Entrepreneurs, especially Iowa entrepreneurs, have a place in my heart to share their stories. They are out there hustling, burning the midnight oil, often working two or more jobs to fit the need to pay bills, and wanting to fill their creative brain bank. They are the ones at local vendor shows that have the cool stuff that you’re always wondering more about. You may want to know, “How did they do that?” However, you may have more questions than time, but you really want to know more! I am here to bring Iowa entrepreneurs to you so you can get to know them, and more about their trade. I’m so proud of them, and I’m cheering them on! I hope you will too!
The Mulberry Patch Snapshot of Projects
Laser Engraving and Cutting Spotlight: The Mulberry Patch
I’d like you to meet Krystal of The Mulberry Patch. Krystal is a wife, and mom of three humans, one dog named Calvin, two cats and a handful of chickens, based in rural Sac County, Iowa. Sac County sits right along Highway 20, and is northwest about 130 miles (2 hours and 15 minutes) of Des Moines. She has taken up the art, craft, and science of using a laser cutting. The Mulberry Patch started out with a Glowforge, a 3D printer that can create laser engraved and cut items on a variety of materials, like wood, leather, fabric, acrylic, paper, fabric and more. As you can see from the handful of pictures above, she (and her husband, Mike) are crazy talented!! This is just a small fraction of the work they do! I’m so proud of them for taking on this business to bring beauty, joy and remembrance into people’s lives. See what I mean below from the list of questions I asked Krystal.
Interview with The Mulberry Patch
Iowa State Cyclones or Iowa Hawkeyes?
Cyclones! My husband and I graduated from there. We met in geology class (bunch of science nerds) haha!
What made you decide to start this business?
I was introduced to a few products that were laser cut, and had been mulling over the idea for a while. Then the Covid shutdown happened. We had some extra time on our hands at home. As an added bonus I was able to have a creative outlet.
What laser cutter do you use?
We have had three types. We started with Glowforge Pro, and bought a Plus that was local to get through Christmas orders, and until the shop was finished. July 2022 we added the Thunder 35/80. Love. it. so. much. We still have an Aeon NOVA, but it isn’t hooked up, or been used by me. That is one of the goals in the next few months!
Why has this been a good fit for you?
This is a good fit for me because I am able to have time for a creative outlet. I have a background in the arts, and this has been something in the realm of that. Also, over the past year it has helped me get through the grieving process of the loss of my father that lost his battle to lung cancer. It brings me joy, but I need to find that balance between spouse, mom, entrepreneur, and teaching.
If you could choose one treat what would it be?
Too hard to choose! If I had to choose just one, it is Stone Pier Iced Coffee, a specialty drink at the local coffee shop, Milton’s on Main.
What have been some struggles with starting this business?
As a working mom, and also an entrepreneur, finding time to balance everything has been a struggle. Trying to let everyone know we exist has been a real struggle! Living in a rural area and relying on word of mouth and social media can be a very slow process. Algorithms with social media platforms reaching my target audiences can be frustrating at times. Nothing is more of a punch to the gut when you think this item/post is going to do so well, and you check the analytics and it shows very little engagement.
Why is your business called The Mulberry Patch?
We have a lot of mulberry trees on our property. They don’t really grow in a patch, but you get the idea 😉
What has been the most rewarding part of your business?
Meeting new people and customers, connecting with other small business owners, connecting with other women with small businesses has been the rewarding bits of this business.
Beach or mountain? Why?
Mountain–as a kid I was fortunate enough to visit several national parks on family vacations. I love the beauty of nature in the mountains.
How do you do what you do with your craft? How does it work?
In an abbreviated explanation. Here’s the process of what we do for laser cut/engraved items. We compile what we want to cut in a vector file the size of our laser bed or piece we want to cut. We choose our type of wood to cut out or engrave. Use settings based on materials to get clean cuts, figure out the focal height to focus the laser beam to cut or engrave. We double check out settings and send the file to the machine. We fire the laser and wait for it to be done. If everything cuts correctly we are able to sort pieces and take it out of the machine and wrap or prep for the next step if we are going to finish it or have it for a DIY blank or paint party kits.
What is your favorite thing to make?
My most favorite thing to do is to engrave recipe boards. I take a customer’s hand-written recipe they send. I use computer software to clean up the recipe to preserve the loved ones’ handwriting. It can be a very time consuming process in Photoshop to clear out the background noise, but I just enjoy that I can help memorialize something that is important for my customer. My most meaningful project I have created is the handwriting for my late father. I made a farmhouse frame, and right before he started treatments I had him write a quote he would always say when he helped us renovate our current house. I engraved it, and now I have his handwriting engraved to display beautifully.
What programs do you use to help you with your work?
I like using programs in the Adobe Suite for files and photo editing. The main ones we use are Illustrator, Photoshop and Lightroom.
Our lasers use LightBurn software.
I love using Canva for our social media graphics and posts.
What have you learned now that you didn’t know before?
You can do anything, but you don’t have time for everything. I want to make all the things, and it is hard to limit time in the work space. I am a mom and teacher so most of my time is spent out in the workspace after the kids go to bed and the weekend.
What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Photography. I haven’t had much free time lately. I fill it with sleep. HAHA. But the time I do make, I spend snuggling with the kids and husband on the couch.
What piece of advice would you give to yourself when you started this business?
Everyone is not your customer. Focus on your goals and stick to them. Take time to reflect and set boundaries.
What is the next thing you are wanting to pursue?
Mastering engraving tumblers. Reaching more wholesale customers that have brick and mortar stores and maybe get the hang of the social media algorithms. We will be working on getting the word out there that we think we have something pretty awesome here, and we would love to share it with you!
Favorite thing to make for dinner?
When fresh and hot, local pizza gets picked up, it doesn’t matter from where. LOL.
How do we find out more about you? Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Etsy. Give me all of the ways to see your product!