Local Business Highlight: Halfmile Handmade
We've said it before and we'll say it again, there is nothing we love more than supporting other entrepreneurs and cheering them on as they pursue their dreams. This weeks highlight does just that every single day! This local shop provides a place for local makers to sell their products to all of us. Let's gets to know more about Half Mile Handmade.
Let's get to know more about Capri
My name is Capri Wisniewski, Bay City born and raised! I went to Northwood University for a degree in Marketing and Management and directly after went to SVSU and got my MBA. I graduated during the "Great Recession" and getting a real job in the Tri-City area was next to impossible, so I felt I needed to move in order to get a job. I went to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, and now back to Columbus over the past or so years each time with the thought and intention of getting that real job, using that degree I worked hard to earn.
I've always been a creative person, learned a lot from my mom and grandma who were and still are both very crafty ladies. There is not a time in my life that I can recall not making something with my hands. I'd say I started getting slightly more business minded about making when I moved to Pittsburgh. The job I got there took up most of the hours of my day and I was longing for a creative and fulfilling outlet. I started sewing baby onesies made from recycled t-shirts on Etsy mainly just on the side and as I had time.
When I moved to Indianapolis, I added to the onesies and started offering cloth shoes and bibs as well. By the end of my time in Indianapolis, I knew I wanted to make crafts my full-time-gig, and I moved to Columbus, Ohio (what I perceive as the mecca of all things handmade in the midwest) to seriously pursue that dream. When I got to Columbus I filed for my LLC and started contacting local shops, setting up at craft shows, and hustling however I could to get my brand and business out there in the world. That's how I started my first business called Craftinista Girl. Throughout all of this I've always had at least 1-2 other jobs, with bartending being my steady means of income and retail coming in as a close second.
After a couple years of hustling hard for Craftinista Girl, I came to terms with the fact that this would likely never be able to pay all of my bills on it's own, but I did (and still do) absolutely love all of the work I do for this business. This is when I started seriously considering opening my own store full of all the handmade things! Columbus is pretty saturated with handmade shops, and real estate prices were way higher than I could afford so I needed to figure out a different way.
I adore my hometown of Bay City, Michigan and probably would have never left in the first place had I been able to find a job. My entire family still lives in the area, so I had been back to visit over the years and kept up with what was happening via social media. I saw Jen Acosta developing properties downtown, I saw Laura Horwath opening the cutest little clothing boutique, and I saw the Heppners doing their thing with Populace Coffee. It was so refreshing to see young people creating jobs in Bay City and being successful at it and I wanted so badly to have a part in making my hometown a destination again!
So Mother's Day weekend in 2016 I had a realtor show me some vacant properties on a whim. I fell in love with the character our first location on Water Street, asked how I could lease it, shook the landlords hand the very next day, and all of the sudden I was actually opening a GD store! I had some direction, but no definitive plan and it was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
Why did she start Half Mile Handmade?
I started Half Mile Handmade because I love all things handmade and all of the talented people that are out there in the world making things they love and believe in. Promoting the makers that we work with at the shop has always always always been paramount for me. Five years later and I still get excited when new products come in and I get to share them on social media or in person with customers that walk in the store.
As a maker myself, I have a heart for what the creatives we work with are trying to accomplish. Even if they only sell items with us for a short time until their business takes off, it's so rewarding to know that we may have had a small hand in helping them achieve their bigger business goals. In addition, being able to provide folks with a job and teach customer service and merchandising skills has been awesome. And of course, I've loved bringing this concept of shopping handmade to my hometown of Bay City, Michigan. We get compliments on how cute our store is constantly, and I've always got to hand it to our makers for being so talented and creative and making our store as cute as it is - we just put it out on the shelves, they've actually made the amazing products that we stock!
Where is Half Mile?
WE MOVED! The shop is now located at 910 Washington Avenue Bay City, MI 48708. You can also shop select items on our website.
What are their plans for the future?
We've done a couple "crazy" things over the years like setting up a space at City Market for about a year and doing a pop-up in Detroit for three months. Between those endeavors and relocating in October, I'm trying to chill out for a bit and not take on additional locations or projects at this time. An overarching goal that I have for myself is to seek out other small towns similar to Bay City and open handmade shops there as well, but it may be some time before any of that can become a reality. For now, I'm happy to continue working on what we currently have going + try to move more items to e-commerce and reach more customers online.
What inspires the products and vendors that Capri chooses for the shop?
My criteria for what we sell at the store is honestly pretty vague. #1, it must be handmade and #2, we really prefer that it be made in the USA. My catch phrase for this is "if it's cool and handmade, we'll take it!" We have an application available on our website for folks to submit their items for consideration and I look at each and every application that we receive. We try to keep duplicates to a minimum, so if we already work with someone that makes an item, we will pass for the time being, but hold on to everyone's contact information in the event that it becomes a good fit in the future.
I look for items that have a modern handmade aesthetic and try to stay away from items with the more primitive crafts look to them. We are always looking for new makers to join our shop (aka applications NEVER close) and I try to get at least 4 new vendors in (minimum) each month so inventory is always new/fresh/updated.
What can you find at Half Mile Handmade?
When I tell people about Half Mile Handmade I describe it as a handmade gift shop. We literally have everything, so it's hard to group the items we sell into a handful of categories. Our best selling items overall are stickers and greeting cards. Folks can shop in person at our brick-and-mortar in Bay City or via our website. We're also always happy to make arrangements to ship anything pictured in our feed. We want to get our handmade items into everyone's hands, and I'll do whatever we need to to make that happen!
What Capri has learned since starting her business
I've learned so much during my time owning a brick and mortar, I could write a book about the ups and downs. The major take away for me is that it's not easy. I thought I had this wonderful idea for a store and that everyone would just love it and know about it and come in. Not that I thought it would be all rainbows and unicorns, but generally I thought who wouldn't want to come out of their way to see the unique items we have for themselves?! Instead, it has been a constant struggle to market the shop and get foot traffic. We have close to 1,000 items on our website now too and are lucky to get one order per week. I spend a lot of time questioning my approach, marketing skills, what I could be doing different to get the word out or make people buy. So far, it's been a lot of trial and error and I anticipate it will be a lot more of that (maybe even forever)?
Advice to other entrepreneurs
All of that being said, my piece of advice is to just start. If you have an idea of something that you want to do or see or accomplish just start. I wouldn't have Half Mile Handmade if I wouldn't have just started. For me personally, I get in my head and try to make my plan and approach 100% perfect so things can go flawlessly, but I've found that with just starting things tend to work themselves out and can become a reality much faster than living in my brain for a year. So now, when I have an idea for a promotion or even that I want to do, I just start taking the steps to make it happen instead of dwelling on the details.
Seriously how awesome is this little shop?! Half Mile is the perfect place to stop into to find a gift for everyone and anyone. The best part is you're supporting tons of small businesses while you do it. Next time you're in Downtown Bay City you definitely need to stop into Half Mile Handmade. We're so lucky to be one of their neighbors!
Check back next week for another highlight!
Follow Half Mile Handmade: @halfmilehandmade