Written by Memphis contributor, Lauren Patterson.
There is a giveaway listed at the bottom of this post, so read the whole way through!
Our first Faces of Memphis profiles a “Delta Girl,” Sarah Ella Cole. She knows no strangers — making you feel like you have been friends for years even if you’ve just met. There is a comfort about her that is so refreshing and you just cannot help but smile whenever she is around. Born and raised in Indianola, a tiny little town in the Delta (Mississippi), Sarah Ella moved to Memphis for a job and established her roots quickly. She is married to Roger Cole Jr. and has 2 of the cutest little boys you have ever seen. After a hunt for unique frames left her empty handed, Sarah Ella decided to solve that problem and started her own frame business, Delta Girl Frames. As they say, the rest is history.
Sarah Ella is taking the frame world by storm with her eclectic taste and unique spin on design that shines through each frame she paints. Custom frames are handmade by Sarah Ella and can be as simple or detailed as the customer wants them to be. If you can dream it, she is going to try and paint it. She is a one woman show going full steam ahead with no plans of slowing down — all the while being a momma and a wife, and a good one at that! With Facebook and Etsy fueling her fire, she is definitely a force to be reckoned with and we could not be more proud to feature her as our first Face of Memphis!
What led you to move to Memphis?
I went straight into pharmaceutical sales out of college and had a territory opportunity in 2001 to move to Memphis and jumped at the chance!
You obviously have a serious creativity gene. Was this always apparent?
Pretty much. From an early age, I have always loved DIY projects. I can remember striping my own walls when I was 11 and my favorite part of camp was always arts and crafts.
When was Delta Girl Frames born?
Delta Girl Frames was born in November of 2009. We had just had family photographs taken by Will Jacks, an amazing artist out of Cleveland, MS. He took my family back to my roots, taking pictures of us in the rice fields and back roads of the Mississippi Delta. On my hunt for frames, I could not find anything that worked with these pictures. I wanted custom-sized frames that were rustic, distressed and made out of real hardwood. I did not have any luck on my search so I decided to make my own frames. Delta Girl Frames was brought to life.
What or who gave you the courage to take the plunge and start Delta Girl Frames?
It is actually kind of strange. I had not really thought about it until some of my friends and family started suggesting that maybe a business was in my future. I knew the market lacked an outlet for custom distressed frames, so I thought, “Why not? What a great way to stay at home with my kids and put my creativity to use!”
What was your first frame making experience like?
Heart pounding. Wondering if I was going to cut my hand or finger off in the saw was my biggest fear! I made the first few cuts and thought, “OK I’m safe, all my limbs are still intact, so lets try another one.”
Who taught you how to cut the frames and assemble them?
I’m self-taught, and that is my proudest accomplishment. My grandfather was in the lumber business and was an avid craftsman. He passed away when I was just 8 years old, but I know he was leading me through this on my first few tries. I also had to convince my husband that I would talk to every employee at Lowe’s about safety and learn all the do’s and dont’s of carpentry.
Where do your design inspirations come from?
Really anywhere, but mainly wallpaper and fabric. I am someone who loves a fabulous print, but I do not know if I could have an entire room in Ikat! I look to those fun patterns to incorporate into my frames. I equate my frames to a great throw pillow–they are a perfect way to bring color, pattern and personality to any room!
What do you love most about your job?
The painting and distressing–it’s very therapeutic. I love taking a new piece of wood and giving it life and character.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I am a perfectionist and classic “over-commiter.” I am always thinking that I can get more done in a day than is physically possible. So, I find myself in the 11th hour quite a bit!
Is there a secret to juggling 2 boys and a thriving business on your own while still maintaining your sanity?
Ha ha! I get asked this question at least twice a week, and to be completely honest, I am STILL trying to figure it all out. Life is full of surprises and this was a blessed one. But, it is a tricky balance when you work from home to define the lines [of work and family]. When your business is in your home, you always think, ”Oh, I can get one more email out or one more frame done.” But, at the end of the day, I really try and make myself stick to reasonable office hours that I have set for myself. I also have a poster by my workbench that constantly reminds me to “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I have to take it one frame at a time and try not to overwhelm myself and remember that in my book, family always comes first. Bottom line: it is a balancing act and I am still trying to figure out how to juggle it all.
Advice for anyone trying to start their own business?
Make sure it is something you L O V E and that you are passionate about! I also think social media is amazing. Launching a Facebook page and doing giveaways really boosted my sales. Pick blogs that target your audience and take a risk– it’s a true statement that it takes money to make money, so if you’re going to bite the proverbial bullet, then do it right.
What do you see as an unique and defining characteristic of Memphis?
I love Memphis because it is a big city but has the feel of a small town, making it so charming. When meeting someone for the first time, within 5 minutes, you probably will learn you have a friend in common or have crossed paths before.
When you have people visit from out of town, where is the first place you think to bring them to dinner?
Oh, my yummy go-to favorite for years has always been Ronnie Grisanti’s.
What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
I am literally covered in paint 5 days a week, so it feels nice to get dressed up and go out. I love a date night with my hubby, and together we love going to dinner at Elfo’s and catching up at the bar afterwards. However, If you ask me the same question during football season, I would say cooking out with my hubby and two boys and watching SEC football!
What word, or two or three, best describes you?
What is currently on your bedside table, or iPad/Kindle, that you are reading?
I wish I could say War and Peace, but let’s be honest, my guilty pleasure in life is a good gossip magazine–so currently, US Weekly.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding family, friends and God.)
- Sunglasses: they are my favorite vice in the world and I change them up every season.
- My iPhone: mainly because 1. my whole world is in it and 2. it occupies my kids in a pinch.
- Diet Cokes: I think I would shrivel up and die if they ever take them off the market!
Would you share the ultimate Sarah Ella Cole dinner party playlist with us?
Oh playlist…what’s great is Pandora. They make the playlist for you. I would probably have the Adele station playing for a dinner party and George Strait for a cookout.
What are your dreams, plans, wishes for 2012?
I think I’m most excited about where the business is going. I hope for more balance, a well-rounded schedule and a thriving business. I also hope to hire some help. I love making people’s homes a little cozier with my frames. I wish personally for happy and healthy boys and more time traveling as a family and making new memories.
What are you thankful for?
I pinch myself everyday. I have a job from home that I love and can actually make a little money doing. I am thankful for my happy, healthy marriage and my two silly boys. I am thankful for the love and time we have with each other and the many years to come!
To enter for your chance to win the 8×10 handmade Delta Girl Frame pictured below, with a $120 value, click here!
Purchase Sarah Ella’s Frames here: www.etsy.com/shop/ellachamp
Visit Christen’s website here: www.christenjones.com