Previously to opening her own business, nothing in Tabitha Mund’s work-life seemed to be working out. From graduating during the recession to working at a startup that was burning her out, she was struggling to see the path forward.
At the end of her rope, she had a realization that would change the course of her life — at her e-design job, she saw a gap in the market for high-quality curated rugs. From here, she developed Swoon Rugs with “no inventory, no money, and no clue.” Years later, she’s running her own brick-and-mortar shop and living out her dream career.
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
Swoon Rugs is a curated collection of vintage rugs and sustainable decor. I am passionate about helping people invest in fewer and better things.
How did the idea for your business come about?
Previously, nothing in my work-life plan worked out, at least not right away. I graduated with a degree in interior design during the recession. I spent a few years trying to land an entry-level commercial design job while working retail in furniture or specialty showrooms. I was super depressed about my career path.
Then, 5 years after graduating, a classmate reached out about an e-design startup she was co-founding with a group out of New York. At first, I thought it was a horrible idea, but I was pregnant, and I hoped it would give me the ability to work from home with our kiddo. It was while working with e-design clients that I realized shopping online for rugs (in 2014-2016) was pretty horrible.
I saw a gap in the online market for a curated collection of high-quality carpets, so I launched Swoon Rugs. I started my business with no inventory. No money. And no clue.
What was the deciding factor that made you take that leap from side hustle to full-time gig?
For a few years, I operated Swoon Rugs as a side hustle while working full-time with the e-design startup. And I was trying to be a stay-at-home mom. It was a total mess. I was trying to juggle too many roles and too many tasks. I was miserable and so was everyone around me. I couldn’t sleep from stress. My work started to suffer. Eventually, the startup let me go. At the moment, it was devastating, but looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. I threw myself into making Swoon Rugs work.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
The year I dedicated all of my time and energy to Swoon Rugs, the business really took off. At that point, I had a few years of marketing experiments (successes and failures) under my belt. I had a much better understanding of how to use social media to market my business. So I used everything I learned and poured all of my energy into capitalizing on my lessons.
As a business owner, it’s hard to step back and realize things are working, especially because most days bring with them a fresh set of challenges. I’m slowly leaning into the realization that Swoon has come a very long way, taught me many, many valuable lessons, and provided me with the flexibility I want in life. And that is pretty special, even if the business isn’t a mega revenue machine. I’ve had to reassess my version of success, and ultimately, I’m very grateful for my little shop.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
Sometimes I think about it, and it’s suffocating. All of the success and failures of the business are on me. And sometimes it’s easy to view being a business owner as a gift. I guess in reality, it’s a little of both. As a business owner, I get to (try to) live my values. I get to sell the types of products I want to sell, I get to spend my time the way I want to spend it, and it’s an opportunity to learn. I’ve learned so much about running a small business, and I’ve also learned a ton about myself. I see that as the real value of being an entrepreneur.
What would you identify as the glamorous parts of being a CEO? What about the not-so-glamorous parts?
I can go on school field trips with my kiddo. I love taking breaks in the afternoon to go rollerskating. I love to sleep in when I can. Being able to organize my time in the way that fits my needs and the needs of my family is my favorite part of this whole thing.
Figuring out what we wanted life to look like as a family of three is the reason I left my 9-5 in the first place (in 2014). I also love helping people buy fewer, better things. I feel like I have the opportunity to let my business be a reflection of my values in a bunch of different ways – how I spend my time plus the products I help folks find.
The not-so-glamorous parts include dealing with all the things that go wrong (so many things!) – missing packages, unanticipated expenses, etc., etc., etc.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
I moved to Columbus with my family in 2019. It’s a very special city. The small business community is really special, and people here really believe in supporting local shops. There are a lot of people interested in stability. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about being here.
Are you from Columbus? If not, what brought you here, and ultimately what made you stay?
I am not. When we had our daughter, we both eventually quit our jobs and moved across the country to live smaller lives and figure out a new path.
It took us about three years of really struggling (during this time I started Swoon Rugs), but we eventually redirected our careers to options we are both passionate and excited about. My husband landed his dream job in Columbus, and as the owner of an online shop, I had the flexibility to move my business here.
When you first moved to Columbus, what excited you the most?
People! Prior to moving to Columbus in 2019, I spent basically all of my time (outside of going to the gym) in our house in a very small town. It was very isolating. But we were trying to switch our lives around, and it required a lot of sacrifices (time and money). The idea of working with folks face to face vs. virtually was/is super exciting.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Be sure you really want it. The thing about starting a business is, you’re going to want to quit. How are you going to push yourself through those moments of doubt and frustration to get to the other side?
You are going to have to sacrifice both your time and money at different points and in different ways. How can you readjust your life to accommodate the stressors and needs the business is going to put on you? For me, having the ability to shed a lot of our expenses gave me the flexibility to explore a new career path. We had to live really small to make everything work.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
For me, I don’t have a business background. I don’t always have the tools I need to make the right decisions. So I’ve learned many lessons the hard way.
The hardest part is when things don’t go to plan and you get blindsided by something you didn’t see coming. I’ve had many moments when things didn’t work out the way I wanted, and I had to develop a new strategy for moving forward. It can be exhausting. And scary.
Over the last few years (last year was particularly rough), I’ve had to learn to let go of trying to control the uncontrollable. I finally feel more confident that I will be okay with or without my business, although I have no plans to stop anytime soon!
What is one obstacle that you’ve been able to overcome as a business that presented itself as a challenge first?
The money bits. I didn’t have any money when I started out and financing myself has been a steep learning curve. I’ve made some huge (painful) mistakes. BUT I’ve learned a ton. It feels good to make this business out of nothing. And the mistakes I’ve made have been the greatest teachers.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
I have several things going on right now that I’m really excited about: I’m freelancing as an interior designer, I’m designing textiles for the shop (although this may take a bit to come to fruition), and I’m finding better and better resources for the types of rugs I want to curate in the collection. It’s a pretty exciting time!
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Social media. It’s given me the ability to connect with tens of thousands of people in ways I never could without it.
What social media platform has been the most successful for you and why?
Instagram – it’s given me the ability to tell my story and share my finds. Vintage rugs are beautiful and well-made. They are pieces of art that speak to us in ways we don’t fully comprehend immediately. They tell us stories through centuries-old traditions. When you buy a vintage rug, you are reusing something so incredibly well-made it can last decades (or longer). I want to help people buy fewer better things and avoid buying disposable goods. Instagram gives me the ability to share these amazing products.
What platform has been the most challenging?
Twitter, I just don’t get it.
What’s your end goal for the business?
I just want to be happy, I don’t want to be stressed out. Other than that, I don’t really have any major goals. I imagine I’ll have Swoon Rugs for the rest of my life because collecting and selling carpets is so fun! And it gives me the flexibility to focus on other things, like doing design work.
I want my kids to understand they have choices and can do whatever. We are here for such a short period of time, I want to be sure they value their happiness and don’t sacrifice it for a paycheck.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
Edgework Creative, they design and build furniture locally. They started their business with very little, and they’ve done amazing!! They’ve worked so hard and come so far. And they are not shy to offer advice or help to other business owners. And I don’t think most people would take the time to do this. Since I first moved to Columbus, they’ve been so helpful to me.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
I think when you come to Columbus you should eat all the things and take a walk in some of the beautiful parks.
Specifically, I recommend getting breakfast at George’s Beechwold Diner, maybe grabbing a donut from HoneyDip, getting lunch at Thurman’s if you’re looking for a killer burger or RayRay’s for kickass BBQ, Portia’s if you want a great meat-free option. Also, highly recommend Fukuryu Ramen, Aab Indian Restaurant, and Harvest. (Now I’m hungry.) Then go for a stroll on the Scioto Mile. Maybe rent a scooter if you are feeling optimistic.