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Big-Time Biz Lady: Angela Brown of Craft Lake City

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Big-Time Biz Lady: Angela Brown of Craft Lake City

Academy Of Handmade

We are always surprised at the many amazing markets and show all over the country. When we heard about what was going on with Craft Lake City in Utah we were excited about all that Angela Brown was doing to support her local maker community through it. So much so, we had to make her a member when we were at Craftcation. We're thrilled to have her share about what she's up to in Salt Lake!

Q: Introduce yourself!
A: HI! I'm Angela H. Brown the Executive Director of Craft Lake City, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to educate promote and inspire local artisans while elevating the creative culture of the Utah arts community through science, technology and art. We do this by hosting monthly craft workshops with community partners like the Natural History Museum of Utah and West Elm.

In addition, we host an annual, large-scale, Do-It-Yourself faire called, Craft Lake City's DIY Festival. It is held outdoors in downtown SLC, the second weekend in August. Our DIY Fest is our largest event, with this year's faire attracting over 40,000 festival attendees. We have over 240 exhibitors that participate and 53 performing artists.

Q: How did Craft Lake City start? 
A: SLC has always had a unique art and handmade community that overlaps with the predominate conservative LDS (Mormon) culture. I grew up LDS and was raised to value homemaking skills like food preservation, gardening, sewing, etc. My mother loved to tell me stories about our Mormon Pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains in handcarts in order to migrate to Utah. These stories included narratives about the importance of working hard, creating community and learning skills to provide homemade food, clothes, crafts for others.

When the handmade movement started to see a resurgence in the early-2000s I decided it was time to take part. I wanted to see the LDS culture of my youth merge with the punk DIY culture from my high school and college years. To me, the perfect way to blend this talent with overlapping ideals was through Craft Lake City's DIY Fest. I run a local FREE monthly publication called SLUG (SaltLakeUnderGround) Magazine. In addition to publishing the print and online versions of the magazine, We produce a number of events so when I decided I wanted to create Craft Lake City, I had a great network to use for help. We ran the first DIY fest in 2009 as a SLUG Magazine event. Although it was small (2,500 attendees and 72 artisans) I knew I had created something unique with huge potential. The next year we became an LLC and by year three we were working on our nonprofit status. At the end of year four, we received the good news from the IRS and were an official nonprofit org!

We worked hard setting up monthly workshops and expanded the one-day DIY Fest event into a two-day event in year five. Last year was year six for the Craft Lake City DIY Festival and we added a VIP area for sponsors. We continually look for new ways to improve the festival experience each year. The organization is now active year-round producing workshops, exhibits and preparing for the annual DIY Fest. Although we have a paid grant-writer and a few of us get a yearly bonus for producing the DIY Fest, we are primarily a volunteer-run organization. Our goal of course, is have a full-time paid staff in the near future. I still run SLUG Mag as well as Craft Lake City. I've got two dream jobs! 

Q: What kind of makers are featured at Craft Lake City? How is your show different?
A: The Craft Lake City DIY Festival is a unique festival experience for a number of reasons. We have two stages and a busking area with over 53 local performers. We do not charge festival admission, so the event is free for the public to attend. We have a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) Building that houses numerous maker showcasing educational products, prototypes and more. We can them the DIY Engineers. All of our exhibitors and performers must currently live within our state walls. This make our festival truly unique, with an all-local line up. We also think it highlight how special out community is and showcase the diverse talent in our community. We love to educate the public about the importance of shopping locally and how their dollars impact our economy.

Q: What else is involved besides the market?
A: We believe empowering others to create is important. I love to hear stories of CLC DIY Fest attendees going home and becoming inspired to create and learn a new skill. Creating things ourselves, whether it's planting a herb garden, learning how to knit a scarf for a friend's birthday or making your own paper are great ways to relax, gain personal confidence and meet others. These are some of the reasons why I love to create. I love to see others learn that they too, can gain the skills to become a maker in whatever medium they choose!

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to do well at your shows (and other shows)? 
A: I encourage makers to continue to grow artistically. Keep pushing the boundaries and try new processes. Continue to innovate your products through trial and error, workshops and networking. This will keep your customers excited to continue to buy from you festival-after-festival. Don't be afraid to fail. Keep your inventory fresh and have an item with a price-point for everyone. Have a $3 item (even if it is just a sticker) for those customers that can't afford a large piece and have your more expensive items for those that can afford it.

Be prepared for large crowds and bring a friend to help you with the register so you can help sell. I've seen a lot of vendors lose customer due to a slow seller and short wait in line.

Q: What's the biggest mistake you see being made by people selling at craft shows? 
A: I see artisans making the mistake of forgetting to schedule help. Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for help working your booth so you can take a break, eat or use the restroom! Festivals are also good times to network with other vendors and get inspired. Plan breaks so you can do that. Make sure you train your help so your sales don't decline while you are on your breaks.

Don't forget to eat and stay hydrated! If you don't take care of yourself, you can't do your best at the event!

Q: Anything else?
A: Get involved with the handmade community! It is so much fun and there are so many wonderful relationships to be had. Learning a new skill is fun and a great way to meet new people.

Q: Where can people find you online?
A: craftlakecity.com, We'd love to have you sign up for our weekly newsletter!