Sometimes inspiration for a successful venture comes from someone else’s work. That’s what happened when Shawn Hull was shopping with a friend and came across some custom-made dinnerware with simple drawings on it.
“I loved the idea of hand drawings transferred onto porcelain,” said Shawn.
She had always been artistic, working in the theater as an actor and director and helping with community outreach. But drawing and creating products seemed like a great idea and something she could involve her husband in as well.
“I started by doing a ton of research to find out how to transfer a drawing onto china,” she explained. From there, Shawn came up with the idea to create a line of pottery that celebrates family milestones such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and births.
Her first creation was a Bridal Bouquet plate that she made for her brother-in-law who was getting married. “He loved it and it gave me the validation I needed to move forward,” she said.
Shawn created other designs and transferred them to plates, platters and cups. In addition to the Bridal Bouquet, she drew what she called Apple Tree Fine, Apple Tree Folk, ‘Tree of Life and Sweethearts.
Starting with very little investment, Shawn posted her designs on the crafty web site Etsy.com. This allowed her to manage a store front without having to create one. Her designs started to sell and then something big happened.
“A reporter from the New York Times was doing a story on interesting custom gifts for new couples and found our things on Etsy,” she recalled. “We were featured in the wedding section–it created a big buzz and lots of orders.”
Despite the increase in orders, Shawn was able to deliver everything within her normal time frame of two to four weeks. “In the beginning, we used a friend’s kiln to fire all our work, but as our business developed, we invested in our own kiln.”
Shawn started marketing her customized dishes at a crafts fair, but realized it was the wrong venue. “People like to leave ( a craft fair) with something (in hand) but our designs are customized. Shoppers often wouldn’t have all the details of the event or the correct spelling of things they wanted on the gift.”
They soon realized they needed a web site. Shawn’s husband is the techy one of the family, so he built an e-commerce site for them to showcase their newly-named company – Happiest Days Designs.
One of their best sellers is the Story of Us Hearts which is a larger bowl in the shape of a heart and smaller hearts placed inside. The smaller hearts have special events in the couple’s lives written on the hearts and can be added to the bowl over time. “Many of our customers are repeat customers who shop for other friends or for more events in their own lives,” said Shawn.