Today we hear from Sharon Fain, co-founder of Academy of Handmade, a company dedicated to celebrating makers and recognizing those making a impact on the handmade economy. She shares how she got started plus tips and tricks for other creative business folks!
Sharon is the ultimate handmade supporter. She spends her professional life and free time working to celebrate and recognize outstanding makers. She runs her own public relations and communications firm, Right Brain PR, while working with business partner KC to expand Academy of Handmade's presence. She has been helping creatives with writing (having herself contributed to Design*Sponge), strategy and media relations since she was in college. Read on to hear more tips from Sharon for crafty business ventures and see how she used Spoonflower fabric for this year's Academy of Handmade award show!
What prompted you to create Academy of Handmade?
KC (co-founder) and I essentially saw no good ways to honor the people we saw as modern makers– the friends we made at craft shows who were kicking butt in their businesses. Being from LA we immediately thought an "Oscars of Crafting" would be so fun. But we very much wanted this to be something that wasn't a popularity contest (a lot "contests" already existed that were essentially won by how big of a network you had to vote), but voted on my by actual people who got what goes into a handmade business. This led us to deciding that having an independent industry association would be the channel that would be the best conduit for celebrating, connecting and strengthening maker businesses.
How long have you been doing this?
We turn two this month!
Is it your full time job?
The hours are essentially full time… the pay is not. 😉 I also do PR and communications consulting for small businesses and KC does freelance fiber construction work.
Where do you want to take Academy of Handmade?
I'd love to see it grow to a national presence with chapters in cities throughout the US. I think developing these local connections is just as vital as ones online. The first step to making this a reality was opening our San Francisco chapter last year. We plan to do more of this in 2015.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I think for most businesses starting out, even ones with a pretty clear vision, you are largely just experimenting and seeing what sticks. The last two year has been a lot of testing and seeing what works. We've chucked things that we totally thought would be golden and created new programming based on demand. Being okay with this kind of chaos/flux is hard for a Type A like myself. I look forward to the passing of each year when the path forward becomes clearer.
What has been your biggest success?
That's still hard to answer at year two, but I really think that fact that we've almost magically pulled off two awards shows in two years is pretty incredible. There's a lot of stress, late nights and last minutes with big events, but when the night actually arrives and makers tell you how special they feel, it's the best thing ever!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Having this be a real full-time job with a few employees and a network of volunteers making it happen across the US and beyond. I always want a job that is flexible since I have a medical condition and need to be able to take breaks as needed, so having one that also allows me to pair my love for marketing and business with working with creatives is just more than I could ever hope for!
What’s your creative sound track?
Is is weird to say Netflix? Gilmore Girls, Murder She Wrote and Mad Men are often on during my project time.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone pursuing a creative career?
Nail who you are and be completely confident in that. That way when things go wrong or people don't respond you can either understand it as those just aren't your people or you need to work harder and listen to what your people want.
Who inspires your work?
All the makers out there kicking butt and tirelessly working and creating. This whole job really is just a high-five to them.
What resources have you found really useful?
Podcasts (Meighan O'Toole's and Abby Glassenberg's are two of my favorite), Creativelive (Tara Gentile's on launches is still one I constantly reference) and being bold and making friends on Twitter or over email.