Aly Parrott: maker of handmade cloth toys, garlands, Montessori works, classroom tools and other singular fiber creations.

When Aly Parrott was in college studying fine arts, she had teachers who encouraged her “different” path, “I’m so grateful to have had teachers who pushed me to stay true to my own vision and aesthetic, even if the work I was making didn’t really ‘fit’ with the current fine art trends, so starting to make my way in the world with that confidence in my identity as a maker, and kind of a starry-eyed mountain child was a really big help. I spent four years with an outlet for my making, and opening my Etsy shop was a natural progression when that outlet became unavailable.”

In her shop, AlyParrott, you will find handmade cloth toys, garlands, Montessori works, classroom tools and other singular fiber creations.

These days, Aly is a teaching assistant at a school for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, “I get to go to my ‘day job’ and spend time with these incredible kids and be constantly inspired by them, and then come home at 3:30 and go to my studio and put many of those inspirations into tangible objects that can then be used by other children in other schools. It just makes me so grateful to live in my little world. My favorite thing in general about being in business for myself is knowing that I created this thing with my own two hands. I’m able to get out of it what I put into it…there’s a great sense of independence in that.”

Handmade seems to run in her blood, “Growing up, every bed in our house was covered with a quilt my mom made, every bookshelf built by my dad or my grandfather. ‘Handmade’ is, and always has been, a part of my daily life.”

When it comes to making things with her hand, Aly believes “it’s so important to preserve a sense preciousness, the ritual of ‘making,’ in this time of instant results and constant turnover. Maybe that comes from not being able to imagine my own life without making, but I’ve honestly found, through teaching both adults and children, that making can heal, break down social and personal walls between individuals, communicate…just so many things…even in its something as simple as finger-knitting or making a handmade birthday gift for a friend.”

I couldn’t agree more! Take a look at the exceptional craftsmanship in Aly’s work:

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You can also find Aly Parrott on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

MBPaperDesign: Wedding Favor Tags, Paper Tags, Personalized Tags

With a degree in marketing and young children, Marianne Benzen wanted a way to stay home with her kids, and still make money. That’s when she decided to start MBPaperDesign. She knew it would take hard work, but was willing to put in the time: “I love being in control of my success.  Nothing is going to happen without hard work and determination.  If you put in the time and you are willing to go with the flow, adjust to the changes, you will succeed!  My hard work is really paying off and that feels awesome.  I am so proud of what I have done with this shop, from a small town of 1,200 people in Minnesota.  A local newspaper feature, a feature on, a podcast with Convomepodcast, a feature with handmadeology “road to 1,000” and now this!  I love it!”

Why does Marianne love (making and buying) handmade? “I know how much emotions go into every piece you make. Any one can mass print, market and distribute.  When you are a part of every step of your business….design, processing, human resources, shipping…you see it through from the beginning to the end, it is hard work but the end product is so much nicer.  I am working for every dollar I earn.”

In her shop, MBPaperDesign, you will find a variety of handmade goods for wedding, parties, crafting and DIY projects, like these:

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Drink Tickets by MBPaperDesign on

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Personalized Baby Shower tags by MBPaperDesign on

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You can also find MBPaperDesign on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Wild Earth Apothecary: all natural, affordable, botanical-based bath + body products

With all-natural, affordable, botanical-based bath and body products created by a biochemist + herbalist duo, Wild Earth Apothecary is what happened when a nature-loving chemist lived next door to a natural-minded herbalist. An apothecary is born!

Lauren left her career in science to stay home and care for her three sons. She began her journey into natural health while researching home remedies for her son with special needs. When not wrestling three little boys or experimenting with new herbs, Lauren spends all of her free time in the outdoors hiking with her family.

Tammy is a proud mother and grandmother who homeschooled her special needs daughter. After battling years of debilitating health issues, Tammy became a self-taught herbalist in her desire to return to a more natural way of life.

At Wild Earth Apothecary you will find beautiful products like soaps, lotion, facial creams, serum, natural deodorants, gift sets, and more! Here is just a small small of what you will find:

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Little Arrow Co: cute and trendy clothes for babies and kids

I’ve been following Little Arrow Co on Instagram for quite a while now… even though my own daughters are way too old to wear the clothes the owner, designer and maker, Amber creates. That is a testament to how cute and creative her designs (and photos) are! Like many others, Amber started Little Arrow Co after being unable to find exactly what she was looking for, for her son. “Little Arrow Co began after having my son, Declan. I had the hardest time finding trendy, yet functional items for my little guy and decided to dust off my sewing machine and begin designing my own creations. The response I got from family and friends triggered my dream to launch Little Arrow Co and share my items with other mamas out there. I never imagined that in 5 short months, I would meet so many amazing people and share my designs with babes all around the world. It’s a surreal feeling.”

Handmade means a lot to Amber, “When I was a little girl, I had a fascination with long dresses that I could twirl around in like a princess. My grandma ended up having the most beautiful dress handmade for me by a family member. I have a vivid memory of it to this day. She always told me that it was “made for me” and that made me feel like the most special little girl ever. This dress was passed down to my little sisters and is just waiting for the day that I have a little girl to make feel like the “most special little girl ever”. More recently, I just purchased a robot made by Abby Busy Bot. I discovered this amazing shop through a local craft show that I participated in and knew that I had to purchase one for my son. They are seriously so unique, well-made, and simply perfect! I love discovering all the amazing talent out there and finding one-of-a-kind treasures that you can’t buy in a typical store.”

And why is handmade so important? One simple word; “Love. When you create something, you pour so much love into it. There is a sense of pride and creativity that goes into each stitch made. Yes, there are moments when my back aches from the hours of sewing and my eyes start to twitch from staring at my sewing machine too long, but seeing that final creation that will be loved by a little one out there makes it all worth it.”

I agree! Take a look a few of Little Arrow Co’s designs here:

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“Posing for the Mamarazzi” tee by Little Arrow Co

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Tiger Cub Bibdana by Little Arrow Co

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“Blessed are the curious…” romper by Little Arrow Co


You can also find Little Arrow Co on Instagram and Facebook.

Ilianne: miniature food jewelry made of love

I cannot say enough good things about the sweet jewelry creations from Ilianne Jewelry! Ilianne makes these tiny food (and book) sculptures. Ilianna is fascinated by all things miniature, and so she started creating these tiny pies, cupcakes, macaroons, cookies, tea and coffee cups, doughnuts, and even pizzas, bread baskets, and pita gyros that all look so good, you might want to eat them… They are even scented!

Ilianna is so enthusiastic about what she does, and it really shows. I asked her why she decided to start her business, and she told me, “Because I wanted to break away.. I wanted a way to escape from computers. That’s how everything started! Everyday, all day… you could find me in front of a huge computer screen, editing photos…working on digital prints and albums for someone.
Since the day I discovered that being creative isn’t just between the borders of a cold screen! Since the day I discovered polymer clay, jump rings, scissors, glue and chains! That’s the day I started living again!Opening my Etsy shop and soon my own e-shop website gave me the opportunity to connect with the world, connect with you, who I claim friends… exchange ideas with so many talented crafters, feel a member of a vibrant community which never ceases to amaze me! I found my own way to share anything I make with my hands with all of you and a way to become better on what I’m doing! From the tiniest ring to the CHUNKIEST pendant, I do the best I can to please all of my customers and put a smile on their face on the day they are gonna open that package. The fact that everything I make can travel all around the world and make someone smile is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life!!”

Did I mention she is enthusiastic? 😉 Seriously, though… this is what I am talking about when I suggest people start a business doing something they love. This gets to be your mindset… You’re not just making a living, but living a happy, fulfilled life. Like Ilianna says, ” I can wake up every morning with a huge smile on my face thinking that I am going to ship one of my precious handmade pieces to somewhere out there in the world.” And, “Every time you click a button and purchase a piece of jewelry that I made, a huge instant smile appears on my face. Because you chose it among many others and you thought it was unique and special. This means the whole world to me.”

Here are just a few of her foodie creations:

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Doughnut earrings by Ilianna Jewelry

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Miniature coffee and doughnuts ring by Ilianna Jewelry

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Chocolate chip cookies by Ilianna Jewelry

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention, Ilianne also makes book inspired miniatures, as well! Like this one inspired by The Fault in Our Stars (one of my favorite books of all time!)

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Okay? Okay. – The Fault in Our Stars inspired necklace by Ilianna Jewelry

You can also find Ilianna Jewelry on Instagram and Facebook.

Hilltop Designs: soaps, balms, quilts and rugs.

Christine Weber decided to start Hilltop Designs after being let going of two jobs in just a few months (read the whole story here). It seems like a familiar tale that many of us small business owners can relate too. Being forced out of jobs we love, or realizing we don’t love those jobs so much, after all. And why should we? Like Christine, when we work for ourselves we not only gain income, but freedom, ”  I love the … ability to be home with my kids and work at the same time.  Even on the days it is not always convenient to work out of the home, with kids under foot. It is still just a blessing and brings a great sense of accomplishment.”

Making thing by hand also brings a feeling of nostalgia, “My Grandma always knitted and crocheted and I she made us all blankets.  She even sat and tried to teach me crochet even though I never quite got anything more than a chain stitch, but knitting was easier for me.  When I work with my circular needles and I often think of her.”

And making things by hand “reminds us that quality still matters. Life isn’t about quantity, or how much you have or how quickly you can get it.  Making things by hand keeps traditions and old trades alive.”

Hilltop Designs not only makes and sell wonderful soaps, balms, rungs and quilts, but also offers a consultant program for people looking to earn a income from the products.

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Lemon Tea Salt Scrub from Hilltop Designs

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Olive Oil Soap from Hilltop Designs

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Organic Coconut Oil and Local Beeswax Balm from Hilltop Designs


You can also find Hilltop Designs on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Constellation Kitchen: Hand Painted Whimsical Kitchenwares and Artwork

Sawyer started Constellation Kitchen after posting a few of her creations on Instagram and getting positive feedback from family and friends. Plus, she finds the painting process cathartic, “I had recently moved in with my Fiancé and had a bunch of mixed matched mugs and such that were just plain so I decided to bring a little colour into the Kitchen by painting them. … (it was) a way to de-stress from University Classes and have something beautiful in my home and especially Kitchen. Now I get to make other people happy, I love the feedback I get from clients and when they really love the work I do.”

When I asked her why handmade is important to her, she had a great reply, “I think its so important because you are supporting small businesses and people taking time to make something gorgeous, personal and most often really well made. When you buy hand made you get really awesome products and you get to meet really cool people and artists and learn things all at the same time. I would have to say though that quality is the biggest plus for me. I would rather spend a bit more and have something that will last and support small businesses than a whole bunch of things that will eventually have to be thrown out or that will break.”

Originally from Bermuda, Sawyer gets a lot of her inspiration from the ocean – and it really shows in her work…

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Humpback Whale, from Constellation Kitchen

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Multi-Coloured Cereal Bowl from Constellation Kitchen

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Hand Painted World Map from Constellation Kitchen

You can also find Constellation Kitchen on Instagram and Facebook.