We had the good fortune of connecting with Shannon Hart Gonzalez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shannon, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
“Hi and thank you for allowing me to answer your questions today. The thought process was a decision that came more out of grief, loneliness, and necessity than anything else. We had tossed around the idea of starting our own business for 10 years, Then in 2015, my husband was working in North Dakota, 22 hours away in the oil field, I was here in Texas holding down the fort as a stay at home mom. My father had been diagnosed with early Alzhiemer’s when he was only 59 and that year he passed away. I was devastated and grieving alone a lot. A few months later, my son asked me to make a homecoming mum for his date, since I’d been making mums since 2005 for pee wee teams and my kids and friends. But that year, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to make one from scratch so I thought I’d take the easy way and go to the hobby box store and grab the minimum and be done. The plastic mess for sale was $90! I couldn’t believe it. I kept thinking how little I was getting and how much I was spending. I knew if I had this problem, other moms must too. I told my husband I was going to open a Mum making business and give parents quality for their money. So in 2016 we opened Mums and Kisses to the public online, with $0.86 to our name. Back then we didn’t even have enough money to pay for the $0.99 domain name, it was time to search the couch cushions. To say the least, I was at the lowest point in life. With 2 kids in school, a husband working 22 hours away, and only seeing him 4 times per year. Life wasn’t good. So I did the only thing I could think to do, I threw myself into researching mums, business, accounting, sales and anything that would help launch a business in a hurry. It was a good distraction from mourning my dad and missing my husband. It took me a month of 16 hour days to develop a website that customers could order a mum completely online. At the time mum websites were mostly splash pages and customers had to call to set an appointment. After that I set to work on how to mass produce them, I practiced new designs with scrap ribbon from around the house. After which I found a supplier, and cut back on my grocery budget to slowly buy supplies.
Right before school and homecoming season began, I took a chance, sacrificing my kids school clothes money to buy the rest of the supplies for the season. I cried that day worrying about the chance I was taking and promising myself that I’d make it up to them. This had to work, and I knew it.
We sold our first homecoming mum 3 days after the website went live and it didn’t stop. I was so shocked that people not only liked the designs but wanted them in droves. Life went from normal to warp speed and little to no sleep. With 4 am bedtimes and waking up again at 6 am to take the kids to school and back to fill mum orders. We started out on the kitchen counter of our home until we got tired of finding glitter in our food. What started out as one of the hardest years, turned into one but most rewarding times of our lives.
In our first season online we made it on to NBC News Online and made a mum for a celebrity! By the 2nd season the biggest question we’d get from our customers was “do you have a store?” I knew that that was going to be our next step. Our customers demanded our custom supplies and at first I was hesitant to release them. But as our third season rolled around I knew we had to “give the people what they wanted”. We took another chance and opened our 1st physical location selling our custom supplies. Together with sweat equity we built not 1 but 2 buildings. Late nights, my husband was hammering by flashlight, laying down floors and putting up walls with no air conditioning in July to get the store open before the homecoming season officially started. Every day the buildings took more and more shape and I doubted myself more and more. What if this didn’t work? What if no one finds the shop? What if it’s not big enough? The questions that plague a business owner keeps you up at night with self doubt. Still, I had to follow this path that God has put me on. I had to try. Mum orders started rolling in by early July as we were fixing the shop during the day and making mums at night. Then one day, we looked up, and the store and workshop were finished! Today our retail location is open Aug – Nov servicing customers that travel from all over the state. Our online eCommerce store continues to thrive and we’ve proudly shipped orders all over the U.S. and as far away as to Japan and Germany.
We can’t believe how fast Mums and Kisses has taken off and can’t wait to see where we go from here. I’m truly blessed to not only have the support of my family, but of the parents that have become our best customers. I love hearing how proud they are of their own kids. They cheer us on so much and I’m truly grateful.
Years later, Mums and Kisses has changed our lives and shown our kids that they can do anything if they are just willing to work hard enough for it. The people we’ve met, the places this business has taken us, and the personal freedom is more than we thought possible. My husband was able to come home after 5 1/2 years working away, and now works at Mums and Kisses part time. Our son now attends Baylor University, something that might not have been financially affordable before if not for Mums and Kisses. We’re all in a lot better place now.
To answer the main question in one sentence, what was the thought process behind starting your own business, it was the simple motto I repeated over and over in my head, “Shut up, and do it.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
“At Mums and Kisses we now have branched out to offer a few different entities. Our primary entity is our ecommerce website, https://www.mumsandkisses.com where we take orders to make custom homecoming mums, no mum is ever the same. Each of the 400+ mums per year are always different. We now offer our supplies in store to the public, have boutiques carrying our products and have contracts with floral shops, schools and team boosters. We are a proud supplier of the Mum Factory Outlet. And we sell our products on 5 different platforms now. We’re excited for the future and hope to open more locations and keep expanding into the future as well as develop more products along the way.
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 think we would go to the Ft Worth Water Gardens, the Stockyards and eat at Cattlemen’s!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to thank first, God, who has guided us through the darkness who gave us this business and who has blessed it and us tremendously. To my husband Alfredo for putting up with the long hours, for taking my hand and slow dancing in the workshop to relieve my stress, for keeping me calm when I’m about to lose it, and for loving me anyway. Te amo siempre. To my children, Reeve and Mya who are now “retired” from years of mum making and were my first “employees”, who would eat glitter in their sandwiches and who sacrificed their school clothes without complaint. You both were there for the worst, and helped make this into the best. I couldn’t have done this without either of you. I love you both so very much.
To my Mom, Terry, who would travel 1200 miles in the early years, putting her life on hold to sleep in the lazy boy chair to pull bows, cook, run errands and ship packages, Love you Ma. To Harry for his encouragement and knowledge of color, and for his sound advice and wonderful product searching skills, I thank you.
To my 3 “L’s”, Loni, Lori and Lupe, the girls that made mum making look easy, who have pushed me to keep the quality standards, and who have kept the mums cranking out. your help is and was always invaluable.
A special thanks to my mother in law Martha, mi suegra, for making food for years so we wouldn’t starve while we worked 20 hour days. To my sister in law Claudia and sabrino Jonathan, for being my first weekend mum crew.
Thank you to my Sister in Law Silvia for keeping us ahead and helping out so much, and to my sabrinas, Cami, Arleth and Chloe for making supplies while dancing in the store and for keeping us stocked up. Your help has made all the difference this year. I thank you all.
And lastly to my Dad in heaven. I hope you see me Daddy, and I hope I make you proud. – love, your girl kid.
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