Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger

Katie’s story began as she was learning to fly airplanes. As with most entrepreneurs, when she should have been studying for something sensible, she was instead innovating and thinking about her life in new ways.

To be fair, it’s not quite accurate to state that her story began just then. Katie had plenty of stories worthy of documenting and sharing before she learned to fly in rural Montana. The difference was simply the realization that she had important stories to tell, and the realization that so many of us are missing opportunities to tell our stories too.

Katie is now a self-proclaimed storycatcher and journal crafter who is devoted to helping her customers find their voice, document memories, and embrace their lives. Katie and her team make journals in a repurposed airplane hangar that serves as her family’s home and her workshop.

Today on the podcast:

03:30 - How Learning to Fly Airplanes Led to a Journal-Making Business
05:44 – Why Katie No Longer Sells on Etsy
09:41 – How She Does It (Or More Accurately, How They Do It)
11:48 – How Katie Gets Loads Done Even with Just 10 Minutes
14:10 – Her Proudest Accomplishment
18:17 – How the Weather Directly Affects Katie’s Business
22:04 – Why Thank You is Something Katie Says Every Day
28:55 – The Surprising Piece of Technology that Katie Doesn’t Own
33:39 – Katie’s Way of Saying Thank You to Bloggers

How Does Learning to Fly Lead to a Journal-Making Business?

Katie’s husband Martin has his private pilot’s license, and when they moved back to rural Montana, he began teaching her how to fly. Learning to fly is one of those things that men dream of and not very many women do. For a while, Katie sort of took the whole process for granted. Flying was just ok.

She was supposed to be studying for her private pilot’s license but got the idea to create writing prompts for herself so that she could tell this really cool story about learning how to fly. This got her thinking about all the other rare and awesome things that other women are doing. Many of these women may not even realize that their stories are worth telling.

Why Katie Moved her Shop to Her Own Website from Etsy

Katie wanted to add certain features to her shop to create an experience for her customers. There are many limitations to what a seller can do or customize on Etsy.  At, Katie’s customers can share bits of their own journals and stories and the ways that they are documenting their lives.

How Katie Gets Loads Done, Even with Just 10 Minutes

Katie uses Excel to have a running list of projects she’s working on and actions needed for each one. If she has just 10 minutes, she can pull up her spreadsheet and quickly assess what she needs to do in that moment.

“You could easily spend that entire 10 minutes thinking about what work you should be doing, and then the 10 minutes is over,” says Katie.

On Writing Things Down Just to Cross Them Off

Katie doesn’t like to spend time writing things down just to cross them off or put a check by them.

“I want the feel-good awesome things to be sitting down and laughing with my son or looking at the same peek-a-boo book over and over and seeing how much he lights up.”

Her Proudest Accomplishment

Katie gave a TEDx Talk on Storytelling last September.

She also shares what TED is all about. (It sounds pretty incredible to me, but Sarah has banned me from attending!)

How the Weather Affects her Sales and Other Thoughts on being Busy

Katie shares that no matter how much you prepare for Christmas, you’re still going to be slammed. It continues to be true for her because the business just keeps growing.

During the slow season of summer, Katie and her husband Martin still make it busy by re-vamping journals and creating their new affiliate program.

They try their best to create systems and train employees during the slow months so that when Christmas (and January too!) roll around, everyone is ready.

Katie shares that January is just as busy for her business as December, because journaling tends to be a cold-weather activity. (We had no idea!)

Why Thank You is Something Katie Says Every Day

Katie has two part-time employees. One is an artist and the other, a student. She loves that the jobs she provides them helps to support their personal goals and not just financial goals. Her employees are passionate about what they’re doing.

Each day I make sure I tell my employees, “thank you for helping me, thank you for the work you’ve done here.

(Katie sounds like the perfect boss! What do you think, Sarah, ready to move to Montana?)

Airplanes Contributed to the Start of Her Business, but also to its Lowest Point

Katie describes the slowest time in her business as being self-induced. She was trying to juggle running Gadanke and building a home out of an airplane hangar.

She and her husband Martin sat down and said, “do we want to make Gadanke into something awesome, or do we want it to just be on the side….?”

We looked at each other and just thought of all the incredible feedback we were getting from customers. People are finding reasons to celebrate their lives and to dream and move forward because the journals we’ve created have helped them to do that.

Katie and Martin could be doing a dozen other things, but they have decided to make Gadanke their career right now. (We’re so glad they did!)

Katie’s Powerful Words

You and I probably have really amazing stories too; we just haven’t actually discovered those, and I think that’s really a great power of keeping a journal…

Favorite App or Tool

Katie surprised us by confessing that she doesn’t own a smart phone. She confessed to using Instagram on her iPad, but finds that most apps and online tools can take away from the energy that she could be putting into her business.

The Single Best Way Katie Grew Her Business

Katie was a blogger before she opened her shop.  She already had a community of women and men that she could relate to and could relate to her. She wasn’t going online to push a product on them; she was going online to connect with them.

Those relationships ultimately helped her to build a meaningful business.

Katie’s Way of Saying Thank You to Bloggers and Customers

Katie and her husband Martin just launched an affiliate program.  Anyone with a blog or even just a social media account can join. She realized that by creating the program themselves, they could cut out the percentage that goes to an affiliate network and pass along the extra percentages to the customers and bloggers who love them.

Her Best Business Advice

“Believe in yourself. It’s so easy when things are hard – when you don’t have the sales that you want – you don’t have the pageviews that you want – whatever it is you’re wishing you could do - just keep going.”

Katie also keeps a spreadsheet of customer feedback. When one negative review or the stress of the day has her discouraged, she is reminded of all the incredible stories and lives she’s had the chance to impact.

Adorable Mom Moment

Katie’s baby boy Niklas has just figured out how to pull himself up to stand. Katie says that she’ll turn around for 5 seconds, look back and realize that he’s pulled himself up.

“There he is holding himself up with a big smile.”

We love those sweet moments when our little ones are so proud of their accomplishments! So precious!

Stay in Touch with Katie

Her shop:
Her blog:
Facebook: Gadanke
Twitter: @Gadanke

What do you think? Will you start writing down more of your stories? Will you tell those who help you the most “thank you” a little more often? Or will you dive head-first into your business, believing without a doubt that it matters a great deal.

We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Gadanke20Interview_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT