We had the good fortune of connecting with Ericka Chambers and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ericka, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I started this business as a first time mother when my daughter was 7 months old, so I have a very busy life of balancing family, business and my day job as a project manager. I pretty much only know chaos!
As far as balance, when I am presented with something new, I have to consider “What am I giving up to do this and is the reward worth it?” I want to build an empire so that takes work but these are also precious moments with my daughter and I want to be present.
I work best on a calendar. I have to be very intentional about blocking off days that are purely family time or communicating with my husband ahead of time that I have a business commitment that will take up my bandwidth. I am very fortunate that my entire family is part of the business so we are considerate of the need to step away and pick up the work to make it possible. When you are trying to balance in yoga, there is a lot of wobbling and even falling in the beginning; but with practice you learn to adjust your stance based on varying elements and it becomes much easier, so I am trying to do that in life.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Puzzles of Color is a jigsaw puzzle company and the puzzle images are created exclusively by artists of color. We want people to look at our puzzles as more than a hobby, but an artistic experience and a celebration of cultures. Our artists are diverse in their artistic mediums, experience level, and subject matter, so we try to have something for everyone to relate to and enjoy.
We started the business in July 2020 by reaching out to artists that we were fans of and licensing their work. We used to make the puzzles in my garage using a roller die cutter, but after being featured in several news outlets in January 2021, we were unable to keep up with the demand and had to outsource our manufacturing.
It has been a wild ride and far from easy. We learned very quickly that anything that can go wrong will and just when we thought we were past the hurdles, we grew faster than we ever anticipated and had to learn very quickly how to pivot to scale. Hint: Always have MULTIPLE backup plans.
Some of the issues we had included:
– Our puzzle machine breaking after cutting 1 puzzle and having to find a mechanic who could fix it despite all of the labels being written in Chinese
– Our boxes being stuck in the ports for a month beyond when we were told and having to buy back up boxes to ship our pre-orders in time for Christmas
– Selling out of all of our inventory in 30 minutes during the East Coast airing and having to go into pre-sales for the remaining 3,000 orders
– Having our manufacturer push our delivery date from mid-February to June and hoping that our customers would stick it out that long
We learned that even when we make mistakes, if we own up to them most people will understand. We run this company with love and try to treat our artists, our customers, and each other with respect. That good intent is our guiding light and helps us get through any challenge.
I feel a bit like a broken record, but I think the key to our success was the fact that we are a family business. When we have a really big challenge, sometimes it crosses someone’s mind that we should quit or we question why we did this in the first place, but we have each other to lean on then help brainstorm a solution to keep moving forward.
We are proud of the impact that we have made on our artists who are being spotlighted in a whole new way and the people we impact just by knowing we exist. We started the company because we did not see enough diversity in puzzles and the response from people who felt left out and now feel seen is beyond our wildest dreams.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love a nice chill day so we would get a mani-pedi at Valerian Nails and Spa in Little Elm because they do a fantastic pampering experience and I know we will get to relax and not feel rushed. Then, we would have lunch at the Legacy Food Hall in Frisco so that we could all pick whatever we wanted to eat, but I would probably want a barbacoa taco from Velvet Taco. Then catch a movie at the Cinemark West Plano and end the night at the Eatzi’s in the same parking lot to get their buy one get one half off meals to enjoy while we swim and hang out at my house the next day.
Some other places that I love to take friends when they are in town are Pho Que Huong Noodle and Grill in Little Elm, LA Burger in Richardson, brunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Frisco, shopping for knick-knacks in Downtown McKinney, sailing classes at Lewisville Lake, a tour with Dallas by Chocolate and Dallas Bites Food Tours or a cooking competition at Tre Wilcox Cooking Concepts in Frisco.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I can’t narrow my shoutout to just one person, so I have to say My Family!
I run the company with my brother, William Jones. He does a lot of the day to day work, including turning down opportunities so that he can dedicate his time to Puzzles of Color, so his contributions are immense.
My parents, Mark and Marcelle Jones, are very hands on financially and physically putting in the work whenever we need it.
My husband, Andrew Chambers, is on daddy duty A LOT while I work extra hours and gives me emotional support
My Sister-In-Law, Aimee Jones, always volunteers to lend a helping hand and consults us on Marketing.
And not family, but Steve Pickett is the anchor who did our CBS DFW story which lead to national news and really put us on the map so I HAVE to give a shoutout to him!