The Business of Bedazzling

Open barely a year, NOLA Craft Culture is capitalizing on New Orleans’ year-round passion to create.

Left to Right: NOLA Craft Culture owners Lisette Constantin, Virginia Saussy and Nori Pritchard. Each brings unique strengths to the business. Pritchard is the glitter expert, Constantin is focused on feathers and headdresses and Saussy’s specialty is business aspects systems, website development, and more. All three women work the store and have contributed to purchasing. “The three of us each came to the concept independently and as luck would have it we found each other,” said Constantin.

For NOLA Craft Culture owners Lisette Constantin, Nori Pritchard and Virginia Saussy, crafting, costuming and sewing fantastic creations is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life, and one that has proven to be profitable.

With a year-round menu of classes, private party rental space and a retail shop filled with crafting tools for any project, NOLA Craft Culture — located just off Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City — has become a mecca for Carnival krewes, seamstresses, folk artists, costume enthusiasts and glitter lovers of all ages and abilities since opening just over a year ago — Jan. 4, 2019.

“After closing our SBA loan the week of Thanksgiving, we moved fast to ensure we would be open in time for King’s Day,” Saussy said. “Opening right before Mardi Gras was like being shot out of a cannon.”

It’s not surprising that New Orleans is home to multiple crafting businesses (i.e The Bead Shop, Broadway Bound Costumes, Jefferson Variety) but according to a 2018 report from Forbes, crafting is currently a $35 billion market nationally. And, bucking the online shopping trend, crafters make 90 percent of their purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.

While one may picture grandmothers sewing and baking and crocheting, crafting culture continues to grow and generate revenue with an increasingly younger group of enthusiasts. The largest percentage of crafters today are millennials, age 18 to 34.

Carnival krewes played a prominent role in the creation of NOLA Craft Culture.

“We are all in krewes,” said Saussy of her fellow business owners, “but we also got advice from several fellow krewe members, as well as members of other sub-krewes, Mardi Gras Indian chiefs and queens, and different people in the NOLA costume culture community.”

Saussy said the Krewe of Muses was particularly helpful.

“One sister, a professor at Loyola, brought our business plan in for the business school students to do as a project,” she said. “That kicked us up a notch. Another Muse sister, Andrea Huseman, was our real estate agent who helped us find our amazing Mid-City Glitter Mansion. And, of course, Liz Broekman, also a Muse, is our banker. Sisterhood has its privileges, but the women of Carnival all support each other, in every krewe.”

While Carnival provided the initial inspiration for the business, NOLA Craft Culture has sustained interest well beyond Mardi Gras Day.

“Immediately after Mardi Gras, people came in to get decorated up for St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day parades,” said Saussy. “We had people glittering fake cabbages and carrots and making adorable green glitter top hats. We know we helped make the Easter parade bonnets better than ever.”

Kentucky Derby hat-decorating parties in the spring, rainbow feather costumes and body glitter for Pride in the summer… “We mean it when we say that down here, crafting is not a hobby, it’s a way of life,” said Saussy.

The company’s class workshop calendar is constantly updated, with a recent week featuring classes in resin jewelry-making, “Glittering 101,” knitting, headpiece creation and yoga. Wedding parties and bridesmaids can craft unique parasols for a second-line experience and group parties can learn how to create custom fascinators.

“The glittering classes are by far the most popular,” said Saussy. “We live in a community that is ‘glitterally’ crazy these days, and Nori is a glitter-technique expert. She teaches the basics of glittering everything from shoes and purses to goblets, glasses, bottles, apples and pigs in hands-on workshops. We also offer popular classes in headdresses, resin and umbrella design.”

Groups can also book their own workshops, with prices from $100 an hour for seven to 12 people, to $150 for up to 30, and special rates available for groups of more than 30.

Party packages for children range from 90-minute-to-two-hour sessions for ages 8 to 14. Parties are $35 per child (supplies included) and an additional $55 is charged for a team member to assist large groups. Themes include: unicorn craft party, dragon’s egg creation, pirate craft party, slime party and shoebox float creation. Customized parties are also an option.

In addition to parties for all ages, NOLA Craft Culture hosts free community workshops where adults are encouraged to BYOB and craft with friends.

“Retail is the soul of the business, but it benefits from the classes,” said Saussy. “And the classes get discovered by the retail customers as well. We also sell glitter and confetti to crafters across the country because who knows how to sparkle better than New Orleans? We are the craftiest community in America.”

For hardcore crafters who may not have room in their apartment or home — or just want to keep the glitter outside their house — NOLA Craft Culture also provides rental storage space.

Word-of-mouth and a tight-knit crafting community have helped to grow the business online, on social media and across the region and beyond, according to Saussy.

“We have been really surprised by people who found us on social media and traveled to New Orleans just to visit us and purchase our glitter,” said Saussy. “We have had crafters come from Detroit and Chicago and Los Angeles just to visit NOLA Craft Culture. It’s humbling. They call our place the Glitter Mansion,” she said.

Looking forward, the team plans to add more classes and continues to realize their business plan, with a more formal approach to customer outreach and advertising on the horizon.

“[We are] looking for more opportunities and ways we can spread the craftiness and keep reaching out to the community,” Saussy said. “As a young business, we are still learning, and our business plan is evolving and has not been fully achieved. We plan to start advertising to the tourism market a bit more, now that we are established.

We want to share the authentic NOLA craft culture with the visitors and teach them how much time and pride out community takes in what we present.

That has always been a big part of our strategy. The online business was unexpected but we want to grow that as well.”

 


Did You Know?

Glue Guns and Glitter = Big Business

Crafting is a $35 billion market nationally

62% of U.S. households participate in one crafting hobby and of those:

16% engage in one craft,

39% participate in 2-4 crafts, and

45% are involved in 5 or more creative hobbies

SOURCE: 2018 research from the Association for Creative Industries, according to a July 2018 article in Forbes


 

 


The top creative hobbies are:

edible arts (17%);

painting and drawing (16%);

kids crafts (16%);

sewing and fabric (11%) and

paper crafts (11%)

SOURCE: 2018 research from the Association for Creative Industries, according to a July 2018 article in Forbes


 

Categories: Morning Biz

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