Sarah Martin has been an entrepreneur for over a decade. In light of this, each month we speak with exceptional women entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. What are they passionate about? What drives them to be successful? What tips can they give us to start our own businesses? Each Beauty in the Chaos feature takes a look at behind the scenes of each of these gals’ lives.
This month, we interviewed Amanda Ficek, owner of Mama’s Happy, a store where local artisans sell everything from repurposed, painted furniture to handcrafted, upcycled home decor. Amanda opened the first location in 2010, and after the building was torn down 18 months later, she found a new home for the shop in Independence, Minn. A few years later, she expanded to the Minneapolis-St.Paul Metro, opening up locations in St. Paul and St. Louis Park.
Amanda has been instrumental in creating a network for home-lovers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. At the Mama’s Happy locations and during their workshops, women come together to trade tips and share their passion for creating beautiful spaces. We use many items designed by their artists (for example, see the pillows from the Modern French Country project) and we completely recommend visiting one of their stores if you’re in need of anything from an adorable home sign to a new friend.
Read below to learn more about Amanda and her journey in creating this unique brand! 💕
What background in retail merchandising and apparel did you bring to Mama’s Happy? Did you have any experience in interior design or a similar field?
I started my retail career in apparel with Von Maur department store where I worked in both store management and in the buying office. I then moved to Lands’ End as a store manager, eventually moving into their Corporate Sales division where I was an Account Executive helping companies with logo’d apparel. I did not have any background in interior design, but have been re-arranging rooms since I was a child. I love putting a room together – always using vintage and repurposed pieces and a very small budget.
Why did you open Mama’s Happy in the first place?
After moving to Minnetrista from Minneapolis I was missing the fun local shops and restaurants that the city had to offer. There was an empty building, and I had an idea. I wanted to create something that would give women an outlet for their creative talents and give customers something to look forward to each month. And I hoped that my store might inspire others to open. That did not happen, and my building was eventually sold and torn down. But just like a lot of things in life, what looked to be an ending turned out to be a beautiful new beginning. It actually launched me forward and Mama’s Happy to where it is today.
Did you come up with the name?
I DID come up with the name! I was trying to think of what I wanted the store to BE, not just what it was going to SELL. Who knew what the final product mix would end up being, but I knew what I wanted to store to accomplish – a place that brought joy to those who were selling their creations there and a place that was uplifting and inspiring to those who shopped with us. My husband asked if there would be anything for the guys, and I responded, “No, not directly I guess, but when Mama’s happy, everyone’s happy, right?” And I knew that was the name.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
(editor’s note: here are a few things! We thought these “fun facts” were all interesting and we couldn’t pick one 🙂 )
- I can sit still…for a very long time. People think because I’m always working that I can’t sit still. I totally can.
- I went to 3 colleges in 4 years. Not everyone has a direct path to where they’re going.
- I don’t cook. Like at all. People assume I am all things about the home. I just enjoy decorating it.
- I went to Nationals for cross-country in college. I have not run since.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Watching the women who sell with me find success and seeing them gain confidence and evolve as artists. Listening to customers as they compliment the store and tell us how much joy it brings them each time they come in. THAT makes my heart full.
What are 3 pieces of advice you would give to women who are looking to open their own business?
- Brace yourself and grow some really thick skin.
- You will never please everyone, so be prepared to listen to everyone and then do what YOU think is right.
- It takes guts to put yourself out there, and rejection and failure are painful, but this journey will stretch you and push you further than you would ever go if you hadn’t taken this leap. No matter the outcome, you’ll be so glad you took the leap.