In Blue Handmade
Mary Lynn Schroeder
Tell us about your business.In 2008, I moved from Chicago to a small farmhouse in Southern Illinois. I purchased a sewing machine on the way down, and never looked back. Intending to be more self-sufficient in my new environment, I slowly learned to thread and work my new machine. Once I had the hang of it, I began to make purses and simple dresses. This turned into a full time job, and I opened my own small art consignment shop down the road from my home. I opened an etsy shop simultaneously, and plugged away at making In Blue a name in craft and design. In 2009 I gave sewing leather a try. I made my first journal, listed it on Etsy, and sold it almost immediately. One journal turned into thousands, and I sold my small brick and mortar shop and took off for Asheville, NC. 'I' quickly turned into 'we', now employing a full time staff of 9, we spend every day hand cutting, sewing, and hand printing leather journals, flasks, and other accessories!
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.The In Blue "lab" is located next to the French Broad River in Asheville, NC. Our space is 5,000 square feet of shared warehouse space. We have three industrial sewing machines, the newest of which is a post-bed, equipped to sew boots and bags! Along with our superstar lineup of stitchers, we have a large rotary leather strap cutting machine for belts and purse straps. Everything else is cut and trimmed with scissors and rotary cutters used by the hands of our expert production team. You can often find our team riveting leather together or punching holes over one of our several antique anvils. Our pride and joy is our printing station, which hosts over 3000 rubber stamps, endless amounts of hand cut stencils, and countless printing tools. Most importantly, our studio is filled with fun, music, coffee and teamwork. We are so lucky to be able to create with our friends, and bring our dogs to work to help encourage joy (and chaos!) while creating.
What inspires you?What inspires me the most are my interactions with my customers. We are so lucky to be able to hear the stories of our clients, because of the custom and personal nature of our products. Our journals are especially meaningful and inspirational to me. Because we can add text and a choice of image to each item, we are able to learn more about the person ordering the item than the average company. It is so exciting to be able to create an item that will help facilitate creativity in others; whether that be a new song, poem, recipe, or documentation of a journey, In Blue is along for the ride. We are very lucky to have heard several stories from our service men and women when we create journals that travel with them wherever they go. We are also lucky to participate in hospice journaling, and find that to be a special part of what we do. Everyone has a story behind why they write, and it is an honor to learn of and be a part of that story.
What makes your business stand out?The aspect of In Blue that separates and elevates the company would be our customization. The ability for our customers to choose from a catalog of 3000 images and add text to each item for no extra charge means that our customers each have a unique and 100% personal experience and end result. The option to be able to put your loved one's favorite quote on an item along with their favorite image is something that is very special about In Blue. When I started my company, I knew that I did not want to make anything that I could not afford the day that I began - so we uphold that rule. Most of our personalized items are under the $25 price range, which means that our gifts are available to almost everyone at a reasonable price. I believe that means a lot to our clientele. We aim for everyone to be able to own a book to express their thoughts and ideas, and we are making that possible. We intend for everyone to have access to the perfect gift.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?I think the most important thing to remember when starting a venture and maintaining it is to be adaptable. Chances are, whatever vision you had for your company when you started will not be exactly the same a few years in, and will evolve and change over time. Be ready for change. Being able to recognize that you need to break the mold, and being able to accept both failures and successes are what makes the business special. Learning does not always mean winning every battle, it just means that you keep on playing, fighting, and creating. A fire for what you do can take you one million miles with an open heart and mind. I am so proud of what we have accomplished so far, and I get excited about what is to come. Every mistake and every success are a big part of who we are, and help determine what will happen next.
What does American Made mean to you?American Made to me means all of my heart and my landscape showing up in my work. Everyday I wake up, make my coffee, walk my two dogs, look at the beautiful landscape that is the Appalachian Mountains in Western North Carolina, and I feel motivated. My community thrives on handmade artwork; we pride ourselves in our small business ethic and hands on approach to creating. My company employs nine Asheville residents full time. When we have lunch together, we go to our favorite Asheville restaurant, owned by friends of ours. To me, this is means American Made. I see it in every single mistake we make and take apart, making something else out of it. I see it in our melting pot of a studio and team as well. We have different backgrounds and we all come from different states in the USA originally, but we come together as a force, a puzzle that fits together perfectly to represent our handmade product line; a piece of each of us in every item we make.
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NOMINATIONSJun. 17, 2015
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