When Green Bay SCORE client Janet Bruegl of Suring was a small child, she asked her mom to buy clothes for her dolls. Instead, her mom gave her something much more valuable — the skill to make her own doll clothes from fabric remnants.
Over time, Bruegl developed a passion for crafting. Watching her mom crochet, she wanted to do the same. Step by step, she learned how to crochet, knit, sew her own clothes and make custom creations.
Then she graduated and went to school for data processing using a completely different skill set. During the day, she worked in a variety of jobs in the business sector. Crafting, once her major focus, became a hobby.
“The crafty side was an outlet from the hectic world of IT,” Bruegl said. "My husband, Kurt, was in the same field, and after we retired we decided to simplify our lives and bought 10 acres outside of Suring and downsized our house.”
Crafty Jan’s started almost by accident. With their children grown and on their own, the Bruegls were able to hone their talents. Kurt was an accomplished woodworker, and Janet had a wide variety of skills.
“The business started about nine years ago," Bruegl said. "It was entirely word of mouth. Someone would want something, and I’d make it. From this small start, it was about five years ago when a friend of my sister contacted me because her mother had passed on and her father was looking for someone to make Christmas stockings as her mother had done to keep the tradition going.”
She found a pattern, the family sent a sample, and she began making the custom stockings.
“I started putting some up on Etsy and the orders came in," Bruegl said. "People were buying what I had already made or asking for something custom.”
The next big step came when the couple purchased an Epilog laser machine. The business expanded to handcrafted pens, textile crafts, wooden bowls, pizza cutters, signs and a wide variety of other items, most of which can be personalized.
“Our hobby became a business,” she said. The business has been registered as an LLC, but the couple is playing catch-up with the business aspects.
“I am working on a business plan right now," Bruegl said. "My husband and I have an idea of how we want the business to grow and I’ve worked with a few of the folks from SCORE to get us on the straight and narrow to know what we want to do and where we’re going. We need to determine where we want to be a year from now, two years from now, five years from now.”
One important thing that the couple recognized is that they don’t want to spend all of their time managing the business and want the majority of their time spent on their craft. They hired a person to create their website, www.craftyjans.com, and will be using professionals for the ecommerce part of the business and accounting.
They also want the business to mirror Bruegl’s Native American heritage (she is Stockbridge-Munsee and Oneida). As the pieces come together, the hardest part has been time management.
“It is difficult to find time to do everything we want to do," she said. "We have so many fingers in the pie right now and we want to make sure we are doing everything right. We have a lot of balls in the air and need them working properly. This year will be a serious year of pulling this together. We want to have our business plan in place, get our name out there, and let people know what we can do.”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.