In the Minnesota Wilds, it is not always easy to make your own way. Where small towns speckle the landscape, sometimes the best way to make a living is to put your heart and soul into your own enterprise.
On the edge of the Northern boreal forest, in a log cabin, you will find artists Christine and Gregory Bolstad living life on the terms they desire. In 1994, this husband and wife team created their business, Dog Star Designs.
At the surface, Dog Star Designs is a web-based and wholesale retail store, offering ceramic tiles and pieces for mosaics, worry stones, dry erase boards, magnets and picture clips. The main website is found at www.worrystone.net .
Below the depths, however, Dog Star Designs is an opportunity to live out a dream. Utilizing creativity and promoting connectedness to their customers, Christine and Gregory Bolstad put energy and fun into each of their designs. Both trained artists and natural educators, Christine believes that part of the creation process is sharing the beauty with others. So it seemed a natural progression to open a business in a line of work that allowed for the creative process as well as offered customers an opportunity to engage in this process by providing feedback and ideas for new products.
Deriving its name from the Dog Star (Sirius), the brightest star in the night sky, Dog Star Designs takes its relationships with customers seriously. According to the business website, the legend of the Dog Star explains that if two people are separated by distance, each can view the star for a feeling of togetherness. Togetherness is the Bolstads bottom line; curiosity and experimental collaboration is both the motivation behind the business and the cause of fresh and exciting ideas.
In fact, Christine and Gregory work side by side in their studio everyday. As a husband and wife team, they count on each other for both business and moral support. Christine says that the hardest part of being a business owner is separating business from home. I don’t think we ever overcome this. We work through it, kind of like a farmer who harvests when the grain is ripe. Sometimes we press on. Of course, we can also decide exactly when we want to stop too, but this is difficult because you want to try to get orders out and to please customers.
For the Bolstads, this drive and desire to please makes the business an energizing force in their lives. Their biggest accomplishment in their business is that being able to do what we love shows in our work and dealing with others, says Christine. She adds that this accomplishment is empowering when looking out our window, knowing this is what we want our life to look like.
For anyone struggling to find passion in their work and to build on the dream of self-employment, Christine offers the following advice: Do what you do best and do your best. Sound advice, considering Dog Star Designs and the Bolstads have created a living around something they love.
This article appeared in the Northwest Entrepeneur Fund newsletter May 2006