Tell us about your business.Crayon Rocks grew out of a special education teacher's desire to improve the tripod grip and fine motor coordination of her special needs students. One student in particular could not write because of weak hand muscles. These crayons were for him. And Crayon Rocks was born the moment he (Michael) put finger to chin and said, "How cool are these!" Inspired by Occupational Therapist Jan Olson, and the Handwriting Without Tears program, I set out to make a crayon that young children could only pick up and use with a tripod grip. And then, to add virtue, I made them eco-friendly. I use a soft soy wax and rich mineral pigments. Crayon Rocks continues to look for new and different ways to promote fine motor development thru art in young children. We dream about adding People Pebbles with color for eye, hair and skin. We drool over colors for Fall and Winter. And we are positively gaga over the possibility of adding "rubby" plates with textures you can add under your art work paper.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.My 1500 square foot shop grew from a dorky old garage outside my home with the generous help of my Amish neighbors. It sits atop a beautiful hill in rural Kentucky....far, far from the maddening crowd. The shop is a combination of tin and red Kentucky clay. We watch turkey and deer feed in the yard. Occasionally a stray mule shows up, an escapee from a nearby farm. Although my Amish neighbors don't work for money, they do volunteer during the Christmas rush to lend a hand getting orders out. In exchange, I freeze ice for them in the summer. In spite of living so far from civilization, I ship Crayon Rocks all over the world, sometimes by the pallet load. With internet, UPS and USPS, the world is accessible to all of us!
What inspires you?Here is what inspired me to begin with, and makes all the headaches of a small business totally worth it today: this is just one story but I've been sent thousands of them! A mother sent his picture clutching his new bag of Crayon Rocks and this, "This is Lewis, 6 years old. When Lewis was 3 he had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body and also gave him cerebral palsy. He now has to be a lefty but it's not that easy to switch pencil grips and we have honestly tried everything. This is Lewis' 'Crayon Rocks rock!' face. These are absolutely the best thing ever for little hands that have difficulty with their pencil grip."
What makes your business stand out?I hope Crayon Rocks stands out as a real service to the development of young children both physically (fine motor skills) and creatively (artistic expression). I hope that children LOVE working with these crayons and get many hours of enjoyment from them.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?Don't do it to get rich. Money is not sufficient enough reward for the hard work, frustration and endless time you will put into your business. Do it because you believe in it. Develop perseverance like a disease. Get good advice. A mentor is invaluable. Take the time to develop written agreements with key players (don't assume anything). Don't let the drudgery of selling and paying taxes, kill the creative dreams. Dream on and then set them up on your wall like bottles in a shooting gallery and knock off each one as you are able. Help others the way others have helped you. Enjoy the rewards if rewards come. Enjoy the adventure regardless of what comes. Try to leave something behind, a legacy that gives purpose to your work and meaning to your life. Every day is a new chance to create something never seen before in this world and in doing so, forward the sum of human evolution.
What does American Made mean to you?America, land of the free and home of the most ingenious people in all of history needs to retake its place in the world as just that: Makers of American-made products that are known for their usefulness, quality and beauty. And then they need to be made right here on American soil with American labor.
Mark Your Calendar
NominationsJune 3–Aug. 29, 2014
Nominate yourself or other aspiring makers.
JudgingJune 23–Sept. 9, 2014
Judges will select finalists throughout this period.Meet the judges
Online VotingSept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014
Vote for your favorite American makers.Vote now
Winners AnnouncedOct. 17, 2014
2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.See past Award Winners
American Made EventNov. 7–8, 2014
Join us for our annual event in New York City.Buy tickets now