There’s no point in beating around the bush—the last couple weeks have been hard for everyone. Between crashing markets and nationwide shelter-in-place orders, millions of Americans have found themselves facing uncertain futures.
But with all the talk of government bailouts for corporations and working Americans, there’s one group of people being left out: small businesses. We’ll likely receive the same personal allowances as everyone else, but let’s face it: our businesses have a lot more bills than our homes.
Some of us might be able to survive a few weeks of closure, but what if this lasts more than a month? What if it lasts three months or more?
Your savings might not be strong enough to weather that storm, but what if you could keep some sort of cash flow coming in so you aren’t stuck at zero?
Now, I don’t want to pretend like we have all the answers to this problem. We’re dealing with this for the first time too—and we’re just as scared as you are. But we’ve seen some pretty ingenious ideas floating around that we think are worth sharing, and have even come up with some ideas of our own.
Here are some of our favorite things we’ve seen.
Talk To Your Landlord
When the revenue starts drying up, your mind starts to race. Your bills don’t care that your accounts are dwindling—they just keep piling up. How are you supposed to keep up?
It’s easy to look at your rent invoice and feel like it’s just a cold, impersonal number that is completely removed from world events. But there are people on the other side of those checks—people who are going through the exact same chaos and anxiety that you are.
And if your company goes out of business, your landlord is going to feel the hurt too—your success is in their best interest.
Be upfront with them about how the crisis has affected your ability to keep with your bills. Even if you and your landlord have butted heads in the past, it’s worth asking them what they can do. Remember: they’re in this mess too.
You may be able to contact your utility company, loan holders, and anyone else you pay each month. Many banks, electric companies, and more have already announced deferments for struggling businesses. But, you have to ask.
Pivot to the Virtual Space
The widespread adoption of social distancing measures and bans on non-essential travel have put a big honkin’ obstacle in the way of brick and mortar stores. For many of us, if our customers can’t come to our location, then our customer-company interaction comes to a standstill.
But as the mass adoption of remote working and elearning have shown, a lot more industries can be transferred to the virtual space than previously thought. Offices have been adopting Zoom en masse. Even craft bars in our area are offering growler fill ups and delivery so they can still get their beer to their customers.
In our case, it was an easy transition to put goods from our local gift shop. But since most of our revenue came from in-person classes, that was more of a challenge.
And so, we’ve introduced virtual classes that include video instructions and material kits that students can do at home. We’ll even deliver!
Think about how you can pivot your own business to the virtual space. Familiarize yourself with video editing programs (iMovie is good if you have a Mac. We’ve been using Shotcut on Windows). Find a good screen recording program. Figure out what parts of your business can move online and focus on those.
You might need to slightly shift priorities for a bit, but that’s okay. These are extraordinary circumstances—you can adjust your business plan for a little bit before we go back to normal.
Control the Scroll
When everyone is stuck on lockdown, they’re going to be spending much more time scrolling through their newsfeeds.
While they won’t be able to come to your shop during this time, you can come to them via that endless scroll.
Create content to catch their attention and keep your company in their minds. It doesn’t have to be completely related to your company—relatability is key these days. Just look at Jimmy Fallon’s at-home editions of The Tonight Show.
Show your followers how you’re spending your time while on lockdown. Don’t be afraid to be a little rough around the edges. In fact, leaning into the DIY ethos might endear you to your audience.
Know Your Options
With COVID-19 reeking havoc on every part of the market, a lot of entities are looking for creative ways to help small businesses that are affected.
In addition to the relief bill being debated in Congress, many states have opened the restrictions on unemployment to include small business owners and independent contractors. Also, the Small Business Association is providing low interest disaster protection loans, and they’ve been clear that the coronavirus pandemic counts as an eligible disaster.
Even the dating app Bumble is giving out small grants to local businesses nominated by their users.
There are also many communities organizing impromptu benefits for disadvantaged businesses, from GoFundMe campaigns to gift card databases. These are harder to find, since they vary greatly from place to place, but all across the country, people are mobilizing to support local businesses in their community. Ask around in your own community and see if there is anything that can benefit you.
Lend a Helping Hand
As we keep saying, everyone is hurting now. We’re all anxious and scared and feel helpless. First responders and other essential personnel are overworked, understaffed, and under supplied.
But there are ways you can help. You can pick up groceries for at-risk neighbors. You can sew mask covers to donate to local hospitals. You can mobilize the resources at your disposal to help those who are especially hurting.
However bleak it seems now, this shadow will pass. It may take time, but a day will come when the specter of pandemic isn’t hanging over our heads any more.
So keep your head up, stay safe, and look for ways you can continue to engage with your community. God bless.
In the last five years that we’ve been in business, we’ve had a lot of people through our doors. Every once in a while, someone will hear our story and say something like, “I wish I could…”
I wish I could sell my art full time, I wish I could start a recording studio, I wish I could go on tour with my band, start a webcomic, write a novel…Fill in the blank.
And we get it. Looking at where you want to be from where you are now can sometimes seem like an incredible expanse. There are so many steps to take and obstacles in the way that it can seem impossible to make it happen.
But things aren’t always what they seem. Here are a few things to remember.
Just like Rome, your dream life wasn’t built in a day. Making the jump from day job to dream job in a single go isn’t the way things usually go.
For example, when we quit teaching, we didn’t start MAKE the next Monday. There were a lot of steps in the middle. First, I started making art again—even while I was still at the school. I started an Etsy shop and applied for some craft fairs. There, I met other artists and got to know them—what they cared about, what they needed.
A successful life is made one day at a time. Make intentional time each day to do the things that give you life. Take some of your social media time and spend it creating instead. Find opportunities to share it with others. Over time, it adds up.
Don’t Sweat the Details
Usually when you work for a company, there are a lot of things taken care of for you. Your payroll department might pay your taxes. HR might choose your insurance and pay your retirement. The company legal department can protect you from liability.
If you strike out on your own, you have to worry about all of those things yourself.
When we first started, all of those details hung over us like a dark spectre, casting a shadow of anxiety over us.
But there’s good news: you don’t need to have it all figured out to make the jump.
You don’t need to know everything about self-employment taxes or captive insurance or copyright law to get started. You can figure all of that out as you go.
Just focus on the things you know and care about, and the rest will fall into place.
Don’t Stop Looking for Opportunities
You can have all the talent in the world, but that won’t lead to success if you don’t have an opportunity to share it.
Ever day, we have chance encounters that could take you to the next step in your goals. It might be a person with connections. It could be an application to a contest. It might even be someone who likes one of your posts on social media.
Don’t take these opportunities for granted.
When I was meeting local artists at craft fairs and getting to know what they needed, I saw an opportunity to start a community resource. When I saw an open storefront near our house, I saw an opportunity to open a space. Five years later...you know what happened.
Make it a habit to look for the opportunities around them and jump on them. Some of them might fall flat, but some might bring you closer to your goals.
It’s Never Too Late
If you’ve been watching your life pass you by while your dreams sit on the back burner, don’t worry. It’s never too late.
If you need some help—some encouragement, some tools, some resources—come visit us. We’d love to see what you end up creating.
And if you need a little extra boost, visit Killer Creators.
This month, MAKE SOUTH BEND celebrates our fifth anniversary in River Park.
When we first opened our doors, we had a lot of hopes for what the future might bring, but we didn’t expect that we would be where we are now.
Looking back on the last half a decade, there’s plenty to celebrate.
Here are some of the highlights.
It All Started In a Basement…
Six years ago, Nat and I were teaching together at a school in town. We had been there a while, and we thought that we would make our careers there.
But then something unexpected happen…
Nat got laid off.
He was given a month’s severance, so he took the next few weeks to reevaluate. During that time, he discovered the world of freelancing and self-employment. A few weeks later, I had put in my notice to pursue art full time.
We spent that summer learning new mediums, buying new tools, and selling at different craft fairs. Our very first Art Beat—the first week without our teaching summer pay—we made the same we would have made as full time teachers. To us, it was confirmation that we made the right choice.
As the months wore on, we kept losing more of our basement to projects, inventory, and tools. And yet, it didn’t slow down. We were still buying new tools and making more work.
Sometimes though, that art didn’t work out. After spending a ton of money on leather working tools, I realized that I didn’t actually like doing it.
I looked to Nat and said, “I wish there was a place that had the tools that I could come and try out on my own.”
I started looking around for different makerspaces. While there were some scattered in larger cities, there wasn’t anything in our area.
But maybe I could do something to change that...
Taking the Plunge
I got to googling. I started researching what it would take to open my own business. I found templates for business plans and met with local business mentors.
One night, Nat was playing a show at the Well, a coffeehouse on Mishawaka Avenue. I walked to China House to get some dinner, and on the way, I found an open storefront with big, beautiful windows and a sign that said “For Rental Information, Call…”
I copied the number and gave it a call. The next week, Nat and I were touring the space. Our minds raced with possibilities.
We went home and applied for small business finding, got our insurance in order, started a website, and started negotiating a lease with the landlord.
By Christmas, we had the keys in hand. We spent the next couple months cleaning, painting, and getting the shop ready, contacting vendors, and building buzz.
On February 17, 2015, we opened for business. We weren’t even sure anyone would walk through the doors, let alone that we would still be open five years later.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we were able to do everything in the original space. Most of our classes took place in the center of the main space—now home to our 2D art supplies.Our tech lab was shoved between the metalworking tools and the sewing machines. If someone ran the laser cutter, the smell of burning wood (or plastic) would fill the shop—not a great thing when you have a class full of students.
We had a handful of members, but their access was limited to shop hours. If someone wanted to come on a day we were closed, they had to call us and hope we were available.
The next summer, we threw the very first Rebel Art Fest—in our parking lot. We put eight bands under a tent, twenty artists along our sidewalk, and three food trucks on the street. And, it was a great time.
Three years ago, we were feeling the pressure of our limited space. We were tired of cramming twenty students into a space that could comfortably fit ten. We were tired of fumigating the place every time we ran the laser cutter. We started looking for other options.
Then our landlord presented us with an offer: our neighboring corner space had struggled to keep a tenant the whole time we’d been there. They offered it to us for a price we couldn’t refuse.
The new space allowed us to add a dedicated tech lab, additional private studios, a conference room for private meetings and classes, and a huge classroom that could comfortably accommodate over thirty people at a time.
We were also able to purchase a better security system that allowed us to offer twenty-four hour access to our members.
At the same time, Rebel Art Fest continued to grow.
After two years in the parking lot, South Bend Venues Parks and Arts approached us to hold the festival in Potawatomi Park as part of Best. Week. Ever. Across two years in the park, we’ve hosted twenty-two musical acts, over a hundred artists, dozens of food trucks, and over 8,000 attendees. Now, Rebel Art Fest is the premiere kickoff event of Best. Week. Ever., and this year will be bigger than ever.
Look How Far We’ve Come
In the last five years, we’ve done more than we thought we ever could.
We’ve had four Rebel Art Fests, four Urban Artist Markets (that doesn’t even count the various pop up markets we’ve hosted), hundreds of members, hundreds of featured artists, over ten thousand students, and countless guests—not to mention a spattering of spots on the local news.
And we’re not slowing down anytime soon.
But, none of this couldn’t have happened without the support of our community and all of the local artists and makers who have joined up with us to create a thriving creative community.
If that includes you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. But if that isn’t you yet, there are plenty of ways to get involved. Take a class, become a member, or stop in to shop local goods, and join us for the next five years.
The last few years, there’s been a huge surge of people turning their dreams into businesses. Etsy alone has over two million sellers, many of whom do it full time.
And if you have aspirations of doing the same, you’re gonna have to look the part. You’ll be competing with big companies, all employing dozens of designers and marketeers making sure that their brand is well represented.
If your own work isn’t up to the same caliber, it could look sloppy and amateurish, and some potential customers might decide to go with someone else.
Luckily, there are many ways you can look professional without hiring an entire marketing department.
Here are some tips.
Few things look as unprofessional as a typo. A grammatical error might not be a big deal in a text message, but coming from your personal brand, it can make you look bad.
These small errors communicate carelessness. It looks like you can’t be bothered to pay attention to details.
Viewers might see these errors and think you treat your own work with the same carelessness. If you don’t pay enough attention to notice typos, how can they trust that you’ll pay enough attention to your work?
Before hitting “print” or “publish” on anything, give it a once over to make sure it’s free of any errors. If that’s not your forte, send it to a friend or run it through a tool like Grammarly.
Build a Strong Brand
Big corporations pour millions of dollars into building a strong brand for their business. This is essentially the sum of the company’s entire presence: their logos, colors, the fonts on their websites, and even the voice they use in their advertising.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money yourself, but you do need to build a brand that boosts recognition and allows customers to remember you.
Use a consistent color palette across all of your media: your website, packaging, designs, etc. Choose a couple typefaces that you use consistently.
Identify a few core values to drive the way you present your brand to the world. Take Dove for instance. Ever since launching their Real Beauty campaign, all of their marketing has come from a place of helping their customers feel comfortable in their own skin. Find a similar value and use that as a guideline for all of your marketing.
Once you develop a strong brand, stick to it.
If you go to buy an iPhone, you’ll find very little variation between individual models. An iPhone is an iPhone, and they are mass produced in such a way that they seem perfectly replicated.
But in the handmade, DIY market, consistency is a little less common.
Which is why if you are consistent between items, it will make you stand out.
If your goods vary greatly in look and quality, you’re going to have a hard time convincing customers to stick around. An unpredictable product is a one way ticket to unproductible cashflow.
Work hard to nail down your process so you can pump out consistent products. This will keep your customers happy and make you look like a bonafide pro.
Need Help Stepping Up Your Game?
Luckily, looking like a legit business doesn’t mean you have to spend as much money as the big boys. With a little focus and attention to detail, you can compete at a fraction of the cost.
But, if you need some help getting there, we’re here to give you a boost. Come into the shop and use our resources to help you take your DIY brand to the next level.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
You have breakfast, then get right to work. After a few hours of answering emails from clients, planning new products, and working on your social media marketing, you feel a pang of hunger. You look at the clock and see that it’s 8:30pm.
You worked right through lunch, and you’re on your about to do the same to dinner. You wish you could have made something healthy, but now you’re too hungry and tired. You order in some junk food and call it a day.
As business owners and freelancers, finding a work-life balance can be difficult enough without needing to worry about your wellness. We often work alone, far from the accountability that might come from working in an office.
But that isn’t an excuse to just give up. There are still a number of ways to keep yourself healthy while grinding away on your own. We’re hardly the experts, but we’ve picked up a few tips along the way.
Think Ahead On Meals
Eating healthy is difficult for everyone, but it’s especially hard for those of us not working conventional nine-to-fives.
When you’re running your own business or doing freelance work, your time truly is money. And when you take time to cook a healthy meal, that often comes at the expense of time you can spend making sales.
Instead of relying on take out or fast food, take some time on your days off (you really do need to take a weekly day off) to do some meal prep. Make simple, delicious—healthy—meals that you can have ready to eat throughout the week.
You might also want to set some alarms throughout the day so you actually remember to eat too.
Make Your Workspace Work For You
These days, so much of our work is done online. And if you’re anything like me, you do much of that work on your couch slumped over your laptop.
Not only does extended periods of sitting contribute to inactivity and weight gain, it can also increase your risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Luckily, you can make some simple changes to your workspace to curb these risks. A portable standing desk stand can bring all the same benefits of a standing desk at a fraction of the cost.
Look at your current work situation and think about what small changes you can make to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Start Your Day Right
After a long day of work, the last thing any of us want to do is work out. It doesn’t matter that we already paid for a gym membership—we’re exhausted. And, we already paid for Netflix too, and that seems like a much more attractive use of our time.
Instead of skipping exercise altogether, try to get it out of the way before you start working. You could wake up early and head to the gym, or you could do something simple. We walk our dog most mornings, which isn’t a huge commitment to fitness, but it’s better than doing nothing.
And it’s certainly easier than walking him after we get done working.
Find something easy you can do and commit to doing it before anything else.
Wellness isn’t easy—if it were, we’d all be doing it. But the busyness of our work schedules doesn’t need to thwart our hopes of good health. Using these tips, we’ve been able to make strides for taking care of our bodies even as we take care of our business.
Most of the time, anyway.
Halloween is just around the corner, which for many people means that it’s costume time.
Sure, you could head to a big box store to buy a mass-produced costume, but where’s the fun in that? True makers know that nothing beats the satisfaction of making your own costume, whether you’re throwing together a hilarious low-effort costume or creating a picture-perfect cosplay.
But making those costumes can take work...and tools that you might not have just lying around.
That’s where we come in. Here are a few ways that our makerspace can help you make the best costume ever this Halloween.
Custom Made Clothing
Sometimes, a subtle costume can go a lot further than a loud, over the top ensemble. Take for instance Jim Halpert’s understated costumes on The Office.
But not everyone is as pop culture savvy as you. There’s a good chance that your The Dude costume will be misinterpreted as “Bathtub Hippie.”
To get the point across, you might need to enlist the aid of a custom printed t-shirt, jacket patch, or hat. The screenprinting studio can be used to make custom prints of anything, but unless you’re doing a group costume, the vinyl cutter and heat press would be way less hassle.
You could also order a custom mug, towel, or the like from a site like Custom Envy to really hit the nail on the head.
And of course, you can also use our sewing area to design your own elaborate costumes.
3D Printed Accessories
Many characters have instantly recognizable accessories, such as Ash William’s Chainsaw arm or Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet. If you want to recreate these characters, you’re going to need to nail these accessories.
Often, this means buying a replica online. But thanks to the modern miracle of 3D printing, you can create accurate recreations of just about anything and create it yourself, from belt buckles to pendants to signature weapons to sidekicks—even masks!
You can design your own model in a 3D modeling software or find something from Thingiverse’s enormous database. Just make sure you give yourself enough time—some of these prints can take a while, especially if they require multiple pieces.
While some characters are known for a weapon or helmet, others have an unforgettable piece of jewelry, such as Jareth the Goblin King’s pendant, Holly Golightly’s famous Tiffany necklace, or The One Ring to Rule Them All. Matching that jewelry can make or break the entire costume.
You could head to Goodwill to see what you can find that looks sorta close, or you could come to our shop and make your own replicas. Use our metalworking tools, polymer clay, and even stained glass to recreate iconic jewelry yourself!
Having a great Halloween often comes down to having the right costume.
This year, don’t rely on a cheap, store bought costume. Make your own costume here in our shop and get fewer tricks and more treats!
There are a lot of reasons people stay at their day jobs when they’d rather do something they’re passionate about.
But not all of those reasons are worth a darn.
Here are a few common—terrible—reasons people give for staying at a job, and why they don’t actually matter.
You’ll Lose Your Health Insurance!
Health insurance is a touchy topic these days. It’s dominating the debate cycle during this election, just like it did in 2016, and 2012, and 2008, and…
Yes, healthcare is a necessity. And for many people with a full-time job, that healthcare is provided by your company. Losing that would cost too much.
But there are two things you have to remember.
First: you can find insurance on your own without a company’s group plan.
Second: you’re already paying for your own insurance. It’s just being taken out of your paycheck before you see it.
What If You Need To Verify Your Income?
There are a lot of instances where you’ll need to verify your income. When you apply for a car loan or a mortgage, the lender will want to see proof of your income so they can make sure that you make enough to afford the payments.
In most cases, you’ll provide the bank with a pay stub from your employer verifying your salary. The people telling you not to quit your day job will tell you that without an employer, you won’t have any pay stubs to show. How can you get a pay stub without a payroll department writing it up for you?
And yeah, a pay stub is a much neater method of income verification than a spreadsheet with all of your various PayPal transactions, Square reports, and cash deposits from craft shows.
But you can turn all of that documentation into a pay stub of your own at a site like PayStubs.net, and it will work just the same.
Your Job is Stable!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Stability is one of the biggest reasons people settle for a non-dream job. It might not get their heart racing, but it’s stable.
But the fact of the matter is, even a “stable” job isn’t unshakeable. Speaking to a graduating class at Maharishi University, Jim Carrey told graduates that his father decided to ignore his dream of being a comedian and take the “safe job” to be an accountant. But then one day, he was laid off—from a job he didn’t even want.
You can fail at something that you don’t want to do, so you might as well do find what you love.
If You Do What You Love For a Job, You’ll Hate It
There’s something toxic about Americans’ relationship with work. Work is that thing that you hate, and there’s no other way around it.
Many of us are so tied to that mindset that we think that if we get a job doing what we love, we’ll end up resenting it. The second we get paid for our passions, it sours and is ruined forever.
But the good news is, that’s not a necessary part of work. That’s more a symptom of poor stress management than an intrinsic part of monetizing your passions.
So don’t be afraid to get paid for doing what you love. That should be the ideal, shouldn’t it?
Do What You Love
There are a thousand reasons not to do something. But sometimes, those reasons don’t hold much weight.
If you’re tired of starving creatively while you slave away in an unfulfilling job, head over to Killer Creators to see how our webcourse can set you up for success.
Here at MAKE SOUTH BEND, we believe that creativity is an important part of everyone’s life. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a natural talent or if you’re in a boring job. Having a creative hobby or trying a new skill is a great way to expand your horizons.
But we also understand that for some people, having a creative hobby isn’t enough. Creativity is the fuel that drives their whole being. We dream of making our artistic passions and making it a full time career.
But getting started is easier said than done. The “starving artist” trope exists for a reason, after all.
However, there are a number of ways that you can start monetizing your creative projects this weekend!
1. Set up a Patreon Account
The Renaissance was one of the most prolific periods in art history. All across Europe, artists and musicians worked hard to create amazing works that are still celebrated today. From Michelangelo to Leonardo Da Vinci to Raphael to Donatello—and even all of the artists that don’t have Ninja Turtles named after them—the Renaissance had the greatest concentration of important artists of any period in history.
But they didn’t do it alone.
Most artists were sponsored by patrons—wealthy individuals in European society that sponsored the work of artists to create a richer, more creative world.
And if you’re anything like us, you hear that and think, “must be nice!”
While the specific details of patronage have changed a bit, the idea has made a comeback lately, thanks to the website Patreon.
Patreon allows friends, family, and fans to commit to a monthly donation to allow you to continue creating your art. Many artists use Patreon to help supplement their monthly expenses, offering exclusive perks to their patrons in exchange for supporting them.
Setting up an account is easy and free.
2. Use Square to Make a Free Store Page
If you have dreams of making and selling your own handmade goods, it can take a while to get off the ground. You might be able to sell in a boutique or local gift shop, but it might be weeks or months until your goods end up on shelves—and longer until money ends up in your account.
However, there are a number of options to set up an online store quickly and cheaply so you can get to selling faster.
There are many different marketplaces you can use, but our favorite is Square. You can set up a free webstore within minutes and get buyers to your shop right away.
While your at it, sign up for a free Square reader so you can take debit and credit payments right from your phone. It will take the headache out of taking payments at art shows.
3. Post Your Songs on Bandcamp
This one is for you musicians out there.
We all know that streaming has completely changed the way that we consume music. And if you’ve got any work recorded, you might even have it posted on Spotify. And as accessible as Spotify makes your music, there’s one big drawback…
It doesn’t pay. Like, at all. On average, Spotify pays around $0.005 per play. You might be excited out of your mind to see 1,000 streams on your song. But when that only nets you $5, it’s a bit of a let down.
By those numbers, Bandcamp is a much better bang for your buck.
Bandcamp is a music website where musicians can upload their music for free. Listeners can stream these songs from the Bandcamp site or app, or purchase them directly.
Bandcamp allows you to set your own prices, and can even facilitate pay-what-you-want prices. Bandcamp does take a 15% cut of digital downloads, but that’s a small price compared to the miniscule earnings of streaming.
While your at it, make sure you license your music properly. Not only will it protect you from copyright theft, but it will allow you to license your songs for use in commercials, TV, and other media, should a music supervisor stumble upon you with their media planning tool.
4. On Demand Print Services
Screenprinted items are a great money maker. T-shirts, tea-towels, totes, and more can be a great way to sell your designs for a healthy profit.
But screenprinting can take a big investment to get started. If you print a bunch of shirts, you might find yourself sitting on the bulk of them for months.
However, there are a few print-on-demand services online where you can sell your designs on shirts, totes, sheets, and even shoes without an up-front investment. Users select a design, select an item to print it on, and then that company prints it right then and there. Our favorite is Redbubble.
While it might take a while for you to find people willing to purchase your creative works, there are a number of people who are already looking for your creative skills.
Freelancing websites like Elance or Fiverr connect creative experts with clients who are looking for those skills. Start an account for free and browse requests to find a project that matches your skillset.
Freelancing can be a great side hustle for anyone, but if you’re hard-working and dedicated, you can make a full-time career out of it (like Nat has).
6. Sell an online class
Over the last five years that we’ve been open, we’ve learned that people love learning something new. We’ve had thousands of people through our classes over the years, all of them excited to learn a new skill.
And while we’re always looking for teachers for new classes, planning that can take a while. In the meantime, there are a few sites where you can start teaching video lessons quickly and cheaply.
Udemy, Teachable, and Skillshare are all good options. Start an account today and start teaching!
As the old saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” While you might be a long way from doing your art full time, you can start making money with your creativity right now!
And if you’re interested in more advice for a more creatively fulfilled life, go join the Killer Creators mailing list :)
It’s a familiar conundrum.
You check your mail and find an invitation to a party. You excitedly mark your calendar and RSVP.
That’s when it hits you: "I’m going to need a gift."
You head over to Target or Wal-Mart (or Amazon) looking for the perfect gift. You look through the shelves, trying to decide which mass produced something or other really encapsulates that person.
But if you’re looking for a truly special gift, you’re looking in the wrong place.
There are countless options for great gifts available at your local makerspace! Here’s why you should ditch the big box store for good.
Regardless of where you’re shopping for your gifts, you put a lot of effort into making sure that the recipient will love it. We spend so much time hoping that they don’t hate it that we completely ignore the other tragic possibilities…
Maybe someone else at the party brought the same thing.
Or even worse, maybe they already have one.
What was supposed to be a moment of affection is ruined. You slouch down into your chair, hoping you could disappear into the embarrassment.
But if you give something handmade, it’s almost impossible that someone else could bring the same thing. Your gift is truly unique. There’s no need to worry about someone else stealing your thunder.
Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Custom
It’s one thing to hand someone something you found on a shelf and say, “I thought you might like this.”
It’s something else entirely to give them something completely customized. You can emblazon a gift with their name or their favorite TV character or an inside joke. This gift will mean much more than just a thing that they got at a party. It will be a piece of yourself that they can carry with them for years to come.
Now of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can customize just about anything with the tools in our shop. Emblazon your own designs across tote bags, pillow cases, or t-shirts with the heat press or screenprinting studio (only if you plan on making a lot). Etch an image on a keychain, cutting board, wall hanging, or whatever else you can imagine using the laser cutter. Hand stamp a ring with a custom message.
You can even design a mini-sculpture and bring it to life with the 3D printer.
If you don’t feel as confident in your own skills, you can commission an artist to help you make it, or order something from an online shop like Corporate Gifts for about the same price that you’d spend at a big box store.
Your Money Supports Local Makers!
Over the last several decades, our economy has become more and more globalized. If you walk into a big box store, you’ll find no shortage of cheap foreign-made goods adorning the shelves.
What happens to your money when you spend it there?
Sure, some of it stays in your community, paying the workers there and the local utility companies. But the vast majority of the profits go to someone you’ll likely never meet who has no concern for the people you know or the city you live in—besides how much money they can get out of you.
These major corporations often crowd out local competition. With the cushion of millions of dollars in profit a year, they’re able to take risks and survive trends that local shops don’t have the capital to compete with.
And sometimes, those people might use your money to do things you don’t approve of. I think we all remember a few years ago when the president of Hobby Lobby was caught buying Biblical artifacts on the black market.
Not only that, but transporting mass produced goods across the world has a massive carbon footprint.
But lately, this impersonal, international corporatism has been falling out of favor with consumers. The last few years has seen a huge rise of localism.
When you buy handmade, that money stays in the community. It pays owners that live in our neighborhoods. Their taxes pay for the same schools your children go to and the same roads that you drive down.
It strengthens the local economy, which bolsters pride in the community. And a community that loves itself is a strong community.
Give Better Gifts
If you want to give better gifts to your friends and family that actually mean something, you’re going to need to get out of the big stores and start thinking smaller.
Luckily, we can help. In our store, we have a curated gift shop of locally made goods, including jewelry, art, local music, and plenty of South Bend merch to show of your hometown pride. If you can’t find something you like in there, you can use our workshop to make your own gifts. We’ll even teach you how at one of our classes.
So come on in and see what you can make today.
Summer’s almost here. And with it comes weddings, family reunions, work cookouts, and a whole host of other special events.
But with so many of these events all swirling together, how do you make sure your event stands out?
Easy answer: personalized favors.
And don’t worry: they don’t have to be expensive. In fact, we have a number of ways you can make custom gifts right here in the shop.
Here are a few ideas.
Is there a better freebie than custom t-shirts?
A comfortable t-shirt with a stylish print builds hype for your event, and can keep people excitedly remembering it for years to come. Just look at all the people paying top dollar for vintage concert t-shirts!
You can use our screenprinting studio to print as many shirts as you bring! Make a strong, memorable design, and make sure to print on a comfortable base shirt. No one wants to wear a stiff shirt with a tight neck hole.
Personalized Tote Bags
With all the concern for plastic waste, many people are opting to use reusable cloth tote bags.
And why not? They’re durable, stylish—and easy to personalize.
Using our Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter, you can cut out intricate designs (including text). Then using the heat press, you can bond it right to the fabric. It’s sort of like an iron-on, but way more durable, and way more classy.
Unlike screenprinting, which is best for quickly printing lot of one design, you can personalize each heat press graphic. This is perfect for putting guests’ names on each bag (or shirt—you use the heat transfer on basically every cloth).
Hand stamping is a simple, charming way to personalize a number of items.
You can use metal stamps to inscribe on metal or leather. Make a bracelet, keychain, necklace pendant, belt, whatever you can think of.
Simply choose your item, line up the stamp, and give it a few wacks with the hammer. It’s a quick and easy way to make a charming party favor that your friends will love for years.
Laser Cut Name Badges
Few tools in our shop are as versatile as the laser cutter. It can be used to cut through wood, acrylic, and leather, and can engrave wood, acrylic, leather, glass, ceramic, and more.
There’s a million ways you can use the laser cutter to customize great gifts (photo ornaments anyone?), but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll look at name tags.
If you’re hosting a party with a big guest list of people that don’t know eachother, you could offer up some white sticker tags and Sharpies…
Or you could use the laser cutter to make attractive name tags.
Make wooden tags with a classy typeface, or acrylic tags with an LED illuminating them. You could also add an icon that corresponds with something they like as an icebreaker.
For a more formal affair, you can order professional-grade magnetic name tags and alter them yourself. Find more here.
When the printing press was introduced, it revolutionized the world. And while it’s not the most efficient way to print text anymore, there’s something undeniably alluring about the aesthetic of letterpressing.
If you’re going to a wedding or birthday party, skip the Hallmark aisle and make your own card in the shop. An abstract watercolor with a custom letterpressed message is sure to make an impression.
Custom 3D Prints
Okay, so this one is a bit more involved, but the payoff is enormous.
Using the 3D printer, you can design just about any gift you can think of.
If you have access to a 3D scanner, you can create an accurate 3D model of a person’s face. Then using a modeling program like TinkerCad, you can refine that into a bust, which you can print a model of (we recommend adding a pair of beefy arms, like this).
If you don’t have a scanner, you can make use a modeling program to make a more simplified version, sort of like a Funko Pop figure. After it’s printed, you can paint on the model to make it even more personalized.
Just keep in mind—3D printing takes a while, so you might not want to make one for everyone on your guest list. Maybe just the guest of honor.
What Will You Make?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands more ideas that you can make a reality in our workspace.
So put on your thinking caps, get a day pass, and get to work!
We’d love to see what you make!