Creative Profile: Up a Tree Cup a Tea Co.
Meet Johanna - She's the seamstress behind Up a Tree Cup a Tea Co. Her handmade leather goods are repurposed from vintage materials and incorporate fun historical elements such as flour sacks, military tents, location pendants, and more.
How did you get started? How did you know you wanted to make Up a Tree Cup a Tea Co. a business?
I grew up going to flea markets, auctions, and diving in the occasional dumpster with my dad. Hunting down treasures is in my blood. Not much makes me happier than getting up early and hitting up a bunch of estate sales! I learned to sew in elementary school from my mom, a neighbor, and through a sewing club at our local church in Pensacola, Florida. I started using old clothes and bed sheets to make dolls and made many “unique” outfits in middle school on our family sewing machine. J This is where Up a Tree Cup a Tea was born, mixing my love of picking and sewing.
I didn’t think about turning it into a business until 2010. I started making flower brooches using vintage fabric and yarn in my college dorm and a friend said I should start selling them - so I did! I started with vending at arts markets and eventually opened an Etsy shop. I made hair accessories, scarves, painted signs…I did it all! I started making bags in 2015 and after trying just about everything I’ve finally found something I really love.
What makes you different or stand out?
Each and every one of my bags and flags has a story. The materials used to make bags are everything from Vietnam era military tents to 1920s flour sacks from a tiny rural town. Pennants range in age from the 1930s to 1970s and are sourced from everywhere…auctions, barns, and I even got some from a bar that was shutting down. I love creating bags that tell a story through each material.
What is the hardest thing about being a small business owner?
Balance. Because my business is all me I could work endless hours. This year I’m being more focused and purposeful in my business. I’ve hired people to help with certain tasks so I can focus more on the parts of the business I love.
Tell me a little bit about your design themes! What draws you to the materials and the mediums that you use? What inspires you?
The rural south really inspires me. Old buildings, barns, wide-open fields…I love it all!
Describe your office space and what your most productive time to work is.
My workspace is a room in our 1910 farmhouse. It’s home to three sewing machines and has amazing natural light. My most productive time is either early in the morning or late in the evening. I have been known to get on a roll and work through the night from time to time. My husband says I’m a mix between a night owl and early bird. I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate the sound of my machines in the night though!
What is your favorite product and why?
I really love the new Travel Totes. They’re fun to make and I I’m excited about all the vintage textiles and pennants I’ll be using in future collections.
What are some goals you have for Up a Tree Cup a Tea Co.?
I want to continue to grow and participate in some larger markets in the south.
What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in their small business?
Be confident! Creatives have a tendency to catch the “imposter syndrome.” Be confident in your work and show it to others. You are great – let everyone see it!
What do you use most for marketing? What is your favorite social media platform?
Instagram is my favorite, but I use Facebook as well. This year I’m trying out some new marketing strategies – including snail mail! We’ll see how it goes!