Notes on starting a business and…JOY

A customer was here this morning, also a small business woman, and we were talking about how hard it is to start up a business. As I said many times my first year, I’d make more money working at Costco. And it’s true. But somewhere along in the second year you can begin to finally pay yourself.

If you’re one of those people in the first year, hang in there if the math works. It takes time and every time you think you’ve gotten “there” a new “there” will appear. If it’s not, go to plan B.

But one thing I do that is priceless is something I just actually fell into. I read where this guy Banksy was giving his art away at a thrift store. He would sneak one of his paintings into the store and leave it on the shelf with some tiny pricetag on it. His work is $$$$.

Last winter I made a ton of JOY signs. It was a pinterest idea that I’d actually made two years before for myself before I got going on this “ride” … some customers wanted one too. Anyway, the signs were so simple and easy to make that I made dozens of color combos. And then I did a Banksy. I gave some away.

It started with a ride one night to dinner with my friend B. I took three along. We saw a woman getting off work at Hardee’s. We pulled alongside her and I handed a sign out the window to her. HER FACE WAS PRICELESS! “Operation Spread Joy” was on!

Next we went to a coffeeshop in downtown OP where we left off the sign, drove around the block and watched anonymously across the street as the customers in the coffeeshop gathered around it talking. And then we left one on a snowy park bench. And a bus bench on Metcalf.

It kept going. I think we gave away 10 signs.

After Christmas, my family went to the mountains in Colorado. We took along a few and left them in restaurants and rest stops along the way. IT WAS SO FUN.

So now I’m doing these small pebbles with a shimmering heart on them to take on this trip to DC. I plan to drop them all along the way… on a park bench, on a bus bench, for a server, just on the ground at the park. I might leave some in a small basket at the National Cathedral where the kids will sing.

A sample of the heart I'l be leaving around DC.

A sample of the heart I’l be leaving around DC.

With each one that I washed, dried and painted… it gave ME so much JOY to think about the person who might “find” it. For a time in my life, I looked for signs that everything would be OK. I hope that these rocks might be found by someone just looking for a sign.

And with that, it’s time to pack up for this adventure. I’m bringing four books to read, a toolbox full of rocks, and the airbed I’ll call home for many nights. I’ll open up the Etsy store when I return. Take care Barnstormers.





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Yesterday I took my old truck (if you’re new here a few months ago I purchased a 72 Chevy Cheyenne) out to M&Bs Mercantile with a load of “junk.” Funny thing is, my garage still looks pretty much the same! FULL!

Anyway, there are few things I love more than a drive in the country (1, ice cream, 2, hugs from the kids, 3, my moms apple pie – two of those are food, no shocker) and so even just the short 40 minute drive out there is like going worlds away. It was hotter than hades yesterday and the truck has no AC… but it had to be done for the Funky Flea this weekend.

In addition to dropping off my stuff, I stopped at the local farm “truck” and got some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers… (four huge tomatoes for the price of about 1 1/2 at the store). Normally I would have also had a piece of pie at the old café there, but it’s closed on Mondays.

My mind is all around trying to get ready for this choir trip to DC that I am going on with my high school junior and 25 others. When I get back, we’ll be in the thick of Fourth of July …

Have you thought of a cute craft or fun thing to do to celebrate the fourth? How will you make it memorable? I always think doing a craft you pull out the next year is a good idea. This year our son is going to make homemade ice cream in an old freezer I picked up. We should have enough for the whole neighborhood.

This morning I pinned some fun ideas over on Pinterest. Feel free to share yours. Bonus points for a frosty drink that can be made with and without alcohol. Go.

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Established signs from Annie’s Barn debut!

Established signs 5

The five original designs from Annie’s Barn of the Established sign. All can be ordered via Etsy at

In April 2014, we at the barn released a concept we’d been working on since September 2013 … the Established signs in the round.



IMG_6007[1] IMG_6009[1] IMG_6130[1]

These signs include the family “name”, a date established whether that is a new home or married date, and one of 5 custom colors or 5 custom layouts!!!!!!

And you loved them!!!!

Details: 18 inches around, slab pine, finished with a poly, and come ready to hang. All are unique because each name is a different set of characters so each one looks different. You WILL receive a proof.

The “Harrison” sign is no longer made with the date at the top. It has been moved to bottom.

Very popular, order time is generally at least two weeks out but will be more during holidays.

Thank you for making April our best month of 2014 yet!

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Grandpa’s sign

Grandpa's Father's Day sign from Annie's Barn. Custom signs via

Grandpa’s Father’s Day sign from Annie’s Barn. Custom signs via

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Hello Barnstormers

It’s been over six months since I’ve posted… for good reason!

A story went out via the Associated Press (yay) about my little basement business and all the sudden the barn was so busy making signs I didn’t have time to update the website. If you want to keep up with everything, Facebook is old fashioned but the way to go. I update there every day.

In the meantime, some new products have launched!

Thanks for being a fan of Annie’s Barn!

Annie in Kansas

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FIND ME at Etsy

The Etsy link was wrong in the Associated Press story.


THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all of you who have searched for me! I can count the number of newspapers the story went in. It has been so fun getting to know you through your Etsy orders. WOW. This is fun.

Do what you love. Love what you do.

(to see a list of all the newspapers, visit me at

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Annie’s Barn signs

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Welcome to the Annie’s Barn blog. Like many bootstrapping small businesses, the work always comes before the blogging about the work. If you have found my little corner of the universe, WELCOME. Grab your boots or your bunny slippers and … Continue reading

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Red Bench, Black Bench, Blue Bench, Who Bench…

A couple quick updates on the benches… We’ve had five come through the Barn… A red one went to a local woman who was going to paint it black for her daughter’s wedding despite the protests of others who wanted to buy it “red.”

Actually, didn’t we vote what color I should paint it and decided on red?

Anyway, I painted it red. The OP woman won the auction. I delivered the bench.

Then Lisa bought the next bench I got … I painted it red. Remember her husband found out she bought it when he saw her “sold” on the page? So she took her bench to the lake house and told me today that some visitors “needed” her bench for their home so she sold it to them.

And the OP woman recently bought a black bench I had for sale. When she came for pickup I said “I’m curious why you are buying a black bench.”

“Oh you’ll love this. My son bought an old farmhouse and he saw the red bench and had to have it. So I decided I would let him have it and look for a black bench for my daughter and ….” that’s the rest of the story ….

She loaded up her black bench and said as she drove out to Antioch:

“Now I’m all done buying benches!!!”

And Lisa needs one….

Ha ha ha…

Lisa, we have to know. Did you tell your husband you’re looking?

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Auctions: the good, the bad, the ugly and … Paula

Annie from Annie's Barn

Annie from Annie’s Barn

As most of you know, I started this little auction site over on Facebook as a way to part with some treasures…. a garage full of them in fact. What it has turned into though is much more!

When I started back in late July, I had 30 friends . . . like real friends… who probably felt sorry for me because I had so much junk in my garage. Soon that number crept up. But what is bigger than the numbers are the friendships built through this little venture.

Now I “buy” for the Barn. I buy for you. My friends. And now and then I do pick up a FIND I can’t part with…

That’s the GOOD.

The Bad: Auctions can be fun and frustrating. How many times have you gone to an auction and left thinking “I should have gone higher on that” or “I should NOT have gone that high on that.” It happens to all of us. Just this morning I hesitated on an ebay auction and didn’t get a FIND I wanted.

I come home all the time with FINDS only to discover it was something broken or, just this Saturday, it’s a clock that doesn’t work. (Not the red teapot one, the broken one is a really classic one that I’m not putting in the auction until I fix.)

The nature of estate sale “finds” is that you line up an hour or two in advance and then race into a house with a bunch of other pickers. I have made some bad decisions.

And, sometimes you sit and wait for Annie’s Barn auctions then you don’t get what you wanted. I know that is frustrating because I was on the other side of the laptop before I started my site. BUT, the other “wait and see” type ebay auctions are also frustrating.

I am looking into a different “set price” auction software, but for now the price is right with Facebook. It’s frustrating, I know, but it also allows us to stay connected and “share” in the easiest possible way.

And I’ll need to get an email list going soon so that I can contact you with special offers. I’ve got one coming up for graduation signs so watch for that announcement.

…. Meeting Friends

This may surprise you, but I did not know Paula before Annie’s Barn got started. In fact, it was a couple weeks in when she noticed that her friend, Anne Shields who I know through Bunko, bought a sign via my site and clicked over to see what this Annie’s Barn thing was all about.

The first few times Paula bought something she sent her husband to pick it up. The next time, she sent her daughter to pick it up. And the time after that. It was funny because she was buying for like 5 weeks before I met her. Truly I thought she had some sort of anti-social disorder! Finally we did meet in person, but it would be four months before I discovered she lives like six blocks from me!

Paula and I are very different, yet we have one common attribute. We love to laugh! We see the humor in life. Some might say we are both smarta$$ but I prefer to say we are quick witted older women who have been around the block and truly appreciate the finer things in life…. like family. One thing that says alot about Paula is that she has never asked me for a special favor. I never know what she is going to buy. She never even hints at what she’s interested in.

At Christmas I discovered that Paula loves to cook. And when I found “The Yellow Recipe Box” it seemed like a natural fit to ask her to cook for all of US at Annie’s Barn.

Thanks Paula for saying yes and for listening to me rant and rave. Thanks for bringing your funny self to my auctions and to my doorstep. You Rock (for a KU superfan).


I’ve gotten to know many of you and I feel like a very fortunate Picker. Thank you for being a customer and a friend. For your advice. For your funny posts both on the site and via Private Messages. I do LOVE my job. I love it when you are excited about your sign or your red chair or your games or your french beaded bag. I love it that NONE of you care that my kitchen is always a wreck. I love it when your name pops up first or when you’re second and I can get another one for you. I hate it when you are disappointed that you weren’t first and it makes me try harder to get nice FINDS.

Do what you love, Love what you do. Thank you to my customers. And see you Thursday night!




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And into 2013!

Here we are in mid January and the sales and auctions are back in full force and seem more crowded than last year… everyone either got laid off or watched too many picker shows over the holidays!

Over the holidays I expanded my sign making business, since custom signs seem to be a big request for home decor, graduations, new babies and marching band banquets. I had hoped it would speed up the sign making process, but it didn’t. It did, however, give me the ability to be more creative in the final result and that seems to be a hit.

So, I have to charge more, but so far that doesn’t seem to be an issue. People LOVE them.

Random thought number two:

If you need an estate sale company, don’t just look in the phone book. In Kansas City, ping me via the Facebook site and I will give you recommendations. There are very bad companies in business. You might be saying “hmmm, what makes a company bad?” And I might be answering: “moldy merchandise, posting photos of items that are sold before open, or having staff that are disorganized and unfriendly.”

I can think of three very good companies in KC and (hint) they all start with women’s names . . .these companies and a few others do an excellent job of pricing and displaying items to get you $$. They know their stuff. Let me say that again, they KNOW their stuff.

For Pickers, we KNOW the companies that overprice. I don’t have time to waste at those sales unless one of my customers has specifically requested something you have in a sale. Those sales are best left for “last day” deals if anything.

Random thought 3: This is a hobby job. The pickers I line up with for sales are an interesting lot of people. Some are wealthy collectors and hobbyists, others are bored retirees, and quite a few like me specialize in an area to “resale.” Some are craigslist and ebay only. Some are annoying. Some are loud. Two seem to complain all the time. But almost all are decent people.



Because of the popularity of picker shows, I think average people have a funny idea of what it’s like. As far as I know, no one scores an item they make a grand off of. A few bucks here and there is more like it.

These guys and girls are out there looking for items that mostly please their customers — at least that’s my perspective. They enjoy the thrill of the hunt mostly and secondly get compensated when someone else who is hunting for that same item appreciates the work that went into the FIND and purchases it.

I love the homes. And the stories. And the people who work the sales. I love mostly the thrill of the hunt, and secondly meeting you and hearing your story. The items I pick up you remember from “grandma’s house” or your mom and… I love that. I am always surprised when I pick up something I adore, like the retro square purses yesterday, and you jump on that.

This is not a business to make a million dollars. You have to know what stuff is worth, be willing to take a risk when you buy it, accept that the glass item might be ruined or chipped on the drive home, and work. Work alot. You have to love what you do.

And so far, I DO!

Thanks for being a customer at Annie’s Barn!


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