For Bethany Butler, becoming a missionary at an early age planted seeds that would later fuel a passion for service to people and for conservation.
She says, “I decided at 18 to become a missionary and lived in Honduras for two years. I lived with four different families and did a wide array of servant jobs from cooking for four children with Honduran women to teaching English, as well as doing medical brigades. Being in Honduras really cemented my heart to be a servant to the people around me: loving people through relationship to Jesus Christ. Along with that, though, I also just love the country of Honduras: the plants, the animals, the mountains, the people and the tropical environment that I was in.”
Bethany planned to stay in Honduras permanently but an illness in her family brought her back to the United States. Once home, she enrolled at Miami University with a full scholarship to study botany. Her plan was to ultimately return to Latin America to work in sustainable agriculture. She says, “I learned really quick that, with botany, you either keep going and become a PhD or you work in a laboratory. I worked in a lab and hated it. I ended up working for the Cincinnati Park Board where I could get my hands in the soil and work with the plants and also work with people who were like minded.”
She continues, “My dream was to work for Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati, Ohio. That is the top job at the park board. [While there] I learned a lot and worked with tropical plants and did a ton of interior landscape design. One of my big responsibilities was the Butterfly Show. That has a special place for a lot of Cincinnatians. I realized that there isn’t anything like it in the country. Butterflies only live about three weeks and the Butterfly Show is three months long, so there’s a lot of butterfly turnover that occurs. Being sustainably minded and wanting to recycle, I asked my boss if I could have some of the butterfly bodies to try to do something with them. She kind of looked at me crazy! I had seen a few shops that had real cicada or dragonfly wings as jewelry so it made me think that I could do real butterfly wings. I came to work the next day with five sets of butterfly earrings and everybody crowded around me and were fighting over them. So that’s how my first Etsy business started. Real butterfly jewelry. I sold them in the Krohn Conservatory gift shop for years and years and people still ask for them. That was my first Etsy store and my first endeavor into entrepreneurship.”
She comments, “I realized that people wanted butterflies that weren’t harmed. There are people who make butterfly jewelry that are harmed. There are butterfly farms where butterflies are raised for the purpose of making art while my butterflies were recycled from an educational program. My Etsy business went well really quickly. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I saw that my stock was sold out. My support team on Etsy said that I was featured on the front page on Etsy not even six months after I opened!”
Bethany says, “I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was young I used to go to garage sales and buy bags of jeans and take them to a consignment store. I would buy a pair of dollar jeans and take them to the store and get a $20 bill. That was awesome! That was my summer job for many years.” While she was shopping for jeans at garage sales, she picked up other items as well. With her passion for conservation, her desire was that items be reused instead of ending up in landfills. She comments, “I have always been captivated by vintage stuff from the 60s and 70s. I realized that I could buy something for $1 instead of spending $50 at TJMAXX. My butterfly jewelry had done so well on Etsy that I decided to open a second Etsy shop for vintage items.”
Even before Etsy, it was always Bethany’s dream to have a brick and mortar store. She states, “I wanted a little storefront in a cute part of town. I get really inspired in stores like that and wanted to do it myself. I got the opportunity to have the two front rooms of a little house to turn into a business. As a person I’m not driven by money. I am a strong believer if you love something that the money that you need to sustain will follow. God will take care you. My store is between 25-50% off the regular online prices that you would pay on Etsy or eBay. I do that purposely because the shop is to provide people with really cool stuff. Something nostalgic. And to raise awareness that you don’t have to go to a department store to get something amazing or unique or one of a kind. My passion is based on relationships, going back to my foundation of being a servant. I just had someone come in this past weekend who said he needed something to lift his wife’s spirits because they had to put our dog under the night before. I was able to show him a few things, and he said it was exactly what he was looking for. And then he opened up to me sharing about his dog, his wife and his three year old daughter. Since my shop has been open, I have had many very real conversations where people open up about hardships in their lives, their faith, and anything that is private that you would not normally share with someone behind the counter. And sometimes there will be other people in the store, and they will join in. It’s a friendly, safe place where people can talk about things. And that’s why I’m there. That’s truly my passion to be a servant to people.”
Bethany and her husband, Jon Sims, live in Mason, Ohio with their Pitbull/Catahoula mix, Samson.
If you live in Cincinnati, you can visit her at her store, Minta Market, at 421 Reading Road in Mason Ohio. Or you can check out her two online Etsy stores here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/feelzlikehome?ref=usf_2020 or https://www.etsy.com/shop/RealButterflyWings?ref=usf_2020