When you support your local businesses and subscribe to their newsletters (here's the link to mine - thanks!) you are rewarding hard work, keeping dollars in your own community, and growing new ideas.
You are not alone. In a recent survey, 62% of US shoppers said they prefer buying goods that are handmade (from The Guardian, Sept. 4, 2022.) They are calling it an 'artisan revolution.'
I'd like you to meet the people who make my Vivid Cottage products.
First, when you shop from Vivid Cottage you deal directly with me, Kerstin Rao, (Rao like 'Wow!') the artist and business woman.
But it takes a small-business VILLAGE to bring my quality products to your home. Your support impacts their lives, as well.
Let's meet the people!
Kerstin Rao with artwork for Vivid Cottage.
Photo by Alice Patterson of Loving My Company.
Location: Hayvn Co-Working Space in Darien.
Kristin Burrello owns Muddy Feet Flower Farm in Ashbury, Connecticut. She's owned her farm for over 10 years and creates gorgeous, original flower displays for weddings and special events. I met her at the Westport Farmers Market years ago. During the pandemic, her flowers brought me so much joy that I had to start drawing them - thus Vivid Cottage was born!
Kerstin Rao & Kristin Burrello at the Westport Farmers Market with my new Hydrangea Hues pillow
Speaking of the Westport Farmers Market, Lori Cochran took the reins as manager in 2010 and has built up a very successful local market. Thanks to her vision, the WFM raises awareness about sustainability, organizes charitable events and donations, supports local farmers, artisans, musicians, and other small businesses, and educates younger members to become responsible stewards of our food systems and planet.
Isn't that a great thing to support? Vivid Cottage is proud to be a small part of the Westport Farmers Market's collective good work.
Once I make my drawings, I need them translated from pencil, pen and paper to digital files. I trust ImageWorks, owned and run by Mark and Marie Bunger, and their associates Mary Ellen Hart and Habtom Asmelash to produce excellent scans. Their scanner was built in Germany and is one of only four in the USA. I learn something new every time I visit about business, design, and the technical aspects of craft.
Mary Ellen Hart and Mark Bunger having a laugh because they spotted a REAL fly that landed on one of my flower scans!
Now that I've got a gorgeous digital file, the next step is to create high-quality products to sell. I tested a few different local printers and found a great home with Gway in Norwalk. Being a small business themselves, they really understand the challenges and have gone out of their way to help me. I'm particularly grateful to Donny Robertino, who has sourced special papers, listened to my ideas and figured out clever ways to make them beautiful. Donny has become a genuine friend.
Donny Robertino and me with my Holiday Bouquet card
When my ideas go beyond my limited digital design skills, I hire local designer Suzanne Knapp. She has brought her personal style to my brand, creating gorgeous labels for my card boxes, brainstorming new product ideas, and laying out my Wildflorals by Kerstin calendar each year. If you'd like to contact Suzanne, email me and I'll put you in touch.
Designer Suzanne Knapp and me with Wildflorals by Kerstin 2022 Calendar
So, we have created lovely products to delight customers -- now it's time to sell them. I've gone to local craft fairs and loved chatting with people who visit my tent. I'm not yet doing much wholesale, but I'm honored to be featured by the Westport Book Shop, a non-profit used bookstore managed by Jocelyn Barandiaran. This is a social enterprise, hiring workers with a range of abilities, and the proceeds support the Westport Library.
The most essential place where I sell my products is right here - my website! The knock-your-socks-off design is by the magical Jasleni Brito, whose intuitive and skilled sense of branding has expanded my business to a national reach.
Jasleni Brito visited my booth at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show in February 2022 in Hartford. The gorgeous banner was printed at ImageWorks.
My neighbor, Alison Lindsey-Noble, whom I've known since she was a wee baby, just graduated from The College of Wooster and is helping me create and schedule social media posts. She is boosting my reach considerably with her beautifully-style photos, fun captions, clever videos (look on my Instagram for her series writing back and forth as a fictional character.) She's a budding entrepreneur and I'd love to send business her way. You can email her at email@example.com.
Alison Lindsey-Noble for Social Media
Well, since I'm telling all my secrets, here is one of my favorites. I joined the UK-based The Better Business Collective hosted by Jenny Pace. It's hands-down the best investment I've made in building my business and marketing skills. Yes, I have to wake up early to attend the 5:30 a.m. calls but it jump-starts my day with confidence!
Jenny Pace offering me a 'word of the month' during one of
The Collective meetings.
Where would I be without local media? Our local blogger, Dan Woog, has been very kind to share a few stories about me over the years, most recently about the CEO of Save the Children writing me a lovely thank you for donating a portion of proceeds from my Sunflower Resilience merchandise.
Finally, my husband, Vijay Rao is the best partner I could ever dream to have. His constant support and encouragement has given me the secure base to take the gutsy leap to start a business with my artwork. Thank you, my love!
Kerstin and Vijay Rao, spiffed up for a recent charity event in Fairfield, CT.