Meet our newest featured maker Betsy Hinze: Wondersmith. I have to say I am wowed by the work that Betsy creates. Not only is she physically creating products, she is truly crafting real life experiences for her followers. You just have to read on and follow Betsy to see what I mean.
Why did you start your handmade business?
First and foremost, because I feel called to do the work I do. I love creating things that echo the beauty of nature and gifting immersive experiences to strangers. This is very meaningful work to me and I wake up every morning excited to be doing it.
The other reason I started this business was out of necessity. I have a disabling health condition that makes having a "normal" job pretty much impossible. I needed something flexible enough to allow me to take time off unexpectedly should I have a flare-up or need medical attention. I know my body's limits better than any employer possibly could and this gives me the opportunity to pay attention to what I'm able to do on any given day and take care of myself.
Tell us about your handmade business?
I'm a Wondersmith! That is, I gift free immersive experiences to total strangers. I do things like hide invitations out in the woods disguised as purple ferns or tuck them into books in local bookstores. I reward the curiosity of others with dinner parties and social gatherings meant to highlight interaction and give the gift of play! I plan and create every aspect of each event, from the artistic serving vessels to the setting to the food itself. It is my goal to bring a little more wonder into the world and this is how I do it. I sell the art pieces afterwards as "artifacts of the experience" so that when people purchase them they know they are doing more than just buying a cup or a plate- they're supporting the meaningful experiences I create.
What has been the most effective way of gaining awareness for your business and attracting new customers?
Subscribers always get the best content first.
Social media has been my most effective tool. I fund my events through patreon and the vast majority of my patrons on there came from either Instagram or Facebook. I update both frequently with in-process pictures, the research I do behind the scenes to familiarize myself with foraged ingredients, and photos from the events themselves.
What have been your biggest business challenges?
My biggest challenge so far has been simply that nobody is doing what I'm doing. That's great because it means I stand out, but it does make it difficult for me to get the necessary permits and licenses to do my events. There's no "How to be a Wondersmith 101" guidebook, you know? I'm kind of making my own trail here and while that is very exciting, it can also get overwhelming. The other challenge has been funding the events. I don't want to charge the guests because I think that takes some of the magic away, so I had to find a new solution.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I started a Patreon account to gain the financial support necessary to create these experiences to share. Patrons can decide how much money they want to contribute every month, from $1 to $100. I developed different rewards for different funding levels as a way to share the experience with them and make them really feel like they're part of the magic. I send out e-books, post cards, artwork, luxury gift packs, etc. to the generous people who've chosen to support my mission. It's been a great tool to allow me to connect with my supporters!
What do you love about having your own handmade business?
I love the freedom to create exactly what I have envisioned and the ability to share it with others. I've received so many heartfelt letters of thanks from total strangers - guests from one of my events, but also just people who've seen them documented online. People really want to believe there is magic in the world and I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to create it for them! All of the hard work and long hours that go into each event pay off immediately when I see the eyes of the guests light up at the magic in front of them.
What is the best business advice that you ever received?
"You've found a unique way to gift people the gift of wonder. That's a rare thing and you should hold onto that." - one of my college professors. That quote has stuck with me more than anything else as I developed this business.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Keep on creating what feels right to you. You never know what you're practicing for.