By Becky Bracken
Brandy Reed has always been an avid crafter, but fate – and a lot of hard work – has turned her hobby into a booming business. Now she sells crafting kits and home décor designs all over the world. And she does it right out of her Gilbert house with her toddler, Paisley, running circles at her feet.
She’s known in what’s called the “maker” circles as The Polka Dotted Girl. The name of her business is a nod to the moment when she looked down at her then-infant Paisley playing on the floor and dressed in her favorite polka dots, when she thought to herself, “You’re the polka dot girl!”
That was when Reed, and her hobby, became a full-fledged, branded enterprise.
Her first product was a set of customized wood blocks sold on a Facebook business page shared just with her local family and friends. Her husband, Eric, who works for Light Rail, helped her cut the wood after work. Then she sanded and painted the cute little keepsakes, marked with letters to spell out a child’s name, or seasonal message. In a matter of days, she sold more than 100.
“Right away we thought, ‘Let’s try and take this to the next level,’” Reed said.
She makes and sells what she calls “rustic, shabby wooden home décor.” Her latest invention is a “smart sign,” a wooden frame with a seasonal image or message that can be swapped out at-will, without ever having to move the frame. She also makes hand-painted wooden signs with cheerful messages like “Hello spring!” or “Bloom where you are planted.” Her top-selling item to-date was a wooden, hand-painted American flag sign for Fourth of July.
Reed’s background is in direct sales. She had most recently sold jewelry through parties and gatherings, before the company she worked for suddenly went out of business. So Reed combined her flare for crafts with her sales know-how and started creating kits for women to gather at parties and make their own decorations. She also sells completed crafts, signs and other décor items through social media and her Etsy storefront.
But Reed’s Polka Dotted Girl bread and butter are her crafting parties, and she holds them about 2-3 times every weeks. Think of them like other party-based product sales, from Tupperware and candles, to cookware and candles. Except Reed isn’t just selling a product, she’s selling herself.
“My business was built on social media and parties. I’m there and they get to know my personality,” Reed says. “For me it’s a lot about relationship building.”
The Polka Dotted Girl’s Instagram feed is filled with smiling women, beaming over their completed crafts at her parties. Some are holding Easter eggs, or shamrocks, and wood and painted signs with sweet sayings. All look like they’re having a wonderful time, surrounded by other women.
Reed shows up for her parties with kits for each woman to complete a craft, then offers instruction and advice to help women make their very own creations. Reed does all of the preparation and just lets the women do the most enjoyable part – create.
“Women love to gather, they love to craft, they just don’t have the time,” Reed says, explaining the success of her crafting parties. “Plus, crafts can get expensive, so before you know it, the project is $50.”
The success of the Polka Dotted Girl allows Reed to work out of her house she shares with her husband and three children, 3-year-old Paisley, 11-year-old Deegan and 13-year-old Shelby. Taking care of her business in addition to her family can get hectic, she admits, but she’s constantly developing strategies to juggle it all. Luckily she’s able to lean on her husband for help.
“After he gets home from work and the family eats dinner and the kids are put to bed, we go out in the garage together and work,” she explains. Eric helps out with cutting the wood, while she does the finish work. She gives him plenty of credit for the business success, and affectionately calls him, “the hustle in my muscle.”
She also has an extensive support system of friends in and around Gilbert, which she calls in like a cavalry when things get particularly hectic.
“It’s not uncommon to have seven women around my house, eating popcorn and drinking soda at 1 a.m.,” Reed says with a laugh.
So far, Reed says, there are only six states she hasn’t shipped her products to, but sooner or later The Polka Dotted Girl will likely reach all 50. In the meantime, her business is outgrowing her current Gilbert house, so she and her family are looking toward buying a bigger home in the area, which, no doubt, will be decorated with treasures she made herself.
Husband Eric works for the light rail
I’ve always been very crafty. I used to do things with my mom
I’ve always done direct sales
The company I was working for went out of business pretty abruptly.
Started a Facebook business page with a set of blocks
We didn’t really have the tools at the time
100 people ordered
Right away we thought ‘Lets try and take this to the next level’”
We do a lot of DIY kits
I didn’t have a website
Less than 100 followers on Facebook
Women love to gather, they love to craft, they just don’t have the time.
Plus, crafts can get expensive, so before you know it, the project is $50.
Most women don’t have the know-how or the tools
It took off from there
Pinners conference in October I set up to teach 100 people the craft, and 175 showed up.
Mass producing for paries, 2-3 in one week
Mid-business we decided to throw some things on Etsy
She’s keeping track of how many states she’s shipped to, so far there are only 6 that are blank
Her husband, Eric works for the Light Rail
“he’s the hustle in my muscle”
After he gets home from work and the family eats dinner and the kids are put to bed, “we go out in the garage together”
It’s not uncommon to have seven women around my house, eating popcorn and drinking soda at 1 a.m.
My business was built on social media and parties, I’m there and they get to know my personality
For me it’s a lot about relationship building
The whole maker community I feel like I have friends all over the country
You have to have thick skin, and you have to be original, and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else.
It’s hard. I’ve had people take my stuff and pass it off as their own. It happens and it’s heartbreaking.
Farmhouses of Instagram are unreal
You have to be 100 percent original
Instagram is huge
Photography is huge, I run my business on an iPhone
Just keeping up with social media is a full time job
I just had her We needed to call the business something, I love polka dots, so she was always wearing polka dots. She was playing on the floor and I thought, “you are the polka dotted girl.
People that have been following from the beginning they’ve watched her grow up.
She’s so used to the doorbell ringing, she plays “I’m gonna go knock knock.”