Tell me about yourself:
I am Heidi, owner and maker of products from The Smart Seed. I live in Lincoln, North Dakota, with my hubby of 13 years, our three kiddos (ages 8, 5, and 2), and our Shih Tzu pup (who acts more like a cat most days!). I learned to sew at a young age making 4H projects and gifts for family and friends. My sister and I even had a budding business making and selling hair scrunchies to our elementary school friends! As I grew up, my enjoyment of sewing continued as I made unique clothing, home décor items, and baby blankets, etc. One of my favorite reasons to sew has always been to make gifts for others. A few years ago, I decided to make flax seed heat packs for Christmas gifts. They were a great gift for family, friends, and teachers. Soon after Christmas, I started receiving requests to make more of them.
With the encouragement of my husband and co-workers, I decided to try my hand at starting a little side business. I was excited to use my sewing talents along with my enjoyment of graphic design to create a brand and go for it!
What did your business look like when you first started?
When I started The Smart Seed, I was a stay-at-home mama during the day; I worked part-time in the evenings/weekends; and I sewed during naptimes and late into the night. I started an online Etsy shop in February 2017 and sold at my first local vendor show in April 2017. I had two therapy pack sizes (shoulder wrap and eye pillow) along with aromatherapy pouches containing lavender or peppermint. Most of my first sales were from supportive family, friends, and co-workers; it was a pleasant surprise when I started to attract sales from customers across the United States!
Tell us about what you make now and why you love making it:
I continue to make the eye pillow and shoulder wrap (with some improvements to their size and weight). I have since added four additional therapy pack varieties: mini packs for kiddos, hot+cold packs, teddy bears, and XL body packs. Each design is inspired by requests from my customers for something specific to their needs. It is so rewarding to hear that someone has found relief or relaxation from using my products. I am proud to source my flax seed from North Dakota farmers and I make sure each product is well made and will stand the test of time (removable/washable covers!). There are many steps that go into making each product, but my favorite part has always been shopping for new fabrics. I am known for packing my cart to the max with bolts of fabric and keeping the fabric cutting table busy!
At what point did you decide your “hobby” had the potential to be a business?
After the first few months of running The Smart Seed, I decided to sign up for my first “big” show (the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase in Bismarck, ND). It had always been a dream of mine to sell at one of those shows, so I was excited and also very nervous. There were many unknowns, but the show was a BIG success. Not only did the sales exceed my expectations, but I was able to get my name out in front of retailers. In February 2018, I took on my first wholesale account at Terry’s Health Products in Bismarck, ND. The steady business was an answer to prayer in a time where our budget was tight, but we felt that God wasn’t done yet. We were thankful that my job allowed me to stay home with our kids during the day, but that often meant little family time in the evenings and weekends. Though there was uncertainty, we took a leap of faith and I left my part-time job in June 2018 to pursue The Smart Seed full-time. From that point, I have filled my schedule with local vendor/craft shows and added new retail partners in Bismarck, Minot, and Fargo.
How did you come up with the name of your business?
As I was researching the various kinds of materials used to make hot/cold packs (rice, wheat, corn, flax), I kept finding amazing reasons to use flax seed:
- Flax has a high oil content within the seed which allows it to retain heat longer than rice or wheat (which contain mostly water that evaporates from the grain).
- Flax seed is a smooth, small seed that conforms to the body.
- Flax does not produce a food-type smell when heated.
- Flax can also be stored in the freezer to use as a gentle ice pack.
As I thought about the benefits of flax, I thought those little seeds were pretty SMART! I also really enjoyed being creative with the logo design to incorporate the flax seed and “nerd” glasses. So, THE SMART SEED was born!
Who is someone you follow on Instagram that inspires you and why?
I am inspired by other moms who are managing their homes, families, AND rocking their businesses at the same time. I especially appreciate those who are transparent about their daily struggles and successes (with a good dose of humor!). A few of my favorite follows are @k8_smallthings, @jordanpage, and @okletsbehonest.
What has been a highlight since beginning your business?
It has been so fun to get to know other business owners and encourage one another. I love seeing the creativity of others and it inspires and drives me in my own business. I am also so proud to see my kids watch me pursue my dream and work hard at it. It means a lot to me when they get excited about my shows and want to come along to deliver an order. I even put the older kiddos to work putting stickers on products and stamping my logo on shopping bags (they LOVE every minute!). My hope is that they see how hard work, passion, and commitment really do pay off. It has also been incredible humbling to see the way that God has blessed every step of the way for this business. While my impatient heart can sometime fail to see the big picture (or miss the small details), when I look back I can see the ways in which He was working, protecting, and providing. By taking away the safety net of a regular paying job, my faith in God has been tested and strengthened.
What advice do you have to share with someone who may want to start a
Create a product that YOU love. Start by making it on a small scale and test the market with your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to “change lanes” once you get started. You’ll gain a lot of perspective as you listen to your customers’ needs and wants. If a certain product isn’t working, you can always change it. Surround yourself with supportive (but honest) people. Use social media or Pinterest to spark inspiration, but don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others (easier said than done!). Remember that you have something valuable to offer to this world that no one else can do…just go for it!
How can people purchase from you/connect with you?
My products are available for purchase in my Etsy Shop, at local vendor/craft shows (check out my Facebook page for upcoming events), and at the following retailers:
- Terry’s Health Products (Bismarck, ND)
- Tinee & Trendee (Bismarck, ND)
- Down Home General Store (Bismarck, ND)
- Elite Eye Care (Bismarck, ND)
- Mees Physical Therapy (Lincoln, ND)
- The Foundry (Minot, ND)
- Grateful Cratefulls (West Fargo, ND)
- The Country Clipper (Jamestown, ND)
You can follow me on Facebook to stay up-to-date on new products, special offers, and sales events.
A note from Melissa:
I will be featuring amazing makers here on the blog EVERY Friday!! Shopping handmade holds a special place in my heart; there is something that just feels so good when you look at an item you own that someone made by hand for you. I know you will love learning about these talented people and their brands too!
Are you a maker that would like to be featured? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will chat about the details!