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Daily Inspiration: Meet Donna Schilling

Today we’d like to introduce you to Donna Schilling.

Hi Donna, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Like it did for so many people, the Covid pandemic changed our lives. My husband worked for one of the local school districts as a High School Behavioral Specialist which required him to visit numerous campuses every week and interact directly with staff and students (sometimes in a physical capacity). He contracted Covid in December of 2020. We went through quite a scare as he has a number of serious health issues and after 3 hospitalizations, we realized we had to rethink our future. Herschel’s health was more important than anything else, and as he was suffering lingering effects on his lungs, we knew he could not return to work. It was just too physically taxing, and we couldn’t risk him contracting it again.

So, Herschel had to take early retirement and I continued to work. Not having been prepared for the financial hit, we started thinking of ways to supplement our income. Then one day, I was looking on YouTube for a video on how to ship something. I came across a video created by a lady who had an Etsy wreath shop. She was so informative and fun, that I started looking at some of her other “how to” videos and thought to myself, “I can do this too.” She was making a good living making wreaths and I, having created artificial arrangements in the past, decided to give it a shot. That’s how was born.

It took a while to learn Etsy and how to manage an online shop. Meanwhile, Herschel needed to fill his time. Although his stamina was affected due to the lingering lung issues, he was not one to just sit around the house and watch television. Being quite creative himself, he started tinkering in his workshop, building birdhouses and feeders out of plates and teapots and odds and ends he found at Good Will. He loves to shop, and Good Will didn’t hit our pocketbook too hard. Additionally, we were adding some unique and beautiful creations all around our property. (We love to sit and watch the birds.) He also made them for gifts for some friends and family who also like birds. I kept encouraging him to open his own Etsy shop, but he was more into creating the items than messing with figuring out how to do it.

Now, while my wreaths were turning out really beautiful, my real dream has always been finding a way to share my poetry with the world. Blue Mountain Arts has market tested more than 40 of my poems but I never quite made the cut to having one published. I’ve written poetry for nearly all my life, since I was about 10 years old. I write for family friends, birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, encouragement, love, etc. Why not open an Etsy shop for poetry? Could that really work? The answer was yes! And that’s how was born.

After I opened the second shop, I convinced my husband to open his. And that’s how was born!

We are hoping to start exhibiting the birdhouses and wreaths at craft shows very soon.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
All our shops just opened this year. Learning to navigate and set up the Etsy shops wasn’t too bad. But being in our late fifties, we have struggled with the marketing. The best marketing for an Etsy shop is social media. Neither of us had ever used Pinterest or Instagram. We were able to use Facebook somewhat, but we would get more notice on Pinterest or Instagram. Our daughter helps us sometimes, but I had to buy a book to even get me started on Pinterest because she doesn’t use it. So yes, we are still struggling for exposure, but we are determined to get there!

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
The Tinkerman Shop is unique because all the birdhouses and feeders are upcycled, made from Good Will or garage sale finds. They are truly one-of-a-kind creations and we’ve seen nothing on Etsy, or anywhere, even close to what Herschel creates. He honestly has a special vision that allows him to make these amazing works.

My Little Poetry Shoppe is unique because I use a variation on acrostic poems where each letter of the name has a stanza. I write various kinds. I use first names for baby/child names or for bereavement poems. I use last names for engagement or weddings. However, I also have poems for immediate download, written about hope and love or other relationships. My favorite kind of poem to write is that about hope. My husband and I celebrated 30 years of marriage this year and we have survived the kind of pain that would end most marriages. During those really hard years, I wrote a lot of poetry about hope, as a means to help us get through something we had no control over. I often share those poems with people who are struggling through their own crisis, and I am very proud of those writings. I also offer custom poetry for those wanting the writing tailored to specific people or events.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
One of my favorite childhood memories is when one of my poems was read at our school’s Easter assembly. I went to a private all girl catholic high school and I had written a poem about Christ’s crucifixion. My teacher was so impressed, that they read it at our Easter celebration, announcing that I had written it. The smartest girl in class was standing right next to me asked, “You wrote that?” I blushed and replied, “Yes.” I will never forget the look on her face and her compliment to me about something that I created. It made me feel so good that someone else appreciated my words. I plan to post that poem on my shop soon. It really is one of my most favorite poems.

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