Success can increase stress and anxiety — When I had the massive sales spike due to the Meghan Markle RBG shirt. I was more stressed than celebratory at first. I was focused on what could go wrong with fulfillment and customer service issues. I wasn’t able to really celebrate until I saw fulfillment working well and that I successfully navigated any issues that arose. Now I feel more prepared if I was to get a spike again, but I did not expect to feel so much stress and anxiety with a success like that.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Ferris.
Lindsey Ferris is the owner and designer at FerrisBuilt (www.FerrisBuilt.net) and is working on her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She previously was the CFO and Managing Partner at Integrated Project Group, Inc. a corporate event production company. Prior to her entrepreneurial endeavors she worked at Microsoft and Apple in event planning and project management.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in the Seattle area and was always tinkering and working on creative projects. I often made my own ‘magazines’ and started working a paper route at the age of 12. I was always intrigued with the idea of working for myself. I went to college and graduated with a degree in Communications and then moved into event management at Microsoft. On the side, I was investing in real estate or learning to code websites and membership-based sites that often paid for travel or life’s little luxuries. In 2008 after my twins were born, I decided to go out on my own doing project management consulting in the event arena and a year later merged my company into Integrated Project Group with my business partner. I started woodworking in 2012 and currently build furniture and art and also have an Airbnb that I rent out that my kids and I designed and built nearly all the wood furniture and art in the home. My prior business partner and I had to close Integrated Project Group in March of 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic as the entire event industry shut down.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This was a quote I heard as a child and to this day it resonates with me “things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” My life journey has been humbling at times as have most of ours. I allow the space to process the life lessons whether positive or challenging and move forward to take what I’ve learned and make the best of it. We are living, breathing creatures that can change and grow and reinvent ourselves. Learning from our past is our biggest key to strength and personal growth and this quote kind of sums all that up for me.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I resonated quite a lot with the book by Sheryl Sandberg — Option B: Facing adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. She shares thatwe can find happiness and joy after going through incredibly difficult times if we give ourselves the chance to do so and the space to heal. I’ve experienced hardships in my own life, and I’ve seen myself become stronger and more resilient as life’s curveballs come my way.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I have worked in the event field since my early twenties, starting out of college in a non-profit doing event management. I moved into Microsoft Corporation in the late 90’s and did event management both for Microsoft and at Apple Computer. In 2008 I left Microsoft and started an event consulting company and merged that in 2009 with a business partner to form Integrated Project Group, where we did Corporate Event Production until March of 2020 when we closed because of the Coronavirus. . In July of 2020 I put all my efforts into FerrisBuilt.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
I lost my event production company due to the pandemic and for several years have been doing my woodworking art and selling it on Etsy as a hobby, or as my kids like to tell me “mom you need to do something with all the art being stored in the house” With the shutdown of the entire event industry, a space I’ve worked in my entire professional career, I was quite setback for a few months, as I’m a single parent with a single income household. In the back of my head I always wanted to see if I could make a go of having a creative — based business as it brings me joy to create and build. So, I was coping with the stress of the loss of my company and my job by getting in my woodshop more during those first few months of the pandemic. In July, I started to wonder if I threw myself into this full time and treated it like my job and business if I could make a living from it, at this time I started dealing with the strong emotions I had around the pandemic and election and was also designing shirts to speak to those issues and adding them to my Etsy store. Designs that felt more subtle or messages that meant something to me.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
By August I was seeing my sales increase quite a lot on my Esty shop. I kept thinking it would be a flash in the pan and after the pandemic or after the election my shirt sales would go down, so I kept focusing on the art side of my business. By September I was in the black and making money on FerrisBuilt’s Etsy shop and my shirt sales were increasing rapidly. I could no longer ignore the direction my customers were taking me with FerrisBuilt which was clearly in apparel around current topics. I decided to take a lesson from prior business endeavors and listen to my customers and make a decision to remove most of my art off my store that was not selling and focus exclusively on my messaging apparel and the wood wall art that was selling. The aha moment was taking lessons I’ve learned in the past about not listening to customers and what the data was showing me and recognizing that I had a potentially sustainable business if I pivoted and focused on products my customers were buying.
How are things going with this new initiative?
It is going quite well. I wake up each day excited to go to “work” — I put it in quotes because it does not feel like a job even though it is. My sales are such that I no longer have to take contract work to supplement my FerrisBuilt income and I could not be happier with the direction my business is going: I can remain in my Master’s program I’m in and most importantly, I’m able to work from home and be with my kids during this pandemic.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am most grateful for my children who have provided the motivation to work in an entirely new industry (apparel and art) . After the loss of my event business I wanted to find work that I was able to be home with my kids and have a schedule that works around my time with them. I knew that I would be limited in career options as my entire adult life has been spent in the event industry, which currently does not exist in a way that fits my skill sets. I decided in July that if I could pursue with tenacity my art and creative side, that if I threw a bunch of things at the wall, something would stick. I was determined to make this work for my family. Tying back into the Option B book my kids are seeing and witnessing resilience day to day in our home; they saw me go through the loss of my company and job and they also have seen me focus and build a new business. I want them to see that being a single mom and business owner and pivoting and reinventing yourself is feasible and you can recover from challenges in life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Yes! I was out camping the weekend of October 10th and I noticed my sales were skyrocketing on a Ruth Bader Ginsburg t-shirt I was selling in my Esty shop. To the tune of 4–5 times my daily sales in just a few hours. I had limited internet connectivity and could not figure out what was happening and why I had so much traffic and sales. By the next morning someone tagged me on Instagram with an image of Meghan Markle wearing my RBG shirt and after that I was mentioned in dozens of press articles about the RBG shirt she wore in a Teenager Therapy podcast video and purchased off of my FerrisBuilt Etsy shop. This propelled my business, pushed my production process and I spent two weeks straight working insane hours to manage the increased orders. I’m a fan of learning as you go and I learned a ton about how to be more efficient in my business, good customer service and communication as well as common errors to avoid in my workflow process going forward.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Learning a new industry and its nuances is challenging — moving from a consulting or project management industry into retail and apparel has had its challenges. A lot of crossover in skill sets but learning what is trending in a new industry that you’re not connected in is a challenge.
- Not knowing what the data means — I’m just now doing Facebook advertising and Pinterest. I’m reading and learning and connecting with Facebook and Pinterest advertising support, but it’s a slow process to navigate the advertising platforms and learn how to optimize and how to read what the data is telling you.
- Social media marketing & Etiquette — Learning to market a new business on social media without knowing social etiquette for businesses is hard when you don’t personally use it much. Things like how to use Instagram stories correctly, how to thank others who tag or mention you, when to share or comment etc. are all nuances, I’m learning but it takes time to figure it out. Thankfully, I have the help of someone much younger than me coaching me along on how to navigate social media.
- Customer service can get to you — I take pride in my customer service and response time, but sometimes you just cannot resolve an issue with a customer to their liking. If a customer leaves a bad review, I connect with them to resolve or address, but even then, they may not update their review. It’s taken me time to learn that these far and few between experiences should not negatively affect me as the overwhelming majority of customer interactions are positive.
- Success can increase stress and anxiety — When I had the massive sales spike due to the Meghan Markle RBG shirt. I was more stressed than celebratory at first. I was focused on what could go wrong with fulfillment and customer service issues. I wasn’t able to really celebrate until I saw fulfillment working well and that I successfully navigated any issues that arose. Now I feel more prepared if I was to get a spike again, but I did not expect to feel so much stress and anxiety with a success like that.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I personally struggle with anxiety and the pandemic and political climate has added to my anxiety challenges. I have had to lean on tools and techniques to calm that anxiety down and at times learn to embrace that it’s simply part of who I am; it has its benefits and downsides. The most powerful tool for me is to be present with the anxiety and observe it vs. doing behaviors because of it. Oftentimes I am able to remind myself that it’s my anxiety speaking and to breathe deep a few times and be kind to my mind. When my anxiety is appropriate for a circumstance, because at times it is, I learn to navigate with it and listen to it. The more I choose to embrace it as an indicator, the more I listen to what’s going on with my body, the quicker it moves through me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A movement of “stop assuming.” So often I see communication around what we assume others are thinking, feeling, and meaning. It’s time to stop assuming and be open and curious, especially with our current political climate. Often times you’ll find out if you are curious and open, that your assumptions are not correct, and you learn how to have more empathy for another person’s experience and perspective and why they think and feel the way they do.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Sheryl Sandberg — After reading her book Option B about resilience, I would find it inspiring to have a conversation about it with her and ways in which we can foster resilience in the younger generation. Especially during situations like this pandemic, as resilience in the midst of a worldwide health crisis would be an interesting topic to discuss.
How can our readers follow you online?
I have both my website at www.FerrisBuilt.net as well as am active on Instagram @FerrisBuilt.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!