Happy Thursday! I can barely contain my excitement today. You know that feeling when you have something amazing to share and you want to choose your words carefully so nothing is missed? This is how I feel about my chance to catch up with CeCe Retailer and Southern Area Distributor, Donna Haile.
This is FULL Blog post. I didn’t want to leave any part of Donna’s amazing story out. Grab a snack, a cup of herb tea, and settle in, it is that kind of chat!
This is Donna and her cute husband Wesley.
I have never met Donna, but I will next weekend when myself and some CeCe gals are meeting up in Arizona! I can hardly wait.
Donna has a story that I think many women can relate to on some level. This is what makes Donna’s story so inspiring! Read on to be amazed:
I wanted to start from the very beginning of how Donna got involved in the paint biz. Donna is a devoted wife and mother, and spent many years focusing on raising her children. Donna has three grown kids. All married and all part of Donna’s amazing story.GTC: Donna, being a distributor for Cece Caldwell’s paints is a HUGE jump from being a stay at home mom and focusing all your energies on your family. How did you make this transition in such a short time?
Donna: It all started in 2007. My husband Wesley and I decided to build our dream home. We are both from Abilene Texas. We have lived our entire lives in Abilene. Went to college in Abilene. Married in Abilene, and raised our kids in Abilene. Our children were all grown and we decided it was time to build the home we had always desired. An Architect, a Builder and 14 months later we moved into our dream home in 2008. Not long after we moved in, one of my daughters became engaged. She married in 2009. In 2010, both my daughter’ and my son were engaged and married. Two of the weddings were only two weeks apart! For 18 months, I did nothing but plan weddings! All three weddings were so different, but it was a full time job!
Donna: In 2010, between my daughter Jennifer and son Tyler’s wedding. I needed something to focus on, besides weddings! I decided to paint a piece of furniture! I chose my Grandmother’s Victrola that was in our garage. I even used left over paint we had used on the walls of our home! I painted for three days, I needed a three day break, and I realized painting is so relaxing!
DONNA: After the 3rd wedding. Each child moving on to a new stage of their life, and me, suddenly without the job I had for the last 18 months, I felt like I was adrift. For 25 years, everything in my life had revolved around my children. I had been so busy raising my children that I never even really picked up a hobby. All of my focus was on what they were doing. Sports, Church activities, etc. Suddenly, all three of my kids were married and I needed a new purpose!
For the first time in 25 years, I found myself not knowing what to do. I actually became very depressed. My doctor told me I was experiencing a very complicated form of depression “Empty Nest Syndrome” ;).
The treatment was simple. I needed to find a hobby and something to get involved with.
GTC: I think many women experience this at different stages in life. When kids go off to school, death of a spouse, divorce, job lay offs, etc. Changes are hard!
DONNA: Before I had children, my husband Wesley and I loved to frequent Antique shops. It wasn’t long until we picked up the habit again. Wesley and I were out shopping in Abilene at an Antique Mall. Just shopping! When the owner came up to me and said, “You look like you need something to do”. She was offering me a booth (a spot to sell furniture) in the store! My reaction at first was, “who me”? But Wesley was encouraging me.
We went onto the next Antique Mall. The more I looked at furniture, the more I realized, “I can do this!”
Two weeks later, I had a spot. November 201o. I was on my way to a whole new life!
GTC: That is huge jump and leap of faith! I am so impressed you just jumped in with both feet! I often feel overwhelmed, and I have been in this biz for many years now!
DONNA: I just began by going to garage sales. I watched videos on how to paint. I started painting all the time. Unfortunately, I began having some health problems too. After being around the paint all day, I would wake up in the morning with puffy eyes and itchy hands. I didn’t realize at the time that I was allergic to the chemicals in the paint! I just kept going because I loved what I was doing.
(Donna is a very fast study, look at some of her gorgeous work!)
While I was still in the beginning stages, Wesley and I were visiting one my daughters. We took her to a store called “Frisco Mercantile”. We fell in love with the place. (Holy Cow, I just looked at it, I would go to Texas to see this, it is HUGE)!) I turned around, I couldn’t find my husband! (If I lost Mark in Antique Mall it would be because he had LEFT!) When I did find Wesley, he was with the manager of the mall and was telling her all about my furniture painting biz. I got offered a booth again! Right there! At this point, I didn’t feel comfortable spending more on rent for spaces. I am from Abilene Texas! We are FRUGAL with our money, and we just don’t do things like that!
The manager gave me three days to hold the spot. It didn’t take long for me to make up my mind. The next day I took the spot! My husband ” convinced” me I needed to pursue this opportunity.
(and it looks like you had skills aplenty to fill the spot!)
GTC: What a change! How did you adjust?
DONNA: I was busy! I was traveling three weekends out of the month, Frisco is a three hour drives from Abilene
(from google images, reference to where Abilene is)
GTC: Maybe you were two busy to think about how busy you were!
DONNA: I was not only painting like crazy, I was also traveling quite a bit. I was still having some problems with allergic reactions to the chemicals.
Then a miracle happened. One Sunday afternoon, I was in my booth. A young girl approached me. The Young lady was interested in becoming a vendor. She was curious what it was like to be a vendor in the mall. There were lot of vendors there, but I was the only one that would share “trade ” info with her. I was busy at the time, but gave her my phone number and told her to call me when I was on my drive back to Abilene. The young lady called and we spoke the whole way home!
The next weekend, I was back at the mall. My new friend brought her friend. They started a booth, and I started “tutoring” them about the business!
GTC: Side note: I am a firm believer in what comes around, goes around, and Donna’s generosity is a perfect example of this principle.
DONNA: In November 2011, the girls I had helped get started in business called and told me about this “Amazing Paint, that was 100% natural called CeCe Caldwell’s” . It was hitting the market soon. They wanted to know if I wanted to sell it in Abilene. They were going to sell it in the Dallas area.
The next thing I knew. The girls decided they did not want to do get involved in paint sales. They offered the Dallas territory to me!
GTC: You just never know what kindness you may offer may come back to you, or change your life down the road.
DONNA: Isn’t it amazing that I shared my business knowledge with these two young ladies? In return they shared about Cece Caldwell with me. After I took on the Dallas area, I started putting the paint in more locations. Not only was I starting yet another new business enterprise, but my allergic reactions went away! There are no chemicals in CeCe Caldwell’s paints, nothing to irritate your skin or lungs.
At this point, Wesley and I thought eventually we would move to Dallas. But only 4.5 years earlier we had built our dream home in Abilene! But 4.5 years later we sold our house.
Six months of traveling and selling paint, it was wearing on us. But we were having so much more fun selling paint in Dallas!
GTC: A little back ground here. Donna’s husband had not one, but two businesses in Abilene. Donna’s areas with CeCe Caldwell’s paints were doing so well, he decided to sell both businesses and they both put their all into the paint business.
GTC: Was it a difficult decision to give up your dream home, the businesses, and wow, a whole life in Abilene?
(It may not have been too difficult, Donna had much too look forward to, like painting more things like this buffet!)
DONNA: It wasn’t a difficult decision for us. The paint did not take off in Abilene. We put our house on the market. 10 days later in June 2012, the house sold! We knew this was our answer that we needed to move to Dallas.
GTC: After the house sold in Abilene, your husband sold his businesses, what was your next plan?
DONNA: Believe it or not, we didn’t have a plan. We hadn’t even told our family or our children! We just took a leap of faith and went forward.
People thought we were crazy to give up our dream home, two business, and sell paint. The number one reason we moved, was for MY business. It was unreal, after being a stay at home mom for all these years, to build this business for my husband and I.
DONNA: This business means so much to us that we gave up our dream home and two businesses to put 100% into selling this paint. That is how much we believe in this company.
I NEVER dreamed I would EVER being doing anything like this. Painting, selling paint, and being a distributor is the 1st thing I have ever done that was just for me. Just being a business person was so new for me! It was so fun to have a business that was just my husband and I together, pushing it forward.
Obviously, Donna was meant for this business!
GTC: I have found that most people in this biz have picked up their love of restoring old furniture and decor from someone in their family. Where did you gather your inspiration?
DONNA: My father was an upholsterer. I regret not learning enough from him on how to upholster furniture. However, I learned the most important lesson from him. Customer service is #1 in a successful business. It is the key to building a very strong business. I feel like I have done this. I tell my customers, I am always an email, text message, phone call away. I will even teach people over the phone how to use the paint!
I love building a repoire with customers. I do a lot of paint demos and the paint sells itself. I have the paint in 6 locations now!
I did a show, in Arlington, Texas, opposite of North Texas. Now the interest in Cece Caldwell’s paint is all over! I have people from many hours away that come to take my workshops. The paint is so fun, I get all different types of people. I even do private lessons, private groups, talking paint and business. I never tire of talking paint and business. I have found I love coaching women in the “Paint Business”.
GTC: This leads me to my next question, how did you become a distributor with CeCe Caldwell’s paints?
DONNA: When the original Distributor for my region announced she needed to resign. I sent in a request that I wanted to take over the distributorship. I was scared at first. I thought “WHAT AM I DOING????” It was the best decision we made to move our paint biz forward. I absolutely love being a distributor. The best part has been getting to know CeCe herself. I have so much respect for her.
Being a distributor was a whole new level of business for Wesley and I. We decided to make it a family business. We even had a family meeting when I took on this position. We made a plan that each family member would help and have responsibilities. Instead of employees, it truly is a family business.
Husband Wesley takes care of all my shipping.
My two daughters and their husbands do all the stocking of paint. My daughters also help paint and set up for workshops.
My daughter in law handles social media. My son helps with financials.
GTC: Between Donna and her family, they all have it covered!
GTC: My head would be spinning about now if I were you. How do you handle all this success, and change?
DONNA: Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I am really doing this. When you love what you are doing, you don’t realize you are working. My motto is “learn to love what you are doing, so much so that you don’t notice you are working”.
This piece is called “Olivia” I LOVE it! I wish Donna would send it off to me! (Olivia is wearing one of Cece Caldwell’s new colors, Chesapeake Blue!)
I am very humbled by all this success. I absolutely love helping people.
It is so rewarding to share CeCe Caldwell’s paint with people. I love to help retailers grow their business. The same principles I used in raising my kids, I use in helping others to succeed.
GTC: It looks like you set a new movement in motion for your entire family! Have your children taken on their own creative endeavors?
DONNA: Yes! My daughter Mindi and her husband started a business of buying antiques and painting, they have their own business.
My daughter Jennifer is in the process of starting her own clothing business.
My daughter in law, Katee, has started a business, she makes and sells headbands and bows for children. Her shop is JuleeDon on Etsy. Part of their proceeds go to benefit the American Lung Association.
My kids are so inspired to see how exciting it is to have your own business.
I only wish I had started my own business when my kids were young. I think it is so rewarding for women to have their own creative outlets and own businesses, and you can do it on a small or large scale, while you are still raising kids.
GTC: I know myself and many other moms can attest to this truth. For me, painting, blogging, restoring old things. This is what renews me and allows me to give back more to my children.
GTC: What are some important aspects you want everyone to know about the CeCe Caldwell’s company?
DONNA: I want everyone to know that this company is growing fast! (GTC: I have seen first hand, from just a year and half, how amazing this company is, and how in demand the products are). CeCe Caldwell’s is a Good Hearted Company. They are good to their employees, their retailers. It is infectious, the joy.
I Love the honesty we have from the top down. CeCe truly cares about her retailers, calls them family. She deeply cares about the people who work for her. She has such a vast knowledge and wants to share this knowledge with the public.
GTC: What do you like about the CeCe Caldwell’s products?
I love that there are no VOC’s in the paints. I have allergies and my husband has asthma. There is nothing in CeCe Caldwell’s paints that can exacerbate it.
CeCe Caldwell’s paints helped me over my depression, not only did I love using the product, I started an entire new life because of this company!
I love the ease of working with it. You CANNOT make mistakes. It is the most forgiving paint.
GTC: Now to the products themselves. What colors do you love working with?
DONNA: Vintage White is always my number #1, it sells really well. Greys and blues are very popular. I love to mix the colors. My paint room looks like a science lab. I am developing a workshop that is just mixing colors!
One of my favorite creations is Savanna sky, gorgeous buffet that sits in my entry. 4 parts Simply White, 2 Parts Seattle Mist and 1 part Memphis Blue.
GTC: What are your plans for the future?
DONNA: My plans are to spoil grandchildren 😉 I am looking at opening a warehouse, and doing occasional sales. (Like Paris Flea and Room With a Past!) I would love to have a location where I can teach workshops. I truly don’t see myself doing anything else but painting, spoiling grand kids and taking family vacations with my kids and their families.
GTC: What surprises have you had in this journey?
The Dallas Morning News did an entire story on my business. “Doozie’s Corner” (Donna signs all her pieces, “Doozie”, a family nickname). This is the buffet they used the in the picture:
GTC: Are you surprised at where the success of this business has taken you?
DONNA: I NEVER dreamed when I started that this “hobby” it would be this business. It has been a whirlwind!
I love painting and it is not uncommon to find me up at 2:00 a.m. working! In fact, when I was getting started, Wesley would want to take over the painting because it was relaxing for him too. He needed the stress relief!
It is so fun to be running this business with my husband. We do everything together, including running this business!
GTC: Like any small business that grows so big overnight, there are always challenges and set backs. What do you do to keep moving forward?
DONNA: I have always told me kids, in every situation, there is a positive, you just have to find it. That principle has always carried me. In every challenge, I always find that positive!
GTC: Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story with me! Donna, you are one of the most inspiring people I have had the pleasure to “meet”! I can’t wait to meet you in person soon!
GTC: PS Donna has two grandchildren, one just about two weeks old! She is a proud Grandma!
I hope Donna’s story has inspired you. I know I am so inspired to reach further. Paint more. And not be afraid to go after my dreams.