Founder Stories: Tarah Wolff On Building Grandma’s House DIY

In today’s Founder Story, we feature Tarah Wolff, founder of the blog, Grandma’s House DIY!

Read on for lessons she has learned from launching and marketing her blog.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role.

My blog is called Grandma’s House DIY and focuses on my life renovating, designing, and DIYing my late grandparents’ 100-year-old farmhouse. From the very beginning, I wanted to be authentic. There are so many gorgeous blogs out there of perfect homes and perfect people… I knew I wasn’t capable of “perfect” anyway lol so I really embraced our blog as being as REAL as possible. That actually took a lot of pressure off of me and really seems to be what draws people to our website more than anything else. 

2. What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

I come from a long line of DIYers. My grandparents retired from their farm to embrace their dream of woodworking. My family has built several homes from the ground up throughout my life and a golf course. My mother owned her own business for almost 50 years. So I really came from a foundation of working for myself and really doing everything myself that I can. I taught myself XHTML and CSS and worked as a web designer for years. In 2013 my grandparents’ farmhouse was standing empty and it really just called to me. It wasn’t always fun but I loved the work of the whole renovation and managed to only hire about 10% of the labor out. It was during those first few months that I realized that I definitely should be writing about what I was doing and it was then that I realized I had a blog idea on my hands.

3. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch? 

Initially, the blog Grandma’s House DIY was entirely step-by-step through the renovation. But even the longest renovations do, eventually, come to an end. (Though the old saying of a house never being finished I have found to be entirely accurate.)  I got really serious about the blog at that point and I had learned quite a bit as I was blogging over about a year and a half at that point.

I redesigned the entire website geared toward a broader audience and scheduled the launch date as the day I moved in and began my life at Grandma’s house. At that point, I had at least a dozen posts written and scheduled so I wasn’t immediately scrambling to reach my self-imposed deadlines. 

4. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

Honestly for us to retain customers it wasn’t exactly a “campaign” but more of just an evolution of me learning as I go. Initially, I was very nervous when writing our content – it meant all of our posts came out almost emotionless and boring. That’s ok for tutorials etc. but that certainly wasn’t what brought our customers to our website. It was when I started our once-a-month recap of what I think of as a legitimate “blog post” that seemed to really bring people in. It’s a post that is all about us, our life the past month, what we’re up to, our future DIY plans, even how our dogs are doing. It seemed to be the key that drew people to us, just being honest and putting a real face behind our blog. I write about everything honestly now, even our DIY failures! With pictures!

5. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

I’ve been loving and following Vintage Revivals for years and started screaming when I saw they had a show. I was jumping up and down yelling at my husband, “OMG I’m so happy for them, they made it to the big time!” Their branding is just beautiful. It’s simple, it’s friendly, and gives a ton for free to their audience. And they started at rock bottom like all of us other DIY bloggers.

6. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

I wouldn’t be here without WordPress as it is literally my blogging platform. Besides that, I struggled for years trying to find an affordable newsletter solution and I really had nothing good to say about any of them until Creative Mail came out. It works seamlessly with WordPress and Jetpack and it’s affordable and not bloated with extras I don’t need. Jetpack is a tremendous tool that I would recommend anyone with a WordPress website consider purchasing. It started just for security but has branched to offering forms, SEO tools, etc.

7. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

It will always be my home that inspires and motivates me more than anything else. I see something we could really use/need and I get to work finding a way to make that happen affordably and entirely by ourselves. Houses change with us. What was once my workshop I just converted into my office and den. What was once my plan for a basement rental became my husband’s music studio. They say a house is never finished and it is so true.

8. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

In the words of Dora from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.” It was years before our blog started making a real income. It’s all about putting your head down and keeping at it. I never missed a deadline but I also didn’t give myself a deadline that wasn’t attainable. One blog post a week I can do and I have done it since 2015. I may look back at my posts from a few years ago and wince but every post I write I feel like I learn a little bit more and I get a little bit better.

I would also suggest you find your community. As a DIY blogger, I was able to utilize several websites where I can contribute my DIY tutorials to. We bloggers provide their content and in return, we gain a much bigger audience. It is a win-win and absolutely helped give us a boost over the years.

9. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

Besides the obvious of not giving up you absolutely need to pick something that you like doing. You don’t have to LOVE it but you need to like most parts of the process and the majority of the work itself. Yes, some people manage to pick the perfect time and hit it big. But the reality is that it’s going to take a lot of blood, and sweat. tears and a ton of YOUR time. The other reality is that not only will you never get that time back it also might not work and you may also never get paid back for that time. So, choosing something that you at least enjoy most of the process of, is absolutely necessary! I love writing about our little old farmhouse and really prepared myself that maybe no one would care to read about it – and that had to be ok.

10. Let us know where we can go to learn more!