When people find out that I’m a single mom, homeschooling my kids, and working full time from home running my own business, I usually get a lot of questions. They want to know what I do, how I do it, how I organize myself, etc. Just this week I was talking with someone and she said, “I talk to people all the time who do fascinating things for a living. You’re the first person I’ve ever talked to who is making a living selling online.” I am part of so many selling groups I forget that what I do is still a relatively foreign concept to most people. I hope sharing my story encourages you that there is so much opportunity to make the life you want. Take off those limits you’ve placed on yourself (or that others have placed on you) – You can do it!
A couple of things to know before I start my story – I have always homeschooled (23 years & counting) and I’ve almost always done some type of work from home (babysitting, travel agent – which was sheer torture for someone who doesn’t like to talk on the phone, but I did that for about 10 years, and church nursery director). I get tons of questions about how I can homeschool while working from home. I think the fact that I’ve always done it made things so much easier when I had to transition to being the sole provider a few years ago.
Let’s start at the beginning…sort of. About 8 years ago, we left the church where we were working. Leaving a church is often a hard experience. When that is also your “job”, it can be even more difficult. Some not-so-wise decisions were made (hindsight is 20/20, right??) that then brought us about 2 years of being unemployed/underemployed with no benefits and 5 kids to take care of. In 2010, I was working as a merchandiser at Kroger. I worked 2-3 days a week, sometimes putting in 16 hour days. It was exhausting and the money didn’t even come close to really helping us live. I also sold on eBay at the same time. I mostly sold Gymboree clothes. They didn’t make much money, but I did get my daughter’s wardrobe for free with my rewards so I counted that as “income”. It took a lot of time and effort to buy the clothes, take the pictures, describe and measure everything, etc. I also had to deal with customer questions and then pack/ship all the items when they sold. I don’t even want to try to figure out what my hourly wage broke down to – not nearly enough, I know that!
Then, one morning as I was going to get in my car at 4:30 AM to head to work at Kroger (also torture for someone who is not a morning person!!), I stepped off the side of my driveway and broke my ankle (well, technically, I sprained my ankle with such force that it caused an avulsion fracture…I will spare you the gory details on that, but it’s quite painful!). I was immediately out of a job with no unemployment benefits, no sick leave, and no health insurance. We also had no savings, because we had drained it all trying to survive the previous 2 years. It would have been easy for me to give up at that point. I was so very tired…tired of the constant stress of never having enough, tired of trying to decide which bills to pay and which ones to put off, tired of being afraid of losing the house or not being able to buy groceries…tired of always being tired.
As I lay there on my couch, unable to get up, I prayed. I cried out to God to somehow turn this situation around for our good. It didn’t look like there was any way that could happen. We had just lost about 1/2 our monthly income when we hadn’t even begun to recover from the long stretch of unemployment. It wasn’t easy to keep believing when the circumstances screamed failure. Since there was really nothing else I could do, I started researching ways to work from home. I knew some people were making a decent living selling on eBay, but I just couldn’t seem to make that work. I ended up finding a guy named Jim Cockrum. I started reading his story – he has 4 boys and a daughter, who was adopted from Guatemala. That sounded like my family so I was intrigued. He talked about seeing his business as a ministry (also intriguing) and then told how he and his family spent months in Guatemala together during his daughter’s adoption process. During that time, he was able to keep working and keep an income flowing because his business was online. I decided that was the kind of life I wanted to have – Freedom to do what I need to do for my family, yet still providing for them. That also started me thinking about selling on Amazon instead of eBay.
At that time, selling books on Amazon seemed to be the thing to do. So, I tried it. I’m not good at it. I also don’t enjoy it. I love to read. I love to look at books. I just don’t love to sell them. The good thing was I started my Amazon selling journey right at the beginning of Q4 (the last 3 months of the year when sales boom). I joined a Facebook group for online sellers and saw someone posting about how many toys she was selling on Amazon. I figured if she could do it, I could, too! And so I did. I ordered a lot online that first year because I couldn’t walk too well, but my business took off and I discovered that I loved selling toys. For me, selling on Amazon using their FBA program was much less time intensive and much more profitable than selling on eBay. (FBA is Fulfillment by Amazon. Essentially, I buy the products I want to resell, pack them up in big boxes, and ship them off to Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon stores them for me, ships them to my customers when they sell, and handles customer questions.)
I would love to tell you that my business grew by leaps and bounds without any hiccups. But that’s not the case. All businesses have growing pains, lessons learned, and well, life…Life happens to businesses, too. It has grown every year, that is true. But Life happened about 3 years ago and the next year, I essentially had to start my business over from scratch. I knew how to run it by this point so it wasn’t as hard to get going again as it was in the very beginning. At this point, though, my business also had to support my kids and I as my sole income. I fully realize how blessed I am that I had this business to support us. It allowed me to continue to stay home with my kids and keep their school experience basically the same through some otherwise major upheaval. Looking back, I see how God led my steps 5 years ago to take care of us now.
Next week, I will have another post continuing my story. My focus and business model have changed a bit over the years, but my goal has always been to work smarter, not harder. I’ll tell you how I’m doing that, why my blog doesn’t really seem to “fit” with my business, and how our homeschool looks now. I hope this part of my story has encouraged you that even when Life throws you a curveball (or several), God is so faithful to turn that around for you when you seek Him.