A former stay-at-home mom in rural Friend, Nebraska, started the wildly popular door-hang business, The Freckled Door, all because of an ultimatum from her husband.
Christy Svehla and her husband, Aaron, were enjoying another delicious meal at La Caterra in Seward in October 2013 when he laid down the law.
“I honestly love that place, and I was making my husband take me there two or three times a week,” Christy said of the Mexican restaurant. “I still remember exactly where we were driving when he said, ‘If you want to keep eating here this much, you’ve got to get a job.’”
Christy was a stay-at-home mom with three sons, and the youngest was 2 and the time. Christy decided to take her husband’s advice to avoid losing her Mexican restaurant privileges.
A few days later, she and Aaron spent $200-$300 on wood and paint so she could attempt to create and sell a few painted door signs. Aaron, who is a farmer, cut a Husker “N” and few other shapes with his jigsaw, and Christy painted them with her artistic flair.
“My goal was to make 5-10 signs a month to support my Mexican-eating habit,” Christy said.
But, when it came time to advertise her first finished signs on her Facebook page, she froze.
“I couldn’t even post it because I was so scared that people would think it was dumb,” Christy said.
Aaron posted the photos for her. No one thought it was dumb.
Her goal of 5-10 signs a month turned into 60-80 signs a week. Since October 2013, Christy has sold more than 6,000 door hangs in more than 30 states. Her Facebook fan base is more than 14,000. Often, her creations sell within an hour of being advertised, and her last door-hang painting class sold out of 113 spots in four minutes.
“I wasn’t looking to start this huge business,” Christy said. “It’s turned into something bigger than I ever thought it could be.”
Unleashing Her Inner Artist
Growing up, Christy always enjoyed doodling. She kept a journal and spent many hours sketching fashions, figures and fonts.
But, she dropped her art class during her sophomore year in high school to hang out with her friends in study hall. Her art teacher even tried to persuade her back to art class.
“Looking back, he saw artistic ability in me before I ever did,” Christy said of her teacher. “And, I honestly didn’t think it was important because I didn’t think there was a career in art.”
After high school, Christy studied to become a beautician. She worked in that field for a few years but quit after it conflicted with family time.
In 2010, Christy and her husband moved back to their hometown of Friend because of an opportunity to farm. Christy spent her time focused on raising their three young sons.
That was until La Caterra and her husband’s ultimatum.
From Hobby to Business
After that first initial Facebook success, Christy set up a Facebook page for her business that she called The Freckled Door. The name came to her after noticing her son’s freckles one day.
“I thought my signs are like freckles on a door,” she said of her creations, and her business name was born.
That first year, she spent time researching the best quality of wood and focused her efforts on making each sign unique. She learned all the aspects of running a business, from paying sales tax and other paperwork to packaging and mailing her creations. She worked to become a licensed Husker retailer that first year, which also provided a challenge.
Christy had to learn to balance her new booming business with her family life and to say “no” when the stress levels rose too high. Although she did take custom orders in the beginning, she now only sells original creations. She eventually launched a website www.thefreckleddoor.com to handle the orders.
Christy typically makes about 10-15 door hangs each day and can sometimes create as many as 20-25 on a good day, depending on the design.
A Sign For Every Day of the Year
She has made signs for every holiday, including hearts and lips for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, crosses and eggs with chicks for Easter, flip-flops and lemonade glasses for summer, patriotic crosses and stars for the Fourth of July, pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween, turkeys for Thanksgiving, snowmen and snowflakes for winter and trees and ornament bulbs for Christmas.
Christy’s creativity is endless. There’s a door hang for nearly every day of the year. Generic door hangs with the words “Hello” or letters in the customer’s last name, have also been popular. Teachers order her pencils, yellow school buses or apples and have them personalized with their names on them to hang on their classroom doors.
Her most popular designs are Husker designs (she recently made a Scott Frost-themed design), the cardinal, the “God Made a Farmer” corncob sign and crosses.
She enjoys the creative process and changing the designs each time.
“I am constantly thinking about how to make the next one different,” she said. “I can’t stand the same thing over and over.”
She paints all of her door hangs herself and free-hands the words without ever using stencils.
Teaching Her Craft
In 2014, Christy’s sister invited her to teach at a group painting party after the original teacher backed out.
“That was totally out of my comfort zone,” Christy said.
But, after leading a few sessions, she realized that she enjoyed teaching her craft.
“I think it’s easy to teach something that I love,” she said.
For the next few years, she was invited to teach small groups across Nebraska. Christy now limits her teaching sessions to a few large classes a year.
Her recent event at the Pour House in Friend attracted 113 participants in four minutes after she announced that registration was open on her Facebook page. The event cost $35 to paint, and participants could buy drinks and food at the Pour House. Participants traveled from as far away as Lincoln and North Platte.
Freckled Door’s Future
Christy spends about 40-50 hours a week on her business. Her husband wakes up early to cut her designs before he goes to work and spends at least 10-15 hours a week on The Freckled Door.
“Aaron is a huge part of this,” Christy said. “He is my silent helper behind the scenes. He does all the cutting for me and the sanding.”
They recently purchased a new machine that allows them to program a design into a computer, and a table saw hooked to the computer cuts the design. It has allowed Christy to make more intricate designs, like the new “Mr. and Mrs.” wedding cake topper.
Her goals for the coming years include building a barn-type building at their farm so she can move her business off the kitchen table into its own space.
Besides door hangs, she also has created porch boards and has done some painting on barn doors.
“I love that every day is different,” Christy said about her creative career. “I really like just being here in my home with my coffee and my music and just being creative. God has really blessed me with that. He helped me find exactly the perfect job for me. I’ve had some hard jobs that I really didn’t enjoy. I just really appreciate where I am right now.”
As for the Mexican food she loves – she’s so busy making signs that it’s difficult to carve out time to eat at her favorite restaurant. But, she will always be grateful for the role it played in helping her discover her dream career.
The Freckled Door signs are available at the following locations in Nebraska:
Best of Big Red in the Haymarket in Lincoln
321 N 8th St
Lincoln, NE 68508
Scheel’s in Omaha
17202 Davenport St
Omaha, NE 68118
H.Flynn Designs at Gateway Mall in Lincoln
6100 O Street in Lincoln (and at 711 J Street)
The Freckled Door website