Fate had it that Kristy and Sarah were to meet in 2020. They were two young stay-at-home moms, both with a passion for business and woodwork. So began their business Prodigal Handmade, which offers unique handmade pieces for homes and families. Read on to learn more about their inspiring collaborative business story.
Kristy: My dad has always been the best maker and fixer I know. For years I wondered why I hadn’t tapped into his amazing knowledge. By God’s grace and Sarah’s spontaneity, I have now been given such an opportunity to create things for others. It’s a joy to create like my Dad. But also, in a way, mimic our Heavenly Creator.
A few other things I enjoy— Subaru commercials, simple things, reading, hiking, honest conversations with a surplus of grace, giving gifts, fresh flowers, a hearty laugh with my kids, traveling with my husband, and teaching. Actually, I like many things and have a very difficult time doing it all in this tiny life. And for anyone who cares, I am a 6.
Sarah: I’m a North Carolina native married to a Florida boy raising our three little ones in Raleigh. I’ve always been drawn to the simplicity and functionality of wooden items. One of the first things I ever made was a walnut coffee table. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our home. I learned so much during that process of creating, and I’m excited to be creating again alongside Kristy.
Prodigal Handmade has been a joyful respite during this season of my life, and I’m so grateful for all the support we’ve been shown. You can find me most days binging the Great British Baking Show, craving Bojangles Chicken Supremes, listening to Sandra McCracken, or driving around town in our minivan.
Have you both always enjoyed woodworking/decor, handmaking items, and business?
For the most part, woodworking is new to us. Sarah dabbled in it years ago, making a few coffee tables, but the tools and processes we currently use are definitely new. Kristy has been around woodworking her whole life as a craftsman's daughter but only recently rolled up her sleeves and stepped behind a saw.
Do you have any sort of formal training in woodworking and business, or has it all been learned with time?
Neither of us has owned a business or received any formal business training. Sarah has sold a few things on Etsy in the past, but owning and running a full-fledged LLC is completely new (and exciting) territory for both of us.
When did you both start making the different handmade products, and when did you start thinking about making it into a business?
In the parking lot of Anthropologie after a masked, quick COVID-style shopping outing, Sarah mentioned wanting to start creating something or refurbishing furniture. Kristy said she was game to join her in the fall. Sarah made a plant stand and taught Kristy how on a Tuesday night work session in her shed. Wooden cameras came next in a very similar way.
You are both friends and have families of your own. When did you meet, and why did you choose to start a business together?
We met in 2018 in a small group organized through our church. We were both fairly new to Raleigh and expecting our second child. In 2020, Kristy moved into Sarah’s neighborhood (literally behind her), and shortly after, Sarah got an idea to start making plant stands, and the rest is history. :)
How do your husbands and your family's help you with your business? How do you help each other with each of your endeavors?
Our husbands serve as a sounding board especially as Prodigal Handmade has grown. Sarah’s husband, Paul, built our website and helped with the planning and research of becoming an LLC. Kristy’s husband Jon will manage finances as we are an LLC now. They help with market setup, join us in the shed on certain projects, and encourage us when we are discouraged.
How do you unwind as families and friends and turn work off?
Family dinners are always enjoyable; watching our kids play and love each other, grabbing coffee/brunch out, and making sure we set aside time to talk about work helps separate it from our work. But at the same time, I think this is an area that we are still working at and figuring out.
How are you both different from each other, and how do these differences complement each other in business and life?
Kristy is very type-A and risk-averse. Sarah is always up to try something new! Sarah is a doer, and Kristy is a planner. Between the two of us, we can carefully approach each next step with optimism and excitement. Our schedules tend to fluctuate, but we have figured out the ebb and flow and have been able to balance duties pretty effortlessly. It’s truly a gift that the behind-the-scenes works as seamlessly as it does.
What does a GOOD day look like?
We had a market recently, and I think it serves as a perfect example. In all honesty, it wasn’t our best market. We brought our A-Game, but for whatever reason, we didn’t have many customers or sales, but what a wonderful day. Sarah’s family surprised her and came from their vacation. My parents and in-laws came and stayed all day too. Our husbands both helped up setup and stayed visiting our parents. After the market, we went to a local food hall. The grandparents took most of our babies, and the four of us just got to talk, laugh, and be friends. It was such a sweet day.
What has been the hardest and the best thing about starting up Prodigal Handmade?
One of the hardest things is figuring out what is the most strategic next step for our business. Wholesale, consignment, this website app, or that- it’s a fun, good problem to have because it means you are growing. But we also want to be intentional with these decisions because they can make or break a small business. There are so many awesome parts of being able to run a business together. But I think we both really enjoy connecting with people through different partnerships, social media, and markets. We are both stay-at-home moms, and Prodigal has not only been an outlet and way to use our brains differently but also to connect with other people.
Did you experiment with different woodwork products before settling on certain collections?
Sarah made a plant stand and taught Kristy how on a Tuesday night work session in her shed. Wooden cameras came next in a very similar way. Sometimes we would see things on Pinterest we wanted to try, sometimes people gave us ideas, and by late December, we were starting to find our own groove. This continued into early 2021 as we both got new tools that have really shaped what we are focusing on now. Sarah got a lathe and Kristy a scroll saw.
What has been your all-time favorite product you have made? What are your husband and kids' favorite products?
Kristy’s favorite product is probably the Walnut Wide Lens Camera. It was the first thing that she made that she was truly proud of and added her own twist to. Her husband Jon loves the Walnut Spatula. He says it’s perfect for cooking eggs. Their son Jack loves the Woodland Set, and their daughter Emma loves her Oak camera.
Sarah’s favorite product is the wooden bud vase. She learned a new technique on her lathe, and it was just a lot of fun to make. Her husband, Paul, really loves the wooden candlestick holders. Their son Amos loves the wooden sailboat, and daughter Birdie loves the wooden compass.
Tell us a little bit about each of your collections. Why did you start making certain products, toys, decor, and other products? Did you both need certain items? Did people ask for them, or did they naturally evolve over time?
I think it’s a combination of all those things. So sometimes ideas just pop into our heads, sometimes we see a need, or someone asks us to make something. Sometimes we see something we like and want to put our own spin on it. But one thing we're learning is that if we don’t like making something, we often won't continue to make it. We try to make things we are interested in or enjoy creating.
What are the best-selling products/products or collections?
Our stacking toys, cameras, compasses, coasters, and cheeseboards have always been crowd favorites!
How do your kids and family participate or support your business and work?
Our kids are often outside creating their own things with us. They give us ideas and enjoy playing with some of the toys we create. Our families often join us as we wrap up a market, and it’s always a good time with everyone under the tent.
To you, what makes working as a family-owned and run business special?
Being a family-owned business leaves so much room to include our family in our work, allows us to teach and show our kids what we create and teach them the skills one day. It’s easier to be transparent about our work and what we are learning. In some ways, we are also more accessible to our customers. Being a small family-owned business, we have the opportunity to share our values in a more intimate way with our families and community.
How does your perspective as parents affect how you go about work?
Our families definitely come before our work. We try to create a space where our kids can create and play near us when we need to work during the day. We often save our work for the evening times. During downtimes, we'll work. We'll use Marco Polo with business questions or ideas while prepping a meal or during naptime. Sometimes it means slowing down, creating less, or saying no to certain opportunities, but we understand that this is what this season has for us, and we are thankful for it.
What are your favorite tasks to do on the job? (creating new products, marketing, team meetings, shipping, connecting with customers? etc..)
We enjoy getting together to reflect and plan for sure. It is a sweet time to reflect on how the Lord has provided this gift for us and plan the next steps. We enjoy sketching and drawing up new pieces. Market day is also a lot of fun. We get to create a welcoming space for our customers, connect with people we've met on Social Media, or see people that have come to many of our popups and are out again showing us support.
What is Prodigal Handmade's mission?
Whether it is for your home, your friends, or your little ones, Prodigal Handmade strives to create beautiful, simple pieces that are affordable, accessible, long-lasting and made with intentionality.
In what ways do you want to see your business grow in the future?
Kristy would love to teach workshops for kids and women. Sarah envisions having wholesale partnerships with businesses. Both of us agree we want Prodigal Handmade to be a community that reaches far and wide.
Does Prodigal Handmade ship anywhere?
Yes! We ship nationwide when our store is open. Periodically, we will close the online shop, but we give plenty of warning on our social media accounts.
Anything else you want people to know about Prodigal Handmade? Any upcoming news/events/new products you want to share?
We are excited to partner with two new shops, Deco and Hartwell, in Raleigh this fall!
Where can people follow Prodigal Handmade on social media and purchase products?
We loved hearing how two moms and their families came together to create their own vision and family-owned business. We wish them all the luck and growth in the future! Visit FamilyApp for more family-related content and family business articles.