Lacy Bell-Putnam is a woman living her dream. The mother of two operates her own soap company, Belham & Co., with her husband, Michael, and she thrives on sharing that passion with others.
Of course as a small, creative business, finding outlets and exposure for one’s brand can be tricky. Sure, there’s regional craft fairs and shows, as well as online marketplaces like Etsy. But travel can take away from the production process as well as family time. That’s why it is useful to find an opportunity close to home. Enter the Moxie Craft Fest. The bi-annual market for makers, held at Old City Hall, has helped local entrepreneurs like Bell-Putnam develop a dedicated customer base.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t been able to create the customer base that we have here in the Golden Isles. So even though we are working really hard to get our business ‘out there’ all over the country, it all started here, with this community supporting our business and helping us grow,” she said.
“Even though we do ship our soap all over the place, our biggest customer base is right here. Without the support of our local community our business wouldn’t work. It isn’t just a craft for many of us, it is a way of life, it is what puts food on the table and pays our bills.”
It’s one of many reasons that area artisans look forward to Moxie. There are events in the spring and fall, the latter of which is fast approaching. Moxie Craft Fest’s holiday market is returning from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Old City Hall in downtown Brunswick.
For Bell-Putnam and the other vendors, it’s a chance to connect with customers, as well as fellow crafters.
“We mostly enjoy Moxie because the energy is amazing. There is so much talent in one place, and we really enjoy getting to meet new artisans and creatives and connect with old friends. Moxie is really well known among our customers, family, and friends as just a really fun event to attend, and a great shopping opportunity, especially for the holidays,” she said.
“You find so many unique items there that you can’t really find in standard big box stores. In the age of Amazon and Etsy, when we artisans can meet with the community in person it is really a great opportunity to learn more about our customers and for our customers to connect with us and learn about our process.”
Eamonn Leonard agrees. The owner and creator of Concrete ETC by EDL enjoys showcasing his works, which include jewelry and decor, among a sea of other local and regional talents.
“Brunswick has a lot of creative people and Moxie Craft Fest is by far the best venue for local crafters and makers. The large community support and turn out makes this such a great event,” he said. “As a maker I enjoy the feed back from my community and the camaraderie between makers. This event is one of the best opportunities to truly shop local and find some unique treasures. Community support of local crafters and makers will help keep creative people in Brunswick.”
The support of the community is critical for the artisans, not only from the customers but from the other makers. Gina Albenze whose company, Virgin Apothecary offers natural skin care items, also feels that events like Moxie help them build bonds, as well as businesses.
“I enjoy it because of the community support and all the fun and positive vibes I get from all of the vendors and shoppers alike. Community support is vital when starting your own business because your network will give you advantages you otherwise couldn’t afford,” Albenze said.
The success of Moxie likely stems from the fact that it was created by a maker for other makers. It is the brain child of Jenny Van’t Land who started the event nearly four years ago.
Her friend, Jess Austin, feels her creative perspective made all the difference. The fiber artist and owner of Peculiar Abode, has helped Van’t Land weave Moxie’s pieces together over the past few years. One of the things she’s most proud of is Moxie’s uniqueness.
“Jenny has chosen are professionals in their craft. It’s like a group of trendy artists, and with art that isn’t the traditional type you would think of,” Austin said. “For example, the jewelers don’t just make their products because they have some beads on hand, they have studied metal smithing and stones and so they are creating something they are passionate about. I feel like we can proudly say all the vendors meet those standards. And they all have a unique view of their craft.”
That was precisely Van’t Land’s goal when she first dreamt up the event. She wanted the offerings to fit a trendy rather than traditional mold.
“When I moved down here four years ago, I couldn’t find a market with the vibe I was looking for ... so I decided to start one. It’s about what’s modern and on trend. It’s like walking into a real life Etsy,” she said. “It’s not just arts and crafts ... this is people’s livelihoods, something they have learned and studied.”
This year’s holiday market will include 40 artisans and vendors, as well as three food trucks. Van’t Land hopes it will be an enthusiastic kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
“We will be upstairs and downstairs at Old City Hall this year. We will have everything from leather bags to ceramic artists to metal smiths ... it runs the gamut. We will have Southern Soul Barbecue, an ice cream sandwich truck and beverage truck. Wake Up Coffee will have a space inside,” Van’t Land said.
This year, Van’t Land will be sharing her statement jewelry pieces in addition to organizing the event. She has added a new component this year — a food drive.
“We founded Moxie on community and we want to be able to reach out and support the community so we’re asking people to bring donated canned goods for Sparrow’s Nest, a food pantry in Brunswick. Those who bring donations will be entered in a raffle to win items and gift baskets donated by our artists,” she said. “Everyone is really excited about that.”
Van’t Land is hopeful that the food drive, as well as the whole of Moxie will be another success. She feels that it offers an important opportunity to support both area makers and those in need. Both go toward making a positive impact in the community.
“It’s also important to keep money in our community by supporting local artists. I think that there is something really special and meaningful about buying handmade goods. The artisans and makers are really giving you a piece of themselves ... something you truly can’t get anywhere else,” Van’t Land said.