Middlebury Chamber of Commerce

Couple launches small business with words

LEANDRA BEABOUT THE GOSHEN NEWS

MIDDLEBURY — As a former school counselor, Chelsea Gorsuch has always believed in the power of words. Words shape our thoughts, which influence our actions — the way we fill our lives, she said.

So when the now-owner of Joyfully Said Signs (JSS) spent her days volleying between taking care of her little ones at home and guiding schoolchildren through conflict or their personal struggles, she decided to use words to keep herself grounded. She made a sign. A hand-painted sign to hang in her home that read “Each day is a gift.”

Sitting at her corner table inside JSS’s warehouse in Middlebury’s Market at the Mill, Chelsea explained, “I’m a mom to little kids, and days could be frustrating and long. I put that sign up as a reminder that each day is a gift. Appreciate it. … I would definitely say for a long time I’ve loved words in my home. That’s what also drew me to this business.”

For Chelsea and her husband Wes, the dream of company ownership came before the craft. She can remember sitting down as a couple and discussing their goals several years ago.

“I’ve looked for it and I can’t find it, but I know that in my journal years ago we were praying for a business to do together,” she said. She glanced around at the stacks of holiday inventory waiting to be shipped to homes around the country. “We’re both dreamers. It just fits both of who we are. It’s something we could envision we would do, but we didn’t know what it would be. So this has become that.”

SMALL FAITH, BIG RESULTS

Sign-making snowballed from a home hobby to business more quickly than the couple anticipated. Three years ago, Joyfully Said Signs didn’t exist. Today it has replaced Chelsea’s counseling career and allowed Wes to work part-time at the shop and part-time as a nurse at Goshen Health.

In May 2016, Chelsea took a stack of hand-painted signs to a makers’ market. Then she opened an Etsy shop. Within six months, the couple had moved their inventory to a retail space in Middlebury.

As the business started taking off, Chelsea was drawn to a new saying for her next sign: “Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains.”

“It’s Matthew 17:20,” she said. “Having faith that something small can produce something big.”

Reflecting on the last few years, Chelsea said she realized she’s always wanted to be an entrepreneur. As a young girl, she made bracelets to sell in the summertime. Later, she started a babysitting business and planned events for the neighbor kids.

But unlike those summer side hustles, Joyfully Said Signs comes with the challenge of employees, paperwork, taxes — all the trappings of a full-fledged, brick-and-mortar business. It’s been an adjustment, Chelsea said with a smile.

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

“The last two Christmas seasons, I don’t think I was prepared at all,” she said. “We had some crazy days trying to get orders out on time.”

Joyfully Said Signs’ first Black Friday sale brought in 80 orders in quick succession. Though excited, Chelsea remembered thinking, “Can we do this?”

But they had no choice. Wes constructed the frames while Chelsea and her crew painted their in-house designs on sign after sign after sign.

During their second holiday season, in the fall of 2017, the pair stopped taking Christmas orders on Nov. 5. They couldn’t keep up with the demand. This year, Chelsea said they’ve created a storeroom of ready-to-ship signs in anticipation.

“So my hope is we can at least take orders through November this year,” she said. “We have way more inventory sitting right now than we’ve ever had.” Still, she admitted, most orders are for custom signs, which makes it impossible to fully work ahead of schedule. The current part-time staff of 10 — plus Chelsea and Wes — can construct about 100 signs per week.

“The fun, my love of it, has far outweighed the stressful parts. … (At first) I had some mom guilt. I quit my job at school so I could be home more, but three days is a good balance for me. I enjoy coming to work. If I was home every day — it’s just not me. I would create something even if I was home.”

And in the end, Chelsea is proud of what she and Wes have created. They not only own a business together — they feel good about the product they’re putting out into the world.

“I have always loved the power of words,” she said, adding it feels like in their own small way they have a chance to influence homes and families for the better. “It is a dream turned reality.”

WANT TO SEE MORE?

Visit Joyfully Said Signs online at joyfullysaidsigns.com or in person at 402 E. Warren St., Middlebury. The Gorsuchs can also be found selling their signs at seasonal markets such as the Middlebury Fall Shop Hop Sept. 14-15 at Market at the Mill in Middlebury.