…building a business: nate burkus

I must admit that if I am not pressed with a deadline to complete on Sunday, I love to come home from church make myself a cup of coffee & turn on Super Soul Sunday on Oprah. The French doors are open to the veranda, the kids are outside playing and DH is cooking up a yummy frittata. Love.


This weekend was one of those Sundays and Nate Burkus was the guest. Not sure if you ever watch his show or even heard of him, but he is a designer that Oprah basically discovered and gave him his own show. It was good. It had interesting ideas. And then it went downhill.


He talked about taking chances with his career and thought a show was a good move for him. He was ambitious and considered it a once in a lifetime opportunity. BUT, he realized even in the first week of production that it did not feel right to him.

I thought it was a good lesson and one worth considering when we are given new opportunities with our creative businesses.



Is it right?

What do you need to change to make it feel right?

Are you trying to fit a square peg into a round hole?

Do you feel relief to end it?

These questions make me think of a job that I worked really hard to get before having children. It was with an amazing firm in a very cool space working on interesting projects. It really did seem like a dream job, but something did not quite feel right and I knew it immediately. I tried and tried until my body took on an awful virus basically forcing me to deal with my situation and leave. I felt a huge sense of relief. I was down a path that was not right for Christen.

(Below: a picture of my younger self sitting on a chair I found at a yard sale & could not afford to slipcover yet chatting on the phone with Gram about my work problem. I still remember.)


When you are your own boss you get to experiment. You can go down a road and see how it feels, if you like the people you meet, if the work is fulfilling. There is freedom when doing your own work. Your biggest constraint will be financial. You probably cannot afford to put yourself too far out there, but just enough to test the waters. This could mean entering a fair or market to experiment selling your wares, starting your own website or opening a shop on Etsy. I could mean opening a real shop or consigning or starting to ship your product.


I think it’s useful to try these things. Does it feel right to you? Is it working? Is it getting easier once you know what you are doing or is it becoming a monster and making your cranky and eating up all your time & energy?

There is always a balance too. New endeavors do not have to be black & white. They can be a bit grey, in fact. For example, if you are attempting to start shipping and the process is getting to be too much of a headache. Can you ship only smaller items? or hire someone to do your shipping? You don’t have to quit the process all together.


I’ve talked quite a bit about having to tweak the effort I put into my endeavors so that it conforms with my family & lifestyle. I feel like I’m constantly doing this and each time it feels a bit better and more comfortable as I listen to my own needs. I encourage you to follow your ambition, but ask yourself periodically, “Is this working for me?”

I’m hoping my younger self would agree with my choices.



  1. Thank you so much for that post! It really hit home with me today. I have always wanted to venture out and do something on my own but have been a little uneasy about it. I am a full time registered nurse and love taking care of my patients. There is a sense of reward in doing that. However, it seems like lately the scheduled overtime accompanied by stressful working environment has led me to having a grumpy attitude and also missing my children. I have been watching a lot of your tutorials, which I love. My husband is a little scared of what I’ll paint next! This has been the most relaxing thing I have done lately. All of this to say, you give me great inspiration! Keep up the great work!

  2. Love this! Thank you so much.

  3. Your timing is impeccable, well, for me. Thank you. I am prepping for my 5th local Flea Market as a vendor. In answers to one of your questions, yes, it gets easier each time. And even more fun and exciting. I also work as an RN. I’ll short hand the details, but the last few days have found myself having a conversation about an aspect of the financial part. I usually ‘pick up’ a few extra hours as an RN, but have been thinking this may be the time to invest in my creative business. Use some of the business profit for income and put my hours back into the creative business this month. Thank you for the insight, with a scoop of inspiration on top!

  4. Your timing is impeccable, well for me, thank you. I am prepping for my booth at a local flea market for the 5th go-around. Yes, it gets easier, and yes, I still love it! I also work as an RN. The last few days I have found myself evaluating the financial aspect of my creative business. Yes, it is always a balance, but maybe I’m ready to test the waters a bit more. I usually work a few extra hours above my schedule as an RN. I’ve been having a conversation with myself about using some business profit to replace this income for this month as I prep for the flea market. Invest in my own business growth to a certain extent. Thank you for the insight, with a bit of inspiration on top!

  5. i knew that younger you & yes she would be most proud. my younger self & I are proud too.
    love you C.
    xxx em

  6. I know I didn’t find you by accident! I was terminated from a job that I loved 2 years ago when I requested time off to care for my sick child. It was a small company and looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to me. A few months later my daughter was put on the waiting list for a new heart. I was literally thrown into a world I knew nothing about. Now post heart transplant I have to care for her….and had no idea how I was going to earn a living and take care of a sick teenager. With borrowed money and a few pieces of flea market finds, I started my own business. Now I have my very own space in an antique mall and repeat customers. I’ve been so busy I’m just now starting a facebook page to promote my work! Thank you so much for your tutorials and blogs-they sure do help when I am feeling defeated by a piece of furniture!! Sometimes life forces you to do what you were meant to do!

    • Hi Stacey.
      Thank you so much for sharing your intimate story. I have to admit that it brought tears into my eyes as a mom myself. Would it be okay if I reference your story on a future post?
      Thank you,

  7. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts! I have been furniture painting/refinishing for the past 3 years (in Falls Church, Va) and I feel custom painting is the road for me. I am a bit older than you, but a store or warehouse would not be a good fit for me. I love the creative part – but I am not good with the business part of it…You will find your way Christen, you are so talented. Trust your ability to do well.

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