Making the Maker, an Interview with Melissa Beaver

Happy Maker's Monday! You are in for a treat today, as we are talking with Melissa Beaver of Willow + Burl! After finding each other on Instagram, I just had to interview them because their products are absolutely stunning. Melissa and her father-in-law, Mark, make some truly gorgeous wood pieces for your home including serving boards, spoons, cutting boards, egg crates, and some coffee related items. So lovely! Melissa lives in the foothills of North Carolina with her husband and three children. She is a passionate, driven person that loves adventure and being creative. You can usually find her adventuring and camping with her family in the mountains or running and hiking the trails. Can't wait to learn more about your business, Melissa!

Kayla:  How did Willow + Burl begin?
Melissa:  I have always been both a business person + creative at heart. I have my BA in biology + enjoyed a ten year career in medical sales before I became a mother. I wanted to be at home with my children but also needed a creative outlet. My father-in-law is an excellent craftsman, and I started tossing around the idea of learning woodworking from him. It grew into a business idea, as I am an entrepreneur at heart. Thus came the birth of Willow + Burl. 

Kayla:  What a change in professions! How does your degree in biology correlate with your business now?
Melissa:  Having the degree led me to a career in medical sales. This career afforded me the  experience of running a business as I moved to management after some time in sales. Running numbers to keep my center profitable and successful was part of my daily routine. I think that carries over to running a small business. 

Why do you make handmade?
Melissa:  I love creating things with my hands. Knowing that my sweat + tears + efforts went into a product that others want to own gives me great joy. I've always loved the handmade world + have been inspired by so many makers over the years that it just seems a natural part of my path. 

Kayla:  What inspires your products/business/designs?
Melissa:  Tons of things. I find inspiration everywhere. We spend a lot of time outside in nature + the inspiration is endless. My friends are so stylish + have a great eye for beauty + design that I find inspiration there as well. Of course the Internet provides tons of ideas too. 

Kayla:  What is your design process?
Melissa:  It begins in the mind then I sketch out a design or concept that I would like to see come to life. Then I pick out the wood, typically Walnut, Maple or Cherry, and go from there. 

Kayla:  Where do you source your materials from?
Melissa:  Local hardware stores. All of our wood is locally salvaged. 

Kayla:  What is your typical day-to-day life like?
Melissa:  We homeschool our children so our day begins with education + family time. Once our studies are wrapped up for the day I head to the workshop and turn out boards + utensils while my little ones play. Then we head home and begin dinner and gather around the table for family time once my husband gets home from work. After that it's our bedtime routine + ends with couch time for my husband and I. 

Kayla:  How do you balance homeschooling and running a small business? Do you have any advice for someone who may be wanting to do the same?
Melissa:  This is definitely a work-in-progress. It's all still very new. I am just trying to make sure I am present with my family, first and always. But I'm also teaching my little one that owning a business takes time. I choose that time wisely, or at least I attempt to. I am learning the balance. It is ever evolving as I go along. 

What opportunities has making by hand opened for you?
Melissa:  It allows me to continue to stay at home + educate my children while also engaging in a joy-filled vocation.

Kayla:  What is the hardest part about running a small business?
Melissa:   To run an online business you need to have a large online presence. However I do not want my children to remember me as someone who was always on their phone or computer. So I try to keep time spent online in check and make sure my family knows they are the priority. I'm still learning + they are all so gracious. I'm grateful for that. 

Kayla:  Where do you see your business heading in the future?
Melissa:  My hope is that my business will be a financially viable entity for our family long term. We have lots of new ideas in the works - several things that are focused towards the coffee lover. So hopefully those things will continue to grow our market. We are just excited for every opportunity presented that keeps us moving towards our goals. 

Thank you so much for letting us know more about you and your business, Mel! Such a great thing to know so many amazing makers out there, creating their passions by hand. We love learning all about small businesses and how they make their visions come to life. You can shop Willow + Burl here or follow along with them on social media @willowandburl!

If you think that your small, handmade business would be a good fit for an interview at Under A Tin Roof, please visit our sponsorships page or send an email to underatinroof2015@gmail.com

xoxo Kayla