Many of us entertain the idea of founding our own little enterprise centered around something we really love to do, but I think it takes real courage to start following your dreams and probably even fiercer determination to keep following them when every now and then the road turns bumpy. Carving out your path as a recognized artisan is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards of tenacity are manifold. Lisa Nowakowski, owner of The Happy Acorn, the purveyor of fantastic and unique handmade cake toppers (and handmade jewelry, gifts and collectibles) lets us take a peek behind the curtain, and find out what it is like to run a creative family business. She also shares a few craft secrets along the way.
Kawaii is Tough Work, interview with Lisa part 2
It all depends on how much you want to do it vs. doing something else. You have to make up your mind and not take no for an answer
How did you start you business?
I started The Happy Acorn with a love for Kawaii and for polymer clay, with jewelry, primarily. I was already making clay figures that I had in another Etsy shop called Oddmonsters a few years prior to The Happy Acorn. And my husband was making figures from wood for which we set up an Etsy shop called Wee Wood Be Pals. Then we moved into cake toppers for The Happy Acorn.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My husband and I inspire each other, and we love animals, cartoons, toy figures, miniatures, and cute things in general. We are always coming up with new drawings and ideas. Our daughter also inspires us, and we love to bounce new ideas off of her and get her opinion. One of the most often heard “words” around our house is, “Awww!!”
How long does it take to finish a cake topper?
From sketch to completion, between eight and twelve hours. More when it’s a brand-new design.
How often do you develop a new cake topper character?
We are always coming up with new characters. Finding the time to make them all into three-dimensional figures can be challenging.
Who are your primary customers?
What are they looking for in their decorations?
I think something cute and loveable that pulls on their heartstrings and that symbolizes their love. And sometimes they want to be able to request special added details.
What was the all time most popular product?
Our kitty cats wedding cake topper.
What gives you the most satisfaction in your work?
When I finish a piece and see it come to life in 3-D.
Would you encourage others to follow in your lead, and test their creativity on a professional level?
As long as they keep in mind that it’s not easy. It’s hard work and long hours. And it’s not just playing with clay and paint. There’s a lot involved with making a piece work, and there’s a lot involved with running the business and marketing. Not to mention competition. And it can be emotionally draining as well, especially when there’s a lull in business. It all depends on how much you want to do it vs. doing something else. You have to make up your mind and not take no for an answer. That can be hard. Problem-solving type people want to always leave a back door open in case things don’t work out, and when you do that, it’s hard to stick with it and shut those doubting voices up in your mind when the going gets tough and you’re eating hot dogs again. I know that from experience!
What are the pitfalls of such a business and how can you overcome them?
I would say wasting time and spending too much on supplies and/or unnecessary tools. My biggest time waster is the computer. I have a short attention span, and I will be working online and then I’ll be distracted with an idea that pops into my mind or an interesting article or video. I have to make sure I reserve non-business computer time for later in the evening. I try to keep an open Word doc and jot things on it to look up later. As far as supplies, like anything else, I don’t buy anything spontaneously. If I don’t need it at the moment, I don’t buy it. And I’ve learned that many tools and supplies (which can be very expensive) are not necessary and even some that are can be homemade or improvised with something around the house.
What are your plans for the future?
We’d like to start our own website, do some local print advertising, and possibly teach classes. I would also like to get into ceramics as well as precious metal art clay. And my husband is currently working on a comic book series for kids that we would like to publish.
Are you planning on expanding the business?
We would like to expand more locally, possibly working with bakeries.
Thank you Lisa for sharing your thoughts with us! We here at CuteIsCute wish you and your husband the very best for all your future endeavors! :)
Available here: The Happy Acorn
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