Modern Makers: Meet Melanie Abrantes
When Melanie Abrantes decided to pursue her love of handmade home goods, cork and wood were the perfect media for the California-based lathe-loving woodworker. Her commitment to sustainably farmed materials coupled with her genuine curiosity keeps her one-of-a-kind bowls, plates, cups, and planters constantly changing.
What was your "aha entrepreneur moment" -- when you knew you wanted your own business?
If I had to pick a single experience, it would have to be when I was doing a design workshop in France. I met so many people that were young and successful makers. I realized no one was stopping me from doing what I wanted except for myself. So I decided when I got back I would sign myself up for a product show, and things kept going from there! As for a success, I think I knew by the reaction that people were having to my products. They were interested in the material, the process, and how I ended up where I did. I knew then that I was on to something special.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
When I first started, I think I romanticized what it would be like as a business owner. Social media really makes the whole process look so effortless and beautiful. Now that I'm in the middle of things, I can safely say running this business is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and it is definitely not always happy and pretty. That said, the process has been one of the most rewarding of my life as well.
What's one great piece of equipment you couldn't live without?
I could not live without my podcast app. I work alone, and they are the best things to listen to while working! My favorites are Jess Lively, Mortified, and The Moth.
Complete the sentence: I can't work without ...
My hands. They are what make my business.
What was your biggest surprise when you started your business?
How much time I am on the computer e-mailing instead of making!
Who was your mentor?
My mentors are my sister and my dad. My family has their own business back home. They are always willing to help me work through a situation and offer their advice. I wouldn't be where I am today without them.
What's the hardest part about being an artist and running your own business?
Making sure everything is done! As a business owner with only a small team working for me, I have to wear a lot of different hats: customer service, marketing, accounting, production, etc. Every day is a different job! There's a lot going on, so I have to stay as organized as possible to keep up. While it can be taxing, the fun part is that I am able to always do something different and stay engaged.
A single tip for success?
When you think about branding, put yourself in your customers' shoes. How will they see your product? How do you want them to see your product?
What attracts you to wood and cork?
I am very attracted to the tangible and unique nature of both cork and wood. I'm enamored by the fact that they are both natural materials and that each piece is different.
Your spoon carving workshop sounds wonderful. What made you decide to start these?
I felt like people in this day and age are in front of the computer all day, staring at a screen. I wanted to offer a class where you would be able to socialize and learn a new skill using their hands. I try to create a fun, engaging environment, and one where you walk away feeling accomplished!
How did you fund your business when you started? Did you have a business plan?
I funded my business through a second job I was working at the time. I didn't have a business plan starting out, but to be fair, I didn't realize I was creating a business exactly until I began getting orders from stores. I was just fulfilling my passion for woodworking. Once things began ramping up, I worked with a business planner to help me get the administrative side of my business in order. From there, it's been an adventure! Fortunately, I'm super curious and a quick learner.