All photos courtesy of the talented Erin Witkowski
UPDATE - THIS POST WAS WRITTEN IN OCTOBER OF 2014
So, I know it has been a long time since our shared the next part of the story of our journey. Truthfully, I am not really sure why I have kept this all quiet while it was all happening. But, for some reason, that is what has worked for us. I think it may have been the uncertainty of it all that caused a lot of it. What if we changed our mind? What if we didn't do what we said we would?
But now, there is no doubt.
We are in.
Let me stop here and say that if you have no idea what I am talking about - it all started when my husband Dana quit his great job
and we decided to change the direction we were going in. You can read the other parts of the story here...
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
I am going to get to the sequence of events in a minute. But first, I want to tell it like I would tell you if we were face to face. I wish I could just sit down with you all together, so you could share in our excitement. The truth is, this is a life
choice. We are going for the BIG DREAM
- to make a living and a life doing what we love the most.
I love creating a welcoming and beautiful home for our family and Dana loves, with every fiber of his being, making maple syrup. Finding Home is going to now live where those two worlds overlap.
And in the place where these worlds join will be our business. We will continue to be a home decor and DIY blog - but we are also becoming a maple syrup brand. In the next few weeks we will launch our new branding and site design and we will launch our online shop. We will start out just selling our syrup, but soon we will be adding other food product and home decor items. We are looking to partner with smaller brands, especially in the food area, who are just as passionate about their brand as we are. We want to create an online store that is filled with items we love and we think you will love too. We will offer products that we would use in our home and our own kitchen - so that we are comfortable offering it to you to do the same.
But even more than this being our business, this is our life. Dana left his job
about 18 months ago now and we know with complete certainty that it was the right decision for us. He is happier and healthier, our marriage is happier and healthier and our family is happier and healthier. Dana has also started a consulting business in the industry he has always been in, but our primary focus is Finding Home. In choosing to "make a go" at our biggest dreams, we are doing what we love the most. And although it has been really challenging figuring out all the details of starting a new business, and at times, overwhelming, we know this is the right decision and direction for us. Even if we fall flat on our faces and fail at this - it is still the right decision.
In doing this, we will never have to look back and say, "I wonder what would have happened if we just tried."
We have also started selling locally in shops around here as well. We are currently in three shops and the response has been fantastic. In fact, we have been hand cutting all of the labels because the orders keep coming in before we can get the labels printed. And once we are up and running, we will be looking for some additional retailers to partner with as well. I will be handling most of the online side of things and Dana is handling more of the face to face. He is handling the business side - insurance, lawyers, NY state codes and such and I am handling the marketing side of things - packaging, web design, marketing materials, etc. So far, the balance has worked out pretty well.
We have learned pretty quickly that if we waited till we had it all figured out, we would never get off the ground. There are so many details that you don't know about until you start to do them. NY seems to have an abundance of codes and regulations that you need to follow, but they are less adept at sharing how exactly you need to go about meeting them. We are rule followers, sometimes to a fault, so we are working through each of the details one by one.
So, how did we get here? When I first started telling our story, it was about the journey from a dollhouse to a sugar house
. And we reached our destination. We have a sugar house!
After we realized that the search for a house with sugaring land really wasn't going to happen, we started looking just at land. We looked at a lot of property lots. Dana looked at tons. And when he wasn't visiting a property lot or driving by one, he was studying real estate maps to see who owned the maple tree filled properties that he had scouted.
Dana dropped many a letter in a mailbox asking if they would consider selling their land. Then, we came upon a name, on an amazing lot, that we knew. A letter was sent and a conversation began. He wasn't willing to sell us the property, but he was willing to lease trees by the tap. Did you know that you could even do that? It is land that is used for hunting, but then it just sits idle the rest of the year. It is a win-win, the owner makes a little extra money and we have access to maple trees to tap. This past season, we tapped about 800 trees this past season and we have plans for about 2,500 for next season.
When we first started looking at properties, Dana was still at his old job and we were looking for something to go to.
When we continued the search without the job being in the way, it became clear that the best decision was to put the sugar house right here
. Just after Christmas last year, Dana began digging the holes for the pole barn structure. We had a small window of mild weather and the ground was not frozen, it was just meant to be. But, shortly after that, the ground froze hard, along with everything else. Jim, our contractor, and Dana worked together to build the whole structure through some of the coldest weather we have seen in years.
It is funny, when we made the decision to leave Dana's job, it was a very memorable conversation. I can not tell you when exactly we decided to get into the maple business, it was more of a process that evolved over time. And even then, what did that mean, would it be Finding Home, would it be something new? As with all of this, we went through it one step at a time, while the sugar house was being built. Dana and Jim got the structure built to a bare minimum in time for sugaring last year. The equipment was in, the smoke stack was working and there were walls and a roof. But none of it was airtight, there was no floor and the area around it was a mess from construction and snow.
We have spent the last few months getting all of the details finished. In fact, as I am writing this, the concrete floor is being finished and a gravel driveway to the sugar house is being installed. We never intended it to be done on the same day, but a last minute cancellation moved us up on the calendar and we had to chalk up to one of the many "meant-to-be" moments we have been experiencing.
And today, as I write this, I am so thankful. So thankful to you. So, so incredibly thankful.
Thankful that you have read this blog and allowed us to grow and love our brand. Thankful that we can take what I have done to this point, and we can grow it into something more for our family. If it wasn't for all of you, none of this would be possible.
And so now, you know it all. Of course, there is more to share. Like the pretty cool story that lead to our new logo, and the amazing branding and design company we have been working with. And don't worry, you will only have to wait a little bit this time, not months!
Update - you can now read about "The Story of a Cardinal and God Conversations in the Bathroom"
Thanks so much for reading!
UPDATE - Watch for an update coming soon, but in the meantime - it is 2020 and we have moved to a new sugarhouse!