"Today we’d like to introduce you to Tawnya Crawford.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Tawnya. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.

I never planned to run a business until I was doing it.

I have always been a DIYer and crafter. I refinished furniture for all my children, made all our holiday decorations, and installed wood flooring in our home on my own. My husband used to get wide eyed when I’d start digging in his tools; now he hardly flinches when I ask where he put the sledge hammer.

Four years ago, my then six-year-old daughter had to undergo open heart surgery. It was the most devastating time of my life. After the surgery, I threw myself into bigger and bigger projects; then I realized how much creating and building was helping me work through my emotions. It was like Craft Therapy.

Soon I started getting attention from friends and family after posting some of my projects on Facebook, and the requests started rolling in.

Before long, I rented a little workshop space and began selling in craft shows and flea markets. Little did I know, that was just the beginning.

Furniture painting and wood crafts are my thing, and I especially love working with reclaimed antique lumber, so I’m always on the hunt for good material. The two years ago, my hometown friend told me about an old 1880s era house that was about to be burned down to clear the property. She suggested I salvage some of the lumber before it was gone forever. So, I took a drive up to North East Texas to grab a truck load.

When I saw this amazing house full of 1880s shiplap and old growth heartwood pine, I knew I couldn’t let it burn.

I made a deal with the farmer to clear the property for him in exchange for salvaging the lumber. He agreed — probably for the sheer entertainment value in seeing this 40-something suburban housewife try to take an entire house apart board by board… with a hammer… and a crowbar!

I almost cracked up at myself for what I was saying too! What was I thinking? I had no idea how to take a house down. By myself. In a cow pasture. In the heat of a Texas summer.

But I’d given my word.

So the Summer of 2015 I spent 11 weeks traveling between Pearland and Gladewater Texas taking on a project that would change my life. I thought I just wanted to collect some awesome material to use in my creations, but what I got was so much more.

The first day I was practically petrified. I wasn’t sure what do to first! The farmer finally suggested I start at the top and work my way down so I didn’t get crushed under a falling house. Good plan. Several hours and prayers later, the first section of roof was pried off. I felt invincible! It was the hardest thing I will probably ever do, save sending my daughter through the operating room doors.

Eleven weeks alone in a pasture in an old house full of countless things that could kill you tends to make you examine and evaluate your life.

I was in constant prayer, meditation, self-revelation.

I realized what I am capable of.

The fears I could face.

What I could accomplish if I was determined and committed.

And how much I need the Lord’s guidance and protection in everything I do.

By the time the house was stacked and packed in my father-in-law’s barn and I’d returned home to Pearland, I got an offer from a local shop owner.

I’d rented space in her shop, and she apparently was so impressed with my dedication and hard work, she asked me to be partner in her business. We renamed and revamped the shop – and Rustique was born!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Jumping into business with both feet with nothing but faith and a barn full of lumber is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Almost immediately, my business partner had health and family issues that prevented her from continuing with the shop. I was faced with the decision to close up or continue on my own.

So, again with my faith in my pocket and sheer determination at my feet, I pressed on and Rustique not only survived – it thrived. Those first months were hard. I stocked the shop with my craft show inventory and goods from three other vendors, and taking on round-the-clock client work to pay the rent. I used any and all profits from sales to slowly build up the business.

I built a store sign, but it took months before I could afford to hang it. I started out using a spiral notebook to keep books until the store was able to pay for an actual computer. But every sale allowed for more and more improvements.

Starting a business without a plan, or any capital, is probably not a business model I would suggest following! I found I needed a real plan. I needed more artists to fill the store, and I felt compelled to offer vendors something different.

Please tell us about Rustique.
I am extremely proud of the store Rustique has become. We have been in business for just over a year and are seeing amazing growth and evolution. It’s been a year of 20-hour work days, running the store all day and filling custom orders at night. And now I’m extremely blessed to have a growing team of over 80 talented vendors to share the load.

My business model is committed to maintaining a venue for local artisans and crafters where they may offer their goods and services on consignment without monthly fees. This allows me to work with people who wouldn’t otherwise sell in a storefront venue. It’s my idea of spreading a little bit of that “Craft Therapy” around.

Rustique carries a variety of rustic and restyled furniture, hand-crafted home decor, a ladies and children’s boutique, and specialty gift items. You will also find gourmet food items and handmade bath and body products, and much, much more. We specialize in authentic primitive decor items and antique architectural elements, industrial and repurposed lighting, and custom rustic furniture.

Because everything at Rustique is locally made, we can customize anything to our clients’ exact desires. We can build any style barn door and farm table, and have a stock of antique reclaimed lumber to choose from.

At Rustique, we strive to build lasting relationships with the community we serve with old fashioned hospitality. When you’re here, you’re family. There is always a chair at the table and a glass of tea or lemonade to drink. I’ve loved becoming that place where folks can sit back and chit chat and visit and feel at home.

The next step for Rustique is to offer home decorating and restyling services. My dream is to spend more time designing industrial style furniture and lighting; to offer eclectic and one-of-a-kind décor selections; and use up the rest of our antique shiplap. And then, find another old house to take down!"

INTERVIEW FROM: Voyage Houston

August 24, 2017 by Tawnya Crawford

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