Meet Your ‘Maker’ for Fun and Profit

tip_061213aBy Sabine Lenz

The bad news: In October, two-star restaurant Cyrus closed in Healdsburg, Calif. The good news: This closure freed up James Beard- award-winning pastry chef Nicole Plue to focus on her own new line of ready-to-eat toppings and snacks: “Sideshow by Nicole Plue.”

These are not your average toppings. With names like Cereal Thriller and Four Play how could they be?! And how could they be sold and shipped in anything but a very unique package?

Letterpress printing on craft board is Plue’s choice. There’s not a single flimsy white pastry box in sight. Customers are buying something exceptional, and that experience starts with the packaging and the labeling.

Welcome to the “maker movement” (a.k.a. artisan movement or cottage industries). Whatever you call it, this is an evolution of millions of people who are taking big risks to start their own small businesses, to embrace their passions by creating new and interesting things. And this movement provides new opportunities for you.


Artisans of the new economy
According to this “Future of Small Business” report, “The next 10 years will see a re-emergence of artisans as an economic force.”

In a world of mass-produced products, modern technology has made it easier than ever for a single individual to create and distribute items that are customizable and unique without having additional middlemen involved.

These artisan entrepreneurs are not just bakers and candlestick makers, they’re authors, manufacturers of small but exclusive lines of luxury items, niche consultants, life coaches …  and their numbers are growing daily, with new collaborative “maker spaces” popping up all over the country.

A billion dollar industry
Each day, we wake up and make decisions about buying things that we could have gotten at – let’s face it – half the price. Take your morning coffee. You could grab a cup at any corner store, but prefer to indulge in Jamaican Blue Mountain ($120 per pound) at Philz Coffee, which some claim is the best coffee house in the Bay Area.

Why? We work hard and we want the best. Not only in the products we buy, but also in the experience that goes with it. We want unique. We want premium.

In a time when you can buy inexpensive (dare I say cheap) greeting cards in any supermarket, people flock to sites like Etsy for the unconventional and the unique.

Etsy now has more than 1 million artisan sellers. Handmade products of all kinds are sold on the site, generating nearly a billion (this is not a typo) dollars in revenue last year.

Reviving a lost craft
But you don’t have to look that far online. A few years ago, San Francisco-based Tailor Stitch set out to create the best custom shirt possible. Partnering with a family business that provided the manufacturing expertise, the company now successfully sells their casual, custom shirts at $125 each.

Many artisan entrepreneurs like Tailor Stitch release new products weekly, and like any good product, they need labeling, packaging and other printed pieces like direct mail that call the potential buyer to action: “print-to-action” materials.

“This new breed of what we’re calling ‘makers’ is doing things a little differently,” explains Bart Robinson, VP of marketing at Mohawk. “They’re putting a new spin on it or are going back to the original craft that had been lost.”

And Robinson should know. Mohawk is about to launch its new “Mohawk Maker Quarterly” – a newsletter solely dedicated to those makers and shakers – later this month.


Creating a unique product
Microbrewers are a perfect example. There are many types of beer readily available at any outlet. But for these artisans, it’s not about mass-producing beer. It’s about using certain hops that weren’t used before to give their beer a unique taste.

These are not necessarily products for everyday consumption, but they give us the feeling of something handmade … something artisan, which, after a super digital day, we all so desperately crave.

“How does this relate to me and my business?” I hear you ask. You think this is not for you? These potatoes are too small to ever require your services?

Focusing on quality at all levels
No, some of these artisans will not become your clients. Some will order cheap business cards in small quantities from online sites that offer design templates (I dare not mention any names here. ;-)). Others may create their labels on inexpensive label stock on their desktop inkjet printer. But you wouldn’t want those businesses as your clients anyway, would you? 😉

Overall, the new artisan entrepreneurs are focused on quality – high quality – and not just when it comes to their products, but their businesses in general.

Business cards are one aspect. A premium, handcrafted product cannot be accompanied by a flimsy business card. A high-quality product demands a well-designed card that matches the identity and philosophy of the company and is printed on a high-quality stock.

Designing print-to-action materials
These new entrepreneurs need you. They need your help and insights into what is possible – beyond a business card or the simple tri-fold.

They might need short-run packaging. But there’s also potential for direct mail, catalogs, booklets and promotional materials, possibly with some augmented reality or QR codes sprinkled in.

“The maker movement is just building,” explains Robinson. “And what we need to do is make sure that printers and designers know that they need to promote their craft. They are, after all, some of the oldest makers in the world.”

Indeed we are. We are and always were artists and artisans. Folks who like to create. Folks who like to create something stunning, something eye-catching and beautiful.

We know our craft. We can envision the impeccable design concept for their brand, enhance this vision with the perfect paper for their printed materials, and enhance their products and marketing materials with just the right printing techniques.

In short, we are uniquely suited to help this new breed of maker entrepreneur to achieve his or her dream … and as any good business owner today will tell you, their success is yours as well!

CTA-button1P.S. Mohawk will host some of these makers at their booth during the upcoming HOW Conference, so put that on your must-see list if you’re attending the show. I’ll definitely be there when DODOcase sets up its mobile workshop to show us how the classic iPad case and DODOnotes are created.


sabine_120Seeing designers worldwide struggle to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine Lenz to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper selection tool and weekly e-newsletter. Growing up in Germany, she started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving on to Australia and the United States. Lenz worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM, and KPMG. Lenz is a noted speaker and author on paper issues and educational topics related to the paper industry.

Copyright 2013


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