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Meet Brenda Schodt of Southwest Ornaments in Chandler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenda Schodt.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always said, “It began with a sunset”. In 1980, I boarded a flight to Phoenix from Janesville Wisconsin to attend Arizona State University and it was upon landing that I saw a beautiful Arizona sunset! I knew from that moment on that I wanted to create art of this beautiful landscape and desert cacti. I have had a passion for art since about age 5 and always hoped to pursue a degree in Fine Arts. In 1984, students went to a job board to find work and it was there that I found an index card that said, “help wanted painting on ornaments”. I painted only 4 different designs on ornaments and received .50 cents for each one. It wasn’t a lot of money, but I really fell in love with it. I graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design and have been painting on ornaments ever since. It’s hard to believe it’s been 33 years that I have been painting on ornaments! I went on to pursue other areas of art such as becoming a graphic designer for a local school district, mural painting, sculpture painting and drawing but always went back to the ornaments. My first company was established in 1996, called Delicate Designs and in 2007, it was renamed to Southwest Ornaments to better represent our product. I went from selling ornaments in little lunch bags at local craft fairs to now being in over 200 gift shops and galleries in the Southwest as well as California, Nashville, Florida and the Caribbean Islands.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle was learning how to paint on a round surface. This was extremely challenging for many years! Looking back, it seems, for the most part, it has been a smooth road but that doesn’t mean easy. Taking the business from a part time job to a full-time career was many years in the making. With no prior business experience, learning the ropes of business was a challenge during the first several years.
As with most entrepreneurs, the business becomes a 24/7 way of life and finding a balance between work and family life is always challenging. We really love what we do and are grateful to the people that continue to purchase our ornaments. All the obstacles and challenges are worth it when I see the smile these painted ornaments can bring to our customers!

Southwest Ornaments – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Inspired by Arizona’s natural beauty, the ideas and designs for my paintings are endless. I am constantly adding new creations to the collection. This business is all about creating original paintings on glass ornaments that have a special meaning and becomes a lasting memory. Southwest Ornaments is thriving today because of the love, work, and support of my family. My daughter, Brittany, handles all the bookkeeping, photography and so many important things that keep us going. My husband, Rick, packs all the orders himself and is our customer contact person. My son Dustin has been a constant source of inspiration with sound business advice. We truly are a Mom and Pop shop! the ornaments can be found year-round through our online store as well as many wonderful gift shops and resorts throughout Arizona and the Southwest. Some of the destinations include the Desert Botanical Garden, Sedona, Grand Canyon and many of the Western National Parks to name a few. At Southwest Ornaments, we are proud that every part of our ornament is 100% Made in the USA and even our boxes are custom-made right here in Phoenix!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Some of the proudest moments are when my art can raise money for local charities by donating a set of ornaments for a silent auction. It is such a great feeling to know that I am able to help others locally through my ornaments.

I receive emails from so many people telling me why a particular ornament has a special meaning to them. The stories behind their selection of a certain ornament are very touching and I am proud that what I do can bring a certain level of joy to others. One man purchased the Arizona Sunset ornament at an art festival I was participating in and took it back east to his hometown and had the exact painting tattooed on his arm. That was definitely a proud moment!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Brittany Kells

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