Holli & James Peterson

James asked Holli to prom. Now they have a family of four & a two-car garage as their workspace.

Take us back to you as a kid.

Holli: I grew up on a farm in a small town in southern Iowa. I loved being with my family and spending time with friends. I've always had a love for meeting new people and making connections with others. All my report cards usually noted "socializes too much in class." :) I always dreamed of having a family and being a mom. Who knew at 16, I would find the guy that would eventually make that dream a reality. Pretty happy he decided to ask me to prom all those years ago.

James: My childhood consisted mostly of playing and practicing baseball.  I grew up in the country so in my down time I would spend my days riding my bike around the countryside looking for old cars to fix up or take apart mostly.  If I wasn't in a batting cage I was usually in a garage working on projects.  I started out rebuilding cars which has lead me to currently making furniture.  I have always wanted to solve problems and fix things which has made woodworking a great business venture for me.

"Pretty happy he decided to ask me to prom all those years ago."

What's keeping you busy?

Holli: I have 4 little reasons for keeping busy. Their names are Emma, Tate, Mia, and Nora. :) Being a mom is best job in the world. I have a serious addiction to newborns but have loved watching our children grow. Beyond being a mom, I handle all the business aspects of S+S. When the kiddos are content or napping, I set up orders, advertise our product on social media, communicate with clients, and order supplies. I also help stain and paint the pieces James builds when time allows.

James: Other than my full-time job with the city of Urbandale and Sawdust & Stain on the side, our 4 children keep us very busy.  Especially since they are starting to get to the age that activities and friends are becoming increasingly more important.

Walk us through the days leading up to starting Sawdust & Stain?

Holli: We started S+S in November 2016. It all began by making a few pieces for friends and family. I knew James had a talent that other people would appreciate. Once we named the business and made a Facebook page, it all seemed to grow overnight!

James: The days leading up to Sawdust & Stain involved Holli seeing a handmade ladder that she wanted and I told her I was able to make it.  After a few of her friends saw it, I made a few more and then the projects and Pinterest type ideas started coming.  Once Holli figured out that I could make just about anything she could throw at me, she decided to start a Facebook page and start making larger pieces for others. Our orders have grown since then and we've made some pretty cool pieces.

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped?

Holli: Space has been the biggest challenge. Our garage is James' shop. He is pretty organized and has a good system but sometimes completing more than a few pieces at once can be tricky. We've talked about moving it to a bigger space but we sure do love Daddy being so close to say hi and give hugs while he's working. :)

James: The biggest challenge for us is the work space. It is currently out of our 2 car garage so space is limited.  Also finding the time to complete the ever growing list of orders is sometimes challenging. It has helped becoming more organized. I also upgraded some tools which has helped as well. But there just needs to be a few more hours inthe day to get everything accomplished.

"After a few of her friends saw it, I made a few more and then the projects and Pinterest type ideas started coming."

Talk to us about one problem you’ve been focused on solving and why.

Holli: Current problem...not enough hours in a day! I'm sure most people would say that. Balance is tricky with a home based business. It's not a typical 8-5 job. Your work is always around and trying to juggle kids, a home, and a business can be a challenge. Especially during the summer...moms can I get an amen?!

James: The major problem that I would like to solve would be to have a bigger shop but that is more of a long term goal. We would have to try for this later down the road when all the children are school age.

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

Holli: I would tell anyone starting a project to take your time. I actually (annoyingly) tell my children frequently to "take the time and it will take less time." We research paint and stain colors pretty intensely which is time-consuming but worth it in the end. James is very detailed when designing and planning the pieces each month, but in the long run, his organization makes for an easier building process.

James: The first thing I would recommend to someone starting a project would be to do their research on the tools they are using and the best methods of doing the project.

Why Des Moines?

Holli: We are in Des Moines because it's where our hearts are! Both of our families live in the area. We love all that Des Moines has to offer.

James: I grew up in Des Moines and I like that it is a big city but not too big.  I love the older parts of town just like I old cars, wood, and buildings. 

"I would like to see small businesses continue to pop and be successful."

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye?

Holli: I love all the new restaurants and small businesses that are popping up downtown and in the East Village. I could spend a whole day walking around shopping and snacking. :)

James: The newest thing that has caught my eye is how much the East Village has become a cool spot to shop and hang out and how they have revitalized the older part of town.

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why?

Holli: I hope that Des Moines keeps expanding in the area of local small businesses. I was so excited to see this publication highlighting talented people who have turned their passion into work. It's amazing how many people possess such unique skills. And even more impressive that they take the leap to share it with others.

James: I would like to see small businesses continue to pop and be successful.

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off.

Holli: Is this a trick question? Moms don't get days off. :) In all seriousness though, if things are quiet we like to go to the park, feed the ducks, host a fire pit night, ride bikes, or go fishing. Pretty soon our weekends will be baseball and soccer once again.  We love Raccoon River and Gray's lake for picnics and swimming. And like I mentioned before, I adore the East Village. The boutiques are adorable and restaurants are unique.

James: My favorite place to go would be downtown Des Moines to hit up some of the newer spots around Principal Park especially the newer restaurants and bars.

"Des Moines stays small but is constantly changing and staying up to date."

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why?

Holli: I appreciate how safe and affordable the Des Moines area is. Larger cities are so expensive! And I like how great the Des Moines area is to raise a family. I also like seeing all the renovations and new restaurants and bars coming to the area. Des Moines stays small but is constantly changing and staying up to date.

James: The most under rated thing in Des Moines is how affordable it is compared to other larger cities.

What is your favorite item or product you bought locally in DSM? Why should someone else buy it?

Holli: The last local item I bought was a sign for S+S from Lakeside Lettering Co. I love all her pieces and just her general vibe. And she's a mom who also takes time to be creative and share her talent which I love!

James: The most recent local product I bought was a few local beers at the Iowa Tap Room. Anyone that likes different brewed beers will love the large selection of local beer on tap.

What are you most proud of and why?

Holli: I am most proud of my children and James. We have 4 healthy (and active!) kiddos. They make all the hard work worth it. I'm proud of James for working so hard for all of us and being so talented. I'm proud of where S+S is going and being able to make pieces of furniture that people can have in their homes for years to come.

James: Our family.  We have 4 healthy kids that cause us a little trouble but are really great.  I'm also proud of my beautiful wife that is awesome at taking care of our children and running the majority of the business we started.

Talk to us about the biggest fear you’ve had recently.

Holli: Biggest fear right now...my little Mia going to preschool for the first time! I know she will do great but it sure pulls on the heartstrings.

James: My biggest fear would be trying to do Sawdust & Stain full time and being able to support our large family with everything that goes along with starting and running a small business.

"Take the time and it will take less time."

In three months what do you hope to accomplish?

Holli: I hope we continue to meet and exceed people's expectations when they see their custom ordered furniture! It's awesome to see someone's face light up when they first see their piece they've been waiting for. I hope we continue to grow our social media followers and connect with people who have been looking for that missing piece in their home.

James: I hope to be ahead of schedule on orders and be able help customers out with some last minute Christmas gifts.

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about?

Holli: I really care about people. I love meeting new people and hearing about their families, jobs, talents, and interests. I love making connections and it's amazing (especially in Des Moines) how quickly that can happen! We've met some great people and re-connected with old friends through Sawdust & Stain. I know we will continue to meet new people and that's exciting! We love being the business to go to for a custom piece of furniture that someone has been waiting for. Now if I can just get on the waiting list for a new dining table...... :)

James: I really care about my family obviously but also solving problems.  The coolest part of our business is solving problems for customers and getting to be creative with the way we solve them.

Photo taken & edited by Ashley Hill

Derek Jensen