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What Yoga Taught This Law School Grad About Startup Success

In 2013, Amanda Baumann hung up her law degree to found ShopHDB, an online shop that sells artisan-made, ethically purchased, and eco-friendly home goods. Here's how she did it.

In 2013, Amanda Baumann hung up her law degree and never looked back. Scrolling through home decor blogs had become more than just something to make class go by faster; it had become an all-consuming passion and she was ready to do something about it.

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ShopHDB was founded with a mission in mind: to bring artisan-made, ethically purchased, and eco-friendly goods to the masses. The store (which stands for Home Decor Boutique) has a global bohemian feel, as Amanda partners with an ever expanding list of artisans and vendors that she finds on her worldwide travels. This Miami-based online shop has fairly priced goods you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else, whether you need a few accessories for your home office or you're looking to spruce up your couch with a few throws.

Now two years in, Amanda is starting to see her vision really come to life, but as any entrepreneur will tell you, starting up your own company is no easy feat, especially as a one woman team (with a little help from her mom). Read on to see how this born and bred Miami girl has been able to cope with startup stresses on a day to day, why she encourages any blossoming entrepreneur to have a strong business plan, and what yoga taught her about staying productive while working alone.

So what is ShopHDB?

It is a lifestyle boutique. We sell products that are artisan-made, that are ethically purchased, eco-friendly, and that have a global look and feel to them. It has a sense of otherworldliness compared to what you have in your home. There's something different about the pieces.

What does ShopHDB stand for?

It stands for Home Decor Boutique but it also happens to be my mother's initials. When we were first thinking of a name, we were thinking of how we would describe the store.

When you're one website amongst billions in an area where people are internet savvy and creative, how do you get yourself known?

What made you want to give up a law career and become an entrepreneur?

I was in law school and I had been spending an excessive amount of time looking up home decor blogs, immersing myself in that and not paying attention to what was happening in the class. I realized that it grew to be more than just an interest, it was a passion. Whenever I would travel, which I was fortunate enough to do a lot of, I would always find very interesting pieces. Everyone always loved what I brought back but it was always for personal use. I decided that I would finish law school, because I had already put in the effort and no matter what it would always be really great to have the education, and found ShopHDB. If not now, then when?

You work from home, so what's a day in the life for you?

Every day is different because it depends on what needs to get done and what becomes priority. Every day I wake up at 7am, drive to my office at my parent's house and I'm here by 9am the latest. I respond to emails, then I spend a lot of time talking to vendors or scouting the internet looking for interesting products. Then I work on my blog, go through whatever orders I might have, and then it's time to process and ship things out. I usually spend a good amount of time every day mapping out what needs to be done either the next day or coming up with fresh materials and fresh content I'm going to use on the blog.

Any tips on time management?

One thing I learned from meditation and yoga is that I tried to do five things at once. That is the most unproductive thing ever. If I have one thing to do I need to sit down and do that one thing until its finished. And if it's not priority, if that's why I'm flipping back and forth, then I need to do the first thing that's priority and complete it. When you try to do so many things at once your brain is pulled in so many different directions and you're only giving that one thing half of your attention. Multitasking is a fiction, it's not real.

As a startup, what have you learned works for you? What doesn't?

I learned to try not to be something that I'm not. When I first started I was so influenced by all the other blogs that I had read that I was trying too much to be them. Now I'm just trying to be me and my most authentic self. That is why people continue to buy from me. I'm putting out my vision, my eye, and what I like.

How has your vision changed since when you started?

Before I was only interested in selling other product and I was really strict on only selling fair trade and eco-friendly. I realized I'd like to travel more and I'd like for that to be a much stronger part of who we are. These individual connections you could make with artisans is so rewarding that I'd like to develop those more.

There's this whole movement to buy ethically purchased goods goods now. How do you know which vendors abide by the codes?

It's called the Fair Trade Organization and they have a very comprehensive list that pretty much tells you who is certified fair trade. Not all of [the artisans on our site are on the Fair Trade Organization's list]. Some of them are people we've developed our own relationship with while traveling.

But there are different degrees. The most extreme is to be a fair trade company, then there are artisans you really connect with and then there are socially conscious companies which are bigger companies that make sure that the people who work for them are treated ethically.

Each town, each country, each city is different, from food to clothes to architecture, and it's represented in the goods that they sell and products that they make.

What are some of the countries you source your items from?

We just went to Guatemala, then before that we had gone to Peru. We also get products from Africa and Ibiza. We met this wonderful woman who makes these linen blankets in Paris. It's really diverse.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

The actual destination. Each town, each country, each city is different, from food to clothes to architecture, and it's represented in the goods that they sell and products that they make. A lot of the times I do fall in love with the story, like women working  to empower themselves and teach their children their craft, or traditional Mayan families who are passing down these dying weaving traditions that they've had for centuries in Guatemala, Peru, and other South American countries.

What are some of the challenges you've faced as a startup?

Branding has been really hard and having the patience that it takes because we're not really paying for exposure. It has to happen organically and by word of mouth. When you're one website amongst billions in an area where people are internet savvy and creative, how do you get yourself known? I think that by being true to my vision and who I am and what I believe in, I don't doubt that things will just grow naturally.

Has your law degree helped you in any way?

Negotiating is something I was trained to do in law school so I have to flip back over from being what I think I'm supposed to be as a creative person into being able to use all the skills I've been given at this point. Our most recent buying trip was kind of cool because for the first time I felt really comfortable in my role. Instead of saying 'Oh I just started this business...' I said, 'No. I have a vision, I can do this, and I can talk to you in terms that are most favorable to myself to get the best price.'

What are some easy ways to decipher what's been manufactured and what's been handmade?

Color, so anything that's neon. But that's not to say that somebody's not taking a yarn made in a factory and hand weaving it into a bag. If you really take a look you can tell. Like if there are straight lines everywhere.

Any tips for people looking to start their own companies?

Have your business plan. It's really important to have a beginning, middle, and end, and to know how much you're going to need and what exactly it is you're going to have to do to make something successful. Having an idea is really wonderful, but following through is tough.

Are you at the beginning, middle, or end?

We're in the middle. As I get older my vision shifts ever so slightly, but I would love to be able to create my own product with the really amazing people that we've met all over the world that's authentically ShopHDB.