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.
Every person has that one sturdy, steadfast item that they depend on day-in and day-out. For owners of a Fount accessory, chances are that's your go-to good. Designed to intersect with our lives as both tools and objects of admiration, Fount bags are the products of husband and wife team Phillip and Jackie Watcher. They've grown their business from a two-person operation to a small business with a busy studio full of staff members... and now to a brick-and-mortar location in Cleveland's Gordon Square neighborhood. Read on for a peek into their creative processes and a more thorough view of their business's backstory.
Cleveland Flea: What was your path to beginning your business?
Jackie Watcher and Phillip Watcher: In 2013, with just a few hand tools and some leather scraps, we started making simple wallets and necklaces and sold them to friends and family. After receiving an overwhelming sense of support and encouragement from family and friends, we designed what is our signature Bellfield Tote. Now, we strive to introduce several new bag and accessory designs per year!
CF: Why do you love what you do?
JW & PW: We love what we do because everyday is different and exciting. We go from meetings, to designing, to collaborations, and we love it all! We are very passionate about bringing the fashion industry back to the US and creating more jobs right here in Cleveland, Ohio.
CF: Why does Cleveland need a business like this?
JW & PW: Clevelanders have been so supportive of FOUNT because they love the freshness of having their products made to last and supporting our mission of “Quality over Quantity.”
CF: Why is Cleveland a great place to launch and run a creative business?
JW & PW: Cleveland is the best place in the world to launch and run a creative business because the artists are supportive of each other as opposed to competitive. We have had an abundance of support and love from Cleveland, and it’s such a testimony of the beautiful people here! We tell everyone we know that Cleveland is the place to start a company, annnnnd the place to move to!
CF: What's the best part of running your own business?
JW & PW: Our wonderful staff! We love them and truly have become family! We wouldn’t be where we are without such an incredible and committed group of team mates!
CF: What's your biggest struggle from a business standpoint?
JW & PW: There are not enough hours in 1 day to do all the things!
CF: What are your goals for the business this year?
JW & PW: Our goal for FOUNT this year is to come out with 2 new product lines and continue to collaborate with artists around the country. We strive to continue to grow our presence around Cleveland as we welcome people to come check out our storefront and visit us at pop-ups around the city.
CF: Did you see yourself growing up to be a creative vendor?
JW & PW: Yes, Phillip and I were always making things and starting imaginary businesses when we were young. I made necklaces and was selling them out of my locker in 6th grade, and Phillip made hand-made beanie babies and sold them at school too!
CF: What's the first big moment where you knew you were headed in the right direction with your business?
JW & PW: Shortly after our first time at Cleveland Flea, The Bellefield Tote received exposure in a nation-wide magazine. It was at that time we moved our working space out of our 2-bedroom apartment and into a studio in downtown Cleveland in order to produce more, hire employees, and purchase more machinery to make us more efficient.
CF: Who inspires you?
JW & PW: Our staff here at FOUNT inspires us everyday, and encourages us to work with excellence. They are all so passionate about their work and they all bring a level of wonder and fun to FOUNT that is irreplaceable.
CF: Have you learned anything about your business by participating in Cleveland Flea?
JW & PW: The Cleveland Flea was the best thing that happened to our business!!! The Flea gives us a monthly opportunity to present our products to such an amazing and vast audience that appreciate the quality and love behind each of our handcrafted bags and accessories. We would not be where we are today without the Cleveland Flea and their commitment to serve local businesses by providing us all with a platform to introduce our products to our city!
CF: What's your favorite piece of advice as it relates to your business?
JW & PW: In this age of disposable fashion, we want to offer our clients an alternative-product, we want to provide products that are heirloom in nature and designed to be passed along in the years to come. Our mission as a company is to lead consumers toward the movement of owning less stuff, and instead purchasing only the products that we can feel good about from start to finish. Ultimately choosing quality over quantity!
CF: What's one thing people would be surprised to learn about your business?
Although we may seem very serious about our business, we also love to have a good time at work! Our staff has a ton of fun together and is unbelievably silly: We’re a work hard, play hard kind of crew!
CF: How would you hope to hear your business described by your dream customers?
JW & PW: We would hope to hear our business described as quality from the products we create to the customer service we offer. As mentioned before, FOUNT means “An abundant source of desirable quality.” Each piece is created from premium materials and constructed with the utmost attention to detail. In small batches, we design, cut, and sew each product in-house to ensure our quality is paramount. We want both the craftsman and the customer to be proud of each leather good coming out of our production house.
CF: What's your favorite booth at the flea?
JW & PW: Oceanne. Anne, is a beautifully talented artist and dear friend. She designs her pieces with inspiration from her life and has such fresh, simple, and chic collections. We love supporting all of our local Cleveland artists and we are honored to be a part of such a wonderful city and community of makers!