Kat Lau’s business is online, but her presence is definitely felt in the physical world.
Especially in Wauwatosa, where the web designer sells papercut artwork and wooden laser cut jewelry, often in the theme of Harry Potter, at shops like Cattywampus Design on North Avenue.
It’s not at all what she expected, despite her experience studying at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In fact, the whole idea for her online business came from a personalized wedding gift she made for a co-worker.
“They were getting married at the Pabst Mansion, and I did paper cutting by hand. So, I did that in the background with them in front with their names and the date of the wedding,” Lau explained. “I posted a picture of that, and I had few people reach out to me about where they would be able to buy one. That’s how I got started.”
Lau wasn’t sure she had anything but a hobby. But, as demand for her one-of a-kind wearables grew, she realized she was reaching a crossroads.
“I had thought about being an entrepreneur, but it’s not one of those things that I woke up in the morning and said, ‘This! This is what I want to do.’ But,” Lau laughed, “Do I have to censor myself? There’s this quote from Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, ‘Never half-ass two things, whole ass one.’ If I had advice for myself starting out, I’d commit more time on the front end and not treat it so much as a hobby.”
In fact, that line between business and hobby has gotten increasingly blurry since Lau launched her Etsy shop, SimplistiCreations, in 2013.
“The more time I spend marketing my store with Facebook feeds, I realize I’m getting a lot more traffic. But because this is not my full-time job, it can be hard to find time to market,” Lau said.
The amount of time she can commit to the business varies week-to-week. Sometimes it’s 10 hours; sometimes it’s 30.
And, while Lau only makes what she loves, she admitted that the time she spends on marketing and customer service make her wonder if she’ll ever be able to quit her day job to fully pursue her entrepreneurial opportunity.
“I feel like when that moment hits me, I’ll know,” Lau said.
For now, she’s enjoying the creative outlet and the tangibility of her work.
“I got into web design because it’s always changing, which is ironic since what I do on Etsy is so permanent. But I enjoy being able to touch the stuff I’m making, smell the wood I’m working with,” Lau said.
And she’s able to keep overhead low by using public spaces, like Milwaukee Makerspace in Bay View, which offers members access to otherwise inaccessible equipment, including the laser cutter Lau uses to make her intricate earrings, necklaces and ornaments.
As for what inspires her, Lau said she continues to make things she would give to friends, who just happen to like a lot of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
“My friends are diehard Harry Potter fans,” Lau laughed.
JUST THE FACTS
WEB:www.etsy.com/shop/SimplistiCreations PHONE: 630-229-1565
OWNER: Kat Lau
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Etsy shop, jewelry and home decor
PEARLS OF WISDOM: I enjoy being able to touch the stuff I’m making, smell the wood I’m working with.