Stephanie Ignazio of 2 Fresh Petunias creates colorful purses, totes, and accessories in a myriad of designs and colors. Stephanie is inspired by her two daughters, her "Fresh Petunias", as evident by the sweetness and fun that she incorporates in each design. According to Stephanie, 2 Fresh Petunias is all about surrounding yourself with things that make you happy. For her, its her two little girls, her supportive husband, fresh flowers and fabric..and a healthy dose of glitter for extra sparkle!
The Beginning of a Business
"I met another mother at a party one afternoon. Her daughter was dressed in the most beautiful vintage chenille outfit I had ever seen. Complete with satin bows and a flower in her hair. Suddenly, I became obsessed with finding an outfit for my own daughter. At home, I had a large collection of vintage fabrics and ribbons that I had begun gathering as a college student. I never knew what I wanted to do with them, but I knew that I loved them! After looking on the web and realizing that those types of outfits were a bit out of my price range. I decided to make one myself. That first outfit turned into 2, then 3 and so on. As I took my daughter places, other mothers started asking where I had gotten her outfit and word spread. I was now in business."
From Dresses to Purses
One of my clients at the time told me that if I ever made purses using my fabrics she would love to buy one. A few nights later I sat down and worked out a pattern for my first purse. Rushing to a party one night I grabbed it and by the end of the party I was known as the “one who makes the purses”. A few days later I got a call asking if I would do one of my “custom purse parties”. Not sure where that idea had come from I knew that it would be the perfect way to spread the word about my new business. One party turned into 5, 10 and 20 and the next logical step was to set up a website so that women who couldn’t come to the parties could still order their own custom bag. Soon after the children’s custom clothing aspect of the business was no longer. I was too busy with purse orders. 2 ½ years later I no longer do custom purse parties and rely totally on website sales. Occasionally I love to participate in women’s shopping nights at friends homes. It’s a great way to test out new styles and meet new clients."
Inspired by Her Own 2 Little Petunias
"I have 2 little girls for which the business is named. Julia is 5 and Mia is 3 ½. Balancing a business and young children is a true challenge. There are many times I feel that one or the other is getting short-changed. However, I am growing the business along with them as they grow... One thing I dream about is that there will be a published book that tells you how to balance a creative career with children fabulously with no guilt. Perhaps that’s my next project!"
Background for Business
"I have a degree in Fashion Design, my K-9 Art Education Teaching Certificate and my Masters Degree in Art Education. Before having my girls I worked as an elementary art teacher and a muralist. What makes me laugh is that when I graduated from college I put my sewing machine away and didn’t touch it for at least 10 years! Since then I have bought 3 more."
The Joy of Creating
"At one point I found myself creating items that I knew would sell. I was working so hard to please clients that I lost track of my own inspiration. At the same time to gather more buyers I was making way too many different items. It became overwhelming. After taking some time to think I decided to drop those things that were really just “fillers”. I stopped doing custom work and only offered items that were one of a kind and small multiples. Once I did this I found new energy to create and some of those items are my bestsellers to date."
"Originally I did not plan on wholesaling. I really wanted to keep my product line to my own website. But bit by bit, I was getting calls and inquiries from shops so I decided to do it on a small scale. Most shops find me thru searches on the internet for handmade bags, belts, etc. My first wholesale account nearly doubled my minimum requirement, which was such a great feeling. Nowadays I take a look at the shop who is inquiring to see if it would be a good fit and go with my gut. I do like the fact that wholesaling has expanded my presence in different places."
"I am a member of Indie Finds. Belonging to this group has allowed me to market to different venues that I would not be able to afford on my own. Being in group ads has been wonderful press and marketing for 2 fresh petunias .I found out early on that mass (paper) mailings just do not do it for me so I don’t send out anything other than a newsletter. Its all trial and error. Being on blogs has been a wonderful addition to marketing. I get a lot of traffic from interviews I have done and shopping guide placements as well."
A Balancing Act
"Balancing [the business] with my children lives and family life. There are moments when I feel like I am ready to go full throttle forward with the business, but that isn’t really possible with two young children. Once they get into school full time, I will evaluate where I want to head with the business. I would also like to take some thinking time and test out some new ideas that I have been sketching. Finding time to just “play” is a tough one to schedule."
Recommended Business Resources
"Another Girl At Play was the first website I found when I was thinking about going into business. So many wonderful stories and tidbits from women who are making their business dreams come true. The Switchboards was my second stop and the amount of fabulously helpful information there is just amazing. It was so wonderful to find other women entrepreneurs who were willing to help each other out.
"I can get inspired from just about anything that I come into contact with. I love reading decorating magazines, sometimes just a color combination alone will send me to my sketchbook. I love anything and everything handmade so I am constantly seeking out other creators. Just by taking a look at a painting or an illustration or a cool photograph I can get ideas of my own. I especially love vintage styling and love to go antiquing. Vintage fashion is one of my slight obsessions! I carry my sketchbook at all times."
Words of Advice - Be True to Your Heart
"Don’t sell yourself short. As a creator you will be most successful if you are doing something that really makes your heart sing. Don’t create items that are fillers just to get more sales. It just comes off as non-genuine. Be inspired by others, but do not try to recreate and imitate what they are doing. Be respectful of your time. Don’t charge less than what your items are worth. (I learned this the hard way early on. I was originally selling my items for what my wholesalers now pay!) Take time to grow your business and don’t be afraid to change your focus as you grow. Read as much as you can about other successful entrepreneurs but realize that you are unique and need to follow your own voice and dictate. Some businesses will grow steadily, some others will jump to the moon in a day. Do what is comfortable for you."