Today we’re starting a series called ‘Increase Your Joy’. I’m pretty excited about this because that’s what this blog is all about. Living a JoyBound life – a life of intention. For our first post we’re interviewing Calli. She’s the amazing, female powerhouse behind Storyweaver Mercantile. Her love of life, family and people in general is so inspiring – and I think you’ll agree after getting to know her! Read on to see why we were instantly drawn to her.
Meet Calli Birch
So tell us a little bit about yourself.
Let’s see … I was an English teacher for a decade. I taught in London, at a low-income school full of refugee children, and in Dallas, at a preparatory school full of bright, ambitious girls. Specifically, I taught British literature and creative nonfiction, so I was immersed in the world of stories—both the greatest stories ever written and those still being composed in the daily lives of everyday people.
Then a little over a year ago, my awesome professor hubs was offered a great job in a small college town in Arkansas, so we moved up here, not knowing a soul. I homeschool our two girls, who are 7 and 4, and as soon as we moved, we were excited to discover a thriving homeschool community in this area. We’re a nature-loving family, and “The Natural State” offered so many amazing hiking and exploring options, so shortly after moving here, I started an “Adventure Club” in order to gather other homeschooling families for outdoor adventures in our region. This is probably one our favorite activities to do with friends and each other.
Can you tell us how the idea of Storyweaver Mercantile came to be?
Well, it’s an interesting story, as these things tend to be. The concept (in its infancy) had been in my head for years, but I always thought this business would need to exist in a brick and mortar store. To be completely honest, I thought my mother would be the one creating it, and that I would simply play a small role (after all, I was busy being an English teacher). She is an amazing entrepreneur businesswomen who has owned beautiful retail stores across Texas for over 25 years. I worked for her all while growing up: pricing merchandise, going to market with her, arranging displays, learning POS systems, etc. And then in college, I managed one of her gift shops in Abilene. But at the time, I had no interest in owning a business myself.
My mother has always used her business as a platform to support mission and humanitarian work, and about ten years ago, she actually created a jewelry line with a group of women in Thailand who had been rescued from trafficking. It was beautiful, and at first, successful—but she learned first hand how difficult it can be to manage quality control when there isn’t someone present in the country with western design sensibilities and the critical eye that we can expect from a typical American customer. I now realize that watching her go through this process actually taught me so much. But like I said, up until recently, I never imagined that I would be the one to move forward with this concept.
Fast forward through my teaching career to last year after we had settled in Arkansas. Due to my oldest daughter breaking her foot, our adventurous lifestyle slowed down for a few months. And of course, slowing down invites quiet reflection. In the meantime, the Syrian Refugee Crisis started making the headlines, and my heart broke over the plight of these mothers and children. As I mentioned, I had taught refugee children in London, and since then, had always felt compassion for refugees. I wrote about this experience on my blog, Sparrow + Lilies, and it seems that the writing and reflecting process opened my heart to something that had been dormant for years—a desire to live in a way that “makes a difference,” even if in a small, simple way. But we didn’t have much extra money to give (although we did give what we could), and we weren’t in a season of life to go overseas. So what could I possibly do?
In the meantime, my parents came to visit for a long weekend—partly to entertain my sweet girl with the broken foot—and during their stay, my mother asked me a question that changed my life. She asked: if you could create any kind of business that you could run from home while homeschooling your kids, what would it be? In that moment, the vision of Storyweaver came to me, almost suddenly, and as I started verbalizing it to my mom, the idea became increasingly exciting! The flame was lit, and before I knew it, a new passion had consumed me
I know (from experience!) how…. complicated it is to be a work at home mom. What keeps you motivated to keep working amidst your other responsibilities?
Haha, well, I’m still figuring that out, but my initial answer is to keep it simple and to find a rhythm that works for the whole family. This is actually one of my top goals this year—to fine tune our family rhythm. I will admit that I’m super spoiled because my husband is the family chef, so he makes most of our dinners, which is a huge blessing to us all, because he’s a great cook.
I work really well with daily themes, what some call a weekly rhythm, so just as we have themes for our homeschool days, I have days that I focus on different aspects of Storyweaver. I have two shipping days a week, where the whole afternoon is set aside for packaging and shipping. I have a photography day where I work on product images and/or styled shots for IG. And I recently added an awesome intern who works one day a week. It’s a work-in-progress that definitely gets shifted around as we add or change family activities, but the loose structure is incredibly helpful.
The truth is that I love the work-from-home, mompreneur, homeschooling life—it can be messy at times, but the freedom and connection that it gives us as a family is life giving to me. So, I’ve decided it’s worth the time and effort it will take to fine tune our routines.
Some simple tips that help me:
~ Rise with the sun (I’m still working on this) and give yourself quiet reflection/reading/writing time before the kids are up. This isn’t work time, it’s centering time, allowing a mama to nurture her soul and focus on what matters most.
~ Find your peaceful (or productive) station on Spotify or Pandora, and stream it on a portable speaker throughout the day. This seriously makes a huge difference in my productivity and mood. Added bonus: spontaneous dance parties and sing-alongs are bound to occur!
~ Find your perfect planner and use it in a way that really helps you organize your life + business. I had to go through several planners before I found the one that worked for me. Funny enough, it’s a simple academic planner!
~ When things get stressful, do deep breathing exercises, diffuse essential oils, and drink some herbal tea. This always helps me. And there is nothing wrong with needing an evening or afternoon to yourself. I try to go to the coffee shop a few evenings out of the month—admittedly, it’s often to work—but that quiet alone time with a cappuccino can do wonders.
~ Find a few podcasts that encourage you and/or provide inspiration. I love to listen to podcasts while cleaning the kitchen.
~ Keep the sink clean and counters wiped down, and if possible, the living room tidy. The state of these two spaces can seriously affect my mood. When the kitchen and living room are clean, I feel on top of things, and when they’re not, I can feel like a total mess. And if you only have time to change one, I’d go for the sink.
~ Finally, and this is a lifesaver for me, try to teach your kids to entertain themselves. Read them great stories, or listen to quality audio books (did you know that you can add the Audible narration to many Kindle versions of classic books for only a dollar or two?!), provide them with some basic playthings (dolls, dress-up clothes, blocks, puzzles, train sets, etc), and if necessary, allow them to be “bored” for a while. My kids constantly amaze me with their creativity and ingenuity! It’s empowering to them, and it gives a mama freedom when she doesn’t feel the need to structure and plan all the details of her child’s day.
What do you love MOST about what you do?
Oh, goodness! Well, it’s a tie, I think.
First, spending my days with my kids and having the freedom to order our lives according to our values. For example, we took a road trip/field trip last week where we visited some good friends in Tulsa but also explored two fabulous museums and a nature preserve, and we listened to an amazing audio book while on the road. It was a week of freedom, education, togetherness, adventure, and friendship—these are our family values. And we were even able to fit in a Storyweaver photo shoot on the Tallgrass Prairie of Oklahoma!
Second, the joy and deep satisfaction I get in knowing that Storyweaver truly is making an impact, even if in a small way. Every order I place with our partner organizations is supporting their artisans + their mission to give back, and every purchase a sweet customer makes through my shop is allowing me to continue supporting the artisans. It’s really so cool!
Thank you SO much Calli for sharing some of your story and insights with us! What you’re doing is incredible and we’re so honored to be in your company.
Calli is generously offering all of us a 15% off discount! Use promo code: JOYBOUND and snag yourselves an ethical accessory or two! Next week we’ll be sharing part 2 of this interview and I think you’re going to love it! But for now, you can find out more about Calli and her inspiring work over on her instagram and website.