This week, in our Sisters Series, we introduce you to Jeni Gochnour co-founder of The JeniBee Market, artist and mom of five.
How did you find that idea that started your business?
I have always loved to create. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Studio Art and then owned a bookstore. After five years of owning the bookstore we sold it and had our first son. I wanted to stay home but also wanted to still create so I started painting and firing in a kiln – plates and bowls. I hosted some small shows in my house and also sold my plates at other markets in North Carolina.
When we moved back to Salt Lake City, I had a friend that collected gourds. I had never seen or even heard of a gourd and I was hooked. I loved that they were unique in shape and size and when dried, the gourds have the same properties of wood. I went to the farmers market downtown and bought some small gourds and really had no idea how to paint them but just experimented and found my way to my business. I have been doing this for the last fifteen years. And, of course, when I paint gourds for some reason it is easier to paint ten gourds then just one. In order to sell the extra gourds my sister and I created The JeniBee Market.
What is The JeniBee Market?
The JeniBee Market started about 6 years ago. My sister, Sara Christensen, and I do it together. She is brilliant, talented and kind. As a team we are able to provide a place for some 60 to 100 artisans to sell their products. We have a central check out so the vendors are not required to stay at their booths. We have loved meeting and helping many of our vendors with a way to get their product to the public. It is wonderful to see them succeed and take off and create new and exciting products as their business grows!
Where were you at in life when you started your business?
I have always had a dream to own my own business and so everything I did was not really intentionally planned but it was a goal that line upon line has come to be fulfilled.
How did you know your business idea was something that you were going to make happen?
Haha, I love the phrase, ‘fake it till you make it!’. You just have to believe in your idea and yourself and then just go for it! And lots of times you will fail or fall but there are ALWAYS things you learn from trying and sometimes those tries turn out to be wonderfully successful.
What was the biggest fear you had to overcome to take that first step?
I love so much what I do as far as painting that I really don’t have a lot of fear when it comes to things that I create but I do fear that the vendors and artisans at The JeniBee Market won’t be successful. This is a fear that I have to overcome every single market that we have.
What is the biggest fear you are still knocking down every day to keep your business moving forward?
There is a lot of pressure to stay current and needed and relevant in the world of social media and brilliant business strategy. I think you must constantly be thinking of new ways to see yourself and your business. Always be willing to learn new things and and accept that this can be scary, and that is normal.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader?
I have two; my cute husband Jeff Gochnour and my mom, Bonnie Briton. Now that my kids are grown (not so much when they were little), they are so supportive and they truly believe in me! It is the reason I can keep going.
Who was your first client or first sale?
YES I DO REMEMBER! I will never forget Kris Swenson bought my very first witch gourd that I ever painted and it was so exciting!!
Do you remember how much your first sale was?
I started off selling my witches for $50 now they sell for twice that much.
What is something you do for self-care?
I love walking and clearing my head but I also love listening to books and talks on tape! That way I can still keep working and also be listening and learning. Although I do believe there is also time to be still and just listen.
How do you balance work with family life?
Family comes first. That has to be a priority but I also believe that you can work and be with your family. I take my work with me on every family trip and everywhere I go. That might not be good but if I have down time I can paint wood burn gourds. I love to do it while sitting around talking with the family – sitting out at the pool or just watching a movie together. I guess my kids have gotten use to me working and playing at the same time.
What do you hope your children are learning from you?
I hope my kids learn from seeing me work and have my own business that with hard work and determination you can accomplish anything you set your mind to doing. I learned from my mom’s example to work hard, but I hope they also see that there is a time and a place for everything so work hard and then play hard and then also have times that you serve others and think of ways to make someone else’s life better.
What advice would you give women just starting out?
My advice would be to believe in yourself and just go for your dream. I can guarantee that you will find your way. It may not be what you started out doing but it will be something that you are meant to do. This year my theme has been CHOOSE JOY! I believe this to be so true. You have to choose to be happy and choose to find good, choose to try. I know there are risks and a good chance you may not be super successful but I believe that is why we are here. To stretch and grow and sometimes that growth is painful but I have learned so much from my many, many mistakes. In addition, always be willing to step away and look at where you are going in an objective view. If it is not where you want to go, be brave enough to change directions. Courage comes from trying and also courage comes for knowing when to change and find new ways.
I recently created a line of table runners and I am in the process of having them mass produced. I would love to create a line that I could sell to a wider audience through a wholesale market. I am also working at mass producing a line of gourds. This is a very scary venture and will require a greater capital investment. But like I said earlier, this has been part of my dream and I feel now is the time to try it. It may never get off the ground but I will do my best to make it work and then I will have no regrets because I tried. And, who knows, maybe it will be successful and I can take that success to make a difference for others.
What is your go-to singing – top of your lungs, windows – down in a car song?
I love James Taylor – John Denver – Cat Stevens – Stevie Winwood – but I also love the old Hannah Montana – and Justin Bieber!
The Spring JeniBee Market is currently being held in Holladay, Utah at the Holladay City Hall. It is open Friday, April 7 from 10 a.m to 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 pm.