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olive manna

My name is Natalie Jost, and my life as a maker started early. The Christmas I was five years old, I crept into the bathroom in the middle of the night with some string and a pair of scissors. I clipped the elastic out of my hair ties and strung the balls through the string like beads. I tied a knot and added a hook at the top, then hung my ornament on the Christmas tree and went back to bed like it wasn’t weird at all.
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I probably should have made a career out of creating by the time I was ten, but it wasn’t until I moved to Indiana, got married, and had a few kids of my own that I found a way to make things and get paid for it. My shop, Olive Manna, was born alongside my twins in 2007; the name comes from the Bible, since olives and manna are symbols of God’s grace and mercy.
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Before Olive Manna, I was working as a freelance designer creating patterns for web backgrounds. This easily translated to things like fabric and stationery, which is where our textiles and paper goods came from. As I was packing orders for customers, I found I didn’t like the options out there for wrapping, so I made my own. I dyed plain cotton baker’s twine and lightweight jute twine in lots of different colors. I had more than enough for myself, so I added it to the shop. Each time I made something new for my own use – ribbon, gift tags, sticker shapes, rubber stamp designs, even home décor – I had an influx of people asking if they could buy it.
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As the business grew, so did my kids, and now the girls help in the shop. I’m too much of a perfectionist to let them do any making, but they help critique, count inventory and generally keep me in good spirits when it all becomes a bit too much work. When I need something a little out of my range, like something with a saw or a drill, my husband offers to help with that. For us, Etsy has been the perfect place to grow a small business. I’ve met some incredibly talented and inspiring people over the years, and have had the flexibility to work in my own time with little cost upfront. It has been wonderful to walk alongside some beautiful shops and grow with them – but not too fast. My business has grown at my perfect lazy Sunday, lay-in-the-sun-with-a-good-book pace.
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Reflecting on it all now, I see that everything has grown organically for me. I never set out to have an online shop. I still have no grand dreams of expanding, although I occasionally imagine a little studio and boutique against the ocean somewhere, someday. For now I just make things I love, and share them with others. If people like it and want it, I put it in the shop.
All photographs by Olive Manna.  Keep up with Natalie’s creative endeavors on FacebookPinterestTwitter, and Instagram.

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