Olivia Carter is orignally from Maryland but now lives at the base of the mountains in Utah. She has a husband (whose perpetual three day beard growth she fancies) and three adorable children. Olivia is the creator of Gnome Sweet Gnome Shop which carries a selection of handmade party goods including her famous drink stirrers which have been featured in Real Simple Magazine, on MSN.com and WedLuxe Magazine.
Tell us a little bit about where you got your idea to create the Gnome Sweet Gnome Shop.
I should probably preface this story with the fact that I am an only child. Born to parents who tried for over 10 years to get pregnant and after I was born they were told they couldn’t have any more. So, basically my birthdays were a pretty big deal growing up. So, now, I make a real big deal about birthdays for my family, for my friends, and, quiet honestly, myself. So, what I’m getting at is that, confession time: I THROW MYSELF BIRTHDAY PARTIES! My 30th birthday fell on the 30th, which is traditionally called a GOLDEN BIRTHDAY. And since it was my golden birthday I decided my theme would be (surprise, surprise) gold. Gold streamers, gold sprinkles, gold dress, gold silverware, and my other favorite thing- fancy drinks. I made a bunch of “mocktails” that included cherries, tiny umbrellas, more sprinkles, cotton candy, and other craziness. And for my last touch, I decided I needed were drink stirrers with gold animals perched on top. After the party, several people encouraged me to start my own Etsy shop to see how they would do. My first 3 sales were to pitying friends and family and I think I sold one more pack that whole year. But I just kept on trucking, adding in gold animal birthday candle holders, and just plain gold animals for table top decor and it’s slowly grown from there.
What inspires you?
So, so many things inspire me. ART is a huge one. I grew up with very artistic parents- a father who got his masters in costume design and a mother who graduated with a degree in music. I lived surrounded by some of the best art museums in the world a few subway stops away in D.C. and parents who readily supplied art books and supplies to me and I graduated in art history & curatorial studies. Art has always been a large part in my life and I am still inspired business-wise, emotionally, and spiritually by it.
Next, and this is going to sound so cheesy but, I am constantly inspired by my FAMILY. My children are so creative and see the world in whimsical ways that without them I never could. They see beauty in rocks, and cracks, and blades of grass. Through them I see the wonder in the everyday. They unconditionally try anything and believe the impossible is possible. Being surrounded by that kind of optimism and vigor for life has caused me to believe in vast “more”, while still being content with what I’ve got right in front of me. And without my husband I would be a lesser version of myself. He believes I can do anything and that kind of support inspires me to work as hard as I can. He pushes me each day to be better. And then every night he tells me to relax, and that I did enough and that I am enough and it’s time to chill. He gives his time and his energy to my dreams, and I hope that I do the same in return. I’ve got a killer helper in business and
I am also inspired by successful women. There are women I am lucky enough to know who inspire me. My mother, for example, who was smart, successful, and a hard working woman who raised me to strive for and be more, while also being kind and serving everyone around me. I have female friends who do some of the hardest things I can imagine with class and meekness and strength. There are also women I don’t know (but wish I did)- comedians, writers, politicians, artists, judges, entrepreneurs, musicians- who prove women can do anything. I am constantly inspired by what women do.
Describe your process for marketing products.
Oh man, I have so much to learn about marketing. I actually really suck at the “business” parts of running a business. The creative stuff I love and can pull off, but when it comes down to the real bones of running everything, I struggle. So, I do a lot on Instagram. I enjoy the whole setting up and taking pictures of and writing about my products so Instagram is an easy spot for me to market. I have worked with a couple prominent bloggers on parties they have thrown, providing products for them in return for a shout out. Honestly, bloggers have been a big way to get the word out. Also, I always ask customers to send pictures from their parties, because they are always more beautiful and more creative than I could ever come up with and post those on social media as well. And really, that’s about it. I’ve been lucky to have been in a couple major magazines over the years- Real Simple, Everyday with Rachel Ray, Food Network Magazine, etc. but those were lucky breaks where my products were seen by the right people at the right time and nothing to do with my marketing prowess. I also send products along to photographer/party planner/creative friends to shoot and promote as well. So, what I’m saying is I’m clueless and any and all suggestions from better business-minded individuals should be emailed to me right away!
How do you balance creative/work life with time for family and friends?
I have been blessed to find a job that’s creative and that I can do at home and, for the most part, on my own time. When it comes to family, I work when my kids are in school and preschool, and when times get busy I’ve got a nice pile of toys right next to my desk for my littlest to play with while I’m answering emails and other business stuff. Also, when I’m particularly busy my older kids love to help out with packaging and taping up boxes or during photoshoots. I work a lot at night while my husband and I watch movies (one of our favorite past times- we are big movie buffs) and whenever I can squeeze in time. I’m also lucky to have supportive friends who will come over to chat while I sit and drill animals or while I’m out in the desert Utah sun painting.
There was a chunk of time were I was extremely busy filling massive orders and had to sacrifice a lot of “loved one” time. I finally took an evening off and went to see the last Hobbit movie (movie buff and nerd) and there was a scene where Thoren Oakenshield is talking to Bilbo Baggins and says, “If more people valued home above gold this world would be a merrier place.” And then he dies (sorry for the spoiler but, really, you people should have already seen this movie by now). I have gone back to that quote hundreds of times when I’m making business and personal decisions this past year to [evaluate] myself and be sure that I am spending my time, when I can, in the right places so the world, and my world, will be a merrier place.
What would you say you love most about being a woman?
I wish I was as articulate with my words as my heart feels about womanhood. How empowering and important women are, and how I count myself lucky to be one. The number one reason I love being a woman is OTHER WOMEN. There is a line of women who came before me who said and did remarkable things that laid a path of kindness and strength for me to follow. And right now, I converse with and learn from and cry along with a remarkable group of women. And after me there will be more women changing the world. And as a woman, I belong to a sisterhood with all of them. And that pedigree and that future gives me courage. Another reason I love being a woman is actually the NAYSAYERS OF WOMEN. There are a lot of people (both women and men) who throw up obstacles for women. People who still want to put restrictions to try to stop women. But women will not stop. And one of my favorite things about being a woman is proving those particular people wrong and proving women’s cheerleaders (both men and women) right. Also I love being a woman because Beyoncé is one. Mic drop.