{Handmade Husband, a new series}

Friends, I have something so exciting to share with you today!!! Zack, my hubby, and I have been working on an idea for this blog ~ a monthly (bi-monthly?) column called Handmade Hubby, written by Zack himself. We’re both super ecstatic about this and the opportunities it will bring to this community. Our goal is to bless others and spend some time each month discussing what questions and/or dilemmas you have regarding handmade/indie biz and then offering our experience + feedback through a follow-up blog post. It’s going to be amazing! Read on for a little background on our marriage, experience and then Zack’s vision for Handmade Husband. [xoxo]

* * *

Hi, I’m Zack. I’m the guy that proposed at the cottage. I’m the guy that took us to Detroit for great work. I’m the guy that told our teary-eyed parents, “We have to move out of the state.” I’m the guy that helped carry home the thirty library books. By 2009, Maggie and I had experienced a lot for our age {24}. What followed was a series of answered prayers, hard lessons, goal-setting, and goal-accomplishing. We’ve been put through the wringer, and it’s just shown us what we we’re capable of. I’m the husband that has been next to Maggie all along, and today I write my first post.

This column will be one in which I offer a man’s/husband’s perspective on this business, what works for us, and practical business talk. I’ll answer questions from readers in the hopes that I can help you, as the entrepreneur, to succeed in an industry that’s far from traditional. I am a logical business man that regularly helps to coordinate big money and creative professionals, marketing, and entrepreneurship. I’m a blogger’s husband, and proud supporter of the handmade community smart entrepreneurs.

The reason I am a handmade husband is because I believe that what Maggie’s doing, if done right, is the right way to go about life. Right now, there is a big movement of “YAY, totally quit your job and do what you LOVE!!!” While I believe this is wonderful in theory, I also know that it’s not actually that simple. People who pursue their passions are admirable, but it’s the people that can pay the bills with their passion that are the real heroes.

When Maggie came home from her (well-paying, great benefits) career occupation one evening and said, “I have to get out of that job.” We had a serious discussion. I knew that she was miserable at work (albeit thankful), and she wanted Gussy to be her life. I knew what she wanted, but I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure if the handmade business world had a proven profitable track record, and neither did Maggie. Like any smart business person, I didn’t shut down the idea, but set outlines for what it would take for her dream to gain my approval.

Now wait just a minute! In today’s society, can’t a woman do whatever she darn well pleases, regardless of whether she has her husband’s “approval” or not?! My answer to that is of course she can, but families that believe in and support each other get a great deal farther in life. Sometimes you have to put in the work to get all parties on board, but it’s important. This topic could warrant its own post, but I digress…

Maggie asked me when I thought she could do it. Together we sat down, ran some numbers and came up with solid sales figures and a savings goal that needed to be met before she could leave her proofreading position. She worked hard, long hours. She put her head down and muscled through, like a business owner should. When that day came, when we had saved that money and attained that level of sales success, we were both so ecstatic for the future. She’d won me over.

Multiple times every week we arrange to sit and talk about the business. In these Gussy Meetings (super clever name, I know) I ask questions, listen, offer any applicable knowledge I have, and listen some more. We brainstorm over issues that need solving, decisions that need to be made, and what steps we can take to improve the business. This time together is not only good for Gussy Sews, but it’s quality time, and it’s good for us.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, in the world of handmade, there are three different kinds of husbands:

  • Closed-minded skeptic: The most common variety. Their fear of the unknown––or perhaps their intimate knowledge of the difficulties ahead––paralyze their support. They want no part in this, and would prefer you just drop it. This guy is often smart, but worried. He’s not sure that the potential payoff would be worth the risk. This is where you have to shine. Do the research (check out 100 books if you have to), make a plan, talk to people who know more about it than you do. Your hard work won’t likely go unnoticed. If he offers advice, listen, it means he’s coming around.
  • Overly-optimistic #1 fan: Some guys are so ready for a change that they’ll jump at anything. There were times when the dissatisfaction that Maggie was feeling at work really just made me want her to get out of there, despite the financial implications. This attitude is great emotional support, but be careful here. You need to do your research, and you need to share it with him. He may be ready for you to dive into entrepreneurship today, but if you want to succeed, you both need to understand how it will affect your life.
  • Somewhere in between lies a husband who is just perfect, although they rarely start that way: It takes a lot to win over the skeptic, or wake up the optimist, but if this entrepreneurial life is really what you want, keep up the good work and your husband will land here.


I know it’s not always a husband… Many of you might be single and trying to figure this out on your own. Maybe your parents need convincing? Maybe you’re looking for investors? Either way, just remember that the principles of doing your research and arming yourself with the support of talented people will always help.

Please — tell me your thoughts in the comments. Does your husband need more convincing? Have you been through this and have advice for everyone else? If you’d like this column to continue, please send me questions. Write me at zack@gussysews.com with “DEAR ZACK” in the subject, and your question could be featured, helping others.

[photo sources: first, prudent baby; second, freya]


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  1. 2


    Love this idea, Zack and Maggie! My husband has been, by far, the biggest business resource for me. He helped me do research before we got started and it is so wonderful to have someone to discuss ideas with who lives right here with me! I love that he has a different, non-crafty, business perspective, and can keep me on track or help me know when I’m being unrealistic. I look forward to our business meetings and always feel so inspired after we’ve talked through my next new project! Also, as you pointed out, I think it is so great when a couple can be seriously invested in each other’s work- just one more way to grow closer together :)

    • 3

      Zack says

      This sounds super familiar. We have a similar dynamic that I think works well for the business. Thanks for the feedback, Lauren!

  2. 4


    This sounds like it will be a fantastic new series! It’s nice to have a new voice on the Gussy blog! [Not that we don’t LOVE your voice Maggie :]

    Zack – do you think you can walk some of our less business minded handmade folks through a basic list of what’s in “the numbers” you ran with Maggie in order to set goals for quitting her day job?

    Can’t wait for the next post!

    • 5

      Zack Whitley says

      Thanks for the Q, Kasey. This might deserve its own post later, but I’ll touch on it quickly.

      First, we took what Maggie’s monthly income was, and tripled it. That savings was goal #1. Just because she would be devoting a much larger portion of her daily life to the business didn’t mean that sales figures would skyrocket in tandem. Three months’ salary was the buffer between us and broke if we ran into a rough patch or two.

      Second (and this was the more intensive math), we figured out what kind of sales she had to be pulling in to separate herself from the hobbyists. We knew she wasn’t going to start out making the same income as she did at her day job, so we tried to keep the numbers realistic. We agreed that, after a few minor sacrifices, our budget could continue on 65% of her day job salary. We set this number as her goal income for Gussy Sews. Then we figured out what that broke down to in terms of products sold. To prove that it wasn’t just a peak season, we declared that the sales volume would have to maintain that average for 40 days. Once that happened, goal #2 was accomplished.

      Of course, the specifics will fluctuate for everyone situation, but the structure is the same. Measurable future income + a safety net = a darn good chance at making it work. We couldn’t really jump into Gussy full time with just one or the other. It had to be both or not at all. If something happened where income stopped, we would be lost without the savings, and vice-versa.

  3. 6


    What a wonderful posting! I look forward to reading more in the future and think I will email this on to my husband. He is a great supporter and listener. He encourages me to run my business and have fun. The reality of it is I would love to be full time sewing at home, just haven’t figured out how to pay all the bills with it.

  4. 10


    WOW! This is amazing! It’s so sweet to see his support for you and his belief in what you do!

    It was SOOOOO wonderful to get to meet you Saturday at the Pop Up Shop at Blissdom! So good to finally get to squeeze your neck!!! l’m so inspired by you and your ability to take your hobby/passion to this full time business! It’s amazing!!!!!! Truly amazing!

    Thanks for all the encouragement you offer to so many!

  5. 11


    Such a WONDERFUL husband and SUPPORT for sweet Maggie!!! You really are a keeper, Zack! You’re both super BLESSED to have each other by your sides! :)

  6. 12


    This was great! Can’t wait for more. Right now my hubs is out of work, he was let to from a job he worked 20 years at. I am a sahm, we have been “playing with” the idea of working together. On what,or how is still yet to be decided. We do work very well together, enjoy being with each other. We just haven’t found the “what” yet.

    • 13

      Zack Whitley says

      What do you wish you were doing right now (that isn’t an obligation)? Ask your husband the same thing. See if/how they intersect.

      • 14


        Zack and I both agree that having a strong mutual understanding of what both of our careers look like behind-the-scenes (like when it gets rough, or challenging) is what makes the day-to-day much easier. It’s not going to be perfect and it probably won’t be identical to what someone else’s career looks like. And that’s OK! :) But if you want to work together they must intersect and you must become “one” with the majority. xoxo

  7. 15


    Great post Zack! Your dynamic sounds very similar to my own with my husband. He was super supportive of me starting my own business, knowing that would add extra pressure on him to be the sole breadwinner (at least in the beginning). But he is also super logical and had a background in PR/Marketing, so we had several realistic discussions and still continue to discuss where we’re heading and what to do next. There is no way that I could do this without him and his support and knowledge. I think it’s so refreshing to hear from supportive husbands and to see couples working together to achieve dreams!

  8. 17


    It is wonderful to have such a supportive husband. My husband is also very supportive. Due to my health, working from home is my only option. Currently I am a digital scrapbook designer. I really want to do something else. I have a couple of different ideas and want to do more research prior to just jumping off in another direction. What research would you suggest I do before choosing which direction I should go?

    • 18

      Zack Whitley says

      I always start with google and see where it leads me. Just start with a broad search like “food blog”, and start clicking through links that you find along the way. From there, if I’m really looking for inspiration, I might head to the library. There’s something about finding a book on the shelf about your favorite topic that sparks creativity.

      Do that for each entry on your list, and see which ones you lose interest in first. Maybe you “love sewing” and “love cooking.” Maybe sewing bores you after reading three blog posts about it, but you can read 40 recipes before your mind wanders.

      The next step of course is to see if there are proven business models to make money at that thing that you love. Of course you can make money as a chef, but if you only “love cooking” spicy vegan Somalian food at an Ice Bar in San Antonio, you might need to do some more googling. ;)

    • 19


      My experience — personally and through research, is that your desires/career goals need to be able to last waaaay longer than you think they will. For example, the last paragraph Zack wrote (about cooking a very specific type of good at a very specific restaurant in a very specific city) is incredibly wise. It’s so easy to put ourselves in too narrow of a niche and then within a very short time we’ve backed ourselves into a corner without the ability to get out. We end up feeling stuck and discouraged.

      A great exercise (in addition to what Zack shared) would be to start writing out your ideas and then create sub-ideas on supplemental topics + inspirations stemming from your first idea. If you feel like your have an abundance (like 50) of sub-topics you’re heading in the right direction. If you feel stumped after only 10, you may end up in a corner quicker than you want to be. Think about it: your idea + sub-ideas have to last you for years, decades (?) even. Be excited… this is an incredibly awesome time :)

  9. 21


    What a great idea to hear from the man behind Gussy Sews! You guys seem like the sweetest couple, and I love how you work together to make Gussy Sews such an amazing company! I have been blessed that my husband has been extremely supportive of my business. I would be so difficult to achieve business sucess without a supportive spouse.

    So for my question. How did the two of you know it was time to expand Gussy Sews and hire additional staff? Did you create a plan ahead of time and budget for this expansion or did it happen more organically? In addition, without getting to personal, but is there any advice you can offer on how to determine compensation when hiring employees? Thanks!

    Can’t wait to read your next post!


    • 22

      Zack Whitley says

      Thanks for your comment! Maggie could get more detailed here, but my perspective was that each employee was a pretty organic next step. “Zack, I have to work all night tonight to get these bags in the mail tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get all of this done in time.” Told me that it was time put out the feelers for part-time help. Don’t be afraid to hire if you’re so busy that you need the help. This is an indication that you could cover it financially. Otherwise, stay solo until you get that way.

      In regards to pay, it’s tricky. Especially in handmade, where there aren’t a lot of precedents. With each of our employees, we’ve tried to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine what would seem fair from their perspective. We’ve googled things like “sewing prep assistant wages”. We’ve just asked the interviewee what they would like to make. Maggie consulted other handmade artists. All of which gave us a good ball park to start from.

    • 23


      Rebecca, something that has made hiring help possible was knowing our profit margins. If your products are priced correctly you should be able to afford hiring an assistant or two (instead of you making the item (because your time is worth an hourly wage, which you account for) you are having someone else do this). Remember to include overhead, materials, labor + profit into your pricing equation.

      Let us know if we should expand on this. xoxo

      • 24


        Thank you both for your insightful replies! Your advice is very helpful! Hiring an employee is both exciting and scary. I am proud of the growth of my business and that I am at a point where I need to hire help, however, I get nervous being responsible for another person’s livelihood. My pricing equation does include labor and I have been toying with the idea of hiring someone to do piece work (i.e. bag small parts, cut patterns, etc.) for my kits to start and see how that goes prior to bringing on a full time employee. Help in this area would free up a lot of time for me to focus on other parts of my business. In addition, I think this may be a viable solution to allow for fluctuations in my business as certain times of year are busier than others. I appreciate you feedback on this subject as it is so difficult to find information out there. Not a lot of indie biz owners talk about hiring, paying employees, etc., and I have found it difficult to find answers to my questions. You guys are the best :) Thanks and I look forward to more in the “handmade husband” series!

        • 25


          Ahhhh, I totally know the feeling :) Remember you’re not signing a contract with this person, you’re hiring them. You are anticipating X amount of hours each week they’d work for you. Be honest with each applicant, share your story with them and your vision for the business, and see how they respond. Remember this is a hourly position, not salaried. I know it’s scary but it’s also SOOOO exciting! xo

  10. 26


    This is such a great idea and so well executed. It’s great to hear a husband’s opinion and voice because they’re mute in all this blogging stuff going on nowadays. I especially like the definitions of the different types of husbands. It brought a smile to my face to read the first two and realize that my husband fits snuggly into the perfect column. He’s the voice of support and reality and also a great resource when I need help. It’s nice to hear other women turn to their husbands for approval, support and resource because today’s society seems to frown upon the very idea. Looking forward to whatever else you have lined up!

  11. 28


    This is a GREAT post. One of the best biz posts I’ve read in a long time. I agree that the whole blogging/handmade thing works best if the whole family understands and supports the mission and is prepared for the sacrifices it might require. And, yes, the husband should have a say over what the wife does!It’s Biblical! :) Nice leadership, Zach!

  12. 29


    Zack! I love this. I too would like a guideline of what you saved. Not the numbers specifically but what it represented. ie 2 months of expenses or whatever.
    i would love to know how you decided on your product. There are so many handmade shops right now and I am good at sewing lots of things. I get caught up in trying to think what would sell the best and then it overwhelms me. How do you figure it out?

    Thanks- Wendy

    • 31


      When I decided to learn how to sew I narrowed down my “what would I make?” search by making something I would personally use. I have LOVED purses and zipped pouches since I was a toddler, so I knew this product category would be a good, long-lasting fit for me :) It also helped me to understand the design + construction process, because I’ve always always always had a purse.

      Sewing is an inside out, backwards process. I think I would have pulled my hair out if I didn’t “get it” — hehe. But understanding what the final process looks like has helped me immensely. I don’t know much about wood working, so that wouldn’t have been a good choice for me when trying to narrow down what I want to make long-term.

      Other questions to ask yourself — What do you want to make long-term?, What truly fascinates you? What item(s) will be around for years to come?

  13. 32


    Nice to “see” your perspective here Zach! With my business, its really important that my husband be 1000% on board with what I’m doing because I can’t do anything in my career without his and my full family support. He is very supportive while being cautiously optimistic about my “hobby” business.(although I hear him bragging about my biz to his family and friends when he thinks I can’t hear which is nice).

    That being said…there is a whole other dimension into the decision process of “quitting” your day job. What you saved financially in order for Maggie to do that is incredible. Takes discipline and dedication and motivation and few people have what it takes to really commit to that. It’s awesome what you as a family have achieved with your business. And you are smart to do it now while you can to establish a good foundation.

    You guys are also…super young and have that freedom to make those choices more easily than others might. With a home mortgage, ownership of 2 businesses, 3 kids who need glasses, braces and college tuition, a need for secondary health insurance, and the like…that throws a wrench into the picture. I’d love to have a full time art career but for now – it’s just not feasible. Or is it? That’s why I read here. When I “grow up”…I’d like to be like Maggie :>) Or at least Maggie’s intern. LOL! ((hugs maggie))

    Can’t wait to read the next one Zach…

    • 33

      Zack Whitley says

      Art career? Of course it’s feasible, even in your situation.

      Obviously, the stakes are much higher with much more responsibility on your shoulders, but your comment makes it clear that you fully understand the risk. This is what I’m talking about with the whole “chase your dreams!!!!!!!!!!!!!11!!” movement. There are people in your situation that would roll the dice on their whole family because they “really love scrapbooking!!” but then there are people like you.

      You’re smarter than you think. If the numbers work, do it. If they don’t, see if there are ways to make them work.

  14. 35


    in a world of literally millions of blogs and handmade businesses, how do i stand out? i spend gobs of time on my blog, especially, but am not reaping the benefits i had envisioned. perhaps maggie can help me with that during our mentorship skype meeting.
    love the handmade hubby line. kinda like dear jake in cosmo.
    or something.

    • 36

      Zack Whitley says

      I love that you’re taking the initiative to seek mentorship. You know who else paid for mentorship a time or two in her day? Gussy.

      I’ll defer to Maggie on your question, as that is certainly her area of expertise.

      • 37


        Mindy, let’s discuss this during your mentorship session!!! I think Cambria will be emailing you for an outline soon of what you’d like to cover during our chat ~ this is a great question and I’m excited to share some tips!!! :) In the meantime, knowing your vision for your business (blog, shop, etc.) is where we’ll start.

  15. 38


    Great post! My husband was the skeptic but I pursued and kept going and the orders kept coming in. While I would sew and prepare orders, it was my time of reflection & prayer. Many times I prayed, shut this hobby down or make it a biz, but I need my mans approval. Sitting at the dinner table one night, my man said to me, “do what you have to do to make this a business.” That was all I needed, his approval. And it was simply said. No big debate, no me pursuading him batting my eyelashes and showing him the stats. He had quietly watched the hobby grow and took note of my work ethic.

    It’s great to have your perspective and know your thoughts and fears lined up with my mans.

    Looking forward to more of your side.

  16. 39


    Oh my goodness, such a great idea you guys! So thankful that my hubby is super supportive! He helped me design a lightbox to take great pics of my products yesterday.

    I have been a “blog stalker” around these parts for the last 6 months or so and am just getting this whole biz thing started. It is really hard when you already have a full-time job and a 3-yr-old, but I press on to make these dreams a reality. Thanks Gussy and Zack for sharing your stories!

  17. 42


    I love that you’re doing this Zack! It’s so great to have a husband’s perspective since my boyfriend has a small tendency to brush me off and not take my goals seriously. I’m currently trying to convince him to get on board with my ultimate goal and to realize that I’m serious about it. He’s extremely skeptical. Especially because my craft of choice (knitting) can be quite time consuming, and finding the right price to sell my items in order to make a profit may not lead to many sales. I’m still doing as much research as I can while working my full-time day job. It’s going to take a lot of convincing, but hopefully he’ll come around.

    Maybe this would be something you could address in the next post, but where would you suggest I start out with my research? There is a TON of info out there, and sometimes it can be hard to sift through it all. How did you two start doing your research before starting Gussy Sews? I’m sure this is an ongoing process for any business owner, but any hints would be greatly appreciated!

  18. 43


    LOVE this post! Keep them coming for sure!
    In these few short paragraphs, you have given me hope that my hubby may some day soon come around and be excited about my goals with me!

  19. 46


    Thank you Zack for responding to my question. I love love what I do and the other ideas I have will still utilize the skills that I have and are still in the area of handmade items. The proven business model, I guess is what I need to try and find. I know there are some in my industry that make a good living at it. In my experience, working 3 years 12-16 hour days including weekends,making it into one of the top digital scrapbooking stores for over a year now, and for my 17 year old son to bring home more than I do at his part time fast food job, it is a bit discouraging. Not to mention all the good designers you see quitting every day and going back into the “real world” to work! The one thing I can’t do and honestly don’t want to do. I have tried to branch out into the “traditional” side of scrapbooking and unless I start my own stamp or paper company, for example, that hasn’t been an option for over a year now. Everyone I have contacted has had their team in place and are not looking. The expense to do that is way more than I can do! So I have been tossing around some other less expensive directions to go. Where maybe all the work I have put in the last three years won’t be wasted, but will get me closer to my financial goals. Google and I have become best friends so off I go to research business models! lol Thank you again.

  20. 47


    Love this post you guys! Definitely going to share it with my boyfriend (supportive, yet cautious).

    I’m curious what the state of Gussy was when Maggie decided she wanted to quit her day job. Was there a fan base that brought in daily sales already? Seeing how successful her business is now, it’s very inspiring to learn how she (and you, Zack) brought Gussy to life!

  21. 48


    Hi Zach and Maggie!

    I love the idea of these posts. Right now I am trying to decide another path to take in life. It is time for a change. I have an Etsy business, but due to personal stuff and some work related stress, I had to close until I get more stock sewn and things taken care of. I am wondering when Maggie decided to quit her day job? I know that my husband and I are nowhere near ready to launch my business, but I know he would support me. I just need to get through this school year, figure out where I am headed. Please email me if you would like to know more about my situation- I really need help with my business, and would appreciate any advice I could get! Please and Thank you!

  22. 49


    What a wonderful post! I think this is such a great thing you two are sharing as it is so easy for all of us to just see Maggie…being all gussilicious…with Bauer…living the dream…when so much of the husband’s support and guidance can really change the outcome of the wife’s dreams and aspirations. I think as women we can often be the overly eager ones seeing all these women online making their career creating or writing…when realistically for the majority of us, it looks nice but is not realistic to the work that goes behind it…for the woman…and her entire family! This gives such a huge glimpse into the real life behind Gussy Sews and that with everything else in marriage, it is a team effort! Zack has to be on board if he is going to come home to a whole house of ruffles! Not only a great testimony to a successful business but a great testimony to a great marriage! May you both be encouraged in encouraging others with your amazing story!!! Weow!

  23. 51


    I love LOVE this! And I’m so excited to have my husband read this.

    My husband is very supportive, but we are both still cautious and have some goals to reach. We recently graduated from Dave Ramsey’s FPU (I know you are a fan, too!) and we have some debt that we need to take care of. We have set some financial goals, which we hope to accomplish within a year. At that point we can more seriously consider “quitting my day job.” Let me tell you, though, that knowing I can quit my job once our debt is gone has made me SO enthusiastic about paying off our bills! It definitely has been a great motivator to live on a tight budget. :) And reading this and about the hard work you both have accomplished really inspires me. I’m excited about what is to come for Gussy… and for me. ;)

  24. 52


    I love this, keep em coming! I think my husband is thankfully in that happy middle and always has been. He’s so encouraging, but also realistic.

  25. 53


    Hiya! I have been a longtime reader of Gussy Sews and I love this blog. I especially love your business tips and blog tips. I think that this is an AWESOME idea for a series. It’ll be awesome to read and might help my fiance understand some things a little better from a guys point of view for when I actually get my business off the ground. I can’t wait to read more!

  26. 54


    I have been a long time fan of Gussy Sews. I’m so happy for you both & the new chapter of your lives. So exciting! Love Zack’s take on this & all the feedback. (yes, I did read ALL the comments!) I’m hoping I can sign up for the Mentorship program sooner than later too. There’s so much going on each day for us, but I never give up hope that one day I will be a success w/my shop! And prayer? Yes, it really works. I’m living proof. I just want to make my family proud & be able contribute to all my husband’s hard work. **and love every second that I get to do what I enjoy most! Congrats to you both!

  27. 55


    Wow, you keep posting peolpe I went to Art Center College of Design with him. He graduated a semester or two before me. But I remember I had a class with Zack a portfolio development class. You really should see his photographs in person. They’re nicely printed.Also, for Los Angeles.My recs are: eat at Dino’s Chicken & Burgers and get the chicken with tortillas, fries and colesaw. It’s a hole in the wall off of Pico Blvd. Hit up MOCA Geffen Contemporary&Pacific Design Center (there’s a Rodarte exhibit I believe), LACMA, walk Spring Street in Downtown LA (my old neighborhood & eat at Pete’s Cafe, Daikokuya, Cole’s, Phillipe’s), Low End Theory on Wednesday nights (awesome dubstep/drum&bass shows), there’s always a random party in Hollywood or DTLA. If I hear anything I’ll send you a comment or something.


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