What do you get when you combine a mother of two preschoolers, a head for math, an artistic talent, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a love for tackling new challenges? You get something very crafty, indeed!
Something Crafty is still in its infancy, begun by Susan Hiebert of Portage la Prairie in February of 2010. But Hiebert already has more orders than she can keep up with, and it’s all due to the uniquely designed custom-made products she offers.
“Over the years, I’ve been involved in retail work, food-processing work , health-care work, and child day-care work, including running my own home day care after my first child was born,” says this 28-year-old.
“When I learned we were expecting a second child, I closed my home day care with hopes of finding a full-time job that would provide maternity benefits,” Hiebert said. “I’m glad to say the laws have now changed and self-employed people are eligible for maternity leave, but that wasn’t the case for me.”
When no job offers were forthcoming, Hiebert turned to her entrepreneurial bent and signed up as a consultant for several home-based sales businesses. None of them provided an outlet for her creativity, however. One day when her baby was about six months old, she looked at the eight little chairs left over from her home day care and decided to refurbish them – sanding and painting them in bright new colours. They sold immediately.
“You should do this as a business,” friends told her.
Hiebert enjoyed working with wood, and had already developed a lot of skills with the help of her brother-in-law, Jeff Taylor. Taylor had previously helped her renovate a house and she’d gotten comfortable with using tools. Today, her arsenal of tools includes five different saws, a wood planer, a stationary belt sander, three drills, an air compressor with a brad nailer, a staple gun, a wood burner, a router, and scores of paintbrushes.
She went online to search out patterns and ideas for new items she could build and got to work. Her creations have included toy boxes, table and chair sets, growth charts, a child-sized castle, chalkboards, props for photographers, art easels, picnic tables, and benches. And that’s just the wooden items! Hiebert also creates custom-designed night lights from glass blocks, popular flower pens, and diaper cakes.
“My first attempt at a diaper cake was for my cousin’s baby shower,” she says, “and it led to orders for more!”
Her inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Her first growth chart was inspired by a pretty ribbon she’d been hanging on to for a year. She painted the pattern of the ribbon onto the wood growth chart and threaded the ribbon through two holes in the top to form a hanger. A custom toy box for a friend was patterned after the child’s bedspread.
“Getting my work done while my children sleep is my biggest challenge right now,” she said. “But being able to be home with my kids is worth everything.” Korbin, age three, paints his own projects while Mommy works and baby Jackson naps. Space is another limiting factor. But even with these obstacles, Hiebert will tackle any project, and is thrilled with the prospect of a new challenge. The self-crafted chalkboard she uses to keep track of orders has been filled since the day she hung it. Her goals include stocking up items for Christmas and having a booth at The Crafter’s Hand in the Portage la Prairie Mall. “It’s a wonderful concept, because someone else mans it for you while you can be at home creating more items.” By 2011, Hiebert hopes to be ready for the annual Scattered Seeds craft show at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg.
– Terrie Todd writes from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba