altogether.
In February, she applied to the Startup Accelerator Program and feels the classes have revived her interest in her business. She appreciates the clarity she’s gained by being able to put into words what her passion is - what her “why” is. Re-examining her motivation helped give her the renewed energy to continue and thrive.
“I'm grateful for this opportunity. It has been an amazing learning experience. There are so many tools that I didn't realize were available to me. The Guides have been amazing. I am so impressed with the quality of content and their ability to present patiently and in a manner that is easy to understand and follow.”
Her focus now is to create a stand-alone website to supplement her presence on Etsy and at craft fairs. She looks forward to the upcoming class on building your own website and wants to learn more about search engine optimization to increase traffic to her site.
“Having the stand-alone website knowledge will help me in the next step of growing Vase Place. The physical energy expended to do in-person events is a lot. So, I’d like to switch my efforts to balance that a bit more with an online presence.”
We look forward to seeing Deborah’s new website and how she uses it to advance her business. With her combination of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, we know it will be a success!
Follow the progress of Deborah and the other Startup Accelerator participants in their upcoming classes.