New business buzz: Maker + Place, Aspen Entrepreneurs open on Hyman Street
July 8, 2017
Aspen's newest establishment houses a medley of artists and creative types, aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners working beneath one roof.
While the new batch of tenants in the 9,549-square-foot building — home to Maker + Place store and Aspen Entrepreneurs — may sound like a miscellaneous gathering, they are one and the same, Aspen Entrepreneurs Executive Director Julie Engels said.
"Whether you're an entrepreneur or a maker — and the two are kind of the same — making sure that you can grow a business that's sustainable" is key, Engels said.
"I feel like (in Aspen), most of the people who are entrepreneurs are creative in spirit to begin with," she added, "and the way they came about creating their business."
Maker + Place, located in the former Hub of Aspen home (315 E. Hyman Ave.), opened to the public July 1.
Michaela Carpenter-Olson is the brainchild behind the brand and its inaugural store, which features homeware, jewelry and other goods made from about 35 local and international craftsmen. The spacious storefront includes wrapped chocolate and bins of tea, stitched quilts, decorated pillows, wooden spoons, ceramic plates, vases and bowls, gold earrings, leather-wrap bracelets, journals, fragrant candles, lotions, essential oils and soaps.
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"Our products are very high-end. This is not a farmer's market, it's not Mountain Fair, it's not Etsy," explained Carpenter-Olson, who lived in Aspen as a teenager for a few years and recently returned full time.
"All of these products are made for our luxury clientele."
Along with its retail component, Maker + Place offers studio space for local artists to craft and produce their art — a critical piece to Carpenter-Olson's concept.
"I want to showcase all of the labor hours, passion, skill and training that goes into these household objects," the 23-year-old said. "One of the driving forces behind my concept is building a connection between customer and maker."
Customers experience it instantly upon entering, as 29-year-old Clarity Fornell crouches over her loom weaving handmade pillows.
Fornell, a weaver and Aspen native, is part of Maker + Place's "maker in residence" program, allowing her to create and sell her products at the store as well as interact with customers and discuss custom orders.
"I have this really innate belief that if you have a connection to your maker, the lifetime of that product will be extended simply because your emotional connection to it has been forged," Carpenter-Olson said. "That by being connected to an object, you fall in love with not only the product but also its maker."
The goal of Maker + Place's residency, she said, is that an artist can "get to know her customer base, practice their business skills, learn the production, distribution, pricing — all these things they don't teach you in design school but are more than necessary to survive in the real world."
For additional entrepreneurial mentoring and support, Fornell can climb a few pastel-pink painted steps up to Aspen Entrepreneurs' headquarters.
The local nonprofit, which works with aspiring and established entrepreneurs to start or grow their business, is leasing the 600-square-foot upper mezzanine of Maker + Place from Carpenter-Olson. The groups will occupy the Hyman Street space — made possible through an angel investor — through Sept. 15.
Aspen Entrepreneurs creative director Skippy Mesirow said the space "is very much proof-of-concept for us." In addition to its "co-celerator" mentoring program, Aspen Entrepreneurs offers working space and hosts monthly showcases that feature prominent local business owners.
"We very much want for everyone to come through this space — especially if you're a skeptic or are really excited — to understand that this is how we invest in our future," Mesirow said. "We're a community-building organization."