Updated: Jun 11, 2022
This is my ninth year in business and this crazy adventure is still so surreal to me. How is it possible that I could be so blessed to get to do what I love every single day? I have a lot of people ask me how I started doing this, and to be honest, the entire 8 years has been a learning experience that has evolved over time.
When I started my business nine years ago, I was in between jobs as a per diem LPN. I loved working per diem because that meant that I had a little freedom to request time off to travel around the Midwest for a few months every Fall to go hunting and take a few weeks off every Spring to go shed hunt. When I returned from my Midwest hunting season that year (like every other year) I was completely broke and wasn’t sure how I was going to pay my bills. The winter in the Adirondacks is long and cold, and boredom sets in easily, so I randomly decided to restart an old hobby of mine and dabble in some jewelry making. I thought maybe I could sell a few pieces to help pay some bills if I was lucky, and if not, it would at least give me the creative outlet that I had been craving for awhile. I didn’t have any money, so I looked into my closet and sold some clothes on Facebook Marketplace that I wore as a bartender and no longer needed (my first career before becoming a nurse) and used the $50 to buy beads and supplies to make my first pieces.
My first pieces were very simple and required only a few tools to create-beaded bracelets, earrings, cuff bracelets made from leather belts I found at thrift stores, and macrame bracelets. I incorporated antler into every single piece and used antlers from my collection that I had found shed hunting. Incorporating antlers into every piece and combining my love for crafting and hunting was very important to me. I made quite a few pieces, and practiced sanding and burning on the antler (something that is really not easy to get used to, especially the smell) before taking the leap and posting them to my personal Facebook to see what people thought of the jewelry. I was excited to see that people seemed interested, and decided that I was going to start a Facebook page for my new found side gig and try to sell some pieces and gain some followers. Since I was incorporating antler into every piece and it was hunting themed jewelry for women, I decided to give myself the name The Antlered Doe. Everything after that was a complete exciting whirlwind.
I launched my Facebook page and Etsy store on February 1st, and I was (what I thought anyway) gaining followers pretty quickly. By the end of the week I already had a few hundred followers and I had sold enough pieces to pay my car payment that month. It was literally a dream and very exciting. The local paper called me and asked to do an interview with me and ask me about the jewelry. I gained even more Facebook followers and sold more pieces after the article was published. I made enough to pay my student loan payment, and used the rest of the money to buy my first rotary tool. As strange as it sounds, I had always dreamt of making rings and thought carving a ring out of deer antler might be the way that I could make it happen. After 3 hours, I carved my first ring-a simple band. I sat down and burnt a feather on it and covered it in high build polyurethane and marveled at it. I took a simple cell phone photo and posted it to my Facebook page and it was the most successful post my page had at that point. I immediately started trying to come up with other ring designs and brainstorming on what other elements I could incorporate into the designs. The next day I was starting the training for a new job at a nursing home.
When I walked into the nursing home and entered the training room, something was pulling me away. I had been a nurse for a few years at that point and worked extremely hard to earn my license and I truly loved it, but I could not stop thinking about the jewelry. I didn’t get excited about nursing like I did making the jewelry. Sitting down at my desk and being creative made me feel so happy. As the OSHA training videos played, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much time this job would take away from my crafting. When a nurse took us on a tour of the building and informed us that he was so excited to have new nurses joining the staff because of being so short-staffed and constantly being stuck in overtime, I really started to panic. How would I ever find time to learn how to carve if I was always working? I only had $100 in my bank account and a dream. We went on a lunch break and I never went back and haven’t looked back since.
When you take a giant leap of faith and throw yourself to the wolves you either sink or swim. I was determined to make it work and became obsessed with carving. I carved until my hands locked up and I couldn’t move my fingers any more. Day after day I carved and came up with new ring designs. After coming up with a pretty wide variety of designs and getting all outstanding orders from my Etsy store out, I headed to the Midwest to do some shed hunting. At that point I was still not in the greatest situation with the business, but was determined to keep learning and make it a success. Fate works in mysterious ways and I didn’t know it yet, but my life was about to seriously change because of one simple shout out from another business owner.
I always kept a pretty close watch on my business page, so when I checked on it while I was in a field looking for sheds and saw that I suddenly had 50 new followers I was pretty alarmed. I refreshed and 100 more. I refreshed again and 100 more. I literally almost fainted. I couldn’t even believe it. What was going on? Not only that, but all of the sudden orders started coming in from Etsy. I honestly just couldn’t believe it. I had no idea where all of this was coming from, until someone commented “Real Hunters Wives sent me! I love your jewelry!!” After doing some Facebook digging I discovered that it was another small female owned and operated business. To this day I don’t think the owner, Stephanie Hill, has any idea just how much that meant to me. I kept in touch with Stephanie for several years before she closed her business and learned so much from her. My business skills and understanding of social media has definitely grown and evolved over the years along with my carving skills. The business has given me happiness that I never thought was possible and it has been such a gift to document my skills improving throughout the years.
I guess my advice is that if you have a dream, chase it. You really never know what it will lead to.