What It's About
An art director discovers a niche where there are no strings attached...
Words of Wisdom
Laurie and Cindy chose the pricing for their fabric based on how much they wanted to earn per hour, after the cost of raw materials. They wanted professional puppet-makers to get the highest quality products possible, but also wanted affordable options hobbyists could buy as well.
Yes, you want to price something so that it will sell, but also remember that you're creating this for you! Make sure that it's going to be worth it to you in the long-run.
Larry is Laurie’s fabric distributor and is the only person in the world who distributes Antron fleece. He was approached by Jim Henson to create the fabric for The Muppets and then ran the world’s only puppet-fleece mill. He has no website, only a telephone number, and if you don’t know him, you can’t order fleece in bulk.
Notes from Chris
Episode 723Laurie Nickerson, an advertising art director, knew she didn’t want to work behind a desk. Eight hours a day staring at a computer screen left her sad, sore, and searching. She wanted a job that was creatively fulfilling and allowed her to share her love for arts and crafts with others. And, seeing as she couldn’t find one, she decided to create one. Laurie and her just-as-creative mother, Cindy, began renting studio space where they could teach classes and offer other services, such as long-arm quilting. When she wasn’t at work, Laurie found she spent more and more of her spare time at the studio. She also picked up an exciting side project: puppet making. Laurie loved the process of making puppets because every stage of the process was done by hand. Contrary to what was out there, there was no “puppet by numbers” system, and you had to do the work from scratch. One of the most fun, yet challenging, aspects was dying the puppet fabric. She felt like it was the perfect blend of science and art, trying to get the colors to stick properly and turn out just how she wanted them. Puppets are made from a fabric called Antron fleece. When you purchase Antron, it only comes in pure white, and the puppet maker needs to dye it to the color they want. Even in small quantities, this can be notoriously difficult to do in your bathroom or kitchen. But at the studio, Laurie had more than enough space to create all the puppet fabric she needed. Much to her surprise, Laurie found other people in the puppet-making community didn’t enjoy dying their fabrics anywhere near as much. For many, it was even a burden. On one particularly frustrating day at work, Laurie’s mind kept wandering to how she had the space and love of the process to solve this problem for people. When she got home from work, she decided to create a simple website, which she called Puppet Pelts, posting photos of fabric in several different colors for sale. She then shared the link with a couple of puppet groups she was a member of to see if there were any takers. There was an instant demand for it, and puppeteers kept coming back weeks and even months later to ask for more. This was when Laurie knew she had a new business on her hands. Puppet Pelts now averages around $9,000 a month in revenue and, more perhaps importantly, it has freed Laurie from the shackles of her nine-to-five job. Looking to the future, Puppet Pelts wants to expand into offering a complete range of colors, fabrics, and accessories for puppet makers, including furs. They’ve also recently relocated from Las Vegas to Orchard, MA, and are looking forward to the challenge of working from a bigger and better space.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Puppet Pelts: Learn more about this puppet-possible side hustle over on Laurie's website!
- How to Make a Quality Puppet: If you're interested in making your own puppets, here's a tutorial that you might find interesting
- Marketing Professional Produces Giant Puppet Performances for Extra Cash: By day, she works at a museum in Berkeley, California. The rest of the time, she builds giant puppets and produces performances for eager audiences
- Acrobatic Mom Jumps Through Hoops to Become High-flying Entertainer: It’s a bird, it’s a plane… or actually, it’s an acrobatic performance troupe that started as one mom’s side hustle, and now employs 14 people
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