For my final showcase this month I interviewed Zhi Hastie. Zhi, aged 29 from Alaska USA, is the owner of Made With Love.
Made With Love is a unique line of jewellery, fashion accessories, home decor and novelty souvenirs all designed and handcrafted by Zhi Hastie, who specializes in clay crafts. The business is a sole proprietorship run from Zhi’s home.
Here is my interview with Zhi…
What made you decide to setup your business?
Moving from Malaysia with a hot and humid weather all year round to Alaska which has long cold winters and short summers had been quite challenging for me in the first couple years. To overcome the challenge, I started making crafts at home that I found quite therapeutic. Since then, I dreamt about turning my hobby into business, and I am glad I did!
Did you have problems when starting your business? If so, how did you overcome them?
I encountered some challenges when I just started out my business because that time I haven’t found a niche to attract potential customers. My business was slow and barely made any profit.
I am glad that now I am doing something that is very unique to the local taste and culture and hoping that my business will continue to grow at my newly launched online store Etsy to reach potential customers globally.
What do you do and what products do you sell?
At the beginning, a lot of the crafts I made were self-taught by reading books/magazines and watching tutorials on Youtube.
I used to only sell jewelry such as earrings, bracelets and necklaces at the local market here but I noticed that there were lots of competitors out there doing similar things. I realised that one of the most critical factors to be successful in business is to find a niche. I found out that there was nobody here locally doing clay craft so I decided to give it a try. And with clay, the possibilities are endless! Basically everything can be made out of clay.
Instead of self-taught, I decided to attend a week intensive class learning from one of the prestigious certified instructors from DECO Clay Craft Academy in February 2016 to fine-tune my skills.
In addition to jewelry, now I started making customized lifelike floral bouquets, floral arrangement, home decor, fashion accessories such as hair clips, barrettes, floral hair crown etc. I am very happy that I am doing something that was outside of my comfort zone and able to offer a variety of unique crafts to my customers.
What products seem to be your best sellers?
One of my best sellers is my earrings which design inspired by berries that can be found in Alaska. These berries were hand sculpted out of clay and sometimes I will incorporate beads and semi-precious stones that look similar as blueberries and cranberries into my pieces.
Who are your biggest competitors?
Honestly, I have never felt that other businesses were my competitors because everyone of us has something unique to offer to our customers. I love networking with other artists around the world via Facebook and Instagram and we share ideas and inspiration.
How would you recommend you business to potential customers?
A lot of us spend significant money on real flowers to decorate their houses, as a gift and also for special occasions such as Weddings and Mother’s Day etc. Unfortunately, real flowers do not last long.
A unique alternative to real, silk or paper flowers, handmade clay flowers are designed from non-toxic clay, with each flower petal a one of a kind creation. Not only are they so pretty, but they’re also durable, lightweight, realistic and best of all they last forever!
My handcrafted clay flowers are great for spring decor as a centerpiece, weddings bouquet for brides, bridesmaids or flower girls. These hand sculpted clay flowers can be made according to any theme or colors.
Looking for gifts to someone you love? These clay flowers will be an awesome gift for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Birthday, Anniversary, Marriage proposal, Graduation etc. The best part about these flowers is they will be a forever keepsake that continually bloom for years to come! They definitely make great gifts for your or for someone you love!
In addition, these custom made lifelike alternative bouquets and accessories which handmade out of clay is perfect for allergy sufferers such as people who are allergic to flowers and pollen.
How do you decide on your designs?
Most of my designs were inspired by nature such as flowers and berries that I get to see in the summer time. However, I accept custom orders so if you like something but don’t see anything on my Etsy store, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Zhi made this statement, which I would love to share with you all.
“Last but not least, I would like to say “Thank you, Nikki!” from bottom of my heart for allowing me to feature on your blog. It is my pleasure to share with everyone of you about my business story and adventure!
I am hoping that through these crafts I made, beauty and culture are shared to the rest of the world! Stay in touch! Lots of love from Made With Love!”
You can find Zhi and Made With Love at the Etsy Store and social media links listed below
Etsy shop: www.Etsy.com/shop/MadeWithLoveAlaska
Thank you so much for taking part, Zhi. It was a pleasure getting to know you and interviewing you. I wish you the best of luck with your business venture!