SF Etsy Team Member , Brandi Chalker from Sunshine and Succulents, is a presenter this year at Craftcation 2017 and we couldn’t wait till Craftcation to hear more. Brandi is a busy maker! She creates succulent terrariums and teaches plant design. She recently launched an exciting new venture, TeamCraft, which offers team-building workshops for corporate clients, which include Facebook, Google, Instagram, and others. Before we head south to Craftcation this April, we caught up with this talented, creative mentor, and asked her some questions.
- Tell us about yourself, Sunshine and Succulents, and your work.
I founded Sunshine & Succulents in 2013 after leaving my partnership in Urban Bazaar, a gift shop that I co-owned for 2 1/2 years. While I was an owner at the shop, I started working more and more with succulents, and discovered that I had a passion for plant design and for teaching other people about succulents. It felt like a good time to transition away from retail and into the plant world, and I've been running the business ever since! The majority of my business is workshops: I teach public, private, and corporate plant design workshops, and really love getting other people excited about plants. It's so satisfying to run into a student months or years after they take my workshop, and to have them tell me that their plants are (much to their surprise) still thriving!
- We are excited about Craftcation and planning to attend your workshop.. Can you tell us more about what you will be presenting?
I'll be teaching two sessions of my popular Succulent Terrarium Workshop, and one session of a new Macrame Plant Hanger Workshop.
- What was your favorite experience from a previous Craftcation Conference?
I attended the first ever Craftcation, and still use some of the things I learned at that conference today in my business. My favorite part was the insane amount of inspiration I got from the conference as a whole. Being surrounded by other makers, hearing about other people's business struggles, learning fun new craft skills, and learning new strategies to implement in my business was so incredibly inspiring! I had been feeling overwhelmed and burnt out prior to the conference, but afterward I had a whole new level of excitement for my work.
- What is your favorite thing about teaching and other speaking engagements?
Seeing other people get excited about succulents is the most rewarding part of my work. Many of my students come into my class convinced they're going to kill their new succulents. Letting them know that I used to have a "black thumb" - and now I'm a crazy plant lady with a plant design business - combined with all of the plant care education in my workshops, is really fun. They go from being terrified of plants to being excited about taking plants home with them. I think everyone should fill their homes with plants, so feeling like I'm contributing to that in a small way is really satisfying.
- What does Craftcation mean to you and why is it worth going to?
It's a big investment for a lot of people, but if you're looking to grow your business, you have to invest in it. Why not invest in your business by having an absolute blast with other creatives for a weekend, picking up some new craft skills, and learning important business skills as well? The combination of knowledge and inspiration you'll come away with is worth every penny.
- What's new at Sunshine and Succulents and TeamCraft? Are you working on any projects right now that you are really excited about?
2017 is going to be a big growth year for my businesses. I moved to Sonoma County just over a year ago, so I'm transitioning away from working mainly in San Francisco. I've started offering my workshops at a florist shop in Petaluma and at Cornerstone in Sonoma, where I'm partnering with Meadowcroft Wines to do Tasting & Terrarium events. I'm going to start selling succulents and related gift items at local farmers markets in the Spring. I'm also expanding my wedding services through Sunshine & Succulents. TeamCraft is still in its infancy, but I'm starting to market the business more to my corporate clients, and am looking for a few experienced instructors to offer unique DIY-focused workshops through TeamCraft. I'm also expanding my own workshop offerings, starting with a Sugar Scrub Workshop for the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. I fluctuate between being so excited I can hardly sleep and completely overwhelmed! It's a fun time in my business growth, and it feels like every day there's a new opportunity.
- What ideas, goals or message do you convey through your work ?
Most of my work is focused on getting people to find their inner creativity. I hear all the time from my students, "I'm just not creative." It's such a shame that people feel this way, because it's so very untrue! Everyone has an innately creative side. Maybe you can't paint or draw, or you have no desire to make your own clothing or to learn how to sculpt. But I guarantee there's a creative hobby that you'll be good at! In my terrarium workshops I discuss design, and I get people thinking about color, texture, and form. It's fun to see the "I'm not creative" people really listen and then create something beautiful! My message is that you just need to give yourself a chance to express your creative side.
- What does being a maker mean to you?
Being a maker means you are constantly curious. You see something in the world, and rather than wondering, "where can I buy that?", your first question is, "how can I make that?". And then you figure it out!
- How has personal experience influenced your creativity?
I grew up with a dad who was a talented doodler and a mom who always had a closet full of craft projects for me to work on. I was always pushed to be very focused on academics, but also to spend time on creative pursuits. So I've ended up with a good balance of the two, which I think has played a huge role in my ability to manage successful businesses based around my own handmade products - I love spreadsheets almost as much as I love making terrariums! I was also very poor growing up, so I think part of my entrepreneurial drive (I started my first business making jewelry when I was 16) stemmed from a desire to be financially independent. I've always loved working hard!
- If you could choose a theme song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
"I Feel Like Funkin' It Up" by Rebirth Brass Band. It gets me dancing every time I hear it, and is pretty much already my theme song. Plus, they're from New Orleans, which is my favorite place.
- What tech tools do you use on a daily basis that you could not live without?
I'm not tech-savvy at all. One of the reasons I am so excited for Craftcation this year is so that I can attend social media workshops, and try to get caught up with the rest of the modern world
Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
Craftcation is a four-day business and makers conference featuring a plethora of workshops, lectures and panels on creative business by leading mentors and makers in the creative industry. Craftcation "ignites the entrepreneurial spirit, strengthens craft and business skills and builds relationships in the creative community." This year, Craftcation will be held April 27-30, 2017 in Ventura, California and for the first time SF Etsy will not only be there - we will be hosting an Etsy Meet Up. Join Us at Craftcation: Business + Makers Conference 2017 - Discounted tickets for #Craftcation2017 are still available. Exclusive team discount code is: etsycc17 use that code at checkout
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