Melissa VanSant & Jennifer VanSant
Tell us about your business.My sister Jennifer and I opened our bead and scrapbooking store, Off the Beaded Path in our home town of Great Barrington Massachusetts in 2005. We were often seen needle felting gnomes, and animals and customers began asking us for felting lessons and felting kits. On a chance, in 2007, we applied for a booth at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival - the largest festival of it's kind in the northeast. We were accepted and went into high production making figures and creating and producing our 3 styles of needle felting kits. This show really launched our business of Going Gnome. Over time we phased scrapbooking out of the retail store and brought in more and more felting supplies to meet the demands of our customers. We also added more shows, and in 2014 we traveled as far as Seattle Washington with our gnomes and 17 styles of felting kits. Our business of Going Gnome now has an online store, an Etsy shop, and this year has launched it's wholesale business.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.We produce all of our products ourselves with the help of our long time employee Jasmine from our shop in Great Barrington. We have a lovely downtown location that gives us a retail presence, as well as a space for packaging and distribution. Our business is rapidly outgrowing our space and 2015 should see us in new digs.
What inspires you?Fantasy and the natural world inspire us to create our whimsical figures. We grew up believing in the world of gnomes, and wool is a perfect medium for creating figures of them. We are inspired by form, and color, and all the earthy beauty of the misty forresty places of the world.
What makes your business stand out?In our increasingly busy world, people are looking for quality crafts that can be made in a short amount of time. Time and again we are both pleased and proud of what our customers are making with our felting kits. There is no better feeling then seeing their faces as they show us what they made. Sharing our love of wool and felting, and these little interactions with people are what our business is all about. We felt, design, package, and sell everything ourselves, which allows our customers to see the proverbial "man behind the green curtain".
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?The best advice we could give is to follow your dream, make a vision board, and hold in your mind the things you want to bring towards you and the steps you want to take. There is no better feeling then waking up excited to go to work, and we often reflect on our success with gratitude for how our customers have supported and embraced our creative vision. Also, give it time, and let your creative vision evolve.
What does American Made mean to you?We have spent the past few years working hard to make sure all of our kit materials were made in America. The last piece of the puzzle fell into place this year with our new kit packaging, and we are now proud to say that Going Gnome is 100% American Made. Our successful Kickstarter project helped us launch this next step in our business. We believe in the power of buying and supporting our local communities, and the relationships that doing business locally builds. We have developed close personal relationships with our suppliers as well as our customers.
Mark Your Calendar
NOMINATIONSJun. 17, 2015
Nominate yourself or other aspiring entrepreneurs.Learn about American Made
VOTING BEGINSSep. 21, 2015
Vote for your favorite makers.
WINNERS ANNOUNCEDOct. 23, 2015
2015 Editors' Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.See past Award Winners
AMERICAN MADE SUMMITNov. 7, 2015
Don’t miss our networking event and maker lecture series in New York City. Tickets available July 2015.