2013 Audience Choice Winner
Mary Kowal & Leo Kowal
We design DIY paper craft projects that our fans create at home using their own personal electronic cutting machines.
St. Charles, Illinois
Do you remember the moment you decided to start your business? What was it like? We had a taste of what having a business could be like when Leo was having some success as an online stock photographer (with Mary occasionally striking some stock model poses). Also, Mary was having a bit of success designing and selling actual handmade cards online. Then SVGCuts was born when we decided to sell the digital designs themselves (for making cards and whatnot), and Leo created our first website!
Although we're 'high-tech,' we like to do customer service the 'old-fashioned way' and treat people like it's a small town, and they've just walked into our real little store. Mary and Leo Kowal
What do you think is the key to being a successful startup?Listen to your gut. Do what you love, and find something specific that only you can do. Do it well and do it every day! Even if you think there's no living to be made by using your gifts, start doing it anyway, and you might be surprised at an unforeseen fork in the road you can take! And of course always treat your customers the way that you would want to be treated.
Tell us about your workspace. We live in the rural outskirts of Saint Charles, Illinois, about an hour west of Chicago. We work from our home, but have specific, designated studio spaces for SVGCuts. Leo works out of a separate building on our property that functions as a photo, video and music studio, and he also handles all of our customer service there. Inside our home, two bedrooms function as more workspace. Mary creates all the paper projects from start to finish in her studio with Gucci the pampered kitty, at a really long craft table. Another bedroom is set-up as a permanent video studio, where we film all of our how-to (assembly) videos. We make sure our customers can follow along and see exactly how to create each project, step-by-step.
Geneva French Market
What inspires you? Everything is inspiration! There's that feeling of really "knowing" when you're feeling inspired by something, and we love taking a snippet of that inspiration and mixing it up into something completely fresh and exciting.
What technology do you depend on to run your business? Do you do anything the “old-fashioned” way? If so, why? We are very thankful to live in the time we do with the internet connecting us all! Without it, and without electronic die-cutters, we just don't know what we'd do with ourselves! Although we're "high-tech," we like to do customer service the "old-fashioned way" and treat people like it's a small town, and they've just walked into our real little store. Without our customers, we couldn't do what we do!
How do you use social media to promote your business? Out of all the social media, Facebook and YouTube make the most sense for us. We love seeing our fans' projects, and they love seeing each others' –– it's quite the fabulous little group of crafty friends! Facebook makes it easy for us all to connect in meaningful ways. We use YouTube to showcase our projects using Leo's cinematic-style trailers (we create entire themed scenes almost every week), and we also have step-by-step how-to assembly videos for each project.
What's your next business goal or project? We plan on remaining at the forefront of the exciting world of "technology meets paper!" We're having the time of our lives and love speculating and dreaming about the future.