As an ambitious young woman with a loving husband, a dream to help other people build memories, on a canvas or print, and the perseverance to make it through anything, life can offer many risks and many rewards.
Building a company from nothing is hard enough, but doing it while dropping out of school, walking away from one opportunity after another, and going against the hopes and intentions of your family, can coalesce into a world of difficulty and barriers.
This is why the entrepreneurial journey is so difficult, as it demands almost extreme commitment to something that hasn’t even become real yet, and challenges any entrepreneur willing to take the journey in extreme ways.
But some entrepreneurs are simply built for this kind of journey.
This is exactly the story of Kirstie, founder of AmourPrints, an art and decor powerhouse that creates custom print canvases. Many customers of AmourPrints are couples who commemorate their love with their names on a canvas, but AmourPrints designs many different kinds of custom canvases as well. Their offerings include lyrics for songs, canvas photo printing, wedding song lyrics on canvas, and you can even print your song. AmourPrints specializes in wedding anniversary gift ideas, anniversary gifts for him, anniversary gifts for her, and so on.
Kirstie’s creative streak that would eventually germinate into a multimillion dollar canvas printing company started as a teenager, when she experimented with twisting balloons into creative shapes. Her entrepreneurial drive kicked in and she decided to start performing her balloon art at restaurants. This is where she began to sense her entrepreneurial spirit: she saw that art had the power to give people something meaningful in life, and decided to take things a step further.
With no business education and very limited finances, she decided to start AmourPrints in 2012. By 2013, she was able to begin her very first Etsy shop. “I was so excited to get my first sale! I loved that experience when I was first starting out. I dropped out of college to do this full time and so did my fiance, because it became our dream to run our own successful business.”
Like any entrepreneurial success story, this journey was not without its challenges. Kirstie and her husband’s Etsy store was unexpectedly taken down, causing them to have to learn a plethora of skills very quickly in order to survive. Etsy had provided a lot of the infrastructure required for selling, and without this infrastructure, Kirstie and her husband had to quickly adapt.
In addition, they faced strong opposition from people close to them regarding their decision to take significant risks financially as well as their decision to leave school to start their business.
Defending their decision as they were a fledgling, growing business was nothing if not an emotional roller coaster, fraught with uncertainty. This speaks to a double standard we tend to have in our entrepreneur-loving culture: we often criticize and write off people who take necessary risks to start businesses as foolish, yet we glamorize those who succeed in their businesses, forgetting that the only reason they’ve succeeded is because they took those very risks.
In 2019, amid a growth period, AmourPrints faced a difficult impasse in which they were hemorrhaging cash, and they had to choose whether to persevere or scrap the company. “We were losing thousands of dollars each month, but something was telling me not to give up, to instead push through. This later turned out to be one of our wisest decisions regarding our business,” Kirstie explains.
As if AmourPrints hadn’t experienced enough tribulation, 2020 brought the historic COVID pandemic which likewise posed a mortal threat to the company. “I upgraded to Shopify Plus and took a risk and invested all of our money [to stay alive]. Last year, in 2020, we somehow miraculously made $3.6 million, and this year we are on track to double our earnings,” Kirstie explains. “I have worked so hard, and I give God the credit for helping me through this. Our families are proud of us and now understand why we didn’t give up.”
As Christians, Kirstie and her husband have made it a point of emphasis to donate a significant portion of their earnings back to those in need as they’ve persevered and experienced very rare growth. “We feel led to donate a percentage of our sales to help those in need. With each sale, we donate to World Vision to help fight homelessness all over the world.” This benevolent, life-giving faith as Christians on the rosy side of the entrepreneurial journey, after their success, is the exact faith that helped her and her husband persevere through incredible stress and difficulty during the darker times leading up to their success.
Entrepreneurship is the great equalizer. It can take someone who starts as a struggling teenager trying to socialize with audiences at a restaurant while making balloon art to building a multimillion-dollar art company that survives the worst pandemic in a century. Whether it’s the grace of God, a gritty, persevering attitude, or both, it’s an incredible thing to watch, and Kirstie Edwards is exactly the kind of person for whom you’d love to watch it happen.