Today we’d like to introduce you to Abby Ortego.
Hi Abby, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
In July of 2021, I was finishing my master’s program in counseling, completing a corresponding counseling internship, mothering my 6-month-old baby, and working part-time.
My “margins” were at capacity, but as soon as I finished my program, I knew I needed to reconnect with the part of me that I had put on hold for not just the graduate program but also for my daughter.
I knew that if I wanted to practice what I preach as a therapist and mama, I needed to take time for myself in a fulfilling and positive way. My husband and I began to talk and pray about what that creative outlet would look like.
Enter, sublimation. A friend of mine had a sublimation party at her house the same week I finished my program. As I learned how sublimation works and saw how fun it could be to create a personal work of art that you can also carry a drink around, I realized I could easily learn the details of the craft to start a business and add my own authenticity and heart. As the thought dawned on me I remember thanking God for basically putting the idea right into my lap.
The only thing standing in my way a year ago was the time, energy, and startup costs. I honestly put so much thought and prayer into my decisions that it seems like a slow decision to me, but on the outside, it looks like a whim. Clover Shoppe is only a month or so old as I’m writing this, but there is a year of prayer and brainstorming power as the foundation.
And what I truly want to convey in my story is that I am first and foremost a believer in God and His timing, I am secondly a wife and mom who wants to bless and encourage my people and others in their inherent worth, and I am third a citizen of the earth who strives to make every moment and interaction count.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I have so many cliches coming to mind when I think of this business journey being a smooth (or bumpy) road. If I peel back those layers of response in my mind, I am left with the truth that it has been smooth and easygoing in some areas and difficult in others.
I mentioned previously that it took me about 11 months between learning about sublimation and actually purchasing my heat press. This decision was mental, logistical, and emotional (mostly because as a human I can’t compartmentalize those parts of me). Mentally, I was ready to start the business but logistically I knew I was not.
Emotionally, I was craving the creative outlet but I wanted to pour into my daughter and build up my primary job as a therapist. If I am not able to do something with excellence, I will not even attempt it. That is not to say all my attempts are therefore excellent, but that I truly endeavor to give my all to whatever it is right in front of me, and starting this business had to wait if I wanted to give it everything I knew I could.
Now that Clover Shoppe has been up and running for a month, I’m finding that I can be my own obstacle because I am the furthest away from “sales” as a person can be. I am all about networking and building authentic relationships with friends, colleagues, professionals, etc.
But when it comes to being a salesperson for my own items? I internally cringe, and you might see it on my face too! Maybe it’s the desire to never be equated to a used car salesman or maybe it’s the fact that I’m historically the person who would rather give something than sell it, but I’m definitely finding that I need to exercise my marketing muscle.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Clover Shoppe sells sublimation drinkware, which means the tumblers I create are made of printed and personally heat-pressed designs.
I like to share the process like this: I use special ink printed on special paper to print a flipped design, then I use heat tape to tightly wrap the design around a specially-coated stainless steel tumbler and press it in the heat press for the proper time at the proper temperature.
Once the design is pressed, there is no way the ink is going anywhere unless it gets melted off somehow in the dishwasher! (Which is why I emphasize hand washing). The tumbler I have had for a year shows no wearing down and that’s even after a few (or many) accidental rides in the dishwasher. Sublimation is very different from vinyl pressing.
Right now, I am focusing on 20 oz. tumblers that fit perfectly in a car cupholder, on a large or small desk, or in your hand at home; however, the sky is the limit and I have made some custom children’s flip-top water bottles as well as other tumbler sizes. Still to come are glass cups, ceramic coffee mugs, and tumblers that hold snacks in a special section separately from the liquid. I’m a bit of a snacker so that snack cup will be a staple for sure.
I wouldn’t say I’m known for anything in the small business world, but personally, I strive to be known for being genuine and honest above all else. My goal, whether I say it explicitly or just imply it in my actions, is to treat every person I meet as the treasured creation that they are.
I’m fairly new to the small business scene, but I believe what sets Clover Shoppe apart is the desire to rise above designs that are trendy for the sake of being trendy, that are demeaning or flippant in nature, or that don’t honor the intrinsic value of others. I have already vowed to myself to not dishonor my values by making a tumbler that falls under one of those categories.
For example, there is a hot topic of “mommy wine culture” these days, meaning moms “have to have wine” to “deal with” having children. I am not about that life, and even though I have nothing directly against wine (and I TOTALLY agree being a mom is difficult), I won’t be making designs if there’s even a chance a child could see them and wonder why their mom feels that way toward her child.
Even just writing that last part, I know there will be some people who choose not to buy from Shoppe. and that’s okay! I would never want someone to forsake their ideals or values by purchasing from someone they don’t agree with, and I will honor the values in myself too.
One thing I want to emphasize is that anything I put into the world is available for candid discussion and reflection, and I would welcome that. One paragraph in a magazine article will probably not get my heart across, but I am hopeful that my desire to maintain a brand that rises above whatever the status quo brushes off.
What would you say has been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
The most important lesson learned is probably still to be learned! However, so far I have found more opportunities to grow and learn about the nitty gritty “back office” things such as taxes, budgeting, etc.
I knew when taking this on that I might eventually need a creative outlet to rest from my creative outlet-turned-business, but I have yet to reach that point, so I am grateful.
My favorite lesson so far, though, is not really a lesson at all. I have been so blessed to see an outpouring of support from my best friends and family members.
I’m learning that beyond paying off student loans and getting the Clover Shoppe name out there is the most important thought to hold onto: you cannot buy genuine support, connection, or respect. You can only pray for those 3 things and welcome them as they come.
- 20 oz. Tumblers $25
- Custom Tumbler $28
- 17 oz. Water Bottle $22
- Kids’ Flip Top Water Bottle $20
- Local Pickup has a code to remove shipping– contact me!
- Website: clovershoppe.myshopify.com
- Instagram: @clover.shoppe
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clovershoppe.stl