New friends and fellow makers, there are three things in this moment that I am sure of: my name is Ashley, I’m the proud owner/operator of “The Legendary Skunk” and I am very excited, to say the least, about what this new chapter has in store. Getting here has certainly proven tough, and at times business came to a complete stop. It’s been positive at times, but my growth both as a person and as a business owner always seemed to be the focus.
For as far back as my memory goes, I’ve been drawn to all things creative. I learned to crochet when I was 9 years old, my step mom at the time taught me the basics and it was love at first loop. One could assume that learning to crochet is what really jump-started my interest in crafts, and I can only imagine it was a snowball effect until creating things became a major source of joy. Fast forward to high school, not much has changed except that I realized how great I was at blending into the background. I almost made it through high school without trace, but a random urge was about to change a lot more than I could have known.
On a whim, I decided to do quite the opposite of blending in. Instead, I dyed a thick white strip straight down the back of my head. Just as quickly as the dye bleached my hair, I was no longer Ashley. Friends, family and strangers alike would forever know me as Skunk. Before Skunk, my creative tendencies were nothing more than a way to pass the time. The want to start my own shop was there before Skunk, but I guess it was just a leap I wasn’t ready to take. I don’t know if something in the hair dye changed my mind or if my mindset had changed with my name. Regardless of reasoning, all it took for me to take that leap was a little time to think it through paired with some encouragement from friends. What started as a simple change in hair color ended up giving me a nick name I’ll carry for life and inspiring the name for my very first Etsy shop. “The Legendary Skunk” was open for business.
I tried to mentally prepare myself for the challenges I would face as “new shop on the block”. I soon found that there are several things I couldn’t have prepared for. It was the first sink or swim situation that I faced, and I’m not ashamed to say that I sunk. At the time it was devastating but looking back it all makes sense. I opened my shop as crochet only, and at the time I was novice at best. Offering strictly crocheted items led to my shop being restricted to seasonal sales only. That was an extremely tough pill to swallow. I didn’t let it break me, though. I made every effort to persevere and remain optimistic despite the discouragement that lingered in the back of my head.
Just a short while later my boyfriend, who I’ll refer to as R, and myself decided that it was time to try something new. When I say new, I don’t mean moving to the next state over. Together as a team, we threw caution to the wind and made the long, long move to Tucson, Arizona. I made the move as a young adult and I was very ill-prepared. As it turned out, Tucson was exactly what we needed at just the right time. The first few years, the store stayed about the same. Orders were coming in very slowly despite my best efforts to draw in customers. It was very discouraging and would have likely led to my demise. Luckily, I decided to introduce a new product – boot cuffs. I felt like I hit the maker jackpot. Orders were flying in and, despite the premature arthritis I seemed to develop, life was good. The shop was doing well which gave me a much-needed confidence boost. For the first time since I opened the shop, I felt like I could do it. I found myself venturing out of my comfort zone. I started trying several different types of DIY. I started producing crop tops, marimo jewelry, resin plugs, you name it. I was comfortable enough that I let my personality show in my work. Due to my undying love for Entomology, I raise insects at my house. When they’d pass on, I had the idea to use the husks they left behind. I cast them into different jewelry and found myself enjoying my work more than ever.
For two years orders were flying in and the store was a major blessing. Around that same time, I picked up a full-time job at a bank nearby. My shop was mostly made-to-order, so I had to keep my inventory stocked. Enter the issue of a one-bedroom that didn’t have an inch of extra space. Lack of space to keep enough inventory paired with more orders than I had the material for, I started to fall behind. It started as being late on orders and eventually caused me to have to issue refunds and apologies. Knowing that I lost the trust of a customer base I worked so hard for was very hard for me to handle. If ever there were a time to step away, that was it. The place I was in and the hours I was working would’ve have never allowed for a successful shop. With a heavy heart, I stepped away from what I loved more than anything. I told myself that as soon as I was in a position to do so, I would relaunch. That meant room for inventory, an office space and a job where I was working normal business hours.
During my absence, I spent a lot of time focusing on where things went wrong. I looked at everything in depth and planned a comeback that would ensure things wouldn’t go wrong again. I took the time to think about what I was offering my customers. First and foremost, my products. Would I offer all of the same things? Would I try something new, or should I try offering patterns instead of products? I also spent a lot of time thinking about opening a yarn shop, and even taught myself how to spin my own yarn. I’ve not known another feeling as satisfying as making something out of nothing. The love I have for yarn is hard to put into words, but I know there’s a couple makers out there that can relate.
Tucson was good to us for 7 years, but it was never meant to be a permanent location. We knew we wanted to migrate back to Kentucky, so the house search was on. Shortly after, I was given the opportunity to buy my grandmother’s house. Not only was it right when we needed it, but if there ever were a woman in my family with creative bones, it was my grandma. As if it didn’t already feel like there was some positive force working in our favor, my grandma’s house sits on 3 acres of land. This suddenly opened the door for a lifelong dream: I’m pursuing my love for yarn by owning and operating a wool based hobby farm. After several months and a trip to a mini farm in Tucson, we decided to buy the house. After another long year, a grueling loan process and a three-day drive back to Kentucky, we have claimed our new home. Since then, R and I have gotten married. We’re working hard whenever possible to get our farm ready for production, and we’ve managed to plan out most everything we want to do. We’ll eventually get the house to where it’s at least partially self-sufficient. That will include farm fresh veggies and eggs. We’ve got three ducklings right now and will have more very soon. We’re going to plant fruit trees and shrubs to have made into organic, pesticide-free preserves.
We can’t open the gates to any furry friends because the barn is no where close to usable. We’ve got to clear out the disaster that was left for us before we can even think about getting animals. My grandma’s hoarding mess paired with the trash that’s been carelessly dumped will be quite the task. It doesn’t help that we have to wait for cooler weather to start on it in order to avoid snakes. The list could go on, I’m sure. It’s a giant piece of work, but it’s our piece of work. Yes, we have a ton of work ahead of us, but I couldn’t be more excited and optimistic.
Allowing myself to step away from the thing I loved most allowed me to reassess and plan a future that won’t fail me. In taking this time to myself, I’ve eliminated myself from the shop scene. I’ll have to start fresh in every way, but that’s a good thing. I don’t want my past failures to reflect negatively on the plans I have for my family and our farm. The reason I applied to be a part of this incredibly inspiring community is to share things that I would normally keep to myself. As scary as failure can be, it’s a part of knowing success. I truly believe that until you’ve become acquainted with failure, you can’t truly know success. So here’s to the not-so-pretty side of chasing a dream. Sometimes you have to fail, take a step back and then come back ten times harder.
With all of that being said, I hope you’re able to take something away from this. I’ll continue to work hard and fight harder for my dream, but only if you all do the same. Keep pushing, persevere and just breathe a little. Thank you for taking the time to get to know me a bit, I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all.
If anyone would like to follow our progress here on the farm you can visit my website www.thelegendaryskunk.com or follow me on Instagram at instagram.com/Thelegendaryskunk