Monday, May 12, 2014

Meet the Maker - Ni-Chern Designs

Hi! I'm Nicole. Someone had told me once that I shouldn’t pick a career that is my hobby.  Do you agree?

A quick history of how I started sewing. I started sewing in 1995 in a sewing class in school. I really enjoyed it! After that, I made skirts, dresses, but never much on accessories. In high school, I made the main characters’ costumes for the high school musical. 

Ni-Chern Designs was started in 2005. I was actually still in school for architecture and interior design at this time. I started selling at craft shows before I brought my business online in 2006.  Since I was paying for my college loans, I thought starting my business with my hobby would be a great way to help fill my love for sewing and pay for my loans too. … oh boy, was I wrong! This ignited a fire for me.  Sewing really took over my life; in a good way! 

Another one of my passions is giving back to the community. I didn’t know many non-profit in Kansas City that I could connect with at the time, and websites weren’t a big thing for the small non-profits.  I just choose a large organization to donate 10% of my proceeds to from 2005 – 2009.
I took a break for almost 2 years while I was taking care of my two boys and trying to climb my way up the corporate ladder.  I started selling again in 2012, and again, it took over again. This fire just wouldn’t go away!  

As the economy is starting to affect the architecture world, I held on as long as I could. I lost my job in August 2013. The day I lost my job, I told the owner that when God closes one door, another one will open. As shocked as I was at the time, I truly feel blessed.  Life took a big change as we are now living with one steady income, but I am now able to be home with my boys, focus, and work with them and homeschooling them. Even though Ni-Chern Designs is still not my full-time job, I am able to sew without feeling like I have to put it on hold for the corporate world.

In 2014, I wanted to give back to the community again. is probably the best decision I have made this year! The things that they do for the kids in our community really touched me and the opportunity to help out by donating is something that I am really proud of! 

There is not a day that I think I need to go back to the corporate world. I love where I am now, I love being with my children full-time, and I love sewing without holding back.  There are always setbacks in life, but there is nothing to regret when I can be with and help teach my boys. This is more rewarding than a plaque on the wall.

The lesson that I learned is there is nothing wrong with having your hobby as your career. You will enjoy life a lot more, and not always thinking… “what if”. I often think “what if I decided to do something that involved sewing, costume design, fashion design?” ... “what if …” … don’t let the what if’s get in your way. Do what you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Meet the Maker: iamthemandy

Meet the maker, Mandy Renee Stos; the crafter and upcycling diva behind iamthemandy.

I’m not only an artist and entrepreneur, but an inventive environmentalist. I combine craft with recycling, producing items that are unique, functional, and the ultimate in eco-chic. I believe that upcycling a single item, can help reduce waste and create a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Upcycling is defined as: the process of converting unwanted materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. Her product line is designed entirely of 85-90% reused or re-purposed materials. I strive to help promote and encourage other citizens to upcycle or simply donate any unwanted items to local organizations. Doing so keeps landfills down, promotes green efficiency and makes you feel all giddy inside.

I got started crafting while I was in college. I didn’t have much money to be spending on gifts, so I started making them instead. I took unwanted clothing and started creating. I designed my first upcycled material cuff.

After making a handful for friends and family, they started telling me that people asked where they bought them and suggested I started selling them. I started on a small scale by setting up a booth on Thursday nights at “Top City Thursdays.” Since then, I’ve upgraded my set up and created a better display to showcase my items.

During this time, I decided to start expanding my product line from cuffs, to earrings and necklaces. I started using magazines, tshirts, fabric scraps, and any other items I could get my hands on. I went to garage and estate sales, and might’ve even jumped in a dumpster or two.

In 2010, I started to become a local name and with the help of social media, iamthemandy was slowly spreading. I then began offering over 15 jewelry and accessories on my website I also sell on Etsy as well as eight retail locations across the United States. I can be found in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Throughout the past few years, iamthemandy has claimed several green awards. In 2011, iamthemandy was voted the BEST Place to Shop Green in KC by The Pitch. iamthemandy took third place this year, but also snagged third in the best local accessories designer.

This year, iamthemandy has taken a new direction with products and has expanded into the upcycled furniture market. I currently offer upcycled pallet coolers in several stains. They can be found at four locations in Kansas and Missouri. Next on my agenda are outdoor tables and chairs. Be on the lookout, but don’t forget we take custom orders for almost anything! 

iamthemandy is excited to be part of the Handmade in KC movement. Being part of such a strong crafting community is an honor. Be sure to look up all of our members and follow them online.