Grant Recipient

January 2, 2024

2023 Year-End Business Category Grant Awarded to Sallie Plumley Studio

Sallie Plumley Studio

Woman Entrepreneur:
Sallie Plumley

WomensNet is pleased to announce the recipient of its 2023 annual $25,000 Year-End Business Category Grant.

Sallie Plumley, based in Richmond, Virgina, won the January Skilled Trades Grant and is the founder of Sallie Plumley Studio.

Take a few minutes to be inspired by her interview with Jama Hernandez about her business growth this year and her plans for the year-end grant.

Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Jama with the Women’s Net Advisory Board, and I am so excited to introduce you to our 2023 Amber Grant winners. We have with us Sally Plumley, and she is our $25,000 business category winner. Sally, will you introduce us a little bit to your business and let us know what you’ve been doing?

Hi, I am Sallie Plumley. I make custom handcrafted hardwood furniture. So I run a wood shop in Richmond, Virginia. I was so excited and absolutely surprised to win the original $10,000 grant because I was still on maternity leave when I got the phone call! And I, it was just the perfect thing. I was going back to work that next week and it was just so encouraging that I was like, I can do this. I can come back. I used the original grant to hire a business coach to help me come up with a better business plan. I purchased a chainsaw mill, which might not be familiar to some people, but it’s basically a way to start cutting logs into lumber. And my husband and I have been working on that together. And we actually used that to jumpstart a second business where we’re going to be also running a full-blown sawmill. That grant helped start a second form of income. And I used the rest of the money to hire my first employee, which is so exciting to have somebody. I’ve had him for a year now and we’ll plan on keeping him on for the year to come. 

My $25,000 grant…I plan to do two things specifically. One is to launch a line of Montessori wooden doll houses, which I feel really excited about. And the other thing is to double the space that I rent so that I have more space to make more work, and thus can have the guy that works for me work more often. So, I’ll be able to up my production significantly.

We know that you wear many hats. You talked a little bit everything from the hands-on production to even working with a coach to help you with your business plan. So as we all know, there are so many hats as a CEO and founder that you wear. And so what programs, tools, or applications have you used that have been helpful to you as you are running your business?

That’s a great question. I have three main ones that have been the most beneficial to me. Asana is one of them. That’s a task management system. A lot of people use it for bigger companies, but I use it for individual projects. So each project gets a task list and I can drag and drop over a schedule so that I can track how much time things actually take. It’s not time logging, that’s not the point of it. It is about how long things might take. So when the customer reaches out to me to ask me when might this project be ready, I can be realistic with that goal. And that’s really important. 

Another one is called HoneyBook, which is my CRM. And that’s the way that I manage all of my emails, my contracts, and my contact form on my website. Everything from interactive idea boards and PDFs. All my documents are sent out from the same portal, which I think is really helpful…versus having things all spread out on your computer and Google Drive and trying to manage where the things are to send. It’s nice to have things automated and in automated formats. 

And the last one, which is I think the most important one for me has been Google SEO. It’s one that not a lot of people have talked about in my world. It has done more for me than Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest and word of mouth combined. I took an online little course and learned about SEO with my website and website platform, which is Squarespace. I took it three years ago and took three weeks basically out of the wood shop. And that is all I did as I worked on the SEO behind every single part of my website- which is an astronomical amount of work. And I did not enjoy it! I hate being by a computer. That’s why I like doing physical labor. But 95% of my customers find me on Google. But if you program those things to be the right way using your location, using specific terms that people might be using to try to find you, that has been just the most helpful thing I can possibly recommend.

I find people who mostly find me on Google become a customer, and then they follow me on Instagram. They follow that process. So that would be my biggest suggestion for any. And it’s free, it doesn’t cost anything. You just have to know how to do it. So that’s the part- is teaching yourself how to do it and then implementing what you’ve learned. It can change everything. It has been the case for me and from numerous friends of mine who have had a similar experience once they have dived into the process!

What I appreciate about your response is you don’t have a background in computing technology. And yet, you know, you were able to teach yourself these skills and use these programs and do the work yourself to be able to propel your business forward.

You are in an industry that sometimes is hard to find other women that do what you do. And so can you tell us a little bit about who or what inspired your business?

That’s a good question too! I’d say one of the first would be my granddad. He was a woodworker as well. And it’s hard not to be inspired when you’re really close to a grandparent and they invite you into something that you love too. And so I grew up in his wood shop, grew up going to his carving club, it’s very nostalgic. And so there’s a dear family connection in that way for me. That doesn’t have anything to do with business necessarily, but it’s just the actual craft and seeing somebody who was dedicated and passionate and had a really high level of skill. And then when I worked my first job after college- I have a degree in crafts, which is basically a degree in furniture making.

I also ended up working for someone who is incredibly inspiring to work with- the most skilled wood worker I’ve ever personally met. And he would walk in every day and he would say things like, Sally, Sally, aren’t you just so glad God gave you hands? I’m like, wow, Yeah! Yeah, totally! Little moments like that gave me a moment to be grateful. Take a moment to love what you’re doing!

As far as in that environment, I worked with all men. I’ve frankly only ever worked with all men. I’ve never worked with women. And there would be occasional tours that would come through with that business. And a lot of them would be older women for various reasons. They would be on tours in that space and they would come up to me and say things like, don’t ever take this for granted. This is what we fought for, for you. And they’re like, I would have loved to have the privilege of doing the type of work that you get to do. Just don’t let that go past you, don’t forget. And I’d be like, oh, like that’s a lot to hear from somebody. And you know, they would look you straight in the eye and tell you that. And so those types of comments really made me more confident in wanting to run my own business and not work under somebody else. Not that I didn’t enjoy my job, but I knew that I could make better money working for myself and I knew that I could have control and more relationships with customers that way. So different people inspired different processes, but they’re all really important.

Wonderful. Thank you. Well, we’re glad you never stopped and you listened to them!

Me too!

So there you have it, our 2023 $25,000 winners! Congratulations, we can’t wait to see what 2024 brings for you. Please keep us updated!

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What people are saying about WomensNet


“You have to be in it to win it...seize the opportunity and apply.”

Nerd Wallet

“Every month, WomensNet awards three $10,000 Amber Grants to women-owned businesses. At the end of each year, monthly grant winners are eligible to receive one of three $25,000 annual grants.”


“Launched 20 years ago this grant honors the memory of a young woman who wanted to be an entrepreneur but died at age 19 before she could achieve her goal.”


“The Amber Grant offers three $10,000 grants to women-owned businesses each month. Then, at the end of each year, WomensNet gives an additional $25,000 to three grant winners from that year.”

Essence Magazine

“This organization offers monthly grants of up to $10,000 to support female entrepreneurs starting businesses. Those who qualify for these grants are also in the running for a yearly $25,000 grant.”