This week, the White House hosted its second annual “Maker’s Faire” in conjunction with Maker’s Week (June 12 to 18, 2015). The week is an initiative to encourage adults and children alike to bring their own creations and innovations to life and take them to the marketplace. A diverse array of entrepreneurs—from designers to builders to techies—took to Washington to showcase their wares and further the Maker Movement.
One of Hobby Farms’ very own contributors, James Ray, was invited to the White House to take part in this year’s event. Ray and his wife, Eileen, along with their son, George, own Little Seed Farm in Tennessee, where they raise dairy goats to make herb-infused goat’s milk soaps and bodycare products. Their handcrafted items are sold in Nashville and across the U.S. They attended the event alongside West Elm, a Brooklyn-based retailer that carries their products, as well as those from other small-scale makers.
We sat down with a short Q&A with Ray to get a scoop on the Maker’s Week events.
1. What have you seen at the Maker Faire that has inspired you?
There were so many inspirational stories, it’s hard to name just one! The story of Audrey Hale sticks out because it’s so far beyond what either of us could imagine having done when we were her age. At only 12 years old, Audrey is building a satellite! In addition, we heard the story of Jill Andrews, a wedding dress designer in Baltimore, who helped construct an improved Ebola suit for treating infected patients.
2. At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to make your own products?
We decided to set out on our own in 2011, when we were both in our late 20s. Part of what’s been so inspiring at the Maker Faire is the amount of entrepreneurial youth we’ve met. It’s amazing to see what kids are capable of doing, and we hope they continue to pursue that curiosity and passion throughout their lives. I think we can all remember the days of uninhibited creativity and freedom. Whether it’s starting a lemonade stand or selling homemade jewelry. Carrying that entrepreneurial spirit throughout life isn’t easy, so our main message when meeting the young folks was to keep it up.
3. In your opinion, how do farming and handcrafting complement each other?
As a farmer you have to be a maker and a creator. Whether it’s building new infrastructure, making improvements on existing structures, or innovating solutions to the multitude of problems that every farmer faces, we farmers are always creating something. Those capabilities translate directly into the confidence needed to be a handcrafter. On our farm, we’re always experimenting with new products from woodworking to soapmaking and everything in between. It’s not always a success, but there’s no better way to learn than from a mistake!
4. What advice do you have for other farmer/handcrafters who want to start a business?
Make sure you’re doing something that you love and believe in. If you’re not 100-percent passionate about your business, every day will be an uphill battle. We started from the ground floor with very little capital to invest, so we had to make up for it with pure grit and working seven days a week for 12 to 18 hours per day. It was, and still is, a labor of love. Fortunately, after a few years of hard work we’ve been able to bring on employees and take some of the workload off our shoulders, but when you’re farming it’s always a 24/7/365 kind of life.