I recently joined Rochester Professional Consultants Network to strengthen my entrepreneurial skills.
The organization conducts an interview, including a short video segment, to profile new members. I was happy to learn that fellow Rochester Artisan Chris Swingle is on the communications committee and she drew the short straw to interview me!
I went to her home in Brighton a few weeks ago. First we reminisced about the first time we met, when we were placed next to each other at a Mayday Underground show at the Village Gate a few years ago. It turns out Chris is not only a very talented photographer, she’s a great writer too! Her interview style is informal and conversational. She took lots of notes, wrote up the interview that very day and emailed it to me for approval. Even the video portion was relatively painless, probably because I love talking about Rochester Artisans so much!
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Stitching her way to consulting
By Chris Swingle
Stefani Tadio grew up in a family of people who create art – a mother who sews and crochets, a father who does woodworking, and a sister who knits. “My family says it’s in our DNA,” says Tadio, who has done quilting, pottery, needlepoint, cross-stitching and rubber stamping.
But she’s the only one who sells her art. “I loved it so much I thought, ‘I wonder if I can make money doing what I love,’ ” says Tadio, who lives in Perinton.
Here is a video interview with Stefani Tadio:
She started her business, Pine Tree Designs, in 2004 with rubber stamp art. Then she saw a book of embroidery on paper and was entranced. She switched her focus to hand-stitching original designs on paper with needle and shiny thread, selling her work at craft shows, arts festivals and 11 shops from Brockport to Ithaca. Originally, she used a craft punch and then a push pin to poke holes, but then she learned of die-cut machines. She got one that she can program using math and angles to create the round, symmetrical designs she envisions. Her work has gotten more complex and intricate.
Tadio recently began selling patterns and is teaching her first stitched-paper class on August 3 at a quilt shop in Syracuse. While previously she feared that those steps would lead to more competition, she has realized that people who love her unusual creations may enjoy making some simpler designs as gifts – but aren’t likely to launch businesses. Now she believes that teaching classes could build a customer base of people who will buy her patterns.
She is particularly proud of Rochester Artisans, a network she created in 2009 because she kept getting inquiries through her website from artists seeking information. They saw her listings of the craft shows where she would be selling her work and wanted contact information for show organizers. She shared that kind of information through a Yahoo group, which evolved into a website, rochesterartisans.com, which also provides information on tools for running a business, where to find studio space, links to local artists’ websites and more.
“I see it as a hub for artful things in Rochester,” says Tadio. Customers can see what shows are happening. Stores can find handmade products by local artisans, including jewelry, home décor items, candles and edibles. Gallery owners can find artists. And artists can see how other artists use their websites, Facebook pages and more.
More than 500 people have joined Rochester Artisans, including artists, store owners and show organizers. So far, the information and publicity have been free. Since Tadio left her day job doing office work, she’s devoting more time to the group and plans to transition it to a fee-based association.
Part-time, she’s been running the Fairport Pharmacy gift shop, which features local products. Doing so builds on her connection to many area artists. She’s also helped run craft shows. Her new business plan is to use her experience and connections to create new craft shows for organizations like churches that want to hold such events as fundraisers but lack the expertise to do so successfully.
In 2012, Tadio attended Rochester Professional Consultant Network’s social media conference and loved the information and how well-run the event was. Even though she is a heavy user of social media, she still learned new things about Twitter and about making videos for a blog. She began attending some RPCN Friday morning talks on topics such as blogging, Pinterest and Google analytics. She recently joined the group because, she says, she discovered it’s made up of many people she can learn from.
Chris Swingle, chrisswingle.com, is a freelance writer and chairs RPCN’s Communication Committee.