It's hard not to be inspired by the artists and makers of the Cleveland Flea. Brilliant, talented, creative. They're tough as bleepin' nails on their ways to making their dreams come true. We began The Maker Series to take a look — behind the scenes, beyond the booth — to see what drives our makers to do what they love and love what they do.
A maker is a creator, a trendsetter, and molder of minds–regardless of their occupation. Karla Furrer has held the title in one way or another throughout her life... and has recently reentered the creative world as owner and handmade brand architect at Bella Studio. The former teacher, current mother, and now handbag/jewelry/textile designer has covered the gamut of creative influence. Insight into Karla's business processes, as well as immediate goals and community engagements, are shared with us in our Maker Series interview below.
Cleveland Flea: What was your path to beginning your business?
Karla Furrer: Creative is how I have always been. I'm not sure I would have called it creative at a young age, but I was definitely a maker! Crafts of every kind brought me pure happiness! From there, fashion and the beauty of expression through clothing. My business evolved out of a desire to learn and make a living creating. After teaching elementary school and then as a stay-at-home mom, I started making and selling as a side "gig". It's come a long way from there.
CF: Why do you love what you do?
KF: I love to learn, and the actual process of making is what it's all about for me. Making something that creates a connection with a customer brings meaning into my work.
CF: Why does Cleveland need a business like this?
KF: Cleveland has an authenticity about it. Embracing the creative community tells a story of the people that call it home and the community they belong to.
CF: Why is Cleveland a great place to launch and run a creative business?
KF: Because the people of Cleveland have a pride that is reflective in their love of community, entrepreneurship, hard work and creativity. Home grown is powerful!
CF: What's the best part of running your own business?
KF: The best part is stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to grow in areas I'm not so comfortable with. Each success allows me to feel pride and a growing confidence about my future as a maker.
CF: What's your biggest struggle from a business standpoint?
KF: Budgeting! I'm obsessed with everything and a tiny bit impulsive. Balancing what I want for my work and my finances is quite a challenge! babysteps...
CF: What are your goals for the business this year?
KF: I want to continue growing my business by giving my web site and social media the love they need to thrive. Participating in a handmade/wholesale show sounds thrilling and terrifying, I'd like to see that in my future.
CF: Did you see yourself growing up to be a creative vendor?
KF: No, I knew a creative life was a part of my story, but I didn't see the possibility beyond making things just to make. It's thrilling that the things I create resonate with customers. It makes me feel like we're connected in a small way.
CF: What's the first big moment where you knew you were headed in the right direction with your business?
KF: I'm always questioning myself, wondering if I should get a "real" job and be normal like everyone else. But when I connect with that customer that is so enthusiastic and thrilled with a purchase, it just confirms that I'm on the right track!
CF: Who inspires you?
KF: My family always inspires me! They love and support my crazy work life and always jump into help when I need it. They inspire me to do my best.
CF: Have you learned anything about your business by participating in Cleveland Flea?
KF: I have always been one with a passion for visual merchandising and the Cleveland Flea just takes it to a new level! Creating an inviting and engaging shopping experience is a beautiful gift for everyone that attends. It makes me want to step up my game!
CF: What's your favorite piece of advice as it relates to your business?
KF: Work hard, keep learning and growing and stay involved with like minded people. They are full of advice, inspiration and support.
CF: What's one thing people would be surprised to learn about your business?
KF: That it's much more than a business, it's my work and my play...it's a refection of me.
CF: How would you hope to hear your business described by your dream customers?
KF: I would love to hear them describe my handmades as impactful pieces that add style to their wardrobe and express their love of artful accessories.
CF: What's your favorite booth at the flea?
KF: I'm obsessed with Kukuli rugs and pillows!