Chair Whimsy Online Course Success with Wendy Conklin
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My guest today, Wendy Conklin, is showing up with wisdom sharing all of the creative and business courses she has created to successfully build and maintain a thriving full-time business called Chair Whimsy.
Wendy, mom of two daughters, lives in Round Rock, TX, started her business in 2014, and continues today using her passion for creating amazing furniture pieces of upholstered artwork in order to serve her clients. She started out blogging about mixing and matching patterns of fabric sharing it on her social media. She noticed the same questions coming up over and over about the same things. That is when she decided to give out the answers once and for all in the form of an online course. Her first course was born after a lot of research and deep dives with her followers and blog readers.
Chair Whimsy Courses
With a background in education, Wendy uses her teaching skills to effectively walk others through the creation process using step-by-step video tutorials in her courses.
Chair Whimsy Courses include:
- DIY Upholstery
- Fabric Mixology
- Business of Chairs
- Chair Styling
- Sourcing Swoon-Worthy Fabrics
- Just the Bottoms
- Creating with Color
- Mix it Like a Style Maven
She continued to build her email list over time using specific “freebies” as her optins. She still grows daily with her original optin “Get 24 chair upholstery ideas for your next project!” Wendy currently mails her list weekly and more often during a course launch. One of her success secrets is to use the “open/closed” method for launching her courses. There is a limited time in which one can join which causes students to take action and therefore creates more sales. She also adds to the excitement by creating a “wait list” for those that express interest in her courses.
Wendy has built each one of her courses over time to answer the specific needs of her audience. She offers an array of pricing and skill level to fit the needs and interests of all of her followers. Wendy didn’t let the technical side slow her down. She used the help of her VA’s to nail down the tech part of course creation.
In this episode, we cover:
- How Wendy got started with courses
- How she built her business on offering different levels of courses
- Advice for anyone who wants to create a course
- How to listen to your audience/readers
- Tips to grow an email list
- Importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded professionals
Links and resources mentioned during this episode:
- Visit Wendy’s website, Chair Whimsy
- All courses: https://chairwhimsy.com/courses/
- DIY Upholstery waitlist: https://chairwhimsy.com/upholstery-course-waitlist/
- The Business of Chairs: https://chairwhimsy.com/business-of-chairs-course/
- PINK Creatives Retreat: https://www.pinkcreatives.com/
- Connect with Wendy on Facebook and Instagram
- Connect with Melanie on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
- Liking the show? Write a review!
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Complete Transcript of this Episode
Welcome back to the podcast. This week it is my pleasure to introduce you all to Miss Wendy Conklin of Chair Whimsy. Wendy has been busy with her amazing business for eight years. She lives in a little town called Round Rock, Texas. I have mentioned that over on the blog before. And she has two lovely daughters that are similar to my kids, age 24 and 21, and lives there with her husband in the most awesome home ever. I can’t believe I’ve been to Wendy’s house, but I’ve never met you until now. Wendy, welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having me, Melanie.
I’m so excited to hear all about your journey with this business and how you got started. So tell us a little bit about the beginning.
So it kind of all began, which is taking a couple of upholstery courses just for fun. And I already had another career in education. I was an author and a trainer, and I used to be a teacher before that, so I did a lot of traveling. And so just for fun, I wanted to take some upholstery courses to learn how to do it the correct way because I had learned kind of on my own just trying to figure out and it was so much harder that way than it was actually when I learned. So it started as just a hobby. And after I finished a couple of courses, I decided to sell some chairs and kind of see 1s could I make some money just for fun. So I opened an etsy shop and like within two weeks, I got my first sale. And then I got another sale not too long after that, and I started thinking, oh, I wonder if this could be a thing. And so then began the journey for about six years of trying to make it my day job and being able to quit my day job to do it full time.
So you did eventually quit the education job, and now you are full time with Chair Whimsy. Tell us what that looks like.
So, I mean, it looks like creating content is my main job. I mean, I create a lot of all my social content from YouTube to Pinterest and Instagram, Tik tok and Facebook. I also do chair orders as well. And I’ve just in the past couple of years began offering courses. So I teach other people how to do upholstery. So I have a DIY upholstery for beginners and that course opens and closes a couple of times a year.
I’ve got other courses like sourcing swoonworthy fabrics because my number one question is where do you get your fabrics? So I created just like a mini $37 course that shows how to hunt online for really great fabrics, even if you don’t have a trade account.
And I’ve got other courses like Mix it like a Style Maven is my brand new one. And that is all about using more color and patterns in your home, your tabletop and your clothes. Because I find that we love color but we’re afraid to use it or we don’t know how to use it or we feel intimidated by it, especially in what we wear. But even like just doing simple things for your tablescapes, nothing that has to be super elaborate but easy. Things that can just bring joy to your life on a daily basis, the kinds of pillows that you have in your home, much less the chairs, just think about any kind of textile and where you can add in your home and to add more color and pizzaz because we know that color makes us happier and just a lot of us are afraid to do it, just don’t know how to do it. And so it’s kind of a mini course on that. And that one is only $57.
So I’ve got a lot of small little courses. I’ve got a chair styling course. It’s $19 and so little things like that and then all the way up to I have a business course. So anyone who wants to do the business of chairs wants to learn how to flip and sell.
I have a course like that that’s more high end. And then I have a business retreat for creative business owners and so that’s my super high end offer. And that’s going to be happening in October. We just did one in April. So 1s that encompasses all the things that I do. It’s a lot. It really is.
It is a lot. It sounds fabulous. I am loving your tiers of offers and I just want to kind of backtrack to the beginning. So you started out with this, what I would say would be sort of like a hobby aside thing where you did this upholstery for others and kept your job and then you decided to see if you could make it into an actual business and voila, you did. So then you started listening audience, it sounds like you said that that was your number one question, was about fabrics and things like that. And so you decided to create these courses. Tell me a little bit about that process of starting that first course.
Yeah. So I was in a business kind of not a mastermind, but a business coaching group. And my coach had challenged me to you should create a course on teaching other people how to post. And I’m like, Nobody wants to learn that from me. I was like, they could just go to YouTube and learn for free and piece together videos and stuff. And I just couldn’t see the point. And she was like she really pressured me into it. And so I put out a post on Social one day, and I said, would anyone want to learn if I were to do a course or whatever? Would you want to learn from me? And I couldn’t believe how many people said yes. I was expecting it’s going to be crickets today, but this really surprised me.
And so I said, okay. I looked around for other online courses and the way I wanted to teach it, and I couldn’t find anything like that. Because I’m a teacher, I think of things going in consecutive order. You do one thing, then that leads to the next, and that leads to the next. That’s how I think, that’s how I learned best. And of course, you need a lot of visuals and you need your hands on. And so I decided, okay, because I was looking for something, thinking, how can I model my course after something? Why couldn’t find it? So I just thought, okay, if I was going to learn this online, What does it look like? How do I do this?
So I just kind of reverse engineered, put together the steps, had someone come over, and we filmed out my studio and really learned along the way. 1s And then by the time we got to the end of the of filming, we went back to the first video and realized we need to refilm that because we got so much better at the end and I forgot some things. So we redid it, and this past year I just refilmed it again because there were things I wanted to add, I wanted to update, and so I was able to do that and release that in January. So it was just kind of figuring out how do people learn?
And listening to the feedback that I get from people asking them for feedback was really important. I have a survey at the end of the course because I want to know, what did you like, what did you not like? What could be better? What are you still wondering? So getting that kind of feedback from my audience is really important. But listening to an audience is key to knowing what to offer them.
And you have to ask. You have to be willing to ask them. You have to be willing to sometimes I open a new course and it doesn’t do as well as I would think it would, but I end up using it in a different way than I had initially thought. So it’s just trying to pay attention to what people need in your audience, what they want from you and serving them. So that’s kind of how I view everything I do.
Yes. And you do have a servant’s heart, Wendy. I love it. Tell us a little bit, just a little bit about the technical. So when you went to start this course, what platform did you use? Was it difficult? Do you have to learn something new?
So I have used Kajabi because it’s easy. I mean, there’s lots of great platforms. I think Kipping is good. A lot of people use a lot of other ones, and I think there’s plenty of good ones. I just went with this one because I wanted something reliable. I didn’t want any tech issues because I am not a tech person like that. I don’t fix things in that way. And so I’ve been really happy with it so far. I probably would have been happy with some others, but Kajabi has been great.
I had my copywriter and my website designer really hold my hand through the first, well, the creation of it, how to launch it, how to send emails and things like that. Both of them were instrumental in helping me. So I think it’s really important to have people like that, whether they’re virtual assistants or whatever, the people you already work with, which is who I used to be able to help you set up your courses, unless you’re just a techie, and you love doing that kind of thing.
Although I don’t think these sites are really hard to set up the courses on. I’ve done small mini courses myself on them. 1s Without help. So yes, it’s kind of realizing it’s talking to yourself. Like I have to talk myself off the cliff and say, alright, it’s not rocket science, how do I figure this out?
There’s tons of videos out there to help you do that kind of stuff too. So yes, it is learning some new things, but also being open to figuring it out and realizing this is not super hard to do. A lot of times we build things up in our head that it’s too hard to do, but it’s really not.
I agree. And so you took the words out of my mouth. Launching and marketing. What was the next step when you went to go launch your first course? What did you do in the way of marketing?
Yeah, it was all organic social posting and emailing. So both of those. So I emailed my list and I do like, I think if you have an email list, you need to email them. You don’t just have a list and not serve them, you need to email them. And I do email once a week is what I do.
Every Sunday afternoon, my people get an email from me, I tell them about the news of the week. If I have something new to share with them, it’s usually a YouTube episode or a new blog. Maybe I have a new course coming out or I’ve been on a podcast or something like that. So I always announced to them so they can be served in some way if they’re wondering about a live that I did on Instagram. Talking about creative businesses and how to grow your creative business or different streams of income. I always try to include those things in the weekly email, but definitely when you launch something like a course, you have to email your people and you have to post. That means in stories on your feed, doing videos.
And so this past year I’ve joined TikTok back in February or January, I joined TikTok and I joined YouTube at the same time. It’s just being on all the platforms, letting everybody know, hey, this is happening. And it’s hard. This sounds easy until you have to do it. And it is hard. And it’s not hard to actually do. It’s hard mentally to do. It’s what it is, it’s a head game. It’s a mind game because you think, oh, I’m just bugging people, I’m bothering them. No, you’re not.
People have a very short attention span and they forget and you just have to remind and hey, I’m out here with my course, it’s open this week only, or whatever. And so some of my courses stay open all year, but with my Upholstery course, and I have a course that kind of goes with the fabric mixology that you can add on. Those courses open and close. And when you have a higher end product like that, I have found that these pressure launches is what they’re called, because they open and close are the best way to get people enrolled in your course because they have a limited amount of time to get in, otherwise it’s going to close down and they’ll have to wait till the next time. And so I’ve had a wait list that I email that list, but I really email my whole list minus the people already in the course because they don’t need to get those emails. So I think that that’s important too. It’s just paying attention to that.
It’s a head game. It’s making yourself do the thing that you don’t want to do because it’s like you’re bugging people or they’ll unsubscribe from your list. And you know what, if they don’t want to be in your courses and to hear from you in that way, yeah, they’re not the right people to be on your list. And that’s okay. There are plenty of other lists that they can be on, and I think it’s just learning that that’s okay. You don’t have to be friends with everybody, and I certainly don’t want to bug anyone. So if you don’t want to be on my list, please unsubscribe.
Exactly. I agree. Wendy, back when you first got started, because it sounds like all of these good things came about because you had an audience. So how did you start attracting the people at the very beginning? What did you do?
Well, I did start my blog back in 2014, and that’s what started my email list. So, of course, I can’t remember there were just a couple of people on my email list at the time, mostly friends, and they were all super supportive. But over time, it just began to grow, and so I used my blog in that way. And then back in 2018, I started with a freebie how to get the chairwhimsy aesthetic in your own home. So I showed all these different ways with my chairs, different dining rooms, and I gave them all a name of what I love. And I still have that freebie on my website, but over time, I have offered different kinds of freebies.
I have a whole freebie page. It’s almost ridiculous. And we do take the ones down that don’t tend to perform very well. But I have like 24 chair upholstery ideas for your next project. So there are all these great things of fabric combinations that boy, I feel like I gave away the farm right there kind of thing. It’s like 24 different combinations of fabrics and what their names so people can go find them just to give unusual ideas to people.
So I have my favorite upholstery tools as a freebie on there. I have a really fun one. It’s called Camper Revamper. And so last week on my YouTube channel, I had a tour of my camper. Well, I had created this Camper Revamper because I redid the inside of my little chassis camper last year. I created a freebie on that, and people can see all the products and find out where to get them. I wasn’t gifted any of those. I bought everything myself. So I wish I was gifted all of it, but I wasn’t. But I just like to do makeovers that’s my fun space and then if I could share it with my audience, they like it too. And so being able to offer the freebies has really grown my list.
But also having a waitlist for my courses has really grown my list as well. So my DIY upholstery for Beginners does have a waitlist and ongoing wait list that people get on if they want to get the emails and they want to get notifications. So I usually let them know with a preview email, hey, this is coming. Be ready if you’re interested in because you’re going to get my emails this next week. I tried to let them know, especially for things like that, but all of those things have grown my email list.
And at the beginning, did you have any social?
Yes. So back in 2013, I think I started my Facebook business account and my Instagram account, I think in 2014 was my Instagram. So I started with both of those. And I’ve been really faithful about posting. And I do my own posts. Nobody else is doing my post. It is me, it is my voice, it is my writing, because I feel like that’s really important to me. It’s about connecting with people.
And I know that a lot of people will never buy my chairs because they’re too expensive. But now I have a course. You can make your own if you want. And even some people won’t even take my course, but they just need a dose of joy every day. And I need fans, too. I think we need all of those things. And so it’s been a really fun journey to grow my audience in that way, to be very authentic and transparent with them. Yeah, it’s really been fun. I’ve met a lot of very interesting people online and in person because of it, you know?
And speaking of meeting people, tell me a little bit about your fandom. Like, did you get interviewed by HGTV?
I was in HGTV magazine back in the March April edition. Yeah, that was huge. That was really fun. I’ve been in Cottages and Bungalows, Women’s World, Next for Women, Austin Home and so I can’t even list all the ones off the top of my head. But, yeah, it’s been really fun. When you get in magazines, it’s a great credibility marker, but it doesn’t make you money like you would think that it maybe does get me a few customers in my courses, but it doesn’t necessarily get sales in general, so it’s more for credibility and so you just kind of realize that is what it is for what it is.
And did they reach out to you or was that a marketing effort?
Oh, no, we’re always pitching. So yeah, I’m always pitching, trying to make connections. Who has a connection with somebody? Because really you’ll get into a lot of magazines. I’ve gotten some by cold pitching, but those are in general, the smaller ones, the bigger ones, like HGTV magazine or Cottages and Bungalows, it is who you know and getting them to make an introduction 1s and also having a good product for them. So you have to be ready on this end with something great. It’s not just who you know and you’re automatically in no, you have to have something good to offer, but it really is who you know.
Now, I had a publicist that worked with me last year and she’s also a fellow person in my Mastermind that also pay to be a part of. So we’re both in it and she’s a publicist. So we worked together for about nine months and she got me some she got me in Women’s World and Next for Women and we got in Forbes Online and BuzzFeed and Thrive Global. So we got in some really good publications there outside of the home in Decor Market. So that was really fun because I really wanted to round out where I’m seen to show more credibility in that way.
I love it. I love it. You’ve been a wealth of information, Wendy. I super appreciate you. Where can the listeners find you online?
Yeah. So you can find me on all my social handles. It’s at chairwimsy. Chairwimsy.com is my website. I’ve got my blog on there. I’ve got my chairs on there. I’ve got all my courses and things like that on there, too. So if people are interested in and finding out more about that or my business retreat that I’m doing in October, they can go to that. That’s also called pinkcreatives.com.
Wendy, let me ask you a final question. If you could give yourself some amazing advice back when you first got started, what would you tell yourself?
Oh, gosh. All right. I would say that you need to get into a coaching group or some kind of mastermind. When we all start out, none of us have any money and it’s very hard to afford something. But that was the turning point for my business when I did that and forked over the money that I didn’t think that I had, I put it on my credit card. Like, I don’t know if I can do this, but I worked really hard and I paid off the credit card within a couple of months.
Because getting that outside advice from not only your coach, but other people in the group that can give you ideas is invaluable for growing your business, helping you to learn things and not make all the mistakes. I mean, that’s why I run my business of chairs the way I do. It’s sort of like a coaching style with modules, too, because it’s all the things I needed to know that I didn’t know that I needed to know.
Plus just answering the questions, like, how do you even ship a chair across the United States? All of that. Anyway, I would say get into a coaching group. And I like groups because you get more ideas for more people, not just one person. So that’s just my bias on that. I just know how much has benefited me and my family.
I love your bias. I think that that’s super, super smart, and wise to surround yourself with, like-minded, individuals that are all going in the same direction. So, Wendy, thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate you, and I will see you soon.