Working from home

Julie Rynkowski's kitchen table is often covered in colorful fabrics. On Thursday afternoon, bright, chevron patterns of yellow and blue were strewn across the table.

These aren't table cloths or place mats. Rynkowski operates her Etsy shop JR Pillow Co. out of the Owensboro home she shares with her husband, Jim, their daughter, Riley, 14, and son Casey, 10. The kitchen table is often home base for her side business, with a sewing machine taking its place at the head of the table.

Rynkowski, who is a paralegal, began selling items through the website Etsy several months ago, and she is one of several area women who is making extra money operating a small business out of her home. Owensboro residents Samantha Scott, Shannon Canary and Sherry Lorenzen also sell handmade items on Etsy.

Rynkowski learned about Etsy, an online market for people to sell hand-crafted items, about a year ago in First magazine, where she read about a woman who sold homemade soap through her shop on the website.

That woman was able to make enough money selling soap to quit her day job and be a stay-at-home mom, but still bring in an income, Rynkowski said.

"And that's my goal," she said. "And I thought, my ?pillows are pretty popular. I think I'm going to try it."

Rynkowski makes brightly-colored, decorative pillow covers. She has had 25 sales on Etsy, but her shop has been open for just four months.

Some of her cases are sold in sets, and they can be purchased individually as well. Coverings with chevron patterns on them have sold well, Rynkowski said, and her most popular cases also have large, decorative flowers sewn on them.

Rynkowski's daughter first got her interested in pillow-case making. Riley took a class on how to make rag pillows. Rynkowski makes cases out of other materials, such as duck canvas.

"I can do about anything as long as I can find the fabric," Rynkowski said. "I have a lady right now that put in a special order yesterday wanting a satin ribbon rosette flower, and I have finally found the ribbon in the color that she wants. I'm waiting for her to make the purchase."

She uses a sewing machine to make all of her covers, and she sews the flowers to the pillow as opposed to gluing them on, which some people do. Most of Rynkowski's sales have gone to buyers on the West Coast, and a woman from Washington D.C. has made three separate orders.

Rynkowski, Scott and Canary also sell their items locally at Simply Chic at Third and Allen streets.

Rynkowski is trying to build an inventory of covers because she plans on selling them at three upcoming events: the Green River Area Development District's annual Arts and Crafts Festival on Oct. 5-6 at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson; the annual Apple Festival on Oct. 19-20 at Reid's Orchard; and the Holiday Emporium on Nov. 30 and Dec 1 at the RiverPark Center.

Rynkowski is also working on University of Kentucky and University of Louisville pillows that she plans on selling at the craft shows. Making pillow cases is "like therapy," she said.

She is often up until midnight working on pillows.

"If I can ever get to where I can quit my day job and do this," Rynkowski said, "I want to have set hours. The other time I can spend with my family. Right now (making pillow cases) is taking all of my time, that and working."

Once she reaches 100 sales on Etsy, she plans on converting half of the family's garage into a sewing room.

Handmade by Samantha

When Samantha Scott and her husband, Danny, had their son, Charlie, they decided they wanted one of the couple to stay home while the other worked outside of the house.

Samantha Scott had already been making soy candles as a hobby, eventually making wire jewelry and bath and body items as well. Since her husband had a stable job, the couple decided Scott would stay home with Charlie, now 2 1/2, and she started selling her items on her Etsy store, Handmade by Samantha.

"I kind of took a leap and tried doing this business online," Scott said, "and it's grown and grown. I get to stay home and watch (Charlie) grow and do business from home."

That means she's often working around Charlie's schedule. Sometimes she works until 3 a.m., and other nights she is able to be in bed by 9. She'll sometimes answer work-related emails while watching TV with her husband or work from her home office.

"Nap times for sure are my good working times," Scott said.

Her candles and body products are made in small batches in her kitchen, and she makes her jewelry in her home office. Scott makes jewelery out of wire, and that has been her big seller on Etsy. She makes pieces of jewelry with names on them, which have been popular for weddings, and her ring that says "love" on it is a big seller.

Personalized items are very popular, Scott said. She has shipped items as far away as Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada. She started her Etsy shop in April 2012, and she's had 350 sales, according to her store's webpage.

"I love it," Scott said. "It's done nothing but grow. I hope it still grows ... more. It's very fun. It's very interesting. I get to stay home and run a business. It's like having a shop, but you're at home. I enjoy it."

Scott's initial goal was to one day have her own storefront, but because of how her online business has grown, she'll probably continue to work from home. She is interested in adding a soap line.

Scott's advice for anyone starting a home business is to go for it and not be scared.

"I think that was my biggest thing," she said, "especially with the shipping. I was so naive or scared with the shipping -- that intimidated me a lot in the beginning."

She recommends Etsy as a great place to sell items. Everything is prebuilt for the user, so they just post their items online along with descriptions of the products. Etsy charges a seller 20 cents to list an item, then takes a 3 percent cut of the sale.

"They've got a customer base there for you already," Scott said.

Ky Girl Shop

Shannon Canary started her Etsy shop, Ky Girl Shop, in February 2012 and has 152 sales. She makes a variety of crafts, including hand-painted wine glasses, painted canvas shoes and wreaths.

"A friend of mine introduced me to Etsy a couple of years ago," Canary, who works in insurance sales, said. "She suggested I put some stuff on there. It was slow at first. After ... being on there a couple of months, it started to pick up."

Her Etsy store started with scarves and baby hats that she had crocheted, then thought of more items to add. Once she added the glasses and canvas shoes, those took off, and she changed her focus.

Both her shoes and her wine glasses are extremely customizable. The wine glasses have been popular as wedding favors that brides and grooms give as gifts to their bridal party.

With the bride and her attendants, for example, Canary paints pictures of the wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses on each recipient's glass. The dresses are painted in a color as close to the color of the actual dress as possible, and each has the recipient's name on it.

Canary will often paint pilsner glasses for the groom and his attendants.

Many of her canvas shoes have sports teams or universities on them. Her Etsy shop shows both shoes and glasses painted with logos for the St. Louis Cardinals, University of Alabama, Western Kentucky University, UK and UofL, among other teams.

"The wedding glasses are the biggest seller," Canary said. "It started out with the sports-themed, just from UK. And then I would get requests (for) other colleges or other team sports. Then it kind of went from there."

She has shipped items all over the country, and the furthest she has shipped an order so far is to Australia. That order was for a big wedding.

Most of her items are made specifically for the buyer, but she does try to keep an inventory of popular items, especially since she'll be selling her work at the Apple Festival and Daviess County Fish & Game's Open House and Halloween Party on Oct. 26.

Canary spends her nights and weekends working on her crafts, balancing it with spending time with her children and working.

"Sometimes I do spend a lot of time (working on crafts)," she said, "especially during the wedding time of year and Christmas."

Canary said she would love to work at her crafts full time, but right now it's just for extra money -- though she does love working from home.

"I'm happy with it," she said. "It's really a hobby. It's a hobby, but it's also a business. I enjoy doing it. It makes it worth it."

Remi Roo Togs

Sherry Lorenzen has five children -- four girls -- and when they were younger, she was a stay-at-home mom who sewed clothing for her kids. It was cost effective at the time, but as they became teenagers, they didn't want handmade clothes anymore.

But now three of her children are grown, and her first granddaughter, Remi, inspired her to start sewing again. She would take dresses she finished for Remi to show to co-workers at U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, and they suggested she start selling items on Etsy.

Her shop Remi Roo Togs opened in May, and it took her about four months to get her first order.

"I just started slowly," Lorenzen said. "I put one or two items on there. Nothing happened. About three months down the road, I hadn't made any sales. I didn't think I was going to sell anything."

But in that fourth month, she got three orders in one day, and the business has continued to grow. This month, she said, she has been getting 10 orders a day.

"I'm actually in shock over it because I never expected anything to really come of it," she said.

She primarily makes dresses, and she works with both a sewing machine and an embroidery machine. Many of her items feature appliques that she makes herself.

Many of her dresses are brightly colored, and a popular item recently has been a Halloween dress. It is a black and white chevron dress with an orange ribbon and pumpkin on it.

"It's been a pleasant surprise because I really enjoy sewing," Lorenzen said. "I never thought I could make any money with it. I've had business cards made up."

She also does custom orders, such as the mossy oak camouflage flower girls dresses she made for a wedding in Texas. The wedding had a "Duck Dynasty" theme. Lorenzen did those dresses for free -- the couple getting married didn't have much money, had been together for 28 years, and after being diagnosed with cancer, the husband-to-be wanted to marry his long-time love.

Lorenzen said she was able to verify through newspaper stories that the family was telling the truth before offering to donate the dresses, which she had been asked to make at a discount.

She typically makes five dresses a night, balancing her growing sewing business with her job as a default management administrative assistant at U.S. Bank Home Mortgage and taking business classes through Western Kentucky University. Her goal is to one day make her sewing business her sole job.

Besides Etsy, Lorenzen has gotten orders through Facebook and other referrals. She has 28 orders to get out before Oct. 1.

Her advice for anyone looking to operate a business from home is to be serious and run it like a business.

"You have to be organized," Lorenzen said. "You have to be committed to following through with what you say you're going to do. If you commit to making something for someone, and you say you're going to have that in two weeks, you need to commit to that and follow through. ... Your reputation is what really pulls you through.

"It's what sets you apart from others."

Beth Noffsinger, 691-7307, ___

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