When Araya Jensen first got word that her position as a kitchen and bath designer had been eliminated, her mind began to race. Many have experienced it and can relate—sitting across from the boss, getting the unexpected news and trying to process the magnitude of it in that moment. Araya had opted for what she thought was the safer career path. She had always dreamed of launching a business. But there were bills to pay and the cost of her kids’ day care to consider.
Sometimes an unplanned job loss is just the push an aspiring entrepreneur needs to propel her forward in pursuing her passion. Araya had been experimenting with a painting process that enabled her to rubberize wooden kitchenware. She began creating brightly colored hand-dipped bowls and spoons in her basement studio. She was finally ready to take a leap of faith and pursue her art as a full-time business.
Araya got started by selling her wares on Etsy. In no time she was racking up sales and receiving positive feedback from buyers who hadn’t seen anything else like her products. It was the validation she had hoped for and the fuel that would keep her moving forward.
Eventually Araya launched her own website. She received inquiries from more than a hundred businesses around the world wanting to place wholesale orders. When the demand was too much to keep up with from her home studio, she secured financing for a larger space that included a storefront in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With the new space came the launch of a new name—Willful: Goods with Intention.
The boost was just what Araya needed to take the business to the next level. But that presented a whole new set of challenges. At her make-or-break point, Araya had to decide if she wanted to begin mass-producing her products in a factory or sell the company she created. With retailers like West Elm knocking at her door, initially manufacturing appealed to her. But something about it didn’t feel quite right. When a local buyer made an offer to purchase the business, it felt like it could be a better solution.
Ultimately, Araya took the opportunity to reflect on why she started the business in the first place. As an artist, her vision was to make the world more colorful and much brighter, and to inspire others to appreciate the beauty in everyday objects. She didn’t want to manage an assembly line or let go of the business she’d built. So instead she decided to simplify her life, close her storefront, and get back to designing and making. Today, Willful products are available online, and Araya crafts each of her bowls, spoons, serving boards and egg cups with her own two hands.
Photo: Willful Goods
Are you ready to courageously share your story with the world and open the door to resources and opportunities? My Founder Story takes you through the process of clarifying your WHY and developing your Whyography—a powerful short story designed to articulate and elevate your purpose, and an essential tool for leveraging your business with potential investors, partners and supporters. Learn more here.