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Gainesville woman carves out a niche with online crafts business
Country Barn Babe turns out items for sale on Handmade at Amazon
Laid off from her job while preparing for a wedding, Nicole Oliver of Gainesville decided to turn her pursuit of personalized decor for her own wedding into a business. With help from husband Jeff they have made Country Barn Babe a successful handcrafted rustic wedding and home decor business on Handmade at Amazon and Etsy.

Country Barn Babe

Where: 1603 Gibbs Drive, Gainesville

More info: 

Invention is the mother of necessity, they say.

In Nicole Oliver’s case, it was Etsy.

Fresh off a move from San Diego, the Pendergrass resident was planning her wedding when she was laid off at her dad’s company.

“A month going into our wedding, job security wasn’t there,” husband Jeff Oliver said.

Nicole, who had started selling on online marketplace Etsy items similar to the personalized crafts she was making for her wedding, ramped up production after the couple returned from their honeymoon.

Success came fast.

“Within six to eight months, I was begging for (Jeff) to quit his day job,” Nicole said.

Her job clicked with Jeff, who had been helping her anyway with items she was making.

“I was having a hard time decorating for the wedding, so I decided I would start hand-engraving things,” she said. “I would buy wood boxes and wood signs. (Jeff) would make me something and I would hand-engrave it.”

Jeff, a boat mechanic when the couple moved to the area seven years ago, said he grew up in carpentry.

“I’m very much a hands-on person, so when this (business) started, it happened fast,” he said. “She had the ideas and the skills to hand-engrave.”

As the business grew, Jeff caved to Nicole’s demands to quit his job.

“I started to understand the potential when the demand for the woodshop started to take off,” he said. “I realized there was a demand for this business.”

The Olivers operated the business out of their home until 2014. They needed more room, so they leased a 2,500-square-foot warehouse next to Road Atlanta in Braselton.

“I was still hand-engraving, but my hand was killing me,” Nicole said. “It was becoming where the business could only do what I physically could do.”

“And we couldn’t train anybody else to get the quality we were looking for, so I saw the demand for machine-engraving,” Jeff said.

“So, we bought our first machine at the beginning of 2015.

That’s when Amazon approached them, asking them if they would join in their new Handmade marketplace venture.

“They ordered from us to test quality, to make sure we were who we said we were, that
we were putting out a handmade product like we were promising,” Nicole said.

“It was a slow start for the first month and a half, I’d say, and then the holidays just became so crazy,” she said. “That’s when we bought our second machine just to keep up (with orders).”

The couple hired their first person in 2013, while still working at home, then six people in 2014.

“We’ve gotten to the point now where we’re at 13 to 15 people,” Nicole said.

The business moved this year to its current shop at 1603 Gibbs Drive, a couple miles south of Candler Road/Ga. 60, just outside Gainesville.

The shop was abuzz with activity during a recent visit by The Times, with workers all over the floor working on products and getting them ready to ship.

Top sellers include a wooden wedding card box, monogrammed tumblers, guest book and
wooden chest – most with a rustic flair.

Love was definitely in the air at the shop, with the names of future brides and grooms etched on finished pieces.

But for the Olivers, the transition from love and marriage to baby carriage — they have three sons under age 4 — and business hasn’t always been smooth.

“We had never had to manage people before,” Jeff said.

“And Amazon was a learning curve,” Nicole said. “Everybody who shops (on the site) wants it now. So, when we started this, we would tell people we would ship it to you in five weeks — it’s hand engraving.”

She added, with a laugh, “(With Amazon), that’s not acceptable.”

But Amazon is appreciative of such businesses.

“Handmade at Amazon has become the online shop of choice for handcrafted items from artisans around the world,” a company spokesperson said by email. “Handmade at Amazon brings the friendly experience, convenience and value that customers love about Amazon to the world of handmade items."

Five years has passed since Nicole started her business.

“It’s real exciting,” she said. “They say when you make it five years, it’s good.”

And for those wondering, the business’ quirky name was inspired by a sign given to Nicole as a going-away present when she left for Georgia. The sign simply says “Barn babe.”

“We opened our store on Etsy to name (the business) Barn Babe, but it was already taken,” Nicole said.

She put “Country” in front of “Barn Babe,” and the name took. And it has stuck.

“We thought about changing it over time, but it just seemed to make sense of who and what we are,” Nicole said.