Operating an independent business is a journey, and no two paths are the same. We welcome you to meet the folks behind some of our favorite businesses as they share their stories, the fuel behind their craft, and the passion that keeps them making.
This month, we are so excited to introduce you to Susan Hazel Rich and Hazelmade!
Q: Tell us about how Hazelmade came to be.
A: I didn’t always know I wanted to be a designer and business owner. When it came time to declare a major in college, I landed on graphic design not really knowing much about it. I ended up loving design, color theory, and typography, but shied away from my required illustration classes. Years later, after working in a variety of graphic design positions, I began playing around with illustration in my free time and trying to sneak it into projects at work. I’m grateful for all the positions I had after college that gave me the space to find illustration again and learn more and more about design along the way.
As my love for illustration grew, I began considering a shift from my career path as a graphic designer. I wanted to find a place to grow creatively while crafting products. So much of my career up to this point was graphic design, which is often creating pieces in the digital space. I wanted to make something that I could hold in my hands: objects, pieces of art. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but I set off to find out.
I let myself dive in without fear holding me back. I tried and failed and kept trying until slowly different pieces began to click. My first set of products was greeting cards. Once I took the leap, the happiness that filled me was worth the risk.
Q: What does a typical day or week look like to you?
A: I start my mornings with a walk in the neighborhood or along one of my favorite local trails. After that, I usually grab a smoothie and coffee and dive into work.
I begin by working through my emails and preparing what’s ahead for the day. Every day is different, so this quiet time to organize and see what needs attention is vital to me staying on track. If there are any orders that need to ship urgently I’ll focus on those. If any creative work needs to happen, such as sketching new designs or laying out a catalog, I am most productive in the morning, so I’d give those priority.
I usually grab lunch at home, and it’s usually at my desk. Lately, I’ve been trying to really pause and take time to enjoy lunch with our summer garden in our backyard. After lunch I like to take on tasks that involve more movement and getting away from my computer like packing orders, organizing the studio, or running errands. Sometimes I need more time at my desk to check in with customers, set up newsletters, or work on social media posts. I’m also always sneaking in time for managing inventory, ordering products or supplies, and packaging materials.
All this to say, every day is a little different! And I really love that about my work. Some days I’m a “creative” and some days I’m a “business owner” and some days I’m “head of marketing”. There’s always one constant: I’m learning something new every day.
Q: Is there any interesting trivia or a fun fact behind your brand you’d like to share?
A: Despite all the florals and garden inspiration that runs deep through my work, I am not a gardener and do not have a knack for keeping houseplants alive. I do, however, love visiting gardens when we travel or locally as well. We inherited a beautiful garden with our home (our entire front yard and nearly all of the backyard as well!) and my husband Charlie diligently cares for those outdoor spaces as well as our indoor plants. My favorite garden we ever visited while traveling is the botanical gardens in Dublin, Ireland—they were massive and totally free for everyone to enjoy.
Q: Can you divulge your secret to staying energized and inspired?
A: I’m not sure I have that one figured out yet! What I do know is that I love my work and I love the challenges of owning a business. Building something of my own just clicks with my personality and way of working, so I love and enjoy all that goes into that. I guess it never feels like “work.” Sure, things can be stressful and hard, but my work never feels like anything I can’t figure out or don’t want to show up for.
Q: What’s your advice for overcoming challenges in the independent biz space? Is there any advice you’d give your younger self starting out?
A: I don’t know who said this to me or where I picked this phrase up along the way, but I often think about “Just show up.” The idea being that you just have to show up, every day, all day, with the commitment to learn and grow and try. As long as you’re showing up you’re moving forward, even if it’s the tiniest little step. This is actually what I did without fail when I was starting out. I look back at that person and see there was no fear of failure, and I really did just show up relentlessly day after day. When I was starting out I didn’t stress about the learning curve, or what I didn’t know, or what mistakes I would make. So you asked what I would tell my younger self, but in reality, these days I find myself looking back to that person for inspiration. As my business grows and I have new responsibilities of space, rent, employees, and more, I need to remember I can’t have it all figured out. I just need to show up, be open to learning, and not stress over the process of growing.
Q: What do you feel sets you apart in the independent biz/maker space?
A: My commitment to making all of my products in the Midwest / USA, from quality materials that are meant to last. This idea starts with a desire to create beautiful, functional pieces of art with the intention that they will be used, loved, enjoyed, and will hold up over time. I can’t do this all on my own, so the idea grows to include partnerships with other small businesses and makers. Because I want to be working collaboratively with these partners, they are often located near me, creating a tighter location for our production. This results in quality crafted, small-batch goods that are made in the Midwest / USA. An added bonus to this process is reducing Hazelmade’s impact on the environment through less shipping and importing.
Q: We really admire your recently launched bandana collection — what’s the story behind them?
A: The bandanas started like any idea at Hazelmade; I wanted to design a bandana. I didn’t know what this meant or how to achieve this but I was set to explore the idea. Knowing that I had several requests from customers for bandanas I felt like there was enough interest to at least explore a small batch of bandanas.
My first step was to source a USA / midwest made, quality bandana. Although there were USA made options, the fabrics and quality fell short for me.
Heading back to the drawing board I began searching for sewing partners to perhaps make my own bandanas. Through my research I pulled samples of fabrics, tested out samples and went round and round trying to find the perfect recipe for a “Hazelmade” bandana.
In the end, these pieces are sewn from the softest lightweight cotton poplin that is easy to wear, style, tie, wash and only gets better over time. I worked with my long-time printing partner to screen print the design with a soft, environmentally friendly ink.
So far these have been a hit, and I’m always grateful for my communities support and encouragement with any new idea! I’m working on reimagining this product to make it even better; I hope to introduce a production method that helps reduce material waste and offers flexibility to create more colors, designs and patterns in the future.
About Susan – and, go!
Q: What’s your go-to coffee and/or tea order?
A: Light roast with a splash of oat milk.
Q: Markets or Online Shop?
Q: While working/making: Podcasts, Playlists, or Streaming?
Q: Early Bird or Night Owl?
A: Early Bird
Q: Instagram or TikTok?
Q: Summer Markets or Holiday Markets?
A: Holiday markets
Where to follow Hazelmade:
- Instagram: @hazelmade
- Website: shopHazelmade.com, sign up for my newsletter for special events / sales / new product launches – link at my website to signup.
I will continue to take the rest of 2021 off from in-person markets, but will be hosting several online events. We’re also moving into a new studio in downtown Kent, Ohio, and I hope to offer private shopping events along with workshops in the new space. Finally, keep an eye out for my new fall / winter collection launching in early September.
You can sign up for my newsletter at shopHazelmade.com to be the first to know about events, sales, new products, or holiday promotions.
Enter the giveaway with this link!
Now through Sunday 8/15, enter with this link for one entry. You can enter as many times as you’d like, but will only be added to the Hazelmade and SASHA email lists each once.
Are you a maker or small business owner interested in being featured in a future maker story? Contact us!