Creating your own homemade design business with Mercer + James

Hey guys! I am pumped for you to read along today. Elizabeth from Mercer + James is sharing a little behind the scenes of creating her homemade design business with her husband! I am absolutely a cheerleader for handmade businesses and people with drive to chase their dreams – so for those of you looking for encouragement, this will be a great read! And for those of you looking to cheer on fellow go-getters, leave some love for them in the comments!

*This is a guest post by Mercer + James
Mercer + James

Hello readers of
34 Magnolia Street! My name is Elizabeth, and I lead the product design for
Mercer + James, a men’s grooming and accessories brand that I started with my
hubby a couple years back. When the opportunity to do a guest post on the blog
arose, I thought the best topic might be starting and growing a small design
business, as it’s something that just about everyone considers from time to time.  The problem never seems to be coming up with
an idea; we all have a huge cache in our brains of potential empires that are
just waiting to be built. So what is it that’s holding us up? And how do we
dive in and create the perfect dream venture?  

just talk and dream. Plan!

love mulling new ideas over with friends and family. It makes for more
interesting, colorful conversation and lets me see things from a different angle.
It’s also very cathartic, allowing me to “get out” whatever thoughts are
uncomfortably rumbling around in my head. This, however, is exactly why
casually sharing your ideas can be dangerous. That uncomfortable nagging
feeling that is created by a new idea filling up your head is exactly what may
drive you forward in making a plan. When you share this vague idea, it lets off
the steam and gives you a feeling of “mission accomplished” … without
accomplishing anything. Don’t get me wrong, sharing things is great. It’ll be
even better, though, if what you’re sharing is both the idea and a bigger plan
to achieve it!

something that reflects your knowledge and passion.

Mercer +James sprung out of my hubby’s search for a great men’s shaving set. After
having several junky models from big-box stores, he was ready to upgrade to
something old-school and made to last, but couldn’t find anything in the
marketplace that matched the idea in his head, so we set out to design
something of our own. Our first creation was the Van Alen Deco shaving set, which was the result of lots of trial, error, and rounds of development to
create something for ourselves.  The
search for the perfect shaving set affected us personally, and this ensured our
designs and business choices all came from a place of experience.  If you want to dive into a small business,
you’ll do much better if you’re developing something that affects you
personally. If your driving force is simply that it seems profitable, the
quality and experience will suffer (and you won’t have any fun!). Choose
something where you have lots of passion, and it will help drive you forward in
a positive way.
The Van Alen Deco Shaving Set, Mercer + James first creation

The Van Alen Deco Shaving Set, our first creation

It starts at home.

something really fantastic about a homegrown business. Not only do you have a
certain emotional tie to the quality and design of the work you put out, but
there are also huge practical factors that make it a great way to start your
operation. Cross off your list the big expenses of rent and other overhead,
which can kill a new business before it’s even begun! At a time when more
people focus their shopping online, you can also set up a storefront more
quickly and easily than ever before.  Set
aside a weekend, build a shop, and dive right in! You’ll learn quickly what
works for you and what doesn’t, and with an online shop it’s very simple to
course-correct.  We absolutely love doing
business online, though our website;
it lets us try new things constantly, and lets us reach people all over the
country, which we could never do if we had only physical locations. The same
can be said about starting in our home with many of our grooming products. Our
classic shaving oil and post-shave tonic are still made in small batches,
allowing us to control quality very tightly and ensuring that anything we put
out is something we’re proud of.
classic shaving oil and post-shave tonic, always made in small batches for the best quality

classic shaving oil and post-shave tonic, always made in small batches for the
best quality

Be the better option.

better than the other options in the market is what drives every decision we
make as we design new products.  Small
businesses in today’s market can’t compete on price – we’ll never be cheaper
than what the big-box down the street carries. What we can bring to the table,
however, is amazing quality and refined style that just doesn’t come off a mass
assembly line. Along with our custom-designed sets and classic hats, we also
have a few carefully curated items like our straight razors from Thiers-Issard,
which are the best quality in the world. If you want to start your own
business, make sure that what you offer is something better, not more of the

Thiers-Issard cocobolo straight razor, custom made for our collection

Thiers-Issard cocobolo straight razor, custom made for our collection
I could write
for days and days on all the things that I’ve learned over the past few years
with Mercer + James, but these really boil it down to what’s essential
regardless of the small business you’d like to start. Mull them over, make a
plan, and dive into your own small business adventure!

You can find more of Mercer + James here:

Don’t forget to leave leave some encouragement, thanks, or questions below!