Miranda Keith of Tiny Joy Creations

CYstarters Spotlight Story: Tiny Joy Creations

This story is part of a series featuring each of the fourteen startups in the CYstarters 2022 summer cohort. Each student has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000 (per team), along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business. 

By Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship  


Get to know:  Miranda Keith

Age:  24 

Education: Bachelors in human development and family studies with a minor in entrepreneurship 

Hometown: Gowrie, IA 


Currently working on: Tiny Joy Creations, a business and storefront that aims to serve the Ames community by offering a variety of locally made products, experiences, and services to bring joy to every area of life in an inclusive, fun environment.


Have you always seen yourself starting something?  

Yes, I for sure have. I was always the kid that would have lemonade stands, even when it was pouring rain outside. My grandpa had a garden, a huge garden, like an acre, and for some reason, he never had any interest in selling any of his vegetables. So I decided I would; I set up a table at the end of his driveway and sold his vegetables. When I was nine or ten, I put up a form at Christmastime on my grandparent’s fridge saying “Present Wrapping” with prices and everything. My aunts and uncles would bring their gifts over, and I would wrap all of them. That became a thing every year. In elementary school, we had cubbies, and I would stash mine full of things I could sell to my classmates. Cool pencils, erasers, and decorations for our desks. When I was in high school, I started pet-sitting and dog-walking for people in my community, and I really liked that a lot. I used to also love doing garage sales. I thought that was a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed doing things on my own. It sounds horrible, but I was never really a team player. I like to do things on my own. When I moved to Ames, I started doing pet sitting professionally, and I had hundreds of clients. I made a lot of money doing it. I had a lot of fun and loved doing it. And then Covid hit. So, I started working a “real job.” Which was alright, but I wasn’t fully in control, and I wasn’t letting my creative side come out, so I realized I needed to start something new because people didn’t need their dogs walked.   


When did you start working on Tiny Joy Creations, and who or what inspired you?  

When I found out that I was pregnant with my third child, I was going to go on maternity leave for three months, and I thought, ‘Okay, I need something to do.’ Which, who thinks they need any more to do on maternity leave? I had looked into different crafting things, I had seen people do cool things with die-cut machines, and then Amazon Prime Day came around, and my mother-in-law bought me a Cricut for an early birthday present. So, at eight months pregnant, I went crazy crafting. The T, J, and C in Tiny Joy Creations are inspired by my three children, Tobias, Jameson, and Cooper, so that’s what I named my business after. The step-mother of my oldest son had kind of gotten interested in the same thing, so I came up with a business name, a plan for it and everything, and invited her to join me. I started a Facebook page, and we started attending craft shows in September of 2020.   


What excites you about being an entrepreneur?  

I always joke and say, ‘I get to bring my dog to work!’ because no one can tell me not to; it’s my business. The flexibility is great. If I need a sick day or a mental health day, I can take that. If I need to adjust my schedule to go to one of my kids’ activities, I can do that. Being able to bring my kids with me is a big perk too. I was partially raised by my great aunt when I was younger. She was an entrepreneur and owned her own bakery. I remember there was a corner in the front room of her bakery where she had a box of toys for me to play with when she brought me with her to work. It really sparked my interest in creativity by her doing that. I really wanted to provide that for my kids. I have realized that I don’t listen to authority well. I’m constantly questioning. I’ve left every “conventional” job I’ve ever had due to management. I just would like to be my own manager.  


What is your biggest goal for your business?   

Just continuing to bring aspects of joy and inclusivity, and creativity to other communities. A lot of people think big when they think of their businesses, like ‘How big can I go?’ and I think of that differently. I’d love to bring Tiny Joy Creations to more rural, underserved communities and be able to potentially have creative spaces in different communities. I’d like to start it and maybe hand it off to someone else. Just making an impact in communities other than my own is end-game for me.   


What has been your biggest challenge thus far, and how have you overcome it?  

Financing. There are so many people who want to invest in big businesses and super cool ideas, and it’s really hard when you A. are a college student who has probably maxed out a credit card or two and to figure out finances in general, and B. as a young person it’s hard to to get a loan and find someone who wants to invest in you as a smaller community-based business. I’ve had to be really thrifty and creative. When I got the opportunity to have my store, I had to tell the person I was co-leasing with, ‘Yeah, I’ll co-lease with you, but I won’t be able to make rent until the end of the first month.’ So I was able to do that; I opened the store with two shelves I bought for seventy-five dollars on Facebook Marketplace and everything else I either had or made with things I had. I found a few shelves in the basement, and we just made it work. I paid rent at the end of the month. Luckily, it was the holiday season because there are just a lot of opportunities to generate revenue around that time of the year with markets and stuff. Since then, I’ve done pitch competitions that have allowed me to continue to save up for rent and other expenses. I’m also very careful about the inventory I buy to make sure they’re going to sell.  


How has entrepreneurship at Iowa State impacted you?  

Doing pitch competitions literally paid the rent at my store for two months. Every time I’d win a competition, I’d use that money to like, buy shelves, or even my CYstarters money, I’ve already budgeted out what I’m going to use it on and upgrade things in my store. The advice and the support here are unmatched. Not everyone outside of this understands, but everyone within the entrepreneurship space is so supportive. If I need any help, there’s always a resource for everything.  


What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?  

You don’t always have to do what everyone around you tells you you should be doing. You don’t always have to go where the money is. I know a lot of people who went into general business or engineering because that’s what their families told them to do, but really just go where you’re passionate and after what you like and go for that. After two weeks at Iowa State, I took a class in human development, and after my second day in that class, I went to my advisor and changed my entire major because it finally clicked—this is where I belong, and this is what I should be doing. So, find what you should be doing and what feels good to you and build on that.  


How can we support Tiny Joy Creations?  

Check out our website! We have things at all prices because creativity should be available to everyone. We have experiences and events that range from being free and up, so that’s helpful. You can support Tiny Joy Creations by following us on social media because my biggest goal is just to build community, and you don’t have to do that by buying anything!