Bio: Amy Frank is the designer and creator behind Mindfully Made Studios. Amy’s unique, thoughtful Blessing Bands©, yoga mat carriers and other inspirational accessories can be found at http://www.mindfullymadestudios.com and also in 40+ stores nation-wide. She lives in Central PA with a patient husband, 4 crazy kids and an even crazier yellow lab. : )
1. Tell us about your handmade business and how it began.
I’ve been sewing and selling work for some time, but Mindfully Made Studios was born shortly after I had our youngest daughter. With 4 kids under 5-years-old, I was overwhelmed. I wanted something to remind me of how lucky – how blessed – I was. So I made my first Blessing Band©. Friends noticed it and asked me to create personalized bands for them. Soon, I began selling them online and in a few local stores, and my business unfolded from there. Here is a link to a video that tells this story: http://youtu.be/foPUOegruro
2. What is your education? Do you have special training from school that has helped you to run Mindfully Made Studios?
I have a degree in Communications and Business and worked in business consulting and fundraising for several years before having a family. I think this business background helped me to understand the importance of organization, goal-setting and tracking outcomes. I also took several courses through the Art Business Institute. Their seminars capture the fine points of building an art-based business. The information I took from those seminars helped me to take the next steps in my business.
3. What steps have you taken to transform Mindfully Made Studios from a hobby into a full blown small business operation?
First, I had to decide where I wanted to go with my work. Believe it or not, there are lots of options for us artists! Did I want to blog and write books, sell product at shows, teach, sell through stores and distributors? While often we do many of these things at once, I believe it’s beneficial to decide where you want to focus your energies.
My products lend themselves easily to wholesale sales or selling to retailers. I decided this was my primary focus and have been working to place Mindfully Made Studios in stores and shops around the country. By focusing primarily on this step, I have been able to grow our wholesale accounts to almost 50 stores this year.
4. I know you have done some traditional craft shows, but tell us a little about the professional trade shows you have also attended and what that experience was like.
Last year, I began selling my work at wholesale trade shows around the country. This was a huge financial commitment and a scary leap for my business. Happily, these shows are the primary reason we’ve been able to expand so quickly. I think once you know where you would like to go, make a plan and try it. Even if it’s scary!
5. Can you share some helpful advice that you received? Who gave this advice?
Carolyn Edlund (http://www.artsyshark.com) from the Arts Business Institute (http://www.artsbusinessinstitute.org) has been a terrific help to me as I’ve built Mindfully Made Studios. She stresses the importance of keeping up with the often-not-fun business side of your work. While your creative work is important, also be sure to take care of BUSINESS…bookkeeping, insurance, taxes, etc. Set aside at least one day a month for these tasks.
Carolyn also suggested a big change to my business early on. I was calling my Blessing Bands by a different name and she – very bluntly – said “I don’t get that name, you need to change that.” I was a little taken back, but I saw her point and quickly re-introduced my bracelets as “Blessing Bands.” Ironically, that’s when they really began taking off! : )
6. What advice would you share with someone hoping to take their handmade business to the next level?
Decide where you really want to go, talk to others that have reached similar business goals, and make a plan to get there. Also, don’t try to do too much at once. I often get so excited and inspired that I over-do it and burn out. Try to set manageable goals for yourself and celebrate small successes!
7. What are you conservative plans for the future of Mindfully Made Studios? What are your crazy big dreams for the future of Mindfully Made Studios?
Conservatively, I would like to continue growing our retailers to about 100 stores this year. I would also like to introduce several new products into our line. Ultimately, I would like our Blessing Bands to be picked up by a few major retailers that fit our brand. Subsequently, Blessing Bands would be on the wrists of the majority of men, women and children! : ) I say this jokingly, but I really do believe those little bands help people to stay present and peaceful…and that is what REALLY inspires me in my work.
8. Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your handmade business?
I just want to stress the importance of not losing your original focus when building your business. We all believe in handmade because we know that the things we create hold special significance and we LOVE making them. I would encourage you to put practices in place that help you retain your creativity and love of making. I try to set aside several hours a week for new ideas and designs. It doesn’t always work, but the intention is there.
It’s also very meaningful and FUN to remember that this is YOUR business and that means you get operate I a way that is meaningful and special to you. We give a portion of our proceeds to a foster care advocacy group called CASA. I can’t tell you how good it feels to give back in that way. It inspires me and my employees to work harder every day. We also believe in our local economy and stress that our goods are made in Central PA. I am proud to say this and I feel inspired to work harder to continue to help our local economy. It’s your business, so you get to do what YOU want…how fun is that?!? : )
Virginia Lindsay designs sewing patterns for Gingercake Patterns and Design. She loves the to sew practical, fun, and stylish things! Several of her patterns have been published by Simplcity and she has also written 2 books. Sewing to Sell and Fabric Stash Cuties: Pretty Little Birds.