TRADITIONALLY, THE TERM “BASEMENT BETTY” REFERRED TO A WOMAN WHO STARTED A BUSINESS OUT OF HER BASEMENT. THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THE TERM COULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN WITH A NEGATIVE CONNOTATION. BUT YOU REMEMBER JULIE AIGNER-CLARK OF BABY EINSTEIN, RIGHT? SHE STARTED HER COMPANY OUT OF HER BASEMENT AND SOLD IT TO DISNEY FOR AROUND 24 MILLION DOLLARS. NOTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT THAT. WE ARE SEARCHING FOR OUR OWN LOCAL “POSH BETTYS” WHO ARE REENTERING THE WORKPLACE AS ENTREPRENEURS.
This month, we spoke with Virginia Wallen, founder of Ginny Bins. This adorable woodworker is breaking down stereotypes as she brings new life to recycled wood through her creativity and talent—reclaiming wood and refurbishing antiques to give them new purpose and beauty.
Tell us what made you decide to become a custom woodworker?
I wish I could say it started from my love of renovation. I do love renovation. I love attending auctions and watching HGTV. But in truth, it began because of my hatred of wired crates for dogs. I have two labs, and I hated the crates I had in my home, the plastic liner that I could never get clean and the feeling I had when I put them in their “cages.” I wanted something that could be functional while still being aesthetically pleasing. I grew up on a farm and was repairing fences, and building barns and saw horses from a young age. I liked to work with wood, and thought maybe I could make a crate that functioned more like a piece of furniture. I went to work and created a crate that functioned like a sofa table. Complete with waterproof flooring and beautiful lines, it became a conversation piece for all my guests. Several of them even asked me if I would be willing to make one for them. But as a full-time working mom, I did not have the time to take on these types of projects. When I was laid-off from my job, I suddenly had more time on my hands and began to think about going into business on my own. I told my husband I wanted to try to start my own company, and he agreed to support my passion.
What inspires you as an artist?
I love anything reclaimed. I love vintage pieces and recycled wood. I recently acquired wood that was over 100 years old from a barn in Harpers Ferry. Being able to strip it down and watch it come back to life in the form of a farm table was amazing. The most recent treasure in my own home are the antique doors I purchased from the church I grew up in. After refurbishing them, they hang as barn doors to the entrance of my home office.
What are your most popular items?
My most popular items are barn doors, farm tables and the item that started it all…Ginny Bins for dogs.
What has been your biggest reward in starting your own company?
It has been said that if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. And that is so true for me. I love every aspect of creating custom pieces. From the beginning stages of working with a new customer to discover their needs, through the actual creation of the piece—I love every step along
What has been your biggest challenge?
There truly are just not enough hours in a day. I wasn’t prepared for how fast my business would grow. The creation of pieces is fantastic but with it comes the invoicing, marketing, bookkeeping, etc. Trying to fit everything into just twenty-four hours can be a challenge.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Before launching a new business, make sure you have set your processes and systems into place. Scaling has been an issue. The demand came before I had fully developed my game plan. Make sure you have figured out your accounting software, Quickbooks, marketing and inventory before jumping in the deep end.