Today we’d like to introduce you to Susanna Dussling.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Susanna. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was always a creative person who had a flair for fashion, design, and decorating, at least that what others tell me. When I graduated from college, I began a rewarding and challenging 20+year’s career in retail management. Then, it happened; I was fired. As I was looking for a new position, I needed something fun to do for myself; because as we all know, looking for a job is stressful and time consuming.
I used to show and ride horses as my pastime. Riding horses is and always will be a grand passion of mine. It was taking me longer than usual to find a job, thus I sold my show horse and began a Master’s degree program in Human Resources Development at the University of Houston. Even after I earned my degree, I still was not able to find a job.
Since I no longer had my horse and we all know that horses are expensive, I began to look for another hobby. As I was browsing Pinterest, the light bulb went off in my head. I thought, “I’m going to paint furniture.” I started painting with my own old furniture. My first project was my kitchen tables and chairs, painted a soft turquoise that I also distressed and antiqued with wax.
As I shared my work with family and friends. I soon realized that I was not just a painter but an artist. Let me explain, many people can paint furniture; however, as I often tell students in my furniture painting classes, the painted furniture is just a canvas to give the piece personality and depth. There are so many techniques such as whitewashing, layering, etc. that brings your piece to life. To me, the most creative aspect of painting furniture is when I use these faux techniques. It’s very rewarding to see the results of your creativity, especially when others fall in love with your work and they buy it for their home.
When I ran out of my own furniture to paint, I went to Goodwill and bought a headboard for $7.50 and I was able to “flip” it on Craigslist. The customer that bought the headboard gave me my first custom order to complete: a dresser and an armoire to match the headboard.
There it began, the start of an “accidental” business. Since then, the business has expanded. Today, I complete custom furniture projects for clients, out of my workshop in Tomball. I also do on-site location jobs. In addition, I teach furniture painting classes throughout the Houston area with several premium furniture paint lines. Occasionally, I will do a “show” such as the Montgomery Antique Show or Big Top Vintage Market to share my new found passion of “painted furniture” to others in the local community. Lastly, I have two mini boutiques with hand painted furniture and home décor located at Texas Jack Rabbit Emporium in Magnolia and The Antique Gallery of Houston, Booth K5.
I’m excited for the future! We just recently underwent a name change of the business to Dussling Fine Finishes from Hope and Happiness Fine Vintage Furniture, as we felt that more accurately reflects the work that we do. After selling lots of furniture and having taught many people, they shared that I seem to be an “expert” with these fancy high end finishes. We are now on “Houzz” as a Pro in furniture refurbishing and refinishing. As we grow, we will add employees and offer other related services.
I’m fortunate that my Dad has been able to help me with this business. He is a tremendous asset; removing hardware, repairing furniture, delivering furniture, etc. In the beginning, Mom often critiqued my furniture, good, bad or otherwise. She had that “eye” and she could instinctually suggest ideas to enhance my pieces, even though she never painted furniture before! I wouldn’t have been able to start without them.
As I mentioned, I never dreamed of starting my own business; however, I’m blessed to have a business that I enjoy. It’s true, “do something that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Another saying comes to mind too, “When one door closes, another opens.”
Lastly, remember how I mentioned the horses earlier, I returned to riding again and it has been a blessing to return to an endeavor that I enjoy so much.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No it has not been a smooth road. Some of the biggest challenges we encounter are finances, marketing, time, and individual’s perception of painted furniture.
This business has been started by myself with absolutely no funds. Remember, I was out of work and I began with my own furniture. I build this business one piece of furniture at a time. As I sold more furniture, I would add tools, paints, supplies, etc. As I made a profit, I’m continuously reinvesting it into the business. It is still how I run the business today. The downside is that I’m not able to grow as quick as I like. However, we will get there.
Marketing is a challenge. I know how important social media is. As a matter of fact, if it were not for social media, I probably wouldn’t be in business. The challenge with social media is that it is very time consuming. I wear most of the hats and I wish I had more time to focus on social media. However, I need to paint furniture! It’s a challenging cycle.
Time is another constraint. Aside from my dad’s help, I do everything! I also have a part time job. Therefore, it helps that I’m highly organized and I try to “block” my time, so that everything gets done or at least most everything. I’m proud of the fact that I’m able to complete all my jobs on time, in spite of my crazy, busy schedule.
Finally, there is lots of painted furniture out on the market. Unfortunately, many people are hobby painters and both their price point and quality of work is low. I have to educate my clients that I go through many steps to create the quality custom furniture that Dussling Fine Finishes is known for. It’s an education process. Once they understand it, they are fine with it.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Dussling Fine Finishes – what should we know?
I shared many things about the business with you already. However, I would like to emphasize that we are known for creating high end, custom, unique, finished furniture. Our finishes are truly one of a kind, as I can never duplicate a piece exactly. There are many variables that can affect the final finish such as type of furniture, wood, pre-existing finishes, etc., and even my mood can come into play! I’m passionate about what I do and it reflects in the quality of the furniture that I refinish.
As I teach classes, I’m proud when my students send pics of their “before and after.” It’s exciting to hear that I have an impact on others, as a furniture painting teacher too!
Ultimately, I’m most proud of where this company is today, compared to its humble beginnings almost three years ago.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
There are many qualities that are important to success. I feel the 3 most important attributes are passion, resiliency, and persistence.
I am highly familiar with all these qualities because I had to use them throughout my life as a person who was born with profound hearing loss. Now, I’m deaf, as a result of Sudden Deafness Syndrome that occurred in 2005 when I was a retail manager for a nationally known department store. It was a devastating experience. Luckily, cochlear implants exist! I am a bilateral cochlear implant wearer and it has changed my life for the better! You can learn more about this experience at my website www.susannamdussling.com
Ironically, my lifelong dream as a child was to be a motivational speaker, not to own a furniture refinishing business. Yes, I do some professional keynote speaking on the topics of Success, Change, Leadership, and Hearing Loss. One of my keynote presentations includes the 3 qualities that I mentioned earlier.
Because, I am intensely familiar with these qualities, I apply them to my furniture refinishing business. Without these traits, this business would not exist.
This business is not an easy business, but then again any business is not easy. If it was everybody would be in business.
- $100-$2000 Custom Furniture Refurbishing and Finishing
- $89-$99 2 hour group Furniture Painting Class
- $65 Private 1 hour Furniture Painting Coaching
- $250-$2500 Keynote Speaker
- Address: Hope and Happiness Vintage Furniture Boutique – Magnolia
Texas Jack Rabbit Emporium
18423 FM 1488
Magnolia, Texas 77354Hope and Happiness Vintage Furniture Boutique – Spring
Antique Galleria of Houston
21127 Spring Town Drive
Spring, Texas 77388
- Website: www.facebook.com/hopeandhappinessvintagefurniture
- Phone: 281-818-0547
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org