Ever since Janelle’s daughter, Kayla Kale’a, was born a little over 3 years ago, she found herself doing a lot more “Do It Yourself” projects – especially decorations. For Kayla’s baptism, 1st birthday, and 2nd birthday party, Janelle made all of the decorations by hand. She described the process as tedious and time consuming since she had to cut everything one by one. Still, she did it every time because she knew her local party stores didn’t have the aesthetic she wanted. She was never completely satisfied with the items sold at party stores, and really loved the idea of adding personalized touches to her daughter’s decorations. After Kayla’s 1st and 2nd birthday party, Janelle finally decided to invest in a Cricut. She knew that she wanted to customize all of her daughter’s parties and milestones going forward. And it was also a long time coming since Janelle wanted a Cricut since Kayla was 5 months old!
The Cricut has been the new must have item for every DIY fanatic. But what is it even? And what’s the rave about? Janelle describes the Cricut as a machine that makes very precise cuts. It cuts through different materials exactly how you want it – and in bulk. Some Cricuts can cut through materials such as thin wood, acrylics, leather, fabric, and other materials. It can also be used as an engraver. Janelle says it’s like a printer, except it doesn’t print, but it can draw and write for you if you have the specialized pens. The crafter would design their designs on the Cricut’s app, where it would soon come to life. Basically, the Cricut is every crafter’s dream.
Playing around with the Cricut can also get a little expensive. To be good at something, one has to practice. For the Cricut, practice means using materials for trial and error. Janelle confesses that she still makes a lot of mistakes, even though she has had it for a good amount of time. She is still learning about her machine and how to improve or use different techniques. So she doesn’t consider herself a “master” of the Cricut just yet. She watches a lot of YouTube videos and tutorials to learn more about it and expand her knowledge. Little did she know that her love for crafting would soon turn into her small business, KA.LE’A Creates.
When the mandatory Shelter in Place was in effect, Janelle needed a creative outlet. She started her Instagram craft page to post and show what she created after purchasing her Cricut. She had no intentions of making her craft page a business page because she didn’t want to invest so much time into a small business. She also didn’t think that she would sell that many things. But to her surprise, a lot of her friends reached out to her, offering to pay for customized products. So, around June 2020, with the pandemic showing no signs of letting up anytime soon, Janelle decided to making her craft page into a business. She was worried that, like many others, she would be left unemployed or furloughed. With some encouragement from her brothers, boss, and best friend, Janelle finally decided to really invest in her business, and KA.LE’A Creates was born. They reassured her that her creativity could get her far if she really tried.
“Luckily, my job and income wasn’t affected by the pandemic,” Janelle said. “However, it did suffer in terms of clientele for a little while, leaving me with just a little extra time to do crafts on the side.”
Janelle named her small business after her daughter, Kayla Kale’a. Janelle knew from the beginning that she wanted to somehow incorporate her daughter’s name in it, and she came up with the name and tagline KA.LE’A Creates – create hapiness. In Hawaiian language, the word “Le’a,” by itself means, “joy, pleasure, and happiness.” This is why Janelle decided to separate her daughter’s name and break it up into two parts so the word “Le’a” was isolated. It seemed like the perfect name for her small business because crafting really does bring her joy and happiness.
Even though Janelle loved crafting, she still had a lot of doubts about starting a crafting business. She started to doubt her creativity, and the thought of being her own investor really stressed her out. She went back and forth on the idea, thinking it wouldn’t be worth it to pursue a crafting DIY business. Janelle does admit that she gets discouraged very often – almost every week – but she doesn’t want to throw in the towel. She just wants to keep on learning and improving. Like the rest of us, Janelle wishes she had more time in the day – more time to focus on her small business, to perfect each project and task at hand, each item she customizes, and each original product drop. She humbly acknowledges that there is always room for improvement.
“I know that with each product that I put out, that there will always be something I can do better,” Janelle said, explaining how she mentally prepares herself for ups and downs that comes with being a small business owner. “I try not to take each negative feedback to heart, and use it more as a way to learn how to do things better.”
Janelle first advertised her customized products on her personal Instagram. She was pretty successful getting customers through her personal account because it helped in letting her followers know what she was selling and what she could create. Her best friend, Anthony, who is also a small business owner, helped promote her products in the beginning. Others started reposting her content as well, helping spread the word that Janelle was the girl to go to if you wanted a customized product. During COVID, a lot of people have made the conscious effort to support small businesses more, so Janelle has definitely felt all the love.
Janelle was surprised by not only the amount of support she got from family, friends, and strangers, but other small businesses as well. She was surprised when larger and well known small businesses would reach out to have customized products made. From there, Janelle got a glimpse of how tight-knit the small business / crafting community is. She was surprised and happy that other small businesses trusted her and her craft to make items for their own small business. Making products for other small businesses also helped get KA.LE’A Creates’ name out there to people she did not know personally. She has completed many orders to date, but her favorite ones to do are for other small businesses because she is supporting them and hooking them up with a cheaper price. She loves that she gets to help others in her community and witness them grow – as a business and as a person.
Her initial prediction that nobody would be interested in customized products proved to be wrong. When Janelle first started KA.LE’A Creates, her most popular items were her decals. Then she started advertising her customized reusable masks, and those became the top item. As she dropped more and more content about personalizing different things like keychains, water bottles, cake toppers, clothing, etc. – she started to see that there wasn’t really a top #1 popular item. It was always changing depending on what people wanted, and what time of the year it was. If a customer had an idea for a customization that has never been done before, Janelle would take it on and see if she could do it.
“I can customize a whole lot of things, whether it’s clothing, party decorations, drinkware, I’ve even made stencils for someone to paint their shoes with,” Janelle said, thinking of all the personalized items she has done since opening KA.LE’A Creates. “Customers generally inquire about specific items they’d like to get customized and I try my best to see if it’s doable before turning them down. And most the of the time it’s doable.”
Janelle expected that the holiday season would bring in a lot more business for KA.LE’A Creates, especially since she was dropping her personalized snow globe ornaments. And she was right, she was booked and busy with orders. Majority of the orders she had over the holiday season were mainly gifts for others. After all, customized gifts are very thoughtful and are fun to keep as keepsakes. She felt so grateful that people were doing their holiday shopping and buying from KA.LE’A Creates, as she had doubted how far she could take the DIY craft business in the past.
Getting a decoration order for a wedding was the cherry on top for Janelle. After so much self-doubt in the past, getting the wedding order made her realize how far she could really take KA.LE’A Creates if she really tried, put her mind into it, and gave it time to grow. Janelle was so happy with how the wedding decorations turned out, and her coworker was thrilled with the end results as well. She has so content knowing that she could help her coworker out, since COVID ruined a lot of the original plans for the wedding already. Janelle felt so honored that her friend trusted her to make decorations for her big day.
As much as she loves making her customers’ visions and crafts come to life, Janelle has a couple of ideas herself. Her last “big drop” was her RYM (Respect Your Mother) collection. At first, she wanted to make a “mom tee” clothing line. The more she sat on the idea, the vision for her first clothing collection kept evolving. She wanted the first line she dropped to be a mom tee, but also a PSA about Mother Nature. Janelle and Kayla would take daily walks and they would see used masks, gloves, and other trash on the street and in parking lots. That’s where Janelle got the inspiration to go in the direction of “Mother Nature,” still a mom tee, but with multiple meanings. The RYM line was the perfect combination of everything Janelle embodies – being a mother and also thinking about how she can be more eco-friendly.
Besides having full-time job and having her own small business, Janelle is a mother first and foremost. She wants her customers to know and remember that she is a full-time working single mom, and juggling all these things can get pretty crazy. On top of all the madness, she is moving her and Kayla back to O’ahu, Hawaii. Janelle wants her customers to keep these things in mind when she doesn’t reply to DM’s or order requests as quickly as some would like. She is trying her best to balance everything out and is still learning how to multi-task her day job, small business, and practicing self-care, while still putting her daughter first. She realizes that it is very likely that she can get some orders wrong, so patience and compassion is all she asks.
“I want to be able to enjoy my craft, but when people are persistent and think that their orders will be done once it is placed and the next day they’ll have the item, it gets really stressful,” She explained.
Because she’s so busy, Janelle really has to plan out her schedule. She has always been a planner, so knowing that she is going to do on a week to week basis really helps her stay organized. When Janelle is working on orders for KA.LE’A Creates, it is most likely taking place during Kayla’s naptime. She really values her time with her daughter, especially working a 9-5 job. If Janelle gets home and Kayla is awake, she will spend quality time with her until it is time to put her down for bed, and then she’ll fulfill orders, working out, cleaning, or anything else that needs to get done. She wants to give Kayla quality mother daughter time because she doesn’t want her daughter to think that all she does is work – working a full-time job and then coming straight home to work on KA.LE’A Creates. Especially since an item or several items she works on can take anywhere from 2-3 hours.
Janelle’s advice to other crafters and small business owners is to stay organized. Especially for those who are parents, Janelle stresses the importance of keeping everything neat and tidy. Everyone can relate – starting off very organized, and little by little things start to pile up, and you’re faced with a huge mess. That’s exactly how it went for Janelle, as orders started coming in, things started compiling, and she found herself in not only a cluttered living situation, but mentality as well. When she would see how unorganized and disheveled everything got, it made running her business stressful and took the fun out of it. She lost a lot of time for herself and Kayla when things started to get unorganized, so now, she really relies on keeping everything in line.
For the time being, Janelle is keeping KA.LE’A Creates as her side hustle that brings her a lot of happiness and creativity. She would love if her small business could one day be her main source of income, but she is sticking with her career goal in Human Services. Janelle laughs and says that KA.LE’A Creates will remain a side hustle until she retires – which she doesn’t plan on doing anytime soon. So until she retires, you can find her working on her crafts after her little one is asleep.
Janelle and Kayla are back in O’ahu after the much anticipated big move. While they’re settling down and unpacking, Janelle is very hopeful for 2021 and where she can take KA.LE’A Creates. She still plans on continuing her small business from Hawaii, after she settles down in her new home and job. She is keeping her fingers crossed to open back up and take orders again in February. Janelle has a lot of ideas brewing, and she can’t wait to capitalize on them. Her RYM collection did better than she expected, and she is excited to work on dropping more of her own gear and clothing. All the love that she received in 2020 motivates her to keep going with her small business. Janelle loves that it keeps her creative juices flowing, as she finds crafting very therapeutic and relaxing.
Being a part of the crafting community is what touches Janelle the most. She has participated in a handful of giveaways, some where she reached out to other small businesses first, and some where they reached out to her. When small businesses reach out to her to participate in a giveaway, they will usually offer to pay for the items. But Janelle usually donates her item as a way to support other small businesses and their followers. Especially during COVID, she is glad that she has found a community that welcomed her with open arms, since she believed it would be the complete opposite going into it. Her love of crafting has opened the door for making connections with others, and supporting other small businesses.
“Going into it, I first thought that there would be so much competition, but really it’s not about competing for customers,” Janelle said. “Since I opened, other craft shops that have found me have been really helpful and supportive in so many ways. It makes me really proud to be a part of this craft / small business community. It just goes to show that we all love to help each other out, especially during these times.”