Last week, we introduced you to members of the Atlanta Home & DIY Bloggers following their second meetup at our store.
Several of our talented dealers are members of the group - Chad from Mercantile on Main Street, JannYvette from Confessions of a Junkaholic (formerly i heart purdy things), Stacy from Dixie Avenue, and Nancy from Cobani Bleu.
This week, we sat down with Nancy to dig into the story of her thriving small business.
WM: Happy Anniversary. August marks a year you've been at Woodstock Market. How have you grown in that year?
Nancy: Wow, what a fun year it has been. This past year has been my very first foray into business or trying to selling anything. So I was not exactly in my natural element. Although, I have worked in lots or retail and public service type roles so that at least was not foreign. And hey, I am really good at shopping too.
There have been lots of learnings this year. I have friends who have had booths in antique malls before, and they have all said the hardest part is keeping inventory. And that is very true. I also struggle with having enough time to maintain a booth while still working full time. But somehow it works out.
There have been some lean months, when as a business owner I had to think, is having this space meeting my goals? Is it time to move on? But I persevered to have some of my best months. So I think there is a balancing act as a business owner. You definitely need to know when it is time to cut your losses and move on – but you also have to know when to stick it out. And if it is not working, try something else, again, and again and maybe again. Not saying I am an expert on this – I just know you have to weigh it all carefully.
I have also learned what a special place Woodstock Market is, from the other dealers, the employees, the owners, and of course the customers! It is a real community!!
WM: We are constantly delighted by your "imaginative upholstery" when you bring in something new to Woodstock Market. Tell us about your process in redesigning chairs and ottomans.
Nancy: It probably sounds corny, but the piece has to speak to me. It may be the furniture itself or a piece of fabric or a combination of the two. And sometimes it takes a glass of wine and sitting in my garage staring at furniture and fabric. Last year I was making an ottoman out of a Coca-Cola Crate. I was playing around with some red fabric and it just looked sort of blah. And out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a blanket with a blue star pattern on one side and red and white strips on the other. Ta da! The blue stars were perfect and the Coca-Cola ottoman suddenly became a piece of Americana. No blankets, quilts or bedspreads are safe in my house.
WM: What's the meaning behind your company name, Cobani Bleu?
Nancy: Cobani Bleu is the true essence of who I am, what is important to me and where I want my business to go. Many years ago, when the internet was young, people were leery of using their real names on the internet. So America Online encouraged people to adopt screen names. In coming up with a screen name, I took the letters of my pets names, Cody, Bailey and Nike and wrote them down in the order I adopted them – CoBaNi. And stared at it surprised that it actually created a word!! These 3 furkids have since passed on, but this word has come to mean ‘family’ to me and all that is important in my life. I knew this would be the name of my business but by itself, it was just sort of hanging out there. It needed something else. I thought about many other words to describe upholstery, a creative business, etc., but nothing really clicked. And one day it just hit me. If you know me at all – you know my favorite color is blue. And this is kind of hard to explain but color does matter to me in everything I do – and blue is top dog!! I am also a known Francophile so blue had to be spelled Bleu!!! And Cobani Bleu was born.
You probably weren’t expecting such a long winded answer – but to me, Cobani Bleu is all about building a business and a life for me and my family.
WM: Tell us about learning the craft of upholstery. What prompted your interest? How have you advanced?
Nancy: I have always wanted to learn upholstery. I have collected some great pieces of furniture over the years which needed to be reupholstered. I am too cheap to pay someone else and besides I like to do things myself.
I get a lot of satisfaction in DIYing. Add to this desire, a growing dissatisfaction with spending my life in corporate America. Several years ago, I made up my mind to find a better way of life. I signed up for an upholstery class at the Atlanta Technical College. And so it began. As I began to learn – I would come home and use my new skills on other pieces. For every class I took – I looked for a piece of furniture that would advance my skills. I am not a master upholsterer. Upholstery is a craft that is learned over time and I continue my education with every piece I do.
WM: Most people know Woodstock Market is dog friendly. Tell us about the four legged members of your family.
Nancy: Now that you know the origins of my company name, you know that animals are very important to me. I have always had animals in my life. My sister laughs at me now because I ONLY have 2 dogs at the moment! (And that could change at moment’s notice!) But for the moment – I am really enjoying this special time with my 2 furkids. Stella is a golden shepherd mix and Tucker is a border collie mix.
Stella loves people and she is a master at getting people to rub her belly. In less than 30 seconds after meeting you, she will be on her back and you will be rubbing her belly!! Shameless girl!! Stella also adores Tucker and I love seeing her give him kisses every morning!!
Tucker is one of the cutest, fluffiest and most loving dogs ever. Sometimes he just can’t contain his excitement and he actually does this bucking bronco move as he bounces across the floor. It is pure exuberance uncontained!! Tucker developed cancer earlier this year and lost a front leg to it in April. The tumor was a grade 3 – and very aggressive. But since his surgery, there is no sign of recurrence. He is kicking cancer’s butt and I am so proud of him. He is the same happy dog he has always been hopping on 3 legs, ears flopping, and always a huge smile on his face.
Dogs teach us so much!!! I love these guys to the moon and back again!!!
WM: What's next for your company? Tell us about any goals you may have.
Nancy: The big news is that I am retiring from corporate America at the end of October. Lack of time is the biggest hindrance to moving my business forward so I can hardly stand it till I am officially retired and a full time employee of Cobani Bleu! I will have time to get more furniture done for my space, time to take on custom work for clients, time to develop my line of scrap patch pillows (made from all my upholstery scraps). Stay tuned for some fun seasonal and holiday pillows.
Social Media will be a big part of my business – and for me that is a pretty steep learning curve. One of the things I am most excited about is to start teaching upholstery classes. In my own experience of looking for classes and having great difficulty in just registering for classes, I know there is a need for upholstery classes in the DIY community. So look for classes coming in 2015!!
So that is my story. The future is bright. I have big dreams!! And I am having a blast with this little business called Cobani Bleu!!!
We have some very talented customers and are so impressed with the pictures we've received so far in our Marquee Light Giveaway!!
Email your repurposed/DIY projects made with things you've bought at Woodstock Market to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 28th.
We'll pick our top 3 & let you vote for the winner!