Please describe your craft business. What was your impulse for starting it?
My dad started his own business when he was 16, and my mom is an artist so crafty entrepreneurship is in my blood. My sister and I used to beg my dad to drive us to the city market at 4 am so we could get a good spot to sell friendship bracelets and flower pens. I’ve flirted with various craft businesses all my life, but I didn’t start thinking about pursuing anything in earnest until about 8 years ago when I started a little handmade jewelry business. I was living in California, and, in addition to selling in my own online store and on Etsy, I worked hard to get my work into local shops, too. Some of the retail experiences were awesome, but it sometimes it was really frustrating.
I kept thinking about what I would do differently or similarly if I had a store. The more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to open this store in my imagination: somewhere supportive where new designers could give retail a try and everyone could find a selling model that fit their business plan. That plan stayed in the back of my mind until I moved to Denver 5 years ago. When my husband and I started looking to buy a home, we searched for a live/work so I could have the convenience of living close to the shop. (The perfect plan for me since I HATE driving!) Owning the shop property would also help keep costs down so I could have that flexible business model I dreamed of.
We found the perfect little spot in the Art District on Santa Fe. Well, it took a lot of imagination to see that perfection and then even more sweat, but we’re getting there. The shop is in a little 113 year old house at the front of the property, and we live 20 steps behind the store in another little house, just across our courtyard garden. It’s great to live and work in this little oasis right in middle of the city. My husband is a landscape designer, and he has worked wonders turning our little pile of dirt into a lush world of berries, fruit trees, flowering native plants, and a wall of tomatoes that towers over our fence!
Right now, there are 51 Denver designers in the shop, and I carry a colorful mix of women’s and kids’ clothes and accessories. I make a lot of the store collection myself, too. Lately, I’ve been making a lot of clothing and embroidered jewelry. I’ve also been into hand carving stamps and stamping everything from shoes to shirts to note cards! I’m researching shoe construction, too, and I’m excited to get going on some plans for simple satin flats that would be cute with holiday dresses.
I also just published an eguide on selling in stores, and I’m working on some more crafty business guides! I noticed a need for various business services in the community, so I’m offering lots of help in things like graphic design, web design, branding, marketing, etc. I like to trade these services or offer them at a really affordable rate to take some of the pressure off indie business owners.
I spend a lot of time marketing and promoting and doing what I can to help other crafty business folk, so I don’t get to craft as much as I would like. I have a great time no matter what I’m doing, though, because I’m doing what I love. Oh, and I’m also the voice behind the DHA newsletters–I’m the new VP!
What do you consider to be the most important personality trait of an entrepreneur?
Before I opened the shop, I would have said confidence. When you have a dream, that first step seems almost impossible. Now, I definitely see that patience and flexibility are critical if you want to stay in business. Oh, and remember to have fun! Even when I’m doing tough tasks like paying sales tax, I remind myself how awesome it is to be doing exactly what I dreamed about and I can’t help smiling.
What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?
I got a lot of great advice from a lot of people, especially my dad and my ever patient husband, Jammer. The two key points to getting started for me were to just go for it, even if it isn’t perfect yet, and keep costs low. The advice I still need to hear every day is to be patient and keep networking and trying new things. For other business help, click here!
Who in Denver do you admire? Who is your crafty hero?
The list of people I admire in Denver could fill several blog posts! The creative community here is so vibrant, and there are tons of people getting out there and doing what they love. Since I’m a bit of a community organizer type, I really admire folks who are brilliant organizers like Samuel Schimek, Brandi Shigley, and Becky Wareing Steele. They’ve really been great mentors for me. My crafty hero is my youngest sister, Natale. She just opened a similar shop and open screen print studio in Kansas City. I admire her for being so bold and leading the craft movement in a town that doesn’t yet offer indie crafters a lot of options. She’s 8 years younger than me, but really brave, tough, and wise.
What’s the best show you did last year?
I don’t do a lot of shows since I have the shop, but I’ve done a couple of fun popups in my vintage camper. Firefly Gypsy Farm Market went really well. I also did an event at Emily Griffith Technical College that was surprisingly successful. I love getting into those last minute events that introduce my work to a completely new market. Plus, they had great food and a multicultural musical parade that was super fun.
Where can we find you online?
2012 Westword Best Santa Fe Drive Boutique
2012 Denver A List 3rd place best women’s boutique
My organization, DIBS, also got 2012 Westword Best Gathering of Indie Clans. I formed this group in November 2011 because I was always trying to point shoppers to other boutiques carrying local design like Fast Geek Boutique and Fashion Denver up the street. I often drew little maps which led me to the idea of printing maps of the boutiques carrying local design. I ended up forming Denver Independent Boutiques, or DIBS, with 10 other shops right around the kick off to the holiday season. We help support and promote each other, and we have events together like boutique crawls and little markets. Now, there are 14 official members, and several more shops working on getting info to me.