joni sullivan.

tiffin, ohio.  |  sister. wife. mother. aunt. hat-maker. birder.

 As the j. jane holiday series continues, you may note a theme. And if you have no idea what has been happening on this little blog, I will catch you up to speed on the very particular holiday subject matter. This entire holiday season, I have chosen to interview women who influence and inspire with their creativity. And during the hustle and bustle, it’s nice to slow down, curl up on our sofa with a hot cup of tea and read about how we can make our holidays a little more fun and healthy. Learning about how other women spend their time creating,  just might spark an idea for a future project or maybe put you on a path for that second career you have been thinking about. At this moment in time, there are over 1 million shops selling their products on Etsy. Today, one of those shop owners shares her passion for parenting, birds, and hats! Looking for a unique gift for that special someone? Etsy may be the place to find it. Enjoy today’s highlight. And when you are out there shopping your little hearts out, consider supporting a small-business owner—it’s the American thing to do.

How did you choose your career?

Calling it a career at this point might be a stretch. However, a couple of years ago, I would have never thought I would be this close to calling it one. My path toward Ruby Webbs (Ruby Webbs on Etsy) would have been unforeseen only a short time before that.

As the daughter of a veterinarian, I have always had an interest in animals and nature. I initially had difficulty finding jobs in our area relating to my environmental science degree. While living on our small rural farm located on beautiful Honey Creek, I developed a love for birds. After a few years and many hours of observation, I became proficient in recognition of birds by sight and sound. With this skill added to my degree, I gained employment through Ohio State University assisting in multiple migratory songbird studies. It was a wonderful experience, and I wanted to continue to pursue this career. I was hired by a private company as an avian biologist, conducting bird surveys in areas being considered for wind development. This included documenting Bald Eagle flight paths and monitoring nests. I was privileged to witness adult Bald Eagle pairs raising their young, teaching them to fly, to hunt, and to become capable of surviving in their ever-challenging environment. This was a wonderful experience that I will cherish forever. At that time, my services were sought after as there were a lot of wind projects in our area. As fate would have it, the government tax incentives ran out and new project development ceased, as did my employment.

Suddenly, I went from feeling economically productive in the family to having no income. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and was very interested in exploring online entrepreneurial opportunities, including Ebay and Etsy. I look back comically at my first online sales of very primitive handmade pillows on Ebay. My husband who is an emergency room physician found it amusing. I realized that my husband was probably right and my pillows were silly.

I began crocheting about 5 years ago. I started creating cute little hats for my daughter Ruby to wear. She looked so adorable in that first hat I made her. I started making more hats and experimenting with different patterns and yarns. I decided to put a few of my hats up for sale on Etsy with Ruby as my hat model. Almost immediately I was selling hats and loving it! This was the perfect business that I truly feel depended on both my efforts and my sweet little Ruby as the hat model. As Ruby grew older, it often took a little bribery to get her to agree to a few photos. If you look closely at my photos, you might see a little trace of chocolate on Ruby’s face, a bribe for modeling. What began as just a few sales has grown into more than I can deliver. I cannot consistently keep my shop open because of my inability to keep up with demand. My prices have risen modestly accordingly, but my volume has continued to increase. I still have to close my shop for periods of time to allow time to complete orders. My husband now looks at my endeavor a little differently than when I was selling pillows.

I would like to think that my appreciation for nature and birds may influence my creativity in designing my Ruby Webbs products. I love that I can look out my window toward the creek , pasture, and woods and still find inspiration.

What is your favorite thing about being a ETSY Shop owner?

I love Etsy. It is personal. I know exactly who I am selling to. I am constantly interacting with my customers all over the world. I would have never thought when I made my first sale that I would sell my products to over 40 countries. I have a career that gives me the freedom to be creative and to share my love of crochet with others. I also get to do my work from home.

How long have you owned your fantastic Etsy Shop?

Ruby Webbs has been in business for about four and a half years.

Where did you learn the old school craft of crocheting?

Believe it or not, I learned to crochet by watching YouTube crochet tutorials.

Ruby Webb is the name of your brand, does it have a sentimental connection?

Yes, it most certainly does. In 2010 my husband’s beloved Great Aunt Ruby Webb passed away. Aunt Ruby was a true southern lady, full of character, style and grace. Not only is my daughter Ruby named after her, but also it seemed like a perfect tribute to Aunt Ruby.

Will you be buying holiday gifts from another Etsy Shop Owners? If so, can you recommend your favorites?

Of course! I am an Etsy addict and love giving my business to other Etsy shops. A few of my favorites are Infusion, Fleur and Dot, Supplies Sundries (for my buttons), Pretty with Sprinkles, Jen’s Bags, Swanky Prints, and Prunella Soap.

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

Like everyone else, I strive to live a graceful life. My most important role in life is raising my daughter to be kind, generous, and grateful. I see her exhibit these qualities and it makes me feel good about my own life.

j. jane side notes:

Please note that the Etsy shop owners figure was found online and it is an estimation.

Joni’s hats and accessories have been seen on, and other blogs and websites. You can connect with Joni on Facebook, Pinterest and Etsy.

Joni’s daughter Ruby is an adorable hat model. And I love that this creative hat maker admits to bribing her own girl for modeling shoots. When Ruby is an adult, she will have the fondest memories of watching her mother’s small business grow. This super cute mommy and daughter duo love Ruby Webb hats! My sister, Polly and my darling niece, Josephine. Adorable right? Like mother like daughter!

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