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Meet Lauren Kelleher of Avonlea Design Co. in Redlands

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Kelleher.

Lauren, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved creating things and finding ways to be artistically expressive. However, I never dreamed art would be a source of income for me one day! While attempting to “spruce up” my lecture notes in college with interesting fonts and typography designs, I discovered I had a knack for lettering. I started lettering chalkboards and creating signage for my friends’ and family’s parties and special celebrations as a way to bless them. After several years, and with the encouragement of my family, I took the plunge and launched my Etsy shop in 2017. A few months later, I took a step back from the classroom and my career as an elementary teacher in order to be home full-time with my daughter and to pursue this #mompreneur journey. I’ve made a lot of business mistakes along the way, but I wouldn’t trade this season for the world, and I’m SO thankful for all the people who have invested in my journey. THEY are the reason I get to follow my passions and create extra income for my family, and I am so grateful.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I was a bit naive when I started my business. I thought that once I opened my hand-lettered shop, orders would just start flooding in. That seemed to be the case with other small shops, so of course, that would be my story, too. I started with ten chalkboard print listings, as well as a custom order option, and I made the rookie mistake of ordering way too much inventory (I still have prints from that original set of 10 that I’ve yet to sell!). Needless to say, I started to lose heart when orders were few and far between and were primarily originating from friends and family (God bless them!).

Discouragement has been one of my biggest obstacles. Entrepreneurship is such a roller coaster and comes with so many different stages and seasons. It’s sometimes hard to keep showing up when progress is slow and is growth gradual. Social media and its ever-changing algorithms has also proven to be challenging. I’m incredibly grateful for Instagram and for the community I’ve found (I wouldn’t have a business without it!). It’s an amazing tool and I’ve gained some wonderful friendships from it, but Instagram can also be demoralizing if you allow yourself to sink into the comparison trap. One thing I’ve had to come to terms with is that there will always be someone who is a little further ahead of you, no matter how “successful” you become; comparison is an exercise in futility that will always leave you bereft of joy. If I find myself feeling envious of another woman’s success, I cheer her on and remind myself that her success does not equal my failure or inadequacy.

I’ve since learned to become a student of my customers and I’ve started focusing my creative energies in the areas of my business that bring the most profit. For example, custom orders are my #1 best-selling product, so I’ve started expanding my customizable product offerings. Recently, I launched custom silhouette portraits, which have been wildly received, and I have new custom products in the pipeline for upcoming launches this year that I’m extremely excited about.

One of the biggest things I’ve done for my business, and something I would highly recommend to other creatives just starting out, is invest in business education. At the beginning of this year, I enrolled in Rachel Allene’s Mastermind class, and it has been the most life-giving, business-savvy thing I’ve done to date. Not only have I gained invaluable information and entrepreneurial wisdom, but the personal coaching and encouragement I’ve received has quite literally saved my business. This entrepreneur gig is NOT easy, and having someone in your corner who has been there and can make all the difference as you hone your brand.

Avonlea Design Co. – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Avonlea Design Co. creates heartfelt, hand-lettered goods for creative individuals looking for beautiful, inspiring, and encouraging designs for their home and special occasions. I specialize in chalkboard-style artwork and custom pieces. Earlier this year I launched a hand-lettered apparel line, which is something I’ve wanted to do for almost two years, but I had been too fearful to take the plunge. It ended up being my most successful launch yet, proving that sometimes the things you are most afraid to try are often the most rewarding.

One thing I’m most proud of is the brand I’ve built. If you send any time with me over on Instagram, you quickly learn that running a heartfelt business isn’t just a catch phrase, but a true passion of mine. I don’t want to just create pretty things. I want to use my influence and products to encourage others to cultivate joy and to savor each day, even the difficult ones. My faith and family fuel this desire. I’m a wife, mama, friend, sister, and a follower of Jesus. All these roles have shaped me into the person I am today. It’s my prayer that as I honestly share my journey, others will be inspired to have a little more grace for themselves as they boldly pursue the dreams God has placed in their hearts.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
In November 2018, the devastating Camp Fire completely destroyed the town of Paradise, CA, a community that was mere minutes from my childhood hometown. I personally knew friends who lost everything, and I felt compelled to use my small sphere of influence to help the relief efforts. I created a hand-drawn print of the Honey Run Covered Bridge (a beloved historical landmark that was consumed in the fire), 100% of the profits of each and every print sale going to a local non-profit serving as an emergency response center. I had no idea if I’d sell more than a handful of prints—just knew I needed to use the talents I’d been given to make a difference. Within hours, my print was being shared all over Facebook and Instagram by friends and complete strangers, and I ended up raising over $1,000. I received a myriad of emails and direct messages from people I’d never met who had precious memories of the Honey Run Bridge, thanking me for aiding the relief efforts and spreading hope. It was the most rewarding moment of my career, and it is something I will carry with me always. You never know how God is going to use you and your talents; you simply have to be willing to step out in faith and leave the results to Him.

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