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Filtering by Tag: MAKER

Jackie Watcher + Making American in Cleveland

Ben Ashby

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This story originally ran in WHERE WOMEN CREATE

Jackie Wachter, together with her husband Phillip, are the owners and creators of FOUNT Leather of Cleveland, OH. FOUNT produces an ethically-produced high quality line of leather goods that has also helped them to enrich their community. When they’re not at their studio, they are taking care of their two beautiful kids and managing their two retail locations.


“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”

C.S. Lewis

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Looking back, I have always been someone who loves to work with my hands. I grew up in Cleveland, OH, and according to my my mother I was a creative person out of the womb. My family fostered my creativity. I have my grandmother to thank for teaching me to sew when I was seven or eight-years-old, she was a very special person in my life. When I was younger, I used to daydream about potential craft projects at school. Often, I would get off my school bus with a list of supplies and have my mom take me straight to JoAnn Fabrics.

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In 7th grade, I started my first business out of my locker. I loved to make macrame hemp jewelry, and my friends started to ask for their own. Soon, the girls from all classes were coming to me with requests for their own bracelets. By demand, I would talk to my clients, sketch designs, and then go home to create their jewelry. I sold the bracelets for $12 each, and was selling several a week. Unfortunately, my venture garnered the attention of the faculty, and after about a year of business and a trip to the principal’s office, I had to close shop.

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After high school, I attended the Virginia Marti College of Art & Design and pursued a degree in fashion. While there, it allowed me to hone the skills I was taught by my family and channel them into something I was very passionate about, though it was still manny years before I met my husband, Phillip, and we started FOUNT together. After college, I moved to New York for a while, but I found myself missing something. I was very lonely there and I craved the Midwest charm I’d always known. I was seeking purpose, and became passionate about becoming involved in my community and supporting local and ethical manufacturing after a six month activist trip in Africa. That experience allowed me to get a better view into what I could eventually create through my craft and passion.

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A few years ago, all of the stars seemed to align. I met my husband, Phillip, and he became someone who inspired and motivated me daily to be creative. He is also someone who enjoys crafting with his own hands, and like me, had his own schoolyard business selling homemade beanie babies. In our first year of dating, we decided that we would make all of our gifts for each other. Phillip made for me a pair of wool mittens using a vintage Pendleton coat, as well as a cutting board. I made for him a wool pencil case, laptop sleeve, and journal. After looking at our gifts, Phillip suggested that the sewn goods could be beautiful made out of leather, and I agreed. We started trying to find leather, and found a local cobbler that also sold scraps from his hides of leather. We bought our first leather, and the sweet older couple taught us about some of the hand tools and techniques we should use. 

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Our first product trials were a leather wallet and lucky penny pouch. Phillip and I quickly fell in love with our newfound hobby, and after a little trial-and-error we started to make more leather goods. At the time, I was selling vintage clothing and goods at our local market, slowly we started to introduce a small table of our leather goods alongside it. It was at one of these markets that my friend Nicki’s mother-in-law said she should start trying to design a purse. She wanted to have us make a bag for Nicki for Christmas, and suggested that I give it a try. 

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During church soon after, I sketched a design, showed her and she said she would help us buy our first sewing machine to get us started. After finding a listing for a Singer 111 on craigslist, we went to test it out. It had been used to stitch WWII parachutes and it ended up being the sewing machine we used for our first six months of business as FOUNT.

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Our first great bag was created after many discussions about what every woman would want. It quickly became apparent that our best chance would be a tote. Our mission has been, from the beginning, that we want to make products that are beautiful, timeless, and well-made enough to last a lifetime while also being made ethically. The Bellfield Tote was designed to be a durable everyday bag for anyone. It’s gone through many small transformations since, like adding two pockets and straps that are designed to be unbreakable. 

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The first totes, though, were designed in our first apartment together on Bellfield Avenue, in a tiny studio that was ten-by-ten feet. The Bellfield Tote is now our number one seller, and is now available in three sizes. From that simple beginning, we have now grown our husband-and-wife business to a team of 41 employees. It has been a wonderful 4-year journey and I am so happy that we have been able to create a thriving community within and around it.

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Today, after years of hard work and a leaps of faith, FOUNT has not just one, but two retail locations—as well as our studio where we manufacture. When I was growing up, my dad worked in a factory here in Cleveland and I had to watch the systematic loss of jobs and manufacturing until his job was ultimately outsourced. I always knew that when I was able to create a business, I wanted it to be able to stimulate my local economy and make my products here in the United States. Today, I’m happy to say that we have been able to do that by supporting our 41 employees, as well as community outreach through events.


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FOUNT is a direct-to-consumer business, so we don’t have a face in the consumer market and boutiques. This can be a challenge, but until recently we have always marketed ourselves by attending maker shows. We take pride in making a high-quality product, and word of mouth is our best type of marketing. In every bag we place a little pouch filled with a couple of business cards that asks our new friends to share our message when people love their bag. It’s a very simple marketing solution, but FOUNT has had a lot of success because of it. We recently had an event in our Cleveland store and a lady pulled out three business cards and approached me. “I work for Apple, and I cant tell you how many times I have complimented your bags, but after getting several of these business cards I had to come see what you were all about,’ she said.

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Aside from opening our two retail locations—in a time when people say brick-and-mortar is dead—one of the greatest accomplishments we have had has been to build an inventory. 

When we first started, we were making each bag by hand, one-by-one. Now, we do batches by type of hide or pattern. We were part of a television show that helped business-owners with their models, and one constant piece of advice we were getting was that our website was always sold out. We learned that we needed to take a leap of faith, bought a ton of leather, hired nine new employees and built our first inventory. It was a great success, and having a product that a potential customer wanted allowed us to grow our business further.

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Every day with FOUNT seems to fly by. It’s very rewarding, and a lot of work, but getting to work with artists and artisans to create and share products makes it all worth it. We have three new designs coming soon, and are planning to create more elevated designs that can be formal, as well. Through this business I’ve been able to do something impactful, both in my community and across the world—like our partnership which brought over ten thousand dollars to dig wells in Africa and provide clean water. Being able to share our products with the world and see the positive impact that they bring to our families, friends, and community makes me every minute of this business worth it. 

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Wolf Jaw Press | A Conversation

Ben Ashby

We love upstate New York! between Earth Angels, Upstate Stock, and now Wolf Jaw Press we are itching for a visit! Recently we sat down with Alicia Burnett, the owner of Wolf Jaw Press for a brief chat about what she does, why she is a maker and why you should support American made. 

Who are you?

I’m Alicia Burnett, and I am a designer, artist, and all around maker. I’m also the sole proprietor of Wolf Jaw Press, a small independent printmaking studio that produces fine art screen prints inspired by the beauty of the natural world.

Where are you?

Right now my studio and I are located in the northern Hudson Valley region of New York State. I’m really happy living and working here. I think it’s a great location for makers like me that love nature and feel more comfortable living in the country versus living in a city. The countryside and farmlands of Upstate New York are a beautiful place to live; it can be quite rural, but it’s not so rural that I feel isolated and disconnected to the surrounding makers and local arts communities. I love the fact I’m surrounded by serene farmland and plenty of open space while still being close enough to New York City, Hudson, and Albany to be physically involved the art communities of those cities. 


Why are you a maker?

I am a maker because it feels like the most authentic and natural way for me to live my life and make a living for myself. I am a maker because for as long as I can remember, I have had an insatiable compulsion to create. It’s just something that is in my DNA I guess. 


What do you make?

Through my studio, Wolf Jaw Press, I make limited edition screen prints. 


How long have you been a maker?

While I’ve always identified as being a creative, artistic individual with a strong desire to make and create, professionally, I haven’t been a maker for that long. I graduated with my MFA from Pratt Institute in 2015, and shorty afterwards I established Wolf Jaw Press. I’ve been a professional maker for less than year! Establishing my own studio and business has been quite the process, but putting in the long hours and hard work has been so worth it. Everyday I learn something new, and seeing my studio slowly but surely grow and flourish gives me an indescribable sense of satisfaction. 


Why did you decide on what you do?

It took me a long time to find myself artistically. I attended the Rhode Island School of Design where I spent most of my time as an undergraduate student trying to find a medium that felt comfortable for me. I watched so many of my friends as freshman and sophomores immediately gravitate towards a specific major, and then to a specific medium or process. Meanwhile, I felt like I was interested in too many things. I wanted to do any try everything, but nothing I artistically experimented with felt right. 

It wasn’t until the tail end of my junior year that I had a moment of clarity. On a whim, I decided to take a screen printing class with RISD’s printmaking department during the spring semester of my junior year. Within weeks I was completely in love with the screen printing process, but it still took me a few years to find the courage to establish my own screen printing studio and business.

The catalyst that finally pushed me to take the leap of faith and start my own studio were the repeated failures I had at trying to break into the corporate world of design. After my graduation from RISD with my BFA, and then from Pratt my MFA, I had interview after interview with companies and design firms, but it seemed that no one wanted to hire me. In hindsight, these “failures” in getting hired, while discouraging and frustrating at the time, pushed me to realize that maybe I should try to open my own studio and be self employed.


Favorite part about being a maker?

There is so much I love about being a maker! In short, I love the freedom and control it gives me in my personal and professional life. While being self employed undoubtedly comes with an expected level of uncertainly and stress, I have been able to experience a level of freedom that is both liberating and exhilarating. By being a maker, I get to do what I love everyday and I get to be my own boss. I decided what I want to make and when I want to make it, I create my own hours, I decide what projects and collaborations I want to work on, and I get to decide how and in what direction I want my business to grow. 

I also love that each day always hold something new and different. I could never have a job where I do the same thing everyday sitting at a desk. As a maker and a self employed artist, I get to first and foremost create the art that I love to make, but I also get to explore and learn about financial management, business strategies, legal procedures, accounting, and marketing. I’m learning and exploring so much. I find that my days bouncing between slinging ink in the studio, compiling and analyzing finical reports hunched over my laptop, or researching small business growth strategies are engaging and deeply rewarding. 


Why support makers?

When you shop for items made by artisans and makers, you can expect receive high quality goods crated with care while your dollars contribute to and strengthening a local economy. By supporting makers, you are also helping support someone’s passion. We makers care so deeply and passionately about what we do, and through buying our goods you enable us to make a living off of our authentic passion for creating.

FOR MORE: WOLF JAW PRESS

A Lifetime of Leather with Duluth Pack

Christophe Chaisson

In the year 1870, a man named Camille Poirier came to Duluth, Minnesota with a dream of opening a leather and canvas good's store. Over 130 years later, this dream is still alive and growing. 

Duluth Pack is the is oldest canvas and leather bag and pack company in the USA. Still located in Duluth, they have not ceased manufacturing high quality, built-to-last canvas and leather bags, packs, and outdoor gear in their century-old factory.

Their quality and values have not wavered or waned since their beginning. Duluth Pack continues to embrace their American made heritage. Not once have they compromised quality for quantity, instead they continue on in the one-customer-at-a-time way of doing business that they have always valued.

 

Duluth Pack sticks to tradition well as their craftsmen and women have been using the same reliable, timeless artisanal techniques since the beginning of the company. Not only do they cherish their customers, but also their employees. The talented sewers are actually able to sew their name with pride into the high quality product that they have thoroughly hand crafted with skill and precision. 


Typical products found other places are built to fall apart and be thrown away. One of the many amazing things about this company is the life time warranty that they offer. It is a guarantee of the longlasting quality of their products.  



 

 

 
 

As they honor tradition, they also have been cutting edge in their designs and keeping up with the times while maintaining the beautiful essence their company carries. There are 15 canvas colors available, along with wool, American bison leather, and an assortment of other American leather products to choose from. No matter the product you are interested in, you can be reassured of the highest quality.

 

Duluth Pack is special for a myriad of reasons. Their packs carry the power of storytelling and so many memories are made with the packs. Adventure calls when you get your hands on one of these packs. 

Their humble beginnings back in 1882 has grown and amassed into a worldwide organization. Products are sold to a global consumer through their flagship retail store in Duluth, MN, their online retail store, and a global network of dealers.

Duluth Pack has extended a 15% discount in the online store for all of those apart of the Folk Family. Go pick out a pack perfectly suited for your next adventure. With so many styles and colors to choose from it is going to be a hard decision. (Personally leaning towards a Burgundy Scout Pack myself) 

CODE: FOLK15

Click here to view their website and online store

 

Follow them on Instagram to share some love with the Duluth Pack team for their generosity and commitment to their customers! 

Instagram: @DULUTHPACK 

Meet The City Girl Farm {and her chickens}

Ben Ashby

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THE CITY GIRL FARM


CHICKEN FOOTSTOOLS 

AN INTERVIEW WITH SALLY JANE LINVILLE


Sometimes you meet artists that make you step back and think....where has this been all my life. Sally Jane is one of those artists. I grew up on a farm, surrounded by chickens, but I never realized I needed a chicken foot stool....until I met Sally Jane Linville of The City Girl Farm...

 

Who are you: My name is Sally Jane Linville, Creative Director of The City Girl Farm. I am also a wife, new mother, daughter, sister, and friend.

What is your business: The City Girl Farm is a community of artisans sculpting beloved 'Chicken Footstools' together. The idea was inspired by memories of childhood pet chickens, pining after the sheep sculptures by Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne, and exploration of traditional art processes. Every chicken is one-of-a-kind, unique in posture and personality.A turned wood egg-shaped core stands on bronze feet and is connected to a bronze beak. Feathers are fashioned with various fiber art techniques- felting, spinning, knitting, dyeing- and are upholstered by hand. The chickens can function as footstools and are the best at making people smile!

 

 

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Where are you located:We design and fashion Chicken Footstools at thecgf studio in midtown Kansas City, Missouri. Bronze is cast outside of Lawrence, Kansas, and wooden eggs are turned in Hesston, Kansas. Each chicken's internal frame is constructed by my father at our family farm in Lyons, Kansas.


Tell us about your process to becoming a maker: I grew up on a third generation farm in central Kansas. My father is a crop farmer and my mother is a designer, with a lifelong interest in textiles. Childhood adventures flowed with the rhythms of our farm, family and rural community. I attended Kansas State University where I received a Masters in Interior Architecture and Product Design. My professors fostered a collaborative studio environment for students to explore curiosities and design process. Henny and Penny, the original Chicken Footstools, hatched from a furniture design/build studio in my last year of school.
 

Did you come from the corporate world: No, I side-stepped it making chickens. 

 

 

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Were you always a maker: I have always enjoyed lovingly arranging things- whether flowers in a vase, letters on a page, chocolate chips in a cookie, or rooms in my treehouse by the creek. Childhood on the farm provided plenty of time, natural resources and visiting cousins for creative play.

 

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How did you decide you were finally ready to be a maker: In 2010 when graduation came, the design job market was less-than flourishing. I embraced the opportunity to move back home to prepare chickens for an upcoming show in New York. After that, I planned to begin my search for a 'real job.' Seven years later I have a fiber studio in Kansas City making chickens with friends!


Why are you a maker: For the joy of the journey of discovery. This quote by R. Buckminster Fuller says it best: 'There's nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.'


Why are you still a maker: Thankfully, the work of head-chickener requires me to engage my hands in fiber every day.

 

 

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Is this your main job: For the last four years, yes, but now I am a new mother to our precious daughter, Analou Pearl. Our world is forever changed! I am just beginning to discover what bringing her sweet presence into life at studio life will inspire.


As a child what did you want to be: Treasured.


Tell us about your creative process and the evolution of that process as you've perfect your craft and as you've grown as a business: While the basic form of our chickens is now established, the sky is the limit when feathering time comes. Playing with a variety of fibers brings a fresh set of opportunities and challenges to each fashioning. I am most creative when I am present in the moment, responding to the materials in front of me. I love collaborating so incorporating more makers as the business grows is a joy; I learn so much alongside them.

 

 

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What inspires you: Right now on my walk with Analou: a poppy-red zinnia, the curve of her foot, refreshing breeze on my face, afternoon prayer with a friend, and the hope of fall. Moments like these remind me I am a small yet special part of a grand, good, mysterious, beautiful design. And so is my neighbor.


Who inspires you: With the miracle of birth fresh in my heart, I believe inspiration can be found in every person. We are all specially made with particular gifts for the good of the world. I am inspired by so many people, particularly those who show kindness and hospitality, and all who are brave to love after loss.


Who has been your biggest champion as you've progressed as being a maker: My mother and I have shared years of creative life together. My dad is a huge fan of Chicken Footstools, telling people about them even when they can't quite grasp the concept. The delight my parents take in me has been an encouragement through every season of life.

 

 

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How have you grown your business: The City Girl Farm has grown with the support of my family, my business partner and the willing hands of my 'chickeners.' For several years, Chicken Footstools were stitched by myself, my sister and my mother. When the demand for chickens exceeded our stitching capacity I reached out to old friends from studio days. We gathered for weekly 'chickening' sessions and shared life together. Now the business operates as a cottage industry where chickeners stitch under my direction both at thecgf studio and at home.


How have you perfected what you make: There is no substitute for years of sitting behind Chicken Footstools stitching tail-feathers. I have found that the materials often guide the project and confidence that any 'mistake' can be made beautiful with creative problem-solving. Every chicken has quirks (who doesn't?), but I have learned to embrace them and hope our collectors agree.


Has this grown been easy: Let's call it bittersweet. The process of recognizing my weaknesses and limits, asking for help and releasing control does not always feel good. Waiting for right timing can be frustrating. Stewarding relationships and resources is real responsibility. But the reward? A vibrant, authentic community of makers, beautiful chickens and a whole lot more fun.

 

 

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What advice would you give based on your own experience: Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Seek out the gifts and wisdom in others. Be patient through seasons of questions and sit with one another in grief. Celebrate all that is good and lovely! Remember, the best is yet to come.


What has been the most successful way to get your product out there: For several years, we primarily shared Chicken Footstools with the public through art fairs in the Midwest. People's reactions are true entertainment! They share stories from childhood, make the best chicken impersonations and are generally so bright and intentionally encouraging. We are honored and thrilled with every adoption that takes place- particularly from our collectors with growing flocks.


Give us three tips you've learned as a maker that can be applied to everyday life: 1. Go for beautiful. 2. Start with what you've got.
3. Trust the process.

 

 

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How can we find your products/where: Please follow our flock online at chickenfootstools.com and on social media @thecitygirlfarm. We post behind-the-scenes footage of our adventures and poll our audience for chicken names. If you are in the Kansas City area, contact me to schedule a visit to thecgf studio or swing by George Lifestyle, a lovely shop in Brookside, to meet Chicken Footstools in person.


Why should we support and buy maker and American made: Handmade objects can be unique expressions of special people, times and places. I think surrounding ourselves with treasured objects that bring joy and hold a story worth sharing is a wonderful part of being human.


How do you ensure quality of your brand and your products: The 'Art of Chickening' is a labor of love. Nothing is quickly made or touched by unfamiliar hands. We source all of our materials in the USA. Our artisans take cheery pride in their craftsmanship. Traditional manufacturing techniques encourage us as makers to slow down and enjoy the process of creation. When someone adopts a Chicken Footstool, we hope it is a family treasure for years to come.

 

 

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Is flannel always in season: Absolutely. In honor of its classic appeal and this fine Folk community, we are designing a Flannel Flock of Chicken Footstools to be released for adoption later this fall. Please stay tuned!


How do you live authentically: I seek the Maker's beauty to keep my heart open, enlivened and ready to walk with others through this journey of life. My wonderful husband @evan.linville (suggestion: follow him!) love to adventure outdoors to witness creation together.


How do you find the divide between work and personal: My co-workers are friends and family so my work/personal life has always been blended. A friend recently suggested that each day should contain work, play and rest. I am finding this idea simple, sweet and helpful in this season of transition into motherhood.

 

 

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Coming Soon! FOLK's Artisan Products in Small Shops!

Ben Ashby

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We've been quietly working on this all summer...but its finally time to talk about it. As you may have noticed...we closed the online shop back in the spring. We decided it made more sense to license the FOLK name to a really amazing production house and allow them to create really amazing artisan quality products. Our first products will be the infused honeys. 

If you have a shop of know of one that needs to carry the FOLK goods please email the wholesale team today. || wholesale.folk@gmail.com.

 

Here is a preview of the collection:

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WILD + HABIT

Ben Ashby

THE INSATIABLE PURSUIT OF CREATING TANGIBLE BEAUTY FROM WILDERNESS // SEEKING MAGIC // FOSTERING SENTIMENT. 

 


Recently I sat down with the folks behind lifestyle shop and brand Wild Habit in Oceanside, California to learn more about their brand, their mission, and their love of nature. We also learned they plant a tree in Tahoe National Forest for every purchase in their store!


 

Who are you?

We are makers. We are best friends. We are stylists, artists, consultants, photographers, and collectors. We are wanderers, shakers, and movers with roots in to two magnificent coasts. Both Danielle Quigley and Sue Fan grew with the trees in the eastern deciduous forests. It was there we found art, meaning, a lot of poison ivy, and our insatiable pursuit for all things beautiful. We met over ten years ago chasing ice and adventure in Antarctica and haven't slowed since. We've shifted our focus from our full time photography jobs to pursue our greatest passions together in the amazing state of California: To create, to forage and explore, to seek and share.

What is your business?

We wander and forage in search of natural materials. We collaborate and create handmade products and installations from our found, natural materials. Staying true to natural beauty and to our craft, we are impulsive in gathering (picking up anything we find interesting) and deliberate in our execution (finding the best way to show of the inherent beauty of the material). We illuminate birch bark, carve bones, wear feathers and stones. Our WILD HABIT keeps us exploring & creating - from our back woods to the beach to the mountains and world-wild. Making beauty from nature is what do and what we love - from jewelry to lighting, wall art to table art.

Why are you a maker?

We want to bring the beauty of the earth into every heart and home. The more beauty we can share from the earth, and the more we stress the importance of preserving Earth's natural beauty (by planting trees, by sponsoring beach clean ups, by donating a percentage of proceeds to great organizations), we hope to make a small difference in how people see, feel, and shop.

 

Why should we support small makers?

We are real people. We should support those who live with the land, those who work to make it better, those who farm, and build, and create, those who work hard daily to keep craftsmanship alive, those who work to produce beautiful, thoughtful, and real wares, and who have amazing stories to share. Supporting small makers is the greatest step towards reconvening with the earth and people, and seeing what it truly means to be made with love.

Why did you start your business?

We want to be a part of a community that consists of artists and makers and lovers and thinkers and doers.

What inspires you?

Definitely the great outdoors. It's a very wild habit.

— www.wildhabit.com

Meet Bowen Outdoors

Ben Ashby

As part of our series of maker spotlights, we recently teamed up with Zack of Bowen Outdoors to talk about how he turned his passion for the outdoors into a business. For Zack, owning her own company is a way that she can give back to the causes and programs that matter to him, like nature conservation and camps and training programs that help children experience nature. Read more below to find out how Zack started Bowen Outdoors, and how he's making sure a new generation can enjoy the great outdoors.

 

How did you get started creating an outdoor brand?

We founded our brand on one mission: to inspire families and children to get out and explore more. During our conversations about our biggest influences, we realized the brand we wanted to create should be founded on two principles: family and exploring. These influences led us to creating a social enterprise driven outdoor brand where we give 10% of all net profits to programs all around the country that provide training, education and camps for children and families to experience the outdoors. 

A lot of our passion comes from relationships with our families. We were both raised as active outdoor children and were heavily influenced by the experiences and lessons a child can learn from being exposed to the outdoors. Having our own kids now we see that the idea of going camping, hiking and exploring outside is starting to fade and with that we think children are losing their sense of adventure, curiosity and wonder.  

Who taught you to start your own brand, or were you self-taught?

We have learned a lot of valuable skills about overall business operations from past experiences in family business and in college. We have learned a lot since starting Bowen Outdoors. Many of the important aspects of creating products, brand image, creative development, etc. were all things we did not know much about. We have had a lot of trial and error and picked up on different skills as we have gone just by trying and doing and asking for help from friends and family. It hasn’t always been perfect, but we have definitely learned a lot along the way.

Did you know you would start your own brand, if not what spurred it?

I have always known I wanted to start something of my own. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and business owners, so I  think that the drive to create and build upon ideas is somewhat in my blood naturally. I started working for my grandfather’s business when I was 13 years old because the idea of running a business seemed fun and interesting to me. I worked there from 13-20 and as I got older, I would always have people call me the “little boss man” and tell me how I would one day be running the company and I would always just laugh. Although I have always felt fortunate enough to have had the option to work in the family owned businesses, I always wanted it to be in a field that I was passionate about and wanted to pave my own way.

Bowen Outdoors and the idea behind it happened somewhat naturally for us. Getting outside and exploring has always been something I have been passionate about, but growing up in the Midwest I never thought about creating an outdoor brand because I didn't feel that we were in an area that was “outdoorsy” enough. Now that I have started a family of my own and do my best to get my kids to explore all that life has around us, I realized we don't have to always be in the mountains to explore. The opportunity for exploring is all around us.

How do you get ideas for new products & photo shoots?

Bowen Outdoors is focused on providing outdoor lifestyle products and apparel for people who are just as comfortable in the city as they are on the trail. Our product ideas come from trying to inspire and motivate people to live life outside of the cubicle, living room or their cell phone. 

 

What are your inspirations?

My greatest inspiration overall has been my father. Since I was young, I remember his passion for the outdoors and the part it played in our relationship. My Dad is every part of the word, outdoorsman. Growing up, I lived in a log cabin in the woods, we had a couple of horses, played in the woods and creeks daily, and he participated in all of those things with us. Our vacation every year was in a state park or campground where we always went on hikes and climbed around on rocks. He really taught us about the outdoors and instilled his love for it in us. To this day, my greatest memories with him have involved camping and exploring. Just a few weeks ago, we had one of the best trips I have ever been on in my life and conversations while exploring that I will never forget. He is a tough guy who still loves rock climbing, backpacking, and finding new places to explore.

Outside of the outdoors world, my father is a quiet yet smart and calculated businessman. He is passionate not only for his business, but also for the people working for him. I have always admired the way he has done his best to treat people fairly and respectfully even when it meant less overall profit for the business in the end. The kind of compassion for people that is greater than the desire for money is a rarity in this world and I really look up to him for that.

Overall in life, combining his love for the outdoors and his business knowledge and compassion for people, he is a pretty cool guy. What I am sure most people wouldn’t expect to read is that my Dad is legally blind, and if his eye disease has it’s way, will be completely blind sometime in his life. To see a man who has never stopped rock climbing, walking on narrow trails at the top of a mountain, crawling through caves, and skydiving despite not being able to see is the most inspiring to me. He has never let his sight keep him from living life and laughing and that is one of the things I will always remember most about him. He lived his life to the fullest and didn’t what people thought he should or shouldn't do keep him from truly living.

How do your hobbies influence what you make?

We are family guys, and most of our time is spent with our wife and kids. We try our best to get out with them and teach them about the outdoors, being safe while exploring, and about the incredible things you can find while you are out on an adventure. The best part about being an outdoor brand is that we actually live this life so we are able to take those experiences and work toward creating products that reflect them.

 

What has been your biggest challenge?  

I would say our biggest challenge has been lack of knowledge. We started this brand on a shoestring budget. I have a wife and three kids under 3 years old at home and the idea of using our savings or getting a loan just didn't seem like the best idea while trying to keep their well-being as a priority. When you make a decision to start a business without a lot of money, things start slower in terms of products available and slower in general. This is something we are navigating; yet trying to keep our priority of family as our main focus. 

What's been your best advice you've been given?

My father once told me, “I am not going to stop living life waiting to die just because I can't see. I am going to live my life to the fullest, doing the activities that make me happy and if I die climbing down a mountain, at least I died doing something I love” It may not have been real advice that he was trying to give, but the impact that the idea of really going for what you want, never settling and taking chances, will stay with me for a lifetime.

What's your favorite thing about sharing your art with others?

The impact it has had on families and children. When we give back to community programs that help support exploration and adventure it's an incredible feeling. Knowing that not only are we providing great gear and apparel, but that we are actively making a difference in people's lives is the best part of what we do. At the end of the day, it doesn't feel like we're running a business - it feels like we're creating something special and something we believe in. BOWENOUTDOORS.COM

 

Good + Well || Candles + Soaps

Ben Ashby

Recently I had the pleasure of shooting a series of images for Good + Well Co. Their candles and soaps are truly delightful. 

Meet Spoon & Hook

Ben Ashby

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I am absolutely smitten with Anneliesse McKee. Her handcrafted wooden pieces are equally utilitarian and pure art. I'm especially loving that she too is from Kentucky. I could go on and on about how amazing each piece is, how incredibly beautiful the packaging is, (she mailed the pieces in the photographs to me in a wooden wine box filled with dried florals and feathers) or how wonderful story is. I however will let her tell you in her own words.

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Please introduce yourself

My name is Anneliesse McKee

I live in Asheville, NC and have since 2009.

I hand carve wooden spoons, charcuterie boards, bowls and more from wood I have either cut myself in Waynesville, NC or from reclaimed lumber found. I've had my business for two years now. As far as availability I have my pieces on my own website spoonandhook.com as well as one of my best friends websites bomisch.com. Within town I sell at three different brick and mortars: Villagers, East Fork Pottery, as well as Atomic Furnishings. I am hoping by the end of this year to be opening my own brick and mortar in Asheville.

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Why be a maker

I feel that being a maker is so much more than the product itself. It's a lifestyle choice. I live in west Asheville where I have the most beautiful little community of makers from bakers, photographers, painters, home builders, and Brewers. Everyone raises each other to be their best. If they're not using something that could benefit another maker, it isn't even a question that it will find its way to them. There is support and encouragement and growth continuously and for me that's a large part of it. I think in a world like what is happening today, it's incredibly important to be a part of something you truly stand behind and can make better. Supporting any one maker is much more than the product you walk away with. You're receiving a story that you get to continue on writing. I think if we could all live in a way where we surrounded ourselves by things that held meaning and quality then we would buy less, appreciate more and be able to do it in a successful way moving forward in a consumer driven country. I believe it's very similar to our food movement. People love to support their local farms and organic food and the things we surround ourselves with, put on our bodies, and keep around our space are just as important as what we are putting in our bodies.

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What is the greatest challenge as a maker

I think my greatest challenge I have had within woodworking continuously feeling like I needed to create every second I was free. This past year was a large lesson in slowing down, stopping to smell the roses, and remembering the reasons why this became such a love to begin with. As far as largest rewards, I think it's when I get an email or letter from someone who tells me their story and how they now own a spoon or board and how it has become a part of their everyday life. I love that!!! I have so many of my grandmothers pieces and to think one day someone's going to possibly say "this piece is about 100 years old and made from a woman named Anneliesse Mckee". Just seems like I'm putting my fingerprint in this big world, even if it's my pinky ha.

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What advice would you give to aspiring makers

If I had any advice I could give, I would tell anyone to simply stand behind whatever it is they're doing. I think so many people have such brilliant ideas but the idea of failing is too large to even try. But failing doesn't really exist in certain communities, especially not in Asheville. I would just say to always try. Maybe there's something else you find you love in the process? Maybe you find out how effortless and second nature it seems? Maybe you just find out that it wasn't everything you thought it would be? But that's okay! Just try!

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What advice would you give to your former self

If I could give myself any piece of advice to former me, I think I would tell myself to own what I do and just make sure I'm doing it to my best. I did the Highpoint Market for my second year and I had to make 100 pieces in a month and I was so stressed and concerned with making wild and new that I put my core values on the back burner. I was making wooden eye ball spoons and then I realized it was just getting too weird. I would tell myself to just stick to what I know and do it to its best. I would maybe tell myself not to be so hard on myself. I think quick gratitude is a struggle for all and learning patience is easier said than done but this past year was a beautiful example of organically letting things lead me in the direction of my dreams and not to be impatient.

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Our Favorite Southern Maker Instagrams

Christophe Chaisson

The Maker Movement is incredibly important to be aware of and a part of. It creates jobs, quality goods, and allows for sustainability, creativity, & durability to thrive. Take the time to support not only the Makers that have stuck out to us below, but also the ones in your area. It is vital that we don't just consume, but we also create. 

ManReady Mercantile @manreadymerc

Founded 4 years ago by Travis Weaver from Zephyr, Texas, ManReady Mercantile is the epitome of what being a maker is all about. Their small business is founded on the principles of honesty, hard work, and integrity. ManReady Mercantile sells a wide array of high quality goods catered specifically, but not exclusively to men. Not only are they makers themselves, but they are always looking to work together and collaborate with other makers to continue creating goods that will last a lifetime. 


Great Bear Wax Co. @greatbearwaxco

Great Bear Wax Co. are makers who sell memories with a wick. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, GBWCo was founded by Jake Carnley with the idea that lighting a aromatic candle is like igniting a memory or moment. From Lavender  to Tobacco Bay to Rose, the scents they capture in wax are delightfully soothing. The Great Outdoors seem like only a flick of a lighter away when there is one of these Great Bear candles in the room.  


Loyal Stricklin @loyalstricklin

The craftsman at Loyal Stricklin can be found working in their studio near the railroad tracks in Opelika, Alabama. Fed up with mass produced low-quality goods, Michael Stricklin founded this durable goods company to commit to making goods of the highest quality from the best materials. Their handcrafted and American made leather products are not only appealing to the eye, but durable and practical as well. 


Lucy's Inspired Jewelry @lucysinspiredjewelery

Lucy's Inspired Jewelry is handcrafted and uniquely made from vintage chandeliers, architectural salvage and found keys. Another maker found in Alabama, Lucy Farmer definitely has a creative eye for design and repurposing. She does not merely craft jewelry, but strives to make a difference in her community. One of those improvements is raising awareness for sex trafficking by donating to a local organization in her city. This maker is using her brand to give inspiration and spread beauty all while making fashionable pieces of jewelry. 


Sturdy Brothers @sturdybrothers

These two brothers are dedicated to creating waxed canvas and leather goods that are handcrafted with American-made materials. Located in South Georgia, Sturdy Brother's products are made for those who still enjoy getting their hands dirty. Sturdy Brother's lives up to its name by its desire to create and craft beautiful goods that will last, while also rekindling craftsmanship in America. 


Elizabeth Suzanne @elizsuzann

Elizabeth Suzanne is a clothing company based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Yet, they are so much more than just a style of clothing. A community of diverse and powerful women make up the company and customers of Elizabeth Suzanne. They are committed to making garments from amazing, durable fabrics with designs that are practical, timeless, and elegant. Their commitment to quality and customers is something seldom seen in the retail world today. 


Old Try @theoldtry

Old Try is home decor for Southerners made by Southerners who are living in Boston. They have expanded to make art for other regions besides the South, so don't worry all of you north of the Mason/Dixie line and in the Wild West. Their decor encapsulates the unique essence and character of each state. It is patriotism with tact and style that is seldom easy to find. 


J. Stark @starkmade

Based in Charleston, South Carolina, J. Stark creates bags, accessories, and homegoods meant to last. Their goods are crafted with a timeless and authentic aesthetic paired with usefulness and practicality. They have a wide variety of styles and colors to choose from for their products. Sourcing everything from the US of A, this is a true American makers brand that wants to bring us back to the time of hard work and hand made. 


In God We Must @ingodwemust

In God We Must are makers of provisions and apparel located in Marietta, Georgia. This business is founded on hope, positivity, and perseverance. Check out their website to read the inspirational story of how IGWM was started. Whether it is a ring or a t-shirt, the message of In God We Must is to embrace the pioneering spirit inside of us all. 

Ernest Alexander

Christophe Chaisson

After going to grad school and studying business for 3 years, Ernest Sabine found himself in the middle of the recession and the fashion district in New York City. The stock market had just recently crashed and for Ernie it seemed like the perfect time to build something from nothing. Having worked in fashion advertising for several years, Ernie learned the ins and outs of the fashion industry and with a childhood dream he set out to create the perfect men's messenger bag. "I always dreamed of having my own clothing line as a kid," he says, "I always wanted to have my own business."  

When Ernie began Ernest Alexander he explored the fashion district for a workshop that was able to produce canvas messenger bags. He often carried one for business each day and always wished he could have one that perfectly matched his body in motion and at rest. After finding a workshop only two blocks from his office he started sourcing materials for his first collection of messengers. "I started with one style and three colors when I made my first messenger bag," he laughs.  

With the help of twelve very talented seamstresses, Ernie went to work perfecting his first design. "I would design prototypes and test them out for the day. I want my bags to look as fashionable and feel as comfortable and natural while walking and running through the city." With his first design perfected and with three colors available he sold his first 20 bag order, though the power of social media and e-commerce quickly changed that. 

When Ernie first started his brand he wanted it to be something could feel proud of. He was tired of foreign manufacturing and unfair wages and living conditions for the foreign laborers. Finding
the small garment district in New York City to manufacture his bags and accessories was his way of remedying that problem. With his growing popularity and demand for more products, Ernie has not only been able to support the twelve seamstresses who first helped in creating Ernest Alexander, but has also expanded that workshop and created jobs for new workers.

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"I wanted to create a brand with heart and meaning, I wanted to know the people who were making products for me. I wanted to stay close to them and be able to visit any time so that I could stay involved in every step of the process." Today he works, manufactures, and sells his bags within a five mile radius, with his flagship store in Soho on Thompson Street only 20 blocks from his workshop. "Opening the store allowed me to not only get into a shopping area that I'd helping grow my brand, but also allowed me to meet my customers face-to-face." With a growing collection of items to offer including men's shirts, bags, accessories, and a small capsule of women's clothing Ernie is slowly growing his brand which started with one messenger bag into a full outfitter. "I want to be able to offer more to my customers and I think the next step will be denim, knits and sweaters, and tailored clothing and suiting," says Ernie. 

Ernie says that the city has played the biggest role in inspiring him to create his clothing brand. "When I need inspiration I go straight to the streets of New York City," he explains. "With so many colors, textures, and personalities the people of New York have their own style, and it inspires me to find new and interesting fabrics and patterns when I source my materials." He also finds inspiration in antiques and often shops at a local antique store called Olde Good things for decor for his store and inspiration for his brand. "My brand focuses on a return to basics with a
modern look at vintage fashion, so visiting antique stores helps me focus on those ideas of classic silhouettes and references to the past." 

When asked what we could expect to see from Ernest Alexander for the holiday season, Ernie listed a few giftable items that will be out just in time for the holidays. Starting this winter he will offer an apron designed for cooks and blacksmiths alike. Inspired by the aprons of craftsmen, it will feature pockets for tools and is constructed of the same high-quality canvas he uses for his bags. Plaid will be a major focus for the brand this year with a line of weekenders, messengers, and other bags made of classic British woolen plaids and Ernie will also offer plaid neckwear to match. 

With workman inspired clothing, a line of utilitarian bags that focus on functionality and style, and classic accessories Ernest Alexander is reviving the American fashion industry. Keeping his focus on the importance of domestic manufacturing and a respect for the history of fashion, Ernie has created a brand that is as classic as it is fresh and modern. "A respect for history and the past has always been important to me, I think it is what fuels this industry and I want to make sure that the people who have worked to keep manufacturing alive here in New York City are recognized."

Q & A with Comma Workshop

Christophe Chaisson

Our friend at Comma Workshop gives us a glance at the art of quilting and the beauty of being a maker...


Who are you:

I’m Kerry Larkin— I’m a quilter, architect, and a maker. I started Comma Workshop to celebrate experiences and stories while reinvigorating the traditional craft of quilting and through this, create thoughtful, modern-inspired quilts. 

Where are you:

Beautiful Boulder, Colorado, and easily draw inspiration from here. But I also draw inspiration from western Colorado, rural Alabama, rural Pennsylvania. And, anywhere there are lots of trees.

What do you make:

At Comma Workshop, we bring a fresh perspective to the time-honored traditions of quilting and storytelling. We create timeless, sophisticated quilts, with a hint of playfulness that are functional heirlooms for your home. We currently have two collections:

Each of our quilts in our Signature Collection has as an original story or poem quilted directly into it. Stories of nature and adventure, travel and place-making, are thoughtfully stitched into every quilt by a collection of Colorado quilters. The 800+ words in every quilt are a functional part of the quilt holding three layers of fabric together. Wrapping the quilt around oneself, the user is invited to read snippets of the narratives.  

Our new collection, Far & Wide, integrates vintage quilt tops and fabrics that I’ve collected on my travels. These new quilts celebrate stories, place, and experience in fresh, modern way. Historically, quilts carry their own stories with them. The material, the pattern, and the quilt technique chronicle the quilters’ lives and experiences. Thoughtfully integrating these into modern quilts allows me to introduce a new audience to the world of quilts.

Why are you a maker:

I grew up in western Pennsylvania and some of my earliest memories are of me and my sister playing under a large quilt stretched out on a frame where my great-grandma and her sisters sat and hand-quilted (and spoke Pennsylvania Dutch). My great-grandfather was a carpenter and built our cribs and toy boxes. For a while, he traveled the country building farm silos. My grandma was a seamstress and master upholsterer. Making is definitely in my genes. I was lucky enough to have all three of them in my life up until just a few years ago, so I feel like I’m honoring them by carrying on the making tradition.  

Why support makers:

By supporting makers, you are allowing them to cultivate their passion, joy and curiosity. You’re contributing to the local economy and you become part of their story. 

Instagram: commaworkshop

Thistle + Thread

Christophe Chaisson

How did you get started creating fiber art?

My grandmother was a quilter, and when I was little she would let me play in her sewing room and experiment with her fabrics and threads. She was patient with me as I learned how to thread a needle and form a straight backstitch, and always created different projects for me to work on while she was working on one of her masterpieces. As I continued to grow and make my way through school, I experimented with other mediums and tried to be a sculptor, sketch artist, and oil painter, but my attention kept going back to fibers. A few years ago I returned to embroidery and hand stitching and decided to treat it like painting on fabric. I moved away from pre-designed patterns and took the things that I had learned from my painting and sketching classes to begin to create my own designs and morph this love of fibers into a new art form for myself.

Who taught you how to create fiber pieces, or were you self-taught?

Much of my skills come from my grandmother and the stitches that she taught me and the rules of fiber that I learned from her, but I have expanded upon that knowledge and changed it a little to make my pieces look the way that I want them to look. Over the past two years I have heavily focused on embroidery, but I am slowly making the transition into introducing some naturally dyed products into my line. The knowledge I learned about the different kinds of fibers and how they react to dyes and their properties has helped me as I have experimented with different dye sources and perfected the products I will be releasing.  

Did you know you would start your own brand, if not what spurred it?

The birth of Thistle and Thread wasn't accidental, but the fact that it is now my full time job definitely is. My husband is from Uganda, and we both lived over there while we were dating. Once we decided that we wanted to get married I moved back to the States to work through his visa process to immigrate to America. We weren't sure how long it was going to take, but we knew that it wasn't going to be a short time, so I started spending more time creating fiber art and decided to sell it to fund travels back to Uganda. The plan was never for Paul and I to stay in the States for more than a few months after our wedding, so I never imagined that I would be creating a business out of my hobby, but plans change and here we are. After our wedding Paul really encouraged me to quit the other job that I was working and pursue this new venture. It has been such a gift to be able to spend each day creating and sharing my work with others.  

How do you get ideas for new products & photo shoots?

I have recently shifted to releasing my pieces in collections as opposed to one new piece at a time. Each collection is meant togo together and work to create a specific look. After the inspiration behind the collection is established I choose the color palette and shapes that will be incorporated. I am so very fortunate to have so many friends who are incredible photographers and have homes that serve as the perfect canvas for some fun styled shoots. So after the collection is complete I will get together with some friends and we plan out a great shoot that highlights the themes show in the pieces. 

What are your inspirations?

At the start of Thistle and Thread I was really unsure where I wanted to take my business stylistically, so I just created what I thought was popular at the time and what I believed would sell. It was really uninspiring and caused me to feel a little lost in my work. About a year ago I decided that I was going to make a shift and create pieces that excited me. It felt like a leap because I had found some success with the pieces that people knew my business for, but thankfully the new pieces came with their own success. I think my customers changed a little, but those who stayed with me and the new ones who joined truly understand the art that I am creating and share the emotions that I am conveying through my work. It has brought a new community to my business that has been really inspiring. My sources for inspiration change as I grow and experience new things, but I am currently loving the colors and shapes found in landscapes Paul and I see as we travel. My studio is above a floral studio, so that always finds a way to influence my pieces as well. 

What's your favorite thing about sharing your art with others?

There's something so great about knowing that people appreciate the things that I create and I can add something special to their homes.

How do your hobbies influence what you make?

Since starting Thistle and Thread I feel like I don't really have any hobbies in the classical sense, but Paul and I love to travel and because of our international background much of my methodology and techniques are drawn from how others are doing this same craft around the world.  

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge in business past a present, is definitely finding work/life balance. I love what I do so much that many times I don't want to stop. There are days where I will start at 8 am and keep going until 11 pm. It's such a great thing to love waking up each morning and diving into work, but my relationships around me were struggling. So, I have been making a strong effort to create office hours and have some structure to my day instead of just going and going without stopping. We are even taking a three week vacation soon that will consist of little to no work, which would have never happened six months ago!!

What's been your best advice you've been given?

"Quit your job and just go after this. You will only have regrets if you don't." —My Husband

 

Tinlid Hat Company

Heath Stiltner

As part of our Christmas American maker series we have been getting to know a few of our favorite brands and partnering with them to tell their stories. This week we are sharing the story of Jon Tuck, the owner and creator of Tinlid Hat Co. I asked him to share in his words a bit about his brand and his journey being a small business owner. Read what he had to say below.

We started Tinlid Hat Company in August of 2014. Initially, we made some hats for us and our friends that said "FROLF" on them because we love to disc golf. We started selling them at our local disc golf course and decided to run with the idea of a hat company. Hats were not something we were that into. Of course, we would wear the occasional cap before Tinlid, but the reason we got started on hats was just to make something other than a t-shirt.

We all sort of pitch in ideas for a design, but I (Jon) do most of the design work. I enjoy the creativity involved and designing the caps are one of my favorite parts of running Tinlid. We found some manufacturers that make our hats. In the future, we hope to be able to buy the machinery and start making them ourselves, but that may be a bit down the road. Most of the ideas for our products come to us while we are in the outdoors. We don't necessarily set aside a specific time to think of new products. We like the ideas to come to us naturally. 

I've always believed in social entrepreneurship. I was interested in this concept at a particularly young age. Over the years, I've read and studied about it, and when Tinlid began, we decided to implement a social cause. We plant 15 trees through Trees for the Future (trees.org) for every product purchased. We believe in preserving and restoring the earth's forest for a number of reasons, one being that we just love to be outside. I love being outside. There is so much to do and so much to discover. Our hobby of disc golfing actually started the whole brand, and we thought of the side strap on the hats for pencils when we were out disc golfing one day. 

I think one of the most important things I've learned since we began is the idea giving efficiently. For example, we used to only plant 1 tree for every product sold, but now we plant 15- for the same cost. It's important to do your due diligence and not just throw money at causes. There is so much to enjoy about running Tinlid. The thing I take the most pride in is giving back. Some customers have gone out of their way to write letters and email us to thank us for our work. It feels amazing knowing we are making a change!

I've been given a lot of advice. It's hard to come up with just one thing. One piece of advice I received from my friend and a mentor was don't be afraid to reach out to people and ask for help. Even if it seems like they'd have no interest or reason to help you, if they like what you're about and you're genuine, they are willing to help. If I could give a piece of advice to anyone, I'd tell them do what you love and find a way to make it impact others. Our biggest challenge was the first 2-3 months without a doubt. We pretty much just stumbled our way through it. I remember one of our first goals was to make just one sale on the website. I think we sold only two hats online during September 2014 so the biggest struggle was just learning how to market the brand. Eventually, we started to figure things out, but we learn more every day.

 

FOR MORE VISIT: TINLIDCO.COM