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How I Went From First Grade Teacher to Home Decorator (Ep 1)

*A note from the author: This podcast episode (as well as all future episodes) will be transcribed automatically. The author is currently aware of, and getting hives at the thought of, all of the grammatical errors she's finding as she proof reads her transcript. She recognizes that her former English teachers are likely rolling over in their graves, if that is where they currently reside, but also knows that some things just have to give. Please feel free to listen instead and be sure to read non-podcast posts so you can rest assured that she does, in fact, know how to compose written words into proper story telling.*

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5 Secrets for Elevating the Look of Your Home This Weekend:

The road for me, going from a First Grade teacher to a home decorator is non-linear. And as most things in life stories are circuitous that is the same with me, but I remember my first dip into entrepreneurship when I was seven years old. I was seven and starting my first job. Of course my parents just thought this is cute and sweet and cute Dani doing this, but I would strap on my roller skates. At the time I lived in a small town in Eastern Washington, and I would take my little roller skates and I would go knocking door to door asking the homeowners, "Hey, would you want to spend 25 cents?" (which at the time that might've been significant, I don't know more than a phone call at the time, more than a stamp), but asking them, "Hey, would you want to pay to watch me do a roller skating routine?"

That was brave and sweet and audacious. And probably the reason why when seven year olds come to my door nowadays, I always say yes to whatever their ask is. Even if it's, "Hey, do you want a bubbly?" Which I own bubbly waters myself. And I can just go grab it from the fridge. But if you are audacious and sweet and brave, yes, I'm going to support that. That sweet seven-year-old self grew up, went to college and became a First Grade teacher. And I love teaching. I fell in love with it. It's hard work and it's not for the faint of heart, but I realized my first year of teaching, gosh, I want more, I want to be able to teach these kiddos, the ins and the outs of reading. I could already see that those kiddos were not in a box, each ready to be taught the exact same way.

Everyone had a different learning style and I wanted to be able to cater to that. So I went back to school simultaneously while still teaching and got my master's degree. And these were in the days when online learning was a brand new beginning. So I, at the time, remember feeling super, not nervous, but just super embarrassed, I think is more the word. I'm getting my master's online. Um, but I would always say, you know what? I am going to get out of it, what I put into it. And I still hold true to that. But now look at that. I am just the founder of the online learning, but I got my master's in reading and literacy. So I could really hone in on what it was the kiddos needed. Fast forward a couple of years, I'm still teaching. My husband and I were living in Iowa so that he could get his master's degree.

And we started a family. When we started our family, we had a decision to make. Did we hire a nanny or send our son to daycare? All of our family was thousands of miles away and it just didn't make sense for us, for me, to put our little one into daycare so that I could go and be with other people's babies and teach them all day, even though it something I loved to do. And I understand, and I realize that not everyone has the ability to make that decision and sometimes our hands are tied. We did have the space to make that decision and for that I am so thankful. I don't regret it, but it did come as a sacrifice. Going from a dual income to a single income meant financial sacrifice and there were a lot of things we had to give up on - Christmases with family back home in Washington, other holidays, vacations, and even having no new clothing or the kind of the silly little things that you spend your money on. But it came as a sacrifice.

I remember my husband was relatively new into his career and he had a white collar job so he needed to go from dressing as a student to dressing as this position in a hospital. And I would wait every month for that $10 JC Penny coupon to come in the mail. There was no minimum amount you had to buy to use that coupon. And so we would go to JC Penny every month and we would buy the $12 shirt or the $13 shirt so that we ended up paying $2 or $3 or $4 or whatever, but his wardrobe grew and we saved money. That just gives you an idea of really how strapped for cash we were in those early days of staying at home with my kiddo, which were so sweet, even though it meant living on pennies.

And during those days I realized a couple of things. I realized that baby's nap a lot, like a lot, a lot. The advice that is always given is to sleep when the babies are sleeping and that is wonderful advice. And if you were a brand new mama listening to this, please do that. You'll be better able to serve your baby and your family if you do that. But what I learned about myself is that I can only sleep so much and I got a little bit restless and I realized too, going from working full-time job to staying home, that there are days of rest I like to take for sure, but I always like to keep busy. So realizing that was huge. But one day during nap time, I started noticing something and I noticed that I was just getting tired of looking at the same four walls.

They were fine walls. Fine. But I just kind of got tired of looking at them. And one day while Owen was sleeping, I decided to go out to the garage and look to see what we had in the garage leftover for paint. And I found some paint and I striped my walls, the walls that we spent a lot of our time in the walls, in our downstairs living room, which kind of then morphed into a playroom for him. And I striped the walls. It took a couple of days because he was napping and I wanted to work only when he was napping. And that was really the first time I started noticing the impact that paint could make in a space. And as the years went by, I started asking questions. I had a couple of girlfriends who really had great style. And every time I walked into their homes, I was so inspired. It was like looking at eye candy. This is so cute and so charming and so sweet. And so I would ask them questions and I would pay attention. How did you do this? And what do you do for that? And what kind of color choice would you make and what do you like to paint with all the things I would ask them? It, within that two years though, back to the being restless, I decided I wanted to tap into my creativity while Owen was napping. And I decided it would be a really great idea to start a business. And because my world was baby, I opened a baby boutique. And this was at the beginning of online shopping when online shopping started really becoming a thing when Etsy was brand new. And if you don't know what Etsy is, you should, it's an online shopping platform with retailers who are creative artisans.

They hand-make a lot of amazing things. Of course, their site nowadays looks so professional than it did back in the day when we could slap up a picture and it would be fine, which is what I did. But yeah, I ended up growing this clientele that was worldwide, ended up doing markets locally. And by the way, my mom joined me on this journey. She was still living in Washington. I was still in Iowa. And so that was a little tricky, especially since she didn't have a computer, but we collaborated. And she was really the master seamstress. She did all of the hard work, which was easy for her, but she made the crib sheets and the bibs. And I stuck with the things that I could excel at with sewing a straight line - like blankets and burp cloths and hooded towels. And together, we created this really wonderful little shop called tuck & jo. huck & jo grew.

As huck & jo grew, our family grew and we added another boy and then another boy. So if you're keeping count, we have three boys. At that point, we decided it was time to move back to Washington. This was right before Owen was going into Kindergarten. We wanted to be closer to grandmas and grandpas and aunties and uncles. And so we moved from Iowa to Washington and that little baby business lost a little bit of traction. I tried keeping it up for a little while, but my passions were changing and my time was being divided just a little bit more. And what was happening was we were getting involved in Kindergarten, I had a brand new baby, adjusting to this new town, new lifestyle, getting my husband, Greg, acclimated in his job and decorating this new house. All fun things. But it meant that the traction for huck & jo was waning a bit. As we started making new friends, the friends started asking me questions, just like I had asked my girlfriends questions years before about their homes.

They would ask me questions. How do you do this? And what kind of paint do you use and how do you stripe that - asking me all the decor questions. And I began helping them just like my friends helped me. And it was so much fun. And at this point we had now been in Washington for about two years. And as you can imagine, I got a little bit restless. And with one of the girlfriends I had back in Iowa, together we decided that it would be so much fun to do something creative together, to collaborate as a way to fund our friendship because we missed each other. We missed seeing each other. And so we opened a store called fig & farm. She was the farm. I was the fig. We thought that it would be a fun idea to curate vintage goods, to repurpose old things like dressers and tables and things like that to paint them and restore them.

She sold them in markets in Iowa. I sold them in markets in Washington, and a little bit of time went by before she opened her own shop and I opened mine each in our own brick and mortar space, her in Iowa and me in Washington. And simultaneously at that time, I was asked by a realtor if I would help him stage homes. And I committed to that for about a year, I worked for pennies. Oh my gosh. In retrospect, I worked for pennies. It was so much work. I use a lot of my own things and I would stage occupied home. I would go in and I would help make these homes beautiful and they would sell quickly and they would sell above asking price. And I knew I was onto something. But once that year was up, I was done. I needed to be moving on beyond that and I started getting other friends asking if I would help them a little bit more intentionally with their home, not just little questions here and there, but hiring me to help them design their home, an office here, a living room there.

And that's when I met my friend, Heather and Heather has a great style. She has such great style and she really knew what it was she liked, but she just didn't know how to put it all together. And that's where I came in. And so we worked on a dining room and then we worked on a sitting area and then we worked on two living rooms and an entryway. And then Heather started taking off on her own. She started doing a bathroom and then a master bathroom. And it was at this point where I realized Heather's my ideal client. She is not afraid to get the paint out. She's not afraid to roll up her sleeves. She's not afraid to do the work. She kind of knew what she liked anyway, but now she's putting it all together. And so when she started moving on from one bathroom to the next, she would ask me questions here and there as a way of just consulting me, did I make the right choice? Does this metal work here? Does that metal work there? She wasn't necessarily relying on me in the way that she did in the beginning. And I loved that because what it meant for her is that she was able to grow. And she was able to take what she's learned with me and apply it to her own home because I won't always be available. If she wants to change pillows on a whim, she doesn't necessarily need to call me. And I shared that with my husband. And I said, how wonderful it was to have a client who was able to be independent. And he looked at me and he said, but Dani, doesn't that take away your earning potential? And actually, no, it doesn't. Because what I want to do is teach women how to design their own home, their own way, how to recognize what their style is, how to move beyond limiting beliefs that even just keep them stuck in the first place, how to stop wasting money on buying the wrong thing. Because when they get home, they don't know how to put it together. When they know that they are limited by different things, ultimately how to really love the house that they call home and to tell the story of their family, the people that they live with to tell that story and to tell it well.

And so that's what fig and farm (at home) is about. We are a space that designs happy living from the inside out. We're a space that is going to be talking about intentional living and making those intentional choices on the walls and within your heart. And I want you to join me, join me on this journey as we design happy living. And did you know, I have a Facebook group where I am teaching these women how to love the house that they call home, and you can join us there at Join us there. It's going to be a lot of fun, but we will be talking what we learned from the podcast, continuing those conversations, and really supporting each other as we all go through the same processes together. And until next time, and until I get really down deep and dirty into all the nitty gritties of home design, if you want to get started this weekend, I have something for you. My five secrets, my five home secrets that I used in staging and I use in home decorating. I feel like it's an auto repeat for every client all the time. You can grab that at All of these things will be linked in the show notes so you can grab them there.

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