For the final installment of our Small Shop Spotlight Series, I am so excited to welcome Haleigh DeRocher from Sweet Sequels to the blog today! My birthday and Christmas wish list this year was 90% items from her shop. I mean, a 221B Baker Street t-shirt? Yes, please. Narnia book sleeves? Obviously. Middle Earth blanket? Is that even a question? So without further ado, allow me to introduce the brains behind this business: Haleigh. Stay at home mom, entrepreneur extraordinaire, and serious book lover. Enjoy the interview, and scroll down to the bottom for a link to Sweet Sequels!
Hi Haleigh! Thank you so much for joining me for an interview! It is such a pleasure to feature your shop this month. Your artwork is astounding. I am constantly showing your Instagram photos to my family in amazement. How long have you been painting? Did you have any professional lessons in art, or did it just come naturally?
Thank you! I have been painting for as long as I can remember. I loved art of all sorts when I was little. In high school I really began focusing on painting. Back then I did mainly oils, but in college, my style and preferences further developed and I found my favorite medium – acrylic paint and india ink, which is what I use to this day. I am essentially self taught as an artist, other than high school art classes and one Intro to Drawing class in college. I come from a long line of creative women, though, so I think it was my destiny to be an artist 😉
So, Sweet Sequels. Tell me how it got started. Did you always want to have a small business using your artwork? Or was it something that just fell in your lap?
I started my business a few months after graduating college. I majored in English, but I didn’t want the typical type of career that comes from that degree. So I started spending a lot of time planning and making lists, and eventually opened up a little Etsy shop with just a few eclectic handmade/hand-painted items and not a whole lot of direction. When I was in high school and college imagining my future, I didn’t necessarily see myself running a small business from home (I always thought I’d be a writer). I always knew I wanted to work out of the home, though, whether writing novels or selling art or just being a stay at home mom. After I really found my niche and direction as an artist/business owner and my shop began gaining traction, I knew it was what I was meant to do with my life.
How did you get the name for your shop?
I actually rebranded in 2016 after my son was born. When I opened, my shop was called Peels and Posies but it just didn’t fit with my growth and the direction my products had taken. I wanted my shop name to reflect the parallel between the reading life and our real lives – what happens between the pages. In some ways, our lives are like the sequels of the books we read; we take in the knowledge and stories found in books like sponges and are changed in some way or another, even if very little. This is obviously not something that the regular person who comes upon my shop would realize, but it was also just important to have a shop name that alluded to my main inspiration – BOOKS.
When you started your shop, did you have any idea how successful it would be?
Of course I had hopes, but they were distant. I mainly wanted something that could occupy my free time and satisfy my creative urge. I don’t think I could have anticipated the success I’ve reached at this point. I never really planned on having a traditional job because my number one priority has always been to be able to stay home with my children. But Sweet Sequels has actually given me an income and allowed my family so much more freedom in our finances. I feel incredibly blessed.
I know you are more than just a shop owner, as your sweet little ones are featured every now and then in your photos. How did business change after Abe and June were born? How do you manage to do it all? Share your secrets!
I mark the coming of Abe as a huge cornerstone in my business. It wasn’t until he was born that I really started creating products that I loved and actually got use out of myself. When he was a few months old I was inspired to make him a baby book that was all about literature. And that was the beginning of my Baby’s Guides. He was also the biggest inspiration for my blankets – because I wanted something nerdy for him to snuggle in. June, being the second, might be even luckier because she got ALL the goodies from the very beginning! I don’t know where my business would have gone if I had never had kids, all I know is that they inspire me every single day. As far as managing a business while also being a stay-at-home mom – I won’t say it’s easy. It’s a lot of sacrifice and late nights working. I don’t work during the day, so my “work day” starts at about 8:30pm! But I am passionate about both being present for my kids and creating bookish art and useful products for all of you wonderful bookworms out there. So I wouldn’t change it for the world!
You have a lot of products featuring Tolkien and Lewis quotes and themes. What are your favorite things about these two authors in particular? If you had to choose which one was your favorite of the two, who would you pick?
I really admire both Tolkien and Lewis for their incredible talent to create worlds with their writing and their inspiring faith. I think Lewis has the upperhand in my book. His books resonate with me deeply, and not just the Narnia series. One of my favorite books of all time is Till We Have Faces, but I enjoy every single book of his that I have read. I particularly enjoy his apologetics work; there is so much wisdom in his writing and so much to learn.
And just for fun… which of their fictional characters is your favorite. My personal favorite character in Tolkien’s work is Pippin, but Samwise comes very close. And for Lewis… definitely Aravis from The Horse and His Boy.
I think my favorite character in Lord of the Rings is Gandalf. Throughout the story, his presence is comforting and sure. However, I also LOVE Tom Bombadil. Such a unique and mystifying character. As for Lewis, my favorite character is perhaps Lucy, for her steadfastness and kindness throughout the story. I also love Tumnus and of course Aslan (total no-brainer).
Lastly, what would be a piece of advice you would give to a new artist looking to open a shop?
If you wait until you think you’re “ready” you will never open up a shop. If you have an idea and you want to start a store, then just do it! And you may not start making a steady stream of sales immediately – that’s okay too. It takes time to grow an idea and establish a business, and if it is something that brings you joy, then never give up!!
Thank you so much for joining me! It was a pleasure to have you!
Go ahead and get started on that Christmas shopping now, by heading over to Sweet Sequels! www.etsy.com/shop/SweetSequels