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Episode 81. Living in Mama Kelce's World - Leanne Stowe

In this episode, Living in Mama Kelce’s World, we sit down with LeAnne Stowe, owner of Annie’s Barn. LeAnne talks about how she turned an online Facebook auction into a shop that operates in 12 different cities and online at

From her viral products to her personal connection with national hero “Mama Kelce” – the mother of NFL superstars, Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs) and Jason Kelce (Philadelphia Eagles) – hear how Annie has developed not only a thriving business, but a tight community of “Barnstormers.”

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Hey, it’s Jen Vellenga. This episode is with LeAnn Stowe. She goes by Annie, Annie’s Barn in KC. Oh my gosh. This was one of our most fun interviews because we got to visit Annie at Annie’s Barn in Overland Park, Kansas City, right before the holidays. And it is just a blast.

In this episode, you’re going to hear about how some of her products have gone viral, how she’s gotten into 12 different cities and how the whole Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift romance has created some boom around her shop. I know you’re going to love this episode. Please take a listen to Episode 81. Alright. Here’s Annie. 

I believe we all make up our own success. I’ve figured out a pathway for me that works both for my brain. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. And at the same time, it’s now become financially rewarding.

Welcome to the Speak with Presence podcast. I’m Jen Vellenga. And I’m Jennifer Rettele-Thomas. On this podcast, we believe perfection is overrated, leaders listen, and we all speak up to influence change. So, we’re here today in Lenexa, Kansas City Metro, and we’re here with Annie from Annie’s Barn. Welcome to the podcast, Annie.

Hello, and thanks for having me. You’re very welcome. So, if you don’t know what Annie’s Barn is, you need to know.  In the Kansas City area, it is in the Painted Tree, which is stalls of goods. Don’t be scared away by the word stall.  And Annie’s Barn is in there. It’s one of the best stalls there.

JRT, we got a chance to go over there and see it. We did some Christmas shopping. We did a little Christmas shopping. I know this is releasing in January, but we’re recording in December.  And Annie’s Barn has expanded across the country. So, Annie, will you tell us a little bit about how Annie’s Barn came to be and what you’re doing in different cities right now? 

Well, first of all, we think of the Painted Tree as like walking through Etsy. So some of the stuff is handmade and some of it is boutique-level quality. And then we have a lot of people who are crocheting things, you know, so it’s a combination of everything. But if you think of going on Etsy and finding a unique gift. That’s how we think of Painted Tree.

I had a corporate job before and I was in marketing and I was sitting with my son who had a sports injury and needed surgery and I was thinking I have a lot of goods that I’ve collected from going to estate sales and I would really like to park my car in the garage again.  So why don’t I create a company and I went over to Facebook and I created  And from there, what I basically did was start a fixed price auction company. I would gather a few people together, say on Thursday night, we’re going to have an auction, put all the goods on my driveway, take one quick picture of everything in there, we were going to have, and then at the night of the auction, which was always at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and do you know why? There was something on TV, a series. That’s correct. That most women wanted to watch, which was Grey’s Anatomy.  Grey’s Anatomy night was on Thursday night. I knew those women would have their laptop, be ready to buy. They were always looking for something. So I would say, hey, grab your boots or your bunny slippers and come to the Annie’s Barn auction. 

And we would list the first item. I’d take an individual picture of the item that we were going to have for that evening. And I would list the first auction and would say, here’s the antique car thing and it will be $35 and then the first person who responded, won it. They won the auction and this was addictive. 

So I had people who I would go and would do the next one and then we would just go all the way through Grey’s Anatomy and sometimes longer and I’d stop and I’d say, hey, we’ve got some more people who want to get in the barn here at the auction, can you ladies scoot over a little bit and let, you know, Joy in, she’s back there in the back and she’d like to get a little closer and we basically just at that time the algorithm of Facebook allowed the first actual person whose response got in to win the item.

And now it doesn’t quite work a hundred percent that way. But at the time it was really a fun night. We would joke around and laugh and have a good time. They would get their wine. People would talk about different things, josh around with each other. It became a community. And at some point, maybe like six months in, they started calling themselves the Barnstormers because they would swoop in and pick up that special item.

And then the way that I really kicked things into gear is around that same time, a new website was created. It was called Pinterest. Have you heard of it? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, Pinterest was created right around that same time. And there was an idea on there for a Christmas craft, which with my grandmother, I always did a Christmas craft.

And so, I was to make a sign. And my daughter and I started making these signs. It was as simple as going to the craft store, picking up a canvas and some of those stick on letters that you do with your kids projects. And then you were supposed to spray paint it in a bag but I can’t stand the smell of spray paint. So we just rolled the stuff on and that created a “like an artistic look” and so then my daughter and I were making all these signs.

But you know, there’s a problem when you’re my age and you’re wearing bifocals like my letters were all crooked.  And I could not get them straight. So I’d have my daughter lay down the letters and then she got tired of making signs because guess what? As soon as we put the signs in the auction, they sold faster than the goods. And the thing is, that was a key lesson right there because we realized that people were coming for the community.

They were coming online in the community? Yes. They were coming on Thursday nights to a virtual gathering to be a part of a community with their wine and their boots or their bunny slippers. Unbelievable. And the year, I mean it was, it was right at the beginning of all of that. Yeah. What was the year? 2008 is when I got on Facebook.

So it was 2010 when this whole Pinterest thing came out. Found our craft out there, decided we’ll make it. Which then transmitted to me realizing, okay, it’s rather than me going out and gathering the goods, which is going to be a limiting factor to growth. I’m going to go to a different kind of limiting factor, which was a custom product. And we started making signs then. You know, wood signs. Which there was nothing out there about how to make a wood sign. There was no Pinterest thing that said, this is how you do it. There were no products. But, we were still using those letters on wood and then painting it. And that became a thing. 

Then that evolved to, they do have products that you can make it. The Associated Press did a story about me. They had me go take my signs and put them out in my driveway, basically and take a picture that went around the United States. I had people from ladies from Rhode Island were asking me for my porch rules signs and we sold them.

We were sitting in the basement making a lot of signs. That was a blast. It was very fun. Yep. But Annie, at some point, those signs shifted to one of your big sellers. And one of the things that we were really excited about. What you have sitting in front of you.

Right. Well, you know, in the world that I’m in, it is a craft show world, really. And as soon as you go to a craft show and you sell a lot of something, do you know what happens when you go the next time? Copycat. Everybody’s selling the same thing you were just selling. So when I was making the signs, it was becoming a big thing.  And I also had a second line because I am the originator of the saying, “Holy shit balls, you’re awesome.”

So I had a coaster that said, “Holy shit balls, you’re awesome.” And people thought it was awesome. And I was noticing that stuff was selling and people were laughing around it as much as the signs. And so I decided I’m going to try to make something that I can do without as much work and as much space out of my house as a sign. And, and that doesn’t necessarily require me to make it because signs are very difficult to make. 

So I launched a line of coasters, but I wanted it to be in the same vibe as my prior work, which is a wood sign, so I looked for a wood coaster. So, for a year, I looked for wood coasters too. Wood to make coasters with, and a way to make them. And, I found them. And through a series of negative things that happened, I ended up producing them myself instead of buying from someone else.

Your gift is the sayings that you come up with. I mean, the holy shit balls and a variety of other things that you have put together, a lot of us think in our head and go, where’s this been all my life?

You have a gift with words. And to bring them to life that brings joy and humor to others. You know, my mom says I was born kind of a smart aleck. I came out that way in the very beginning. But, I think there’s a truth to the fact that I wrote headlines. So, there’s a cadence to the way that the written word goes.

I love fonts also. I love fonts. So I pick the fonts that I’m in love with. And you can almost see my journey through those fonts. I started with typewriter fonts, and then I went on to other ones.  But yeah, there is a cadence to writing humor on an item. There’s seeing something that might be funny out in the world, but then actually making it into a product and making it funny to someone else.

And I think that’s one of the single most important things that we do is there’s a vibe to Annie’s Barn. And we talked already about this, but we’ll talk about it right now. The gift that I think that I bring to the world is a table. So when people gather around that table in the Painted Tree and they find the coaster, that is their coaster, the one that is them. For instance, for me, it’s the, you will be too much for some people.

They find it, they hold it up. They’re like, Jen, get over here. You gotta see this. And that’s what happens, and it’s that one connection with your friend. I’m watching right now, as we’ve just opened a new store. So I’m watching people discover Annie’s Barn. I’m watching them discover the coasters, the sayings that are their life, and it is rewarding in a way that it’s very hard to explain.

Do you feel like you learn something about those people based on which coasters are theirs? Oh yeah. I can’t literally see with my cameras which coasters specifically they’re picking up, but sometimes they’ll say it out loud. Like for instance, one of the coasters is my mom’s favorite saying. And so when someone finds that one, you know, they’re like, oh, this is me in the morning. Right. And it’s just that connection with somebody else.   I don’t know. It’s really still surprising to me that my way of seeing the world resonates with other people. It’s a thing. I mean, I don’t know how to even explain what it is.

Well, you do, you start to think that there’s something wrong with you. So, for instance, hold up the one you just held up. We did buy this, JRT.  We both did.  Say what it is, Anna. Alright, “You will be too much for some people. Those are not your people.”  So we have been told many times, you two are a lot together. And at first we were like, oh, we’re a lot. We should not ever go to any coffees or meetings together because we’re too much. We overwhelm people. But then we were like, well, that’s who we are. You don’t like us. You don’t want to do this. This is who I am also.  That’s why I vibed with you guys when you came down there. We’re vibing.

For many years of my life, in my former life, every day I would walk around and say, you just can’t make this shit up. That is one of your phrases all the time. So when I purchased this and I shared this with a group of my friends, they said, you said that for years. And I said, I know it was just made for me. 

What’s fascinating for me is like watching as I’ve been doing this in the Kansas City area for six years or so. But now, no brand. So I’ve been building my brand here for 10 years. But I’m going to places where I have no brand. I’m in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I’ve never been to Fort Wayne, Indiana. And I have no idea what’s going to happen. And I set my stuff up and people totally love it. Guess what they love in Fort Wayne? What do they love? That’s what I wanted to know. What is it? I want to know everything. FAFO (Fuck around and find out). On a mug?  It’s what we sold out of on day one. Yes. Did that surprise you? Very much. And it made me know, these are my people, go ahead and go down to the basement and make some more stuff because I had to ship them more stuff.

And I’m actually bringing stuff out of Cincinnati over there too. But, you know, Cincinnati? They are not FAFO, they are FFS (For fuck’s sake). This is a research project. Any, okay, before we move on past this. We could talk about this all day long. Before we move past it,  I do want to say that we are holding glasses as we talk. As I said, it’s the holiday season. Tits the season. TITS the season we have in front of us. But before we move on, are there any other cities you really feel like you must tell us about that surprised you? What they loved? What’s Overland Park? Who are we here?  What do we like? Well, I know what we like. I mean, come on.

This is, are we going to go there now, what we like in Kansas City. Right now, don’t like, uh, yeah, if it’s got red on it, it sells right now, you know, in Kansas City. And people often ask me, what do you do when your season, when Christmas is over, when your season is over? Our season does not end until the Chiefs lose. 

Chiefs lose, I can go on vacation. Before, if the Chiefs are in the playoffs, I am here, I am working. Interesting. Well, what’s your biggest Chiefs seller? Right now it’s anything that has 87, or the name Kelce on it. Yeah. Or 13? Please, yes. 13? Yes, we are selling a lot of 13 also. Tell us, I watched this on your Instagram, so if you’re Instagram listeners, those of you who are listening in, please go to Annie’s Barn. Tell us what the handle is, Annie’s Barn KC.

Okay, Annie’s Barn KC, because you’ll see her talk about this. You had candles on different sides of your stall.  Tell us that story. Right. Two separate customers, the customers who’s going to buy a pop culture candle with Taylor Swift on it and the customer who’s going to buy Chiefs-related gear.

Okay. So I have Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes candles on this right side of my booth. And I have a Taylor Swift over here on the left side.  He drives the freaking getaway car. And what do you do? I run down to Painted Tree as fast as I can. I take the Taylor Swift candle, and I take the Travis Kelce candle, and I move them together.

And I also had some individual coasters that were related. Related, already made, put those together. And people are walking in, wow, that was fast. No, it was just together. It was just time to bring them together. I mean, seriously, I’m an influencer in the Kansas City area. You are an influencer. 

And so we’ve got these mugs in front of us. Alright, I want to tell you this story about those. And I really want to hear this story. Should I describe the mug? I’ll describe the mug after you. Okay, I can describe the mug.  It’s got a picture of Mama Kelce. And if you don’t know, that’s Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce’s mother. She is the only mom who’s ever had both boys, both of her sons in the Super Bowl at the same time. That was last year.

The Chiefs won, by the way. In case you didn’t know that.  Shocking. This mug says Mama Kelce’s Cookies and it’s her recipe on the mug of chocolate chip cookies. So give us the story, Annie. Well what happened was when that happened at the Super Bowl last year, I was exhausted because we had just had the t-shirt I made go viral with the two Kelce brothers on it.

And then Travis and Jason, and what did the shirt say? Uh, well, we actually did a poll on this, so I want you to know it’s factual. We did a shirt that said, Jason in the Streets. Right, and Travis in the Sheets, baby!  Well, we did a poll because, you know, Jason’s got a little something to him with that whole bear look he’s got going on, you know, and he’s the father of three girls.

Sexiest man alive, he just got. Yes, that hit with some of my audience. And, so I did a poll actually on Twitter and on my Facebook and I said, which one is it? How do I do this? And people were like 90 percent Travis at that point. But I did happen to make a few mugs that were the twisted version, which is Jason in the sheets as well.

But yeah, we came up with a t-shirt, put it out there and someone put it on Reddit, the guys are on Reddit or their producers are on Reddit. I have no idea who took a picture and put it on Reddit, but then they talked about it on their podcast. Okay. So that was, I was really high coming off of that.

We had just set up the two Cincinnati stores. It came home and I was watching, you know, what was happening. And I thought, you know, Mama Kelce is the brand here. She is so cool. Well, how would you be as a mother, like watching two of your kids competing? And she has that chocolate chip cookie recipe, which if you watch a Super Bowl, she gave both of the boys the chocolate chip cookies.

And I was thinking, man, I wonder if, I know she passes the recipe out a lot. And I thought, well, you know, I wonder if she would ever do a mug with that on it. But it just kind of went to the back of my mind because so much was going on. Fast forward to October of this year. And I was working on opening up some new stores and getting things together and I opened my email one night around, I think it was around October 29th, and it says Donna Kelce. Donna Kelce.  I’m thinking somebody’s playing me, right? I mean, Donna Kelce? So I go out to the living room and I say to my family, hey, I’m reading this email from Donna Kelce and they’re like, spam. Right.

My son’s like, um, well, what’s the full address? And I tell him and he goes, ah, totally her. It’s a mom email address.  Yeah. Anyway. Yes, she sent me an email, and she was looking for a product that I carried at the time, which I haven’t been willing to talk about, but now that the season’s over, I can say that she wanted the Mama Kelce mug that I make that says, “It’s Mama Kelce’s World, and we’re all just living in it.”

And she ordered that, and she ordered a bunch of them, and gave them away as Christmas presents this year. Oh, I didn’t know you had that one over there. JRT’s got this mug. “It’s Mama Kelce’s World, and we’re all just living in it.” And there’s two hearts. One is red, and one is green for the Chiefs and Eagles.

Right. Alright, so she bought that for everybody for the holidays. Right. Yeah, so Mama Kelce, I mean, not only has she written me an email, she’s Venmo’d me.  I tried to tell her, like, no, you don’t need to pay for these. I will ship them to you. And she insisted. And not only that. She tipped me.  I don’t ask for tips, but I thought that was just so endearing.

She’s really cool. So you have a Venmo relationship with Mama Kelce now. We’re at the Venmo level. Yeah. Wow. I can’t imagine being at that level. I can give you guys my signature before I leave. I’ll just, you know, autograph some stuff. No, she’s really cool, so that led to me, you know, saying, would you like to do another project together?

After we established everything about when I would sell them, send the mugs and everything, I asked her if we could put the recipe on a mug and then donate a portion of the proceeds, which is essentially the profit on every mug, comes down to about five bucks a mug. And I said, I think it would be great to do your recipe on a mug and donate that money to pay off school lunch accounts in the Kansas City area because we did something last year called Out of the Red Friday, and we went around in February and paid off some school lunches,  some school lunch debt at four area schools.

And you’re still continuing that? Yes, actually, we have a spot on our website,, where you can go out and make a $5 donation, which pays for one and a half school lunches, up to $50, I think. And you can select as many of those, just like you want to do as a gift card or whatever. And then we will take those checks around to the schools. And I did ask Mama Kelce to come with me to deliver the checks. I have not heard back from her on that, but I will ask again, because I’m just, you know, brave like that. 

How cool would that be? It’d be pretty cool. Especially since her cookie recipe is contributing and mugs with cookie recipe is contributing to that cause.  Yes I mean, I don’t have a Venmo relationship with her. I simply have a I’m watching you through Instagram and those kind of things.  I just have a t-shirt that says “The boys in the sheets.”  It’s a conversation starter, that t-shirt. 

I want to go back, because I believe earlier …do you know how many students lives you impacted?  Well, it’d be 4,000 divided by three. You can do it by lunches, but you can’t tell how many students. So, it’d be 4,000 divided by a school lunch is three bucks. Title I schools, they have less lunch debt. Because you know, most of the lunches are free, which they should be. Yes, they should. They did that during the pandemic, but then they went back. Yep.

Alright. Here’s what I know about you, Annie. Alright, let’s go. You’re raised in a small little community here in Kansas, not all that far from where I was born and raised.  You’re raised on a farm, hardworking. You went to Kansas State University. You’re a journalism major. Your career started in journalism, transitioned into tech. When tech was just becoming a thing, right? And then life happens and then here we are with Annie’s Barn. I am curious when I think about the leadership skills that are necessary to navigate all that you’ve navigated. I’m curious, do you have guiding principles that serve you as you continue to grow Annie’s Barn?

I do, and that was one of the very first things that I set up for myself, and I think all the companies that I worked with had guiding principles for their employees, but one of the things that I definitely was thinking at the time is I have all this knowledge that I’ve learned from these companies, and I have this brain that is on sort of a hyperdrive, and in reality, I’m kind of a fun person and a funny person. So how do I combine all those things to build a brand? But I did make some guiding principles for myself when I started and kind of calling them my golden rules also. And one that I’ve been thinking about a lot is don’t look back, you’re not going that way. And that might be from Brené  Brown. 

But that’s really important because in terms of building a brand that is a craft that you can make at your kitchen table. It’s a little more complex than that, but you can be copied so easily. And if you’re very focused on what’s happening back here behind you with all these other folks who are doing that then you’re not really getting out there and doing the thing.

My brain is already at Mother’s Day. So just so you know, I am already focused on what I need to be bringing out for Mother’s Day. And as Taylor Swift said, the trash takes out itself. Which you can get on a mug currently on the website. I mean, if I think it, it can be on a mug the next day.

So if Taylor says it. Definitely. Then another one was that when I worked in the corporate world, I lost a lot of sleep because people were, you know, I would say things and they looked at me like I was stupid. You know, or like I once was told to sit down in a meeting and not say anything. 

And that was pretty much it for me with that company. You need to calm down. Yep. Yep. Annie doesn’t go that way. So one of the things I decided is if I’m losing sleep, if I have a relationship with a store, which I have had many stores I was in 10 Hallmark stores at one point, or other relationships, people that have their own store and it gets to be too much.

I will go so far. And once I start losing sleep, that’s it. That’s the one. Okay. Up at night. Nope. Done. And then I have to find a way to get out of it. The second thing is or the third thing is that I define success. So people define success in a number of ways. And if you watch Shark Tank, you may never want to run your own business again, because that is so …it’s good TV. It’s entertainment, right? 

But I made my own definition of success. And for me, that was number one, mental health.  And number two, financial health. And then number three, doing something that makes other’s lives more full and rich. And I truly believe that the Annie’s Barn magic, the Annie’s Barn vibe, is people gathering around that table and sharing with each other and finding their thing.

I mean, laughter is the best medicine. You can’t really go any farther than that. And if you can find a way to capture it, bottle it, put it out there, you’re done. You’re good. And I just happened to put it on a coaster.  And you bring joy to lives every single day. I think we’re doing all right.

And you’re healthy. I mean, okay, so here’s the thing. I used to have, seriously, get that sad, whatever it is at the beginning of the year. Seasonal depression. It’s real. Right, right. I mean, being inside the terrible weather in Kansas, and two ways that this helped me is one, I had enough money that for the first five years there, I flew to myself to Hawaii every January.

JRT, what? Why aren’t we doing that? Why are we not on a jet? You guys will be home, like, making some mugs later. I mean, can we come to your house to make some mugs? Oh, no, we don’t steal ideas. We got our own.  Well, I can help you get out there. Let’s do it. Let’s build this thing so we can all go to Hawaii, right?

Let’s go. I mean, there’s nothing better. I think you need a place in Hawaii. Well, luckily, I had relatives that lived in Hawaii and he was a merchandiser for major retailers around the globe. And so I used to go there and just recharge in January and talk to him and he’s fabulous. But it was business advice that you got while you were there. That’s a business write off.  Oh, for sure. 

But yeah, so even when I was not making very much money, that the tradeoff was a therapy session is X dollars per hour, and I was not going to therapy because I just went to my basement, make a sign, make a coaster, and that was actually adding to the measure of success.

So I believe we all make up our own success. I’ve figured out a pathway for me that works both for my brain. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. And at the same time, it’s now become financially rewarding. And, so it’s all working. But the last thing that I think could possibly be one of the differentiators of what I do is that I flip the script.

People talk about it all the time. When I go into a store and I say, who’s here and what are they doing?  I’m looking for what they’re not doing. So, if you are there and you have the best home goods, I don’t do home goods. I’m not even good at that. I don’t do clothing. I’m not good at clothing, right? And I even find that if I go into a store and they have a lot of the similar like sayings or whatever, I won’t go in.

Why would I do that? I’m into number one growth. Let’s go. Let’s get it right off the top and we want the best people and we want to, you know, I want to be where people do appreciate and love what I’m doing and I want to make them evangelists just like you guys said that you became, went out and told your friends, Oh my God, this is the coolest thing. 

That’s my job. We are raving fans. We are. When we see authenticity, we recognize it. And we immediately, we were, for those of you listening on here, when we interviewed Brenda Van Langen, and we always ask, who else should we interview in the area? And she said, oh, you have got to interview Annie. And so we were doing our little research and we went over to Painted Tree, not knowing that Annie was going to be there and we just about lost our shit.

And we were there for two hours. We were. And you were so generous and real and authentic and we had conversations and not only that, but you took us, you didn’t just show us your stall, you took us around the entire Painted Tree, which it used to be an old retail facility. Gigantic. And so there’s all these stalls and you shared, hey, this person is really cool. And this is what they do in this. But even the ones that are not maybe your people, you still lifted them up. And I thought that was really just unique. And we need more of it.

Well, you know what? I’m a fan of a great story too. And there are so many.  Kansas City is unique in the terms of the maker community here.  We have a lot of ways. I mean, one, I think it’s because our cost of living is low. So you can afford to have one person stay home and follow their dream or create stuff and put it in there. If they’re brave enough, you know, you can make money doing it. So I really feel like Kansas City is unique and there are so many great stories out here.

I mean, this weekend, West Side Story. Which this is going to be old by the time that comes out, but West Side Story had a customer come on their website, buy a bunch of vintage sweatshirts. Guess who it was? Taylor Swift. She wears one to a football game and now they are, you know, they’re worldwide known.

And not only that, I mean, I just get chills telling their story because I think it’s so awesome. We have all worked so hard in our businesses. You know, I’m working out of my basement, in my garage to make this a thing. And I have a lot of amazing people supporting me. And I think there’s some quote going around too that says, you know to have other women in your life who are telling you that you’re doing the right thing.

And to tell you, like, my best friend is the one who say, the lead wolf never looks back. And if you are the lead wolf, do not look back, LeAnne Stowe. Do not look back.

The other cliche thing is, comparison is the thief of joy. You know, and if you are looking at other people, you’re not gonna be able to really feel like number one.  I’m so excited because on the way, I find most of my ideas come to me when I’m driving, and I have an idea that you will already be out there by the time this podcast comes out, but we need to make Chad, which is what Taylor Swift said, we need to make that as popular as Karen. So by the time this comes out, we’ll have a coaster that says, “Not Today, Chad.” And maybe a mug too. And maybe some other merch. Not Today, Chad. We’ll promote it as well.

Yeah. Too many, we were called Karens. There’s nothing Karen about us. I’m married to a Karen. An actual Karen. Yeah. Yeah. We’ll get that Chad’s out there.  Yeah. City of Entrepreneurs, Kansas City is considered to be the City of Entrepreneurs. And when you talk about being in your basement, we are sitting here in the Lenexa Library.  Because we don’t have our podcast studio yet, and we’re gonna do it anyway, and we make it work. It’s amazing. Don’t look back.  We’re the wolves.

Alright. Is there anything else you want people to know? Annie’s Barn is a brand. It’s a community. It’s a vibe and we didn’t start building our brand last year. I’ve been at it for a very long time. So from the beginning, those auctions until now, we have created a community and they’re my biggest supporters. And they’re all strangers to me. One of them came to my wedding. I mean, it was that kind of a situation. So that’s a very cool thing about Annie’s Barn.

And the other note I would add is that we started in 2022 in one city, Kansas City, with 10 shops, small shops. So we started in 2023 with one shop in Painted Tree. And in 2023, we’re going to be in seven cities with nine shops. And in 2024, we’re going to be in 12 cities with 14 shops so far.  That’s incredible.

Congratulations. It has been in the works for a long time and it’s just the beginning and I cannot even wrap my arms around about the impact and lives that you’re going to make in every single one of those cities and I can’t imagine what 2025 and 2026 and beyond will look like. Could you name those cities? Right now, we’re in Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Franklin, Tennessee, which is outside of Nashville, neat little Lawrence like burg, Murfreesboro, which is also in the Nashville area, Fort Wayne, Indiana. After Christmas is over, I’m going to open up a store in Kentucky, which is on the south side of Cincinnati, right near downtown.

Then we’ll go to Austin, my favorite, where it gets weird, and I can do some even more crazy coasters that I couldn’t do in other spots. Then I’ll open a spot in Pittsburgh. And then the last one that I have on my list for sure, that I’ve already placed my contract on, is in the north part of Kansas City on your way to the airport.

But others will be released this year. I know there are going to be others because this particular company is taking over all the, well, not all, but a number of the Bed, Bath and Beyond locations. So they’re going in, filling those up, and I’m going to take the ones that seem to be a good place for me to be. 

And they’re all in Painted Tree. Yes. I have one location that’s not a Painted Tree, but yes.  All of these are Painted Trees. Well, I have a few ideas of where else she needs to go, so let’s get those Painted Trees in those locations.  For those of you listening online who are not in one of those cities that Annie mentioned, her biggest city is online. Thank you very much.

Very good. Well, JRT, this has been, I love them all, but this is my favorite.  You love the one you’re with.  Absolutely, and I don’t think we’re done yet. And I do believe that there will be, I believe there is a road trip in our future. We’re there. You tell us where we can celebrate you and we’re there.

Listen, one time we should do a podcast where we all have to give our answers in a coaster. So you have to, you know, you say your answer and it has to fit with whatever. And that would be really fun. You need to create a game. I know. I’ve given it some thought.  So this is a side note. These are a very tactile feeling thing.

They make a neat sound. I watch how people interact with these and I can see potentially that some maybe neurodiverse people react with them differently and act with them differently. I do think there’s a concept there. These are very expensive, though. They feel like the size of, worth every penny, they feel kind of like Scrabble tiles.

That’s very close. You don’t have to tell me any more than that, but I just want people to know kind of what they’re like. I want the game. Okay, we can do this all day long, but we’re going to close this out. We’re so honored to have you on and we’re so excited for a new friendship and we really are just big, huge supporters, so thank you for all you’re doing and congratulations on your growth. Thank you. It’s a fun ride. Thank you. We’ll see you soon. 

I’m Jen V with JRT. Thanks for listening to the Speak with Presence podcast. If you or your team need to gain speaking presence or build communication skills without being perfect, I can get you there. I use actor training tools, but revamped for the professional, so don’t be nervous. Go to to book a free call. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back next week.

You’re looking at the next Martha Stewart right here. You are Martha Stewart. I mean, Martha Stewart didn’t even get going until she was 50. I know. Like she was nice. I’m naughty Martha Stewart.  That’s me. Dirty Martha Stewart. Dirty Martha Stewart.


Jen V. & JRT

Jen Vellenga and Jennifer Rettele-Thomas are the co-founders of Voice First World®, a communication and executive coaching company. They train executives and leaders on the Presence Paradigm™, a communication technique created from Jen V’s decades of training actors to perform authentically, with presence, on stages, on audio, and video. If you want to learn more about how to speak and lead confidently, book a discovery call at

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