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#10: Community Over Competition

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Welcome welcome WELCOME my friends and fellow busybees. I am really looking forward to today’s episode because we will be switching it up a bit today and hearing from some of my local furniture refinishing friends as well, which is so fun. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile now, you know that the episodes are typically just me, myself and I and that’s because I currently still have a lot of great knowledge and value that I want to share with you guys, but also because it’s just much easier in terms of organizing the episodes and recording and all of that if I’m not having to coordinate schedules with someone else - at this point at least! I’d love to be able to include elements moving forward of ways to learn from others and also showcase some of the AM-azing other furniture refinishers in the community. But until then, I wanted to get some voice clips from some friends to include today.

But first, let’s back up and discuss what today’s episode is all about… community over competition. Now, what does that mean? Basically, there is a HUGE amount of furniture painters and refinishers that exist in this world, whether you know it or not. And the great thing about technology and the Internet and social media is that, even if someone is literally on the other side of the world from me, I can still stay relatively up to date on what that person is doing, what they’re posting, learning from them, connecting with them.

And, depending on my mindset, I could feel really shitty about myself if I’m comparing myself to them, or, I could take a look at how many people there are out there doing the same kind of work as me and get discouraged and think, “what’s the point? I’m not better than them”. And while I don’t necessarily want to open up the Pandora’s Box of how to keep a positive mindset in business or keeping yourself motivated because there are episodes to come that will focus in on that.

But what I do want you to consider, if you haven’t yet - and this is for whatever industry or sector you are in too, not necessarily just if you paint and refinish furniture - you have two options of how to view your counterparts: as part of your community, or as your competition. Which option sounds more exhausting, more stressful, like more of a scarcity mindset? Which one incites feelings of belonging, of inspiration, of being a part of something bigger? For me, I’m choosing community over competition every time, and I hope that that’s the one that sounded more desirable to you, too! But if not, hopefully at least by the end of this episode you’re convinced to try it out.

The first community of furniture refinishers and DIYers I found and learned from was on YouTube back in 2019 when I used to binge those doing room makeovers, furniture makeovers and other home improvement projects. Eventually once I created the MelDidItHerself Instagram account to have one centralized place to post the little DIY projects and home decor and interior styling things I was doing to our home, I then came across the community of furniture painters and refinishers on Instagram. This is where I began to learn so much more about that work specifically and got so inspired by everyone I was seeing, and really started to feel like I was getting to know some of the refinishers on there.

One of the refinishers I had been following for quite awhile and had seen her grow was Jess over at OakandGrainRestoration, which has since been changed to OakAndGrain_Refinishing. At one point, she came together with some other furniture artists around her area to create the Carolina Furniture Collective with Molly from VintageGraceDesign, Chantele at RustedRoseVintage, Kristi at ChalkItUp, Crystal at EnhancedLifeFurnishings and Caroline at LivingOnSaltwater. I heard Jess talking about it on her stories on Instagram and then eventually heard them all on the Zibra podcast talking about how they came together to create a local community, create a space to showcase all of their work, and create what appeared to be really great friendships with each other. Safe to say I was totally inspired and thought, “I wonder if this is something I could try and replicate in my area”.

So I started keeping an eye out and looking for people in and around my area that do the same kind of work. While searching Facebook Marketplace for furniture pieces to source, I would check out any sellers that I saw selling what looked like refinished pieces to see if they had many projects they were selling or if it was just a one off, I followed #furnituremakeover on Instagram for inspiration and would follow anyone who I saw post that had their location tagged as Ottawa, and when I participated in the Refinished Furniture Tour on Instagram every Monday I would look out for the same as I was already there engaging with people. And I compiled a list over time and then decided that I was just going to pull the trigger and reach out to these people to see if they were interested in starting a little group to connect with other local refinishers.

So I drafted a message and sent it out to the people on my list. I figured, what’s the worst thing that can happen? People say no thanks, or just read the message and never reply? Okay cool, then I know I tried and that it wasn’t going to fly, but so what? At least I would know that I gave it a go. Which is an approach that I’ve tried to integrate into my life overall lately to help me stop from holding back or not trying things out: asking myself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” or “what’s the worst case scenario of me doing this thing?” and if there isn’t anything noteworthy as the answer, then I do the thing.

So I went back and found a message that I had sent to one of these refinishers so that I could share it here, in case someone hears this and is interested in doing something similar in their own area or for the sector or industry they’re in, even if it’s not furniture refinishing. So my message said: “Hey! I’m Mel- I live in Ottawa and also do furniture painting, flips and transformations and I’ve been thinking recently of putting a group chat together on here with some local furniture refinishers to build community more locally. I’ve come across your page on a couple different occasions and you do beautiful work, and wanted to check if you’d be interested in being a part of it when I put it together?”. Simple as that.

So that was around October 2020 and anyone that said yes, I just added them to a group conversation on Instagram and sent a welcome message letting them know that my vision for the group was to have it be a place where we could get to know who is doing this work in and around the Ottawa area, share some of our common struggles or ask questions or advice to others, share somewhat common pricing and share when we discover new great products and things like that, but that it could really be whatever everyone wanted it to be!

So nearly two years later, we still have the group chat and it has now grown to ____ members and though it has its times where we’re more or less active in it, and there’s some people who are more or less active on it, I know for me that it’s really reassuring to know it’s there and everyone is there if I need them. It’s a great place to get some motivation when you need it, where we can all chit chat about pieces we’re working on, sometimes people will share if they come across free pieces they aren’t able to take themselves or if they are selling off pieces in their inventory, it’s always somewhere we can go to to ask questions or when looking for product recommendations or how to approach a piece. And, ultimately, I feel like it has been a success to build a sense of community. But I’ll let the ladies speak to that a little later about their experience in the group!

But let’s talk about why the community over competition mindset is so important: it’s always so easy to compare yourselves to others. It’s the easy approach, the approach our brains want to instinctively take. But it’s important to instead use the comparison as inspiration and motivation, and not take it to that negative, Bad Wolf territory because there will always be someone pumping out more pieces than you, doing better quality pieces than you (in your mind, at least) and people with more followers than you. That’s focusing on the wrong thing. You can look at those people as motivation to do more, to learn more, and to get where they are.. But in your own way.

Because in the world of social media and the internet, there truly is enough space and enough users for everyone who is interested in creating content. There’s over 7 billion people on this earth, and you think you need to be jealous of someone because they have 10,000 followers and that means that you won't be able to have that many? Bitch please. We have to look to each other to raise each other up, create that sense of community, and ensure that we feel that belonging and connection because that is what will make this sustainable and enjoyable long-term.

In getting to know the ladies (and one gentleman, shout out to Jonathan) in this Ottawa Area Furniture Refinishers Instagram group, we’ve been able to be supportive of each other’s journeys, share each other’s accounts or pieces on our own accounts when we get inspired, get to keep up with what others are going through in their business, and so much more. Some members have met up in person, and regardless, I know that I totally consider some to be friends already, I’ll be talking to someone and be like “oh yeah, my friend.. Well, my internet friend, my friend from Instagram” like whatever we’re friends, hard stop.

And with furniture refinishing now being my full-time job, I’m so thankful to know and have access to these other local refinishers too because truly, they’re like my colleagues at work too. Since day-to-day I’m often working alone at home, I’m sure without being able to chat with others who are doing similar work, it could feel very isolating so this is a way to chat with those who are doing something similar to achieve common or similar goals, which is not only motivating but also validating. It’s also nice to talk to/get advice from them to ensure consistency and also to share patterns and trends that we are seeing, and know to look out for or to consider. For example, sharing articles about a thrift store in the area that had a bedbug infestation to avoid, or to find out where, if anywhere, the friggin’ Rustoleum gold spray paint isn’t yet sold out from. If you know you know.

So that’s my perspective about what I’ve appreciated so much on my journey with these people over the last couple years, but let’s hear from some of them!

First up we have Alessandra- I want to give a little intro for each of them from my perspective because we get to hear from their perspectives in each of the clips. Alessandra is someone I totally feel so close to, over the internet - like I say, it’s a weird parasocial relationship but I feel like we’re very similar human beings and she’s always been so supportive and so inspiring to me. The pieces she puts out are so unique and I feel like she has her very own specific style of having very traditional yet modern designs. Everything is so sleek, and I’ve said it a million times but she recently did this dipped piece that I am so in love with and I would have bought for my own home if I had the space. So let’s hear from her first:

“Hello everyone, my name is Alessandra Campagna, otherwise known as Simply Distressed. I have been in the refinishing world for about 5 ½-6 years now, always part-time. I got into it back in the day when I picked up a little side table and got to work, took a couple courses and then the rest is self-taught, which I’m super appreciative about.

First off I want to give thanks to Mel from MelDidItHerself for reaching out to everyone in the group that she originally created, which is full of Ottawa refinishers like myself- either doing it part-time, full-time, for themselves, for others, etc. etc. the list is endless. So thank you Mel for reaching out and giving us the platform to talk about it, and specifically to talk about community over competition, which is so huge.

We are so lucky and fortunate to really have a good group of women to discuss all sorts of things. For example, if someone is lacking motivation or if someone is just not feeling it lately, nobody hounds on the person saying like “oh well, you know, you should just do it”. Everybody goes through phases where you need a break and you need to enjoy that break and not feel guilty about it. Instagram, as we all know, it’s an amazing platform to post your work and to bring awareness to what it is you are doing, but it’s also very easy to judge your work based on what others are posting as well. So going back to scrolling, liking, tagging - it can be overwhelming at times. So it’s really nice to know that you have a support system behind you, and might I add, from people that you literally have not met before, encouraging you to take the break, the pause and time that you need to get back into it when you’re ready. That one for me has been a huge help just because I know for myself, I go MIA throughout the year where I’m just not in the mood to refinish and I have really gotten used to not feeling bad about it.

The other thing that I really love that stands out about this group to me is how, if someone doesn’t have the capacity to take on work, either a commissioned piece or a free piece of furniture on the road or a really good find on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace for example, we will reach out to one another, send a picture or the ad and just be like “hey, this is for free, this is at the curb, this person is looking for this work done, is anyone free to take it on?”

So those are the two examples for myself that stand out in this group and I wouldn’t have it any other way. These women have become a little bit even more than acquaintances and like I said, we have never met each other and it’s been a great group of women to get to know, if you’re stuck on something and you don’t know what to do next, someone has been there before and they will give you their honest opinion of what they liked to work through at that point or what they would do differently and what they would recommend for you to do.

So again, thank you Mel for allowing me to discuss what stood out to me and how I really appreciate community over competition. Again, my name is Alessandra Campagna and you can find me on Instagram at SimplyDistressed89 or on Facebook at SimplyDistressed. Thank you so much, I hope we get the opportunity to do this again - cheers!”

Next up we have Terri- Terri is like a little firecracker, go check out her page, she has so much energy and this innate positivity within her that is always just so uplifting and motivating. She is always trying to learn more, she’s so vulnerable and open about her journey in furniture refinishing. It’s been about a year that she’s been doing this so she is still asking questions and trying to get input from people. I have seen her, in the short amount of time that I have known her, just grow so much in her craft and taking risks and just really leaning into her own personality and keeping herself authentic and unique which I think is so hard to do on social media when you see everyone adhering to a certain format and stuff. She totally keeps it her own, she brings in her science background and talks about her job and it’s so interesting and refreshing. So let’s hear what she has to say:

“Hello, my name is Terri from Flipology with Terri and I have been refinishing and flipping furniture for about a year and I was added to this group chat on Instagram about half a year ago. And one of the great things I love about it is whenever I have a question, I typically just ask the group chat and this is great because it simplifies my search. Instead of searching all over the internet and having a bajillion follow up questions about what the internet says, I can just ask the group and from everyone’s varied experiences and variations of styles, they answer my questions and I can ask follow up questions to what they say and I find it so much more helpful than just searching resources on the internet. So that is my first benefit that I have found being part of a group.

Second of all, I just really love how we can support each other’s work. Whether it be by supporting each other’s content on Instagram or I’ve even personally met one of the other persons in the group and we even collabed and did a piece together so it just makes furniture refinishing more of a community thing and it just feels like you’re kind of on a team and you’re all rooting for each other.

So yeah, that’s all I have to say so I will just leave it at that. Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy the rest of Mel’s blog post!”

Next up we have Steph and Kylie who are fucking killing it on social media, let’s just state the obvious! Check out their socials, they are blowing up like crazy, anytime I come across their account I’m like “holy shit!” but I’m not surprised because they have so many great pieces. A lot of theirs have that modern flair, sometimes they lean a little bit more kind of farmhouse-y, sometimes a little bit more mid century but always such sleek designs. They do a great job, especially on TikTok, of showing their process of going from the Before to After. They’ve been someone that I’ve definitely turned to because they do this full-time as well and I’ve been asking questions as I’ve gone full-time in my business too, to see if they had any tips or lessons learned. I just so respect that they jumped in with two feet into their business when they came from a completely different industry and they just leaned into it. So I’m just so happy to see them succeed and to have them along on this journey. So let’s hear what they have to say:

“Hi we are Kylie and Steph from Weathered Gems, we are located in Hammond, Ontario and our business serves Ottawa and the surrounding area. You can find us at our handle, WeatheredGems, on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. We started WeatheredGems in March of 2021 but we have actually been friends and roommates since 2014. We were full-time retail managers at the same store actually, and we dabbled in furniture refinishing at the time when we were at those jobs and we really liked it but at that time we were just keeping the pieces for ourselves.

So during the second wave of COVID when we got laid off the second time, we decided to sell some of our pieces and that was when we really got inspired to refinish furniture full-time and then we decided to quit together. So shortly after we started our Instagram for our business, Mel from MelDidItHerself reached out to us on there and asked us if we wanted to be a part of an Ottawa area refinishing group and of course we said yes and then we found the community of local refinishers and we were shocked by how many people were in it. And since then it has still been constantly growing!

There’s members that are always quick to answer and help us out, we have asked advice on whether or not to ship our pieces in the past, we’ve also shared any good deals we have found to try and help each other out, and we’ve referred clients to each other for custom work. Our favourite thing about the community that we have found is having people who can relate to us and our specific struggles and things we go through as furniture refinishers and we have bonded about a lot of different things. It’s really helpful to know that others are going through the same thing as you, that really is the best part.

Outside of the chat, we always lift each other up as well on social media by sharing each other’s posts and commenting and liking everything. Everyone is always there for each other, Mel even stood up against some of our haters on TikTok a few weeks ago and Flipology with Terri, she was our Top Fan of the Week on Facebook a few weeks ago. So we have always felt the local support since joining the community.

We are super grateful and happy to have local DIY friends. It’s really given us the confidence in our work that we needed and our prices. It’s really comforting to not feel alone, even though we do have each other, we really like the sense of community that we feel.

So thank you Mel for starting a space that is about community over competition!”

Next up we have Christina, Tina, I feel like I call her something different anytime I’m talking to her. But she, number 1, also shares her other passions in life with working with horses and managing the farm and all the animals that are associated with it on her account, which I love. It’s always so nice to see into people’s private lives in that way, so I always love when she’s sharing that. She’s also always working on a little project around the house like me. I always tell her we have similar brains, I can tell that we will be on a short track and be hyper focused on this one thing and then I’ll get it done and then I’ll move on to something else but then I’ll probably come back to this and redo it in 3 days anyways. So I feel like we’re like soul sisters in that way!

Check out her account, she always has beautiful pieces. She works with a lot of colour as well and doing like farmhouse, kind of, not the shabby chic look necessarily but incorporating a lot of differing colours and doing those really cool paint effects. Which, I’m too scared to try, to be quite frank. So I love that she does it, I love that she leans into it. And she has a couple great basket walls as well– so go check out her account and let’s hear what we has to say:

“Hey there, my name’s Christina and I am the person behind TinasHomespunTreasures. I was a riding instructor and I did that for about 6 or 7 years, I did horseback riding camps every summer, I did lessons until about 9:00 at night and on weekends, you know, that was my life.

Once the big C hit, I had to hone in on some things because we obviously weren’t allowed to keep the lessons open. But I had this whole new creative outlet that I found, which was refinishing furniture. And one of the biggest things and most pivotal things for me was joining Instagram and putting my business out there that way. I’ve met so many amazing people on this app and I’ve made amazing friends too that I know that I’ll have as lifelong friends. I’ve met a few people and we’ve talked and shopped and you name it. So it’s been super fun and I couldn’t be more thankful for that connection to others because that’s the biggest thing in life. If you don’t have that connection, it’s going to make life a lot harder!

So this is when I will touch on the Ottawa Furniture Refinishing group. This was something that Mel took the reins of and she started, I want to say it’s been awhile now.. And she was sweet enough to find me on Instagram, I’m not sure how, and invited me into this group and I am so, so thankful. Because it’s a cool, safe space to chat about furniture, we talk about life, we talk about business, and I think that’s awesome.

So another thing would be just the inclusivity and the encouragement you get from the people in the group. I think that is huge, huge, huge in your growth, in your business, in your life. Just to kind of give yourself a bit of grace, if that makes any sense. But anyways, I have really enjoyed this and I am looking forward to making more friends in the future!”

Next up we have Jen, I spoke earlier about our honourary gentleman in the group, Jonathan, so Jonathan is Jen’s husband, they are a husband-wife duo doing furniture refinishing, which is so fun. Again, their designs are always full of colour and Jen’s not afraid to do different designs that are bright and fun and just have that energy about them which I always love. And again, you can always tell it’s their pieces when you’re scrolling through on Instagram because you’re like “oh yeah, that’s a colour that Jen would wear!” And I’ve loved seeing her share her journey with fashion, and just bringing her style and personal style into the things she wears and into her home and things like that. So go check them out on Instagram and let’s hear what Jen has to say:

“Hey, Jen from Preloved2Beloved. Mel, thanks for asking us such an important topic and it’s such a hard topic. For me, it comes down to mindset, collaboration over competition and not living in fear of scarcity- there’s not going to be enough cool pieces, I’m not going to have enough cool ideas, and if I collaborate with these people, I’m reducing what I can do out there. Which is completely not true. If anything, collaboration is the main ingredient in expanding what we do for the public.

So working together, we have shared so many laughs, tricks, tips and sales and even referrals back and forth that I think in general, we are doing more good. We are getting a better profile, we are putting better pieces out there. And in the end, we are educating the public that you don’t have to buy new. That you can buy some really beautiful, quality, vintage furniture from a group of people that is better than looking online or walking into a store. So the more we work together, I think the more we reduce what is going into the landfill and we expand our profile in the community.

There are tough days when people put out stuff and I’m like “daaamnn that’s so good!” and other days when I’m feeling low and I’m like “ohh, they’re selling like crazy, I’m never going to keep up”. But that’s human! That’s part of being human, so like I said, mindset: it’s a choice. You check your ego and you look at all the benefits and it’s been a really great experience. And I don’t think I would have had so many positive days if I hadn’t collaborated so much so I’m super grateful. But it’s not always easy!”

And the last one we are going to hear from in the group is Keri. Keri is so sweet, you can just hear it in her voice. She is so nice. She has answered so many of my questions over the years. I am always so inspired by the pieces that she puts out.

And she has a really good knowledge of products, like I feel like she has tried a lot of different products that I haven’t necessarily used so I’m always asking her, you know, what she’s done, what’s paired well. And she always takes the time out of her day to share the knowledge she has with me. We’ll send voice notes back and forth, which, I feel like I’ve said this before but - is so much easier on Instagram. If everyone would just send voice notes back and forth, think of how much time we would save typing and how much our little thumbs would thank us long-term. Anyways.

Definitely go check out Keri’s account, she shares so many fun things about her life, her family in general, the pieces that she’s working on. I feel like she has a wide array of styles that she integrates into her pieces- sometimes they can lean more mid century or more modern, sometimes they’re a little bit more classic and vintage or farmhouse-y. It kind of depends, obviously, on the piece but she does a great job of talking about her process in her stories and I’m always learning from her so let’s hear what she has to say:

“Hi there, my name is Keri and my little company is called Midnight K’Emploriums. I call it that because my name is with a K and I’m also from Kemptville and I also have a little of this, a little of that. So I thought it would be fun and also I’m working late- I have a day job and sometimes I’m working ‘til midnight in my little garage.

I find the community that I’ve found here on Instagram amazing and I do really agree with the concept of collaboration over competition. We all have such a different way of creating, I guess you’d say, and I do think of ourselves as artists so I don’t feel that we can really compete for the same kind of clients because all of our end products are so different. But the tools that we use are so similar, you know- Instagram, paint, sanders, and all of the things that we have learned - we can share.

And it’s been so helpful to see what other people are working on because that helps generate ideas too. And I’ve really enjoyed seeing what other people do because it just makes the world feel a little bit smaller and that’s super fun. Especially since we’ve just been through COVID, so it’s nice to know there are people around that you can chat with and that they get it, and that you’ve been through similar things and it’s nice to have that community.”

Thank you so much ladies for sending in these messages, for your kind words and for being part of the community. I so appreciate every single one of you and all of the support you always bring to me, to the podcast, to my work and I hope that I can continue to reciprocate that as we move forward in life.. And in friendship, I hope.

There are so many other wonderful, talented refinishers in our group that I hope we can bring on in the future but in the meantime, again, thank you so much to everyone who took time out of their very busy summers to send in a note and to get to know the podcast, the little growing busybee community we have going on over here!

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: Grace looks at comparison and says, “I’m not playing.” I spoke to this a bit in the beginning and Jen spoke to it in her message as well but, we really just can’t play that comparison game. It will only do negative things to your mindset and again, it sounds harsh to say, but there will always be someone in this world doing more than you, doing things better than you, and succeeding more than you.

But that’s fine.

That doesn’t negate the amount of success that you can have simultaneously with them. It’s not a “me or them” situation, it’s a broader community where everyone can succeed and like I said, there is space for everyone in this world of social media. There is an audience for ~literally~ everybody.

So remember that as you’re scrolling, and if you’re getting that yucky feeling that you’re getting as you look to these people who are your colleagues, who are your friends and your community, check yourself and check your mindset. And if it’s a matter of them, and it’s not a matter of you having that mentality, if those people are making you feel that way and it seems (at least to you) like it’s intentional, you also don’t need to follow those people who make you feel this way.

Like I said, we will have future episodes that are dedicated to keeping a positive mindset and keeping your head on track and focused in business as we move forward into Season 2 of the podcast. But just remember that you are choosing to consume whoever’s content that you are consuming, and however you are feeling as a direct result of that content, you have direct control over that.

You might have to stop and take a beat and be more intentional with that and kind of, you know, check yourself. You don’t have control over your first thought, but you do have control over the second thought. So remember that: if you have that first initial twang of jealousy or, like Jen said, if it makes you have that scarcity mindset and you’re feeling less than as a result, let that second thought that you have be one of checking yourself and reimagine the way you could be looking at that situation or at that person or at that content that they’re creating. And if it’s not a mindset issue, just unfollow them. They probably will never notice, and the change that it will make in you and your life and your mindset could be so much more for the better.

Another Mel’s Motivational Message I want to include here is from Elysia English who is one of the YouTubers that I follow and followed religiously when I was first getting into this. She was one of the ones who did very user friendly, very easy beginner furniture flips that she would describe on her YouTube channel and totally got me inspired to try some for myself.

And one of the quotes or slogans that she and her husband and her family live by is: “we rise by lifting others”. I think that’s so important- again, it’s that community mindset, it’s that mindset that we can all succeed and lift each other up and raise each other up. We don’t have to feel catty or like we’re working against each other.

It is a very largely, predominantly female sector from what I have seen at least- or the ones on social media talking about it are at least, let’s put it that way- so, I don’t know if you’ve had the same experience but *girls can be a little bit catty sometimes*. Soo.. let’s not perpetuate that.

Let’s take a step back. Let’s say, “hell yeah, I see what you’re doing and I love it and I’m sharing it with my community and you’re inspiring and motivating me and I want to commend you for all the hard work that you are doing that I can see you doing and that’s making me want to do better”. Let’s rise by lifting others instead of pushing each other down, or pushing ourselves down by looking at other people and thinking “I wish I could do that”. Instead look at someone and say, “if they can do that, I can do that. They’re a fucking boss, I’m a fucking boss!”. That’s it, we’re wrapping it up there!

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week.

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