Next up in our entrepreneur series is Amanda Brown of Spruce. I really cannot say enough about this girl and her team. Whether it’s talking about furniture at her shop or gabbing over a glass of wine, I love hearing and learning from this savvy Austin owner. Go to her website, go by her workshop/store and buy her new book!
KK: A female-run upholstery business is rare. How was the dream for Spruce born?
AB: In 2007, I was knee-deep in grant writing for the Austin Symphony and realized I needed a more creative outlet for my everyday life — there are only so many knitted mittens one can complete on the weekend! Originally, Spruce was a retail venture. My love for history, interior design, and textiles drew me to refurbished vintage retail, but after many months of contracting out upholstery projects, I recognized a larger need on the service side of things. A few months later I was enrolled in upholstery classes at ACC, helping new clients, and combining brightly-colored textiles with manual labor to create reimagined and inspired vintage furniture.
KK: What’s the most challenging thing about owning your own business? What’s the most rewarding?
AB: Owning a business is a bit like giving a speech to a room full of people…naked. There’s no corporate shield to hide behind and no team meetings to get you through forks in the road. Time is nowhere to be found and money is something you learn to live without. It’s a serious struggle at first, but with it comes new customers, employees, and prospects that make every day new and exciting. I would have never thought six years ago that I’d be blogging about fun DIY projects or writing a book about redoing my own living room and getting paid to do it. It’s such a luxury to create your own path and work.
KK: What do you love about Austin as the home of your business, marketplace, clients?
AB: Austin is full of young, energetic, forward-thinking people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, which is the perfect Spruce client. This blog post is a perfect example of how Austin operates — businesses collaborate instead of compete, and consumers are attracted by handmade, homegrown, and locally sourced goods and services. In Austin, it’s more about the mission and people behind an establishment than the bottom dollar.
KK: What’s the best advice or greatest lesson you’ve learned.
AB: Be adaptable. My absolute favorite movie is You’ve Got Mail. Since college, I’ve wanted Kathleen Kelly’s life: a daily walk through the fall leaves (with Starbucks in hand) to a little retail shop just around the corner. But the niche I discovered didn’t include any of that, besides the Starbucks. I morphed from retail to service and education, and I’m convinced Spruce has survived because of that. At first, it seemed like a sacrifice to give up my cute little retail store, but I found the same fulfillment, and maybe more, without it. I make things with my hands every day and wake up and walk my own path. Wasn’t that my original goal? Joy!
KK: You have a book coming out. Tell us more about that.
AB: Two years of writing, making, and waiting come to fruition in late October! Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design is 400-pages thick with every upholstery tip and trick I’ve learned over the past six years. Because design is such an integral part of what makes Spruce’s upholstery exciting, the how-to is combined with design to makeover an entire living room with the projects from the book. On October 25, the Sprucettes and I celebrate the book release at Mockingbird Domestics with a launch party (please join us!). Then we’ll hit the road for three weeks to teach upholstery classes from Nashville to New Orleans.
Top Images by Cole Collective