Our Shop of the Week is called The English Muffin Shop which I’m proud to say is the first Etsy store that I bought from. The shop offers fun and educational prints for both kids and kids at heart. Let’s get to know more about The English Muffin Shop and its lovely owner, Bess Callard.
What’s the inspiration behind your shop’s name?
I was inspired to start my business because of my experiences teaching English to young students here in Vienna, Austria. I often use flashcards as a vocabulary aid and couldn’t find really cute ones to replace the cards I was using, so I decided to design my own! Unfortunately, they have not yet been produced, but the name English Muffin came out of the original idea of designing English teaching resources – food is my second love after design, so including the word muffin in my company name just made sense!
How old is your shop?
I officially opened my virtual doors on October 22, 2008. I marked the occasion by sending an introductory email to everyone on my contact list – possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever done; until that point my work had only been seen by my close friends and family.
What inspired you to start your own home business?
On the practical side, I saw a need in the market – well designed products for teachers and students with a focus on learning a new language. On the more personal side, I have a few years of graphic design under my belt and don’t feel I fit in to many traditional design careers. I’ve never been fond of the idea of “working for the man”.
It seemed like the right time and place to step out of my comfort zone and throw my hat in the entrepreneurial ring. I have an amazingly supportive fiancé who’s career recently brought us to Austria, so I now have the time and freedom to work on English Muffin and figure things out as I go.
What was the toughest challenge you faced so far?
I think the biggest challenge is the little voice of doubt that creeps up every now and then. I’m my own biggest critic, as I’m sure most designers are. Finding enough time in the week to complete all the things on the English Muffin “must do” list is hard enough, finding the time to tackle the “I really wish I could do” list is even harder.
How did you get over it?
I think doubt is all part of the process, I’m sure even Martha had a few doubts in the beginning, but you can’t let doubt stop you.
Also, as time goes on and you get more exposure in the community (such as this wonderful feature, thanks shopbug!), your confidence builds.
the things you do when you’re not busy in your shop…
• Teach English to Kindergarten and Elementary school kids
• Freelance graphic design work
• Travel! Living in Europe is a great excuse to visit all the cities I’ve always dreamed of visiting.
• Spend time with my fiancé and our dog here in Vienna
• Take pictures, eat yummy food and blog about it all.
stuff inside your bag you can’t leave home without. . .
• sun glasses
• burt’s bees replenishing lip balm with pomegranate oil
• a snack and some water
your top 3 favorite picks from your shop. . .
The Animal Alphabet Print – my very first item and still my best seller!
The Map of Canada – my home and native land!
The Letter B – because it’s not just for bird, but for Bess too!
What tips would you want to share for aspiring home based entrepreneurs like you?
Starting your own business can be a very rewarding experience. That said it can also take over your life – so beware! I personally am fine with the “take over your life” aspect since I am doing the work that I love to do. Whether you become the head of a mega corporation or remain small but mighty, I think the biggest rewards will always the very personal type.
Growing my business appeals to me artistically rather than to any savvy business lady living inside me. This may sound cheesy, but… I find it’s more like creating a piece of art – after all the hard work, deliberation, self-doubt, and energy, whether your painting is hanging in the MoMA or your bedroom you have made something that no one can take away from you. You have created a business that is personal to you and have touched the lives of people in places you may have never been. So, in short, my advice would be go for it!
Any message to your customers and the people who support you?
The support of all my customers, friends and family is what has allowed English Muffin to exist. Those first few sales were shocking to me – someone wants to buy my work! Are you kidding! I love working on custom orders for people and creating something special for a new little baby, or a special print for a wedding. This is pretty much my dream job : ) So thanks everyone!
Thanks very much Bess!