Courtney Gambaiani

Courtney always had a desire to start something of her own. So, she started with wanting to learn to make soy candles.

Take us back to you as a kid. I honestly had such a great childhood! We moved around the Midwest quite a bit growing up, but it helped me be able to adjust to new situations and be able to interact with new people very easily. We we’re lucky [as a family] to meet some great people and keep some great friendships along the way. 

My parents are high school sweethearts that grew up in Iowa. Having a sister somewhat close in age always made for a playmate. I’m very fortunate to have always had a support system. 

What's keeping you busy? Everything! I am moving pretty much from the time I wake up until 30 minutes before I finally hit the hay. I have a very active three-year-old little dude and a learning to get into everything baby who keeps me busy. I stay home with them and a few other kiddos during the day so we are always on the go doing things as a family…especially outside!

I love finding new things to create, craft and upcycle! My eye for repurposing came at a young age and I am a total DIY lover! I’m always working on some sort of project or searching for new treasures! 

We love to do stuff as a family. My husband also happens to be extremely crafty, so between the two of us and two busy boys, projects are easy to find around our house! 

"I was nervous to be leaving the stability, but ready for a change."

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing? I taught preschool for 7 years before deciding to take a leap and branch to my own thing. I was nervous to be leaving the stability, but ready for a change. I started with wanting to stay home with my first son.  I added a few kiddos and created an “in home daycare” space in our new house. A second baby later and I was ready and eager to create another entrepreneurial adventure that incorporated my interests, hobbies, and skills! 

I’ve always had a desire to do my own thing and create a business. At first, everything was just a new found hobby. I started with wanting to learn to make soy candles. I found the idea of repurposing the containers really fun and decided to use thrifted coffee mugs because, who doesn’t love fun mugs? I researched, learned, tested my newly found skill and went from there. The “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure really holds true! When I would go “mug hunting” I found SO MUCH cool stuff that I knew I could create into something revamped and beautiful again.  A mix of shabby chic & farmhouse style décor gives my creations a certain personal style. 

I wanted to create a brand that wasn’t specific to one thing. I loved the idea of doing “mug candles” but wanted to ability to expand beyond candles. Court Ave Designs came about after brainstorming a name that would incorporate not only my personal touch but a local Des Moines type flair (think downtown)!

After creating some really fun pieces I was proud of, I decided to jump on the Etsy bandwagon and see where the ride took me. I began to want to become more local so I started attending craft shows locally and in other areas of Iowa. Being able to connect with my customers, especially locally, has been the best part of this new venture! 

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped? When I set my mind to something, it’s go time…full steam ahead. Sometimes I have to remind myself things don’t happen overnight. When there are frustrating times where I think things should be going one way and end up another it’s important for me to say “that’s okay” and keep on keeping on. I work hard on the projects and goals I set, especially as a small business entrepreneur. I want my passion and hard work to be a reflection of my products!

I have been fortunate to have many people help me along the way! From the moment I decide to stay home to start entirely new ventures until the present day craziness, I have I had support. From family…friends…my community. It’s been refreshing and humbling. Locals supporting locals…that’s what it’s all about! 

I can’t leave out a solo shout out to my #1 supporter in anything that I do…my husband. I literally could not do this without him.  He is my perfect assistant (he hates when I call him that) has helped me more than I could ever have imagined. 

"Sometimes I have to remind myself things don’t happen overnight."

Talk to us about one of your good days this week. Every day brings something new around here! I have been working on a special project to promote an association very close to my heart. A random social media picture post was able to reach a large amount of people. If nothing else, it was good to know my message was getting out there! I’ve been so amazed by the awesome power of social media. There are some great things going on in this world and the fact that we can share these great things with millions of people is incredible. 

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them?

You can do it! Keep going! You never know what you’re capable of accomplishing if you don’t try.  Stepping out of your comfort zone can be a great thing with the potential to bring some incredible experiences. Take the leap & it can be life changing! 

The first (few) times will probably not be perfect. That’s okay. Getting a groove for what you’re doing will only get better!

Why Des Moines? I moved to Des Moines 9 years ago right after graduating college. I thought of Des Moines as a transition city. Whelp, I’m still here! And I seriously LOVE Des Moines. The amount of growth in my 9 years of residency has been tremendous. Des Moines has so many amazing things to offer and an immense amount of culture. Unique restaurants, events, shops, outdoor activities and more make living in Des Moines eventful and ever changing. There are so many great “neighborhoods” and areas of the metro that bring various local finds wherever you go.  

Not only is the atmosphere of Des Moines unlike any other, the people are pretty incredible too! Des Moines has tight knit community vibe in a “big city” style. People are welcoming. People are helpful. People want to help other people.  Small business make up a huge part of why Des Moines is so great. People want to support local…. the locals want to support local.  Des Moines is on the maps for being up and coming for a reason!

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye? One thing I love about any type of big(germ) city is the downtown area. Since I’ve lived in Des Moines I have seen downtown Des Moines change so much! It’s been incredible to see new additions and changes adapt with how Des Moines is growing.  I feel like every time I go downtown there’s always something new going on or added. It’s fun to keep up with all of the changes!

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? Keep feeling the love! Des Moines has been getting more praise for being an AWESOME place to live...because it is! It’s so awesome hearing Des Moines getting love on being a progressive, up and coming city. Raising a family while getting a city-like experience, and starting a small business are all possible because of the culture of Des Moines. Des Moines has a lot to offer…a lot of potential… I wish for the future progression to continue!

"Stepping out of your comfort zone can be a great thing with the potential to bring some incredible experiences."

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. It would literally take my whole day off to go to my favorite places in Des Moines!! And because I love Des Moines so much…I’m telling you more than one!

I have to give local love to the Waukee Ice Cream Shop. This is seriously the cutest place ever and reminds me of my childhood. Even equipped with Superman ice cream. We frequent this establishment often and I try to get something new every time...very easy to do!! 

Valley Junction is one of my favorite areas of Des Moines.  The local little shops and restaurants give that area so much charm and character.  There’s always something fun going on in that area. Some of my favorite local stops are on that strip…and there’s always fun at the Thursday night farmer’s markets!

If my husband and I happen to get the chance to be kid free and in need of an adult beverage, my absolute favorite stop is Twisted Vine. I’m a big fan of craft beers and this is truly a local treasure. Twisted Vine brews on site, offers a great selection, and started with just an idea like myself. Plus, the wide selection of board games is a super fun addition! There’s usually a good chance the owners are there too which is so cool! 

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why? I think the most underrated thing in Des Moines is the people.  Outsiders of Iowa think of Des Moines as some small town in Iowa with no reality as to what life is like here.  People in Des Moines make things happen.  There are creative minds everywhere.  Des Moines is up and coming because of the people who live here…who make it up and coming.  I think when people come to Des Moines and see all there is to offer, it’s surprising and they end up having a great and lasting experience. 

What are you most proud of and why? I’m proud of deciding to do something new and step out of my comfort zone.  Change is definitely scary, but without it there’s no potential for growth.  I’m proud of taking risks and learning new things.   I’m proud to create things that people enjoy and use in their own lives! 

I’m also proud that I’m (hopefully) setting a positive example for my boys.  My oldest has already gained interest in seeing what projects I’m working on and enjoys its outcome.

"People in Des Moines make things happen."

In three months what do you hope to accomplish? So much has changed in the past three months alone it’s exciting to think about the what’s to come in the next three months! I’m incredibly grateful for the connections and relationships with people I have gained already. I’m eager to build more relationships, especially within the Des Moines community! I’m hoping to gain to widen customer base and reach more people. I’ve been very fortunate to have some of my candles in a local shop and I’m proud to collaborate with another small businesses with the same goals!  

I’m working on a few large projects that I’m looking forward to completing! Incorporating some new product lines has been in the works and I can’t wait to get them up and running.  

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? Family is so important! Memories matter. Without family, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. None of this would even be possible.  And when the community supports small business, my family (my boys) get a trip to the Science Center (which my oldest STILL talks about), lunch at Palmer’s (a household favorite), swim lessons and other potential trips down memory lane!

Derek Jensen