FLINT, Michigan—Mott Park mompreneur Ann Werring is working harder than she has ever worked in her life. “And I enjoy all of it,” she says. With her natural artistic bent, she is supporting her family creating woodworking crafts out of her Flint home. She sells her unique handmade items at vintage markets in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana as well as through her Etsy store, 1HeavenSentDesigns
Her work includes wall art featuring geometric designs or intricate lettering, vintage cutouts inspired by window arches as well as colorful end tables.
When Werring first moved her family to Flint, she rented a house in Mott Park. “I fell in love with my neighbors,” she says. One of those wonderful neighbors keeps a bucket filled with games, coloring books, and crayons on the porch for children to play with. “She’d make them cookies,” Werring says. She likes how her neighbors watch out for each other. Eventually, she chose to purchase a home in Mott Park because it was more cost effective than renting. Originally born in Oklahoma, Werring moved to Genesee County to be near her parents who returned to Michigan after her father retired from Oklahoma University.
Until last year, her woodworking and furniture upcycling qualified simply as hobby income. As her business increased, she had to get a federal tax ID number, monitor and pay sales tax, and keep track of her work-related expenses. Werring and her father, John Hawley, recently chose a computer program for expense tracking to make tax filing less stressful.
Before starting her own business, Werring worked minimum wage jobs. “I messed up in my early 20s,” she says. “I’m a recovering addict.” Unable to finish college, she had her first child 20 years ago. She found her work options limited by her lack of a college education.
“I had some financial issues,” she says. “My mom had made a table out of a window. I wasn’t using it, so I decided to sell it. Everyone wanted it.” She decided to make items like the table and sell them to earn extra income. At first, she worked with discarded furniture and free wood pallets, crafting them into shabby-chic home décor. Her start-up costs were low, and she did most of the work by hand.
Now that her business has taken off, Werring has invested in tools to make her projects more efficient and is looking at renting work space in her neighborhood. A new computer program, which she has spent the past four months learning to use, allows her to create designs and save them for future use rather than drawing every design by hand at the kitchen table.
Traveling to vintage markets allows Werring to meet other sellers and buyers from different parts of the Midwest, but the Etsy shop has created a whole new market for her designs. A member of Etsy since 2015, Werring started listing more of her items for sale in January. In the first two two months, she sold more than 30 items to buyers from across the country and even as far away as South America. “I found out about Etsy through the online vintage market community,” she says. “I wanted to do a website, and Etsy has a following of its own.” The website allows vendors to list items for a small fee (20 cents per item) and charges a processing fee of 3 to 3.5 percent depending on how the seller chooses to be paid.
Using a site like Etsy allows vendors to post Search Engine Optimization (SEO) words or phrases to help customers locate items they may find interesting. Werring uses phrases like shabby chic, upcycle table, and home décor to draw traffic to her online store. While some vendors pay to have their stores listed higher in search results, Werring doesn’t typically do that. So far, she’s getting plenty of sales without the added cost. “I’ve been so busy,” she says, “I can barely keep up.”
Werring is convinced that others can experience the success she has found. As a recovering addict and mother of four children who range in age from 3 to 20 years old, she says, “I was lost for a while and found my way. If I can do it and find happiness and security for my family, anyone can.”