It's like going to a foreign country and not knowing the language. That's how Jenny Gunter describes starting a business for the first time. Luckily, her partner, Jenn Bade, has done this before, having run a fundraising business several years ago.
“I probably would have fallen on my face,” says Gunter. “I'm following Jenn's lead, and thankfully she has that experience.”
As the friends, crafters and former dental assistants saw things like Pinterest and painting parties grow in popularity, they saw an opportunity in their hometown of Bradenton. They came up with the idea for the Makers Market and Workshops last May and have been running with it ever since. They plan an Oct. 29 grand opening.
The store will offer regularly scheduled workshops and private parties where customers can get crafty by staining, painting and stenciling rustic wooden signs, planter boxes and centerpieces. “People are looking for something they can go do with their friends instead of just going to dinner all the time,” says Bade. “And they want the DIY experience. They want to learn how to do something.”
Most projects will incorporate wood, at least in the beginning. Bade has been making and selling wooden signs on her own for several years, and her father, a master carpenter, will be preassembling the pieces on which customers will work. But the co-owners see the possibility for other kinds of crafting down the road as well. They will likely invite other do-it-yourselfers with experience in different areas to teach a workshop.
The Makers Market will also feature a retail component, offering rustic-meets-coastal merchandise, personalized gifts and items made by local vendors. “We like homemade, and we think that homemade is appreciated a lot more in the last 10 years than it used to be,” says Bade.
Living in Bradenton, the two have seen lots of businesses either set up shop in or relocate to Lakewood Ranch in recent years. But despite that community's continued growth, they felt it wasn't the right fit for their idea. “There's already a lot there,” says Bade. “I think we would just get swallowed up out there.”
Instead, they chose a location in Cortez Village next to the Sage Biscuit Cafe, where they hope to get foot traffic. It's also close to their homes and kids' schools.
The venture is self-financed at this point, mainly because loans aren't easy to get when you don't have any customers. “To be able to start a business from scratch, you really have to use your personal backing to do it,” says Bade.
They've been taking advantage of the free mentoring offered by Manasota SCORE, working with a volunteer mentor with a marketing background. “I think that's why things have moved so quickly, because of Jenn's past experience and the fact that we've had a mentor who's been very encouraging,” says Gunter.
To get the word out about their endeavor, they've been using Twitter and running contests on Facebook. They also hosted prototype workshops at Bade's home to let people sample the concept and provide feedback.
Their desire to give back to the community should also help the business gain traction. They plan to hold monthly fundraising workshops to benefit nonprofit organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The Makers Market will donate 50% of the proceeds from the workshops, a move that allows Bade and Gunter to exercise their philanthropic interests and helps get the business's name out into the community.
“The organizations we're hosting the workshops for will be doing a lot of marketing for us as well,” says Gunter. “They want people to come so these workshops are filled.”
The two hope to see the business take off in its first year and turn their much-loved pastime into a money-making venture. “When people come in, I want them to be like, 'This place is so cool,'” says Bade. “Owning your own business is different than working for someone else. It's yours, something to be proud of and for other people to enjoy. I think that makes a huge difference.”