Meet the Maker: Melissa Camilleri of Compliment (Giveaway included!)

Meet the Maker MelissaI met Melissa Camilleri – a fellow Sacramento native – through Instagram (I’m telling you, I love that app) when I was organizing a fundraiser. I asked her to vend at the event but she couldn’t attend, so she donated a beautiful pair of earrings. Though the fundraiser didn’t work out, we kept in contact and since she her business and philanthropic spirit are so inspiring, I wanted to share her story with you.

Melissa started Compliment – her stationery and jewelry line that is just as precious as the words that are written on each and every package – when she was a high school English and AVID teacher. She had been making jewelry since she was in elementary school and when one of her students asked her to make ring to match her Homecoming dress, Melissa realized that people were digging her stuff.

Compliment was officially founded over the Thanksgiving weekend of 2011, and since then she was taken the leap into full small business ownership.

Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

I love your story and how you got started with Compliment. Do you feel like your writing plays a big part in your business?

Writing plays a huge part in what I do.  I never set out to be a jewelry designer.  I just kind of went with where I was called.  My road has been a winding one, but each stage has definitely informed the next.  So although I went to grad school for writing to publish for magazines, and write a book, I’m finding that it’s still a HUGE part of my marketing for my business to be blogging right now.  I’m going to write a book someday, though. 🙂

How would you describe Sacramento in terms of a small business owner? Do you feel it’s a good city for your business to thrive in?

Sacramento is on the verge of so many cool things.  I think there are a lot of young people here who want to see their hometown thrive and support local growth.  Old neighborhoods are being revitalized and there is a definite sense of community here among artisans and people who believe in shopping local to support their community.  

I feel like Compliment is definitely able to thrive here.  I have a lot of local customers who stop by my studio and that I’ve met while having a booth at an event.  There’s a nice momentum.

Can you tell me more about the Scholarship Fund? When, how and why did you start it? How do you hope it will better the community?
YES!  This is where my heart is.  I started Compliment when I was still teaching full time as a high school English and AVID teacher.  I thought it would be a fun, artistic way to help some of my most needy students out who had so much potential but not the means to go to college.  I believe education is the only way to break the generational cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.  So whatever I can do to help facilitate that for young people with a dream, but with little other support?
 
My scholarship has, for the last two years, been donations out of my own pocket.  We’ve been able to give over $1000, which is an amazing blessing for me to even say.  As my company grows, the scholarship grows.  This October, we are having our first ever benefit dinner and dance at Silverado Design Center and I get giddy just thinking about how much more we will be able to give because of it!
 
Melissa with this year's scholarship winners. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Melissa with this year’s scholarship winners. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

What is the Soul Care Series about?
Because my natural inclination is to teach, I wanted my blog to be of service to my readers.  I noticed that there were some pretty amazing women around me doing some pretty amazing things in the world, living whole-hearted lives, and learning how to take care of themselves.  I started the Soul Care Series because I wanted to talk to women I admire and by whom I’m inspired.  And I like to share!  Thus, the Soul Care Series was born!
 
How do you feel about the philanthropy in Sacramento? Do you feel it could use some more? What are some of your favorite Organizations?
I think there is some amazing philanthropy happening in Sacramento, but YES there could definitely be more.  Having worked in the schools so long, I know that so many kids go without.  So many teachers are spending out of their own pockets to help get kids through their formative years.  So I’m always excited about those organizations–ones that help kids rise up and make good choices with their lives and learn to be civically engaged.  
 
Why do you think it’s good to donate and be a part of the giving?
A close friend just reminded me of this Roberto Clemente quote today:  “If you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on earth.
 
I agree with that sentiment.  I feel like I am blessed in many ways.  What good is it if I keep those blessings to myself?  Joy multiplies when it is shared.  I was raised that way– if you can be of service, do that.  It’s the whole basis of my company.
 
Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Gratitude earrings. Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed (PS – the blue ones are offered in a giveaway today!)

How do you hope to empower young women with an entrepreneurial spirit?
I employ young women to learn the behind-the-scenes of running a small business.  Like I said before, it’s in my nature to teach, so I see my business as an extension of that even though it’s out of the classroom now.  
 
What do you enjoy doing on your downtime?
People are often surprised that even though I’m social and I’m comfortable talking in front of people,  I’m very introverted, so I like to be quiet during my downtime!  I like to read, go for walks, meditate, try out new restaurants with my friends.  Hang out with my family.  Float in the pool when the weather allows it.  
 
What do you have planned for the future?
Oh gosh… During these past two years, if I’ve learned anything it is that even if I make plans, often God has other ideas of where I’m headed.  Compliment was never “planned,” and come to think of it, anything that I’ve actually planned out, has just been a stepping stone, not the be-all, end-all.  So I guess my plans are to stay open to this wonderful, exciting, abundant journey, wherever it may lead.
 
Image from Compliment's Instagram Feed

Image from Compliment’s Instagram Feed

Favorite places you frequent in Sacramento?
I live pretty close to McKinley Park, which I LOVE.  So I like to head there to walk.  I also love seeing live music at Harlow’s and Marilyn’s on K.  And I’m a big fat sucker for the burgers at The Hideaway in Curtis Park.  Oh and I go to Cafe Bernardo probably like once a week.  That mushroom salad is off the hook (and I never even liked mushrooms!)
 
Melissa is so awesome that she agreed to do a Giveaway for the pair of gratitude earrings (valued at $32) that she originally donated to the fundraiser! In order to enter, leave a compliment for Melissa on the post in the comment section or through any of my social media sites!
 
unnamed 2You can find out more about Melissa and Compliment by visiting the website and you can click here to donate to her scholarship foundation. Know someone who would be a perfect fit for this series? Leave a comment and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

Meet the Maker: Kate Payne

meet the makerSometime last year, I was virtually introduced to Kate Payne, the author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. I don’t remember how the introduction occurred, but from the moment I visited her website, I’ve been hooked. I was so hooked that I purchased her book last November, and I love reading it in the little snippets of free time that I get.

I’m hoping to put a lot of her homemaking tips to use when we get our house, so I will do a full review of the book then. But for now – I just want to share her amazing story.

Photo from Kate Payne

Photo from Kate Payne

Before this book, Kate was what she calls “a flashy cook” – cooking food that would excite, but was not necessary by any means. She has also donned titles such as grant writer, half-assed homemaker, nanny, after-hours poet, doodler and gardener. She studied anthropology and sociology in the Sonoran Desert and once worked on an organic tomato farm.

Kate started the blog in 2009, when she was living in a ground floor apartment in Brooklyn, NY. She wasn’t making the money she was used to, but she still wanted the comforts of home. She dug inside for a little creativity and improvisation, and there the blog – and subsequently the book – were born.

“I started the blog specifically with the intent to write a book. The blog was a sort of sounding board for me to see if what I was thinking about writing was of interest to anyone besides me. I was not a blog reader at the time and my background in grant writing didn’t factor much into my blogging endeavors. I think the rigors of writing well–proofreading, syntax, punctuation, grammar, etc.–should go into any style of writing one does, whether it’s books, blog posts, magazine articles, or grants. “

She decided to write a book because she felt like there wasn’t enough resources out there for women who weren’t so hip on homemaking and keeping a clean house. Aside from that, she found herself questioning if it was normal for a modern, empowered woman like herself to actually enjoy the domestic life.

Image from Kate Payne

Image from Kate Payne

“The stigma and history surrounding women and domesticity fueled my intrigue in exploring my own relationship with the kitchen and household chores. With my book and approach I hope to shed a new light on DIY and eco-oriented homemaking. We all need somewhere to call home and shifting our attitude toward our homes is a good first step.

I’m of the opinion that you should pick and choose what you do yourself based on what you actually like doing, and then dedicate money you save there on quality items or services you don’t particularly enjoy. What makes the most sense for certain people to do themselves, doesn’t make sense for others. “

On top of maintaining her blog and writing her books, Kate also writes grants part-time for a nonprofit and maintains a quarterly column for Edible Austin. She works with her Marketing Coordinator Christina Valentine on the blog, tour event planning and managing workshop preparations. And because that is clearly not enough, she also works with a local farmers market group and helps maintain their website and social media.

“Freelancing means I’m working nearly all the time, but working on things I feel passionately about makes it worth it. I always carve out time to eat dinner with my wife, who does most of the sustenance cooking around our house. (I manage the fermenting, canning, desserts, ice cream and bread making, the projects we love, but can ultimately live without.)”

Meyer Lemon bath salts. Photo from Kate Payne

Meyer Lemon bath salts. Photo from Kate Payne

Kate started canning in 2009 and peach jam was among her first projects, which she was afraid to eat because she was terrified the jars were full of botulism. She also made a triple citrus marmalade, from Eugenia Bone’s book Well Preserved.

“As I endeavored to learn more about canning, I soon discovered that all the hype surrounding your imminent death by canning was not really likely if you followed USDA-approved canning methods and practices. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for beginners.”

A self-taught cook, she gets a lot of her recipe inspiration from Joy of Cooking and many of her gluten-free recipes will start from there and from pastry chef David Lebovitz. She will then make the recipes gluten free-friendly by substituting the flour for a flour blend based on what she is making. As for her preserving projects and recipes, she’s inspired by Linda Ziedrich, Eugenia Bone and Sandor Katz.

She and her friend started the Food Swap Network, which provides hosts and attendees with a bevy of resources and information. Existing swaps that are registered on their site are searchable for anyone nearby who wants to join the fun.

Gluten-free Cinnamon Cake. Photo from Kate Payne

Gluten-free Cinnamon Cake. Photo from Kate Payne

Kate’s new book The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen comes out next month and is available for pre-order now. She says it will be in the same style and format as her freshman book – it will just focus completely on the kitchen, which really is a world of its own.

“I took over the cooking for the year I wrote the book as evidence that even someone like me who doesn’t enjoy daily sustenance cooking can reasonably and affordably incorporate cooking into their busy lifestyle.”

She hopes people will just simply focus on doing their best, and will relax when they hit the learning curve that comes with working on new projects. And as for the best compliment she’s received:

“A single mom told me how she’s never had time for any household things, but my book and small-batch preserving recipes on the blog inspired her to try doing some kitchen projects with her daughter. They now spend more time together cooking and canning, which means the world to her.”

Photo from Kate Payne

Photo from Kate Payne

Kate will be kicking off her HGGK Book Tour (hooray!) on May 24 in Ann Arbor, MI and the tour will close in Albuquerque, NM on July 1. I have listed the dates and locations of her book tour, and you can also see her full classes, demos and signings schedule by visiting her at katepayne.net.

      • May 24 – Ann Arbor, MI: Literati Bookstore, time TBD
      • May 27 – Austin, TX: BookPeople 7:00pm
      • May 28 – Houston, TX: Blue Willow Bookshop, 7:00pm
      • May 29 – Brooklyn, NY: Greenlight Bookstore, 7:30pm
      • June 13 – Tucson, AZ: Antigone Books, 7:00pm
      • June 17 – La Jolla, CA: Warwick’s, 7:30pm
      • June 23 – Seattle, WA: Book Larder, 6:30pm
      • June 28 – San Francisco, CA: Omnivore Books, 3:00pm
      • June 30 – Phoenix, AZ: Changing Hands Bookstore, 7:00pm
      • July 1 – Albuquerque, NM: Bookworks, 7:00pm

You can find Kate Payne by visiting her on The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking website, you can find neat stuff in her store and you can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. If you know an awesome maker who would be perfect for this series, please leave a link in the comments, share on my social media or e-mail it to me!

Meet the Maker: Jess Van Den from Epheriell

meet the maker

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Meet Jess Van Den, 32, from Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland, Australia, who runs her own handmade jewelry line, Epheriell, and also founded Create & Thrive, an excellent resource for creative business owners. Create & Thrive has become a huge part of my research and reading for both my blog and my creative business projects I’m working on, and I’m so privileged to share her story with you.

Jess has not only one Bachelors degree, but three of them – in Science, Arts and Education. Before she decided to turn her love of jewelry making into a full-time career, she worked as a traveling Science communicator for the Queensland Museum and her last position was a Manager at a Math and English tutoring center for two years.

She got into making jewelry in 2008 and started out buying components at Spotlight (the Michaels of Australia) and stringing pieces together.

“I didn’t really have any skills, but I slowly learnt more and more – and after taking a weekend silversmithing class, my course was set!”

At first, Jess was simply selling jewelry because she had so much of it scattered around and thought “maybe I can sell some.”  Her decision to make it a career was accidental, and might just be one of the best stories I’ve heard to date. She and her husband got married in 2009 and wanted to travel around Australia in a camper for a year.

“We converted an empty courier van into a camper over summer, but I had a huge saga of dental problems at the same time that prevented us from leaving. I had no job, so I just threw myself into the biz… and, well, the rest is history as they say. We never did get to go on that trip… but we will, one day!

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Beautiful earrings from the Earring of the Month club. Photo from Jess Van Den

Her decision to name her jewelry line Epheriell was easy and simple, as it was an online alias she used for many years. She says it’s the mash-up of “ephemeral” and “ethereal,” meaning “lasting for a very short time” and “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world,” respectively.

A “greenie” from the way back, Jess ran a now-defunct blog called Sustainable Suburbia before starting her jewelry line, so its only natural (no pun intended) that she is dedicated to finding recycled sources for her jewelry. She struggled to find sources at first, but finally found a 100% recycled silver.

“I was keen to find a recycled source. All my sheet and wire is now 100% recycled. I’d love to find a source of recycled sterling silver chain, too, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Like many small business owners, Jess loves the freedom that comes with running her own business, but does admit that she does panic a little when business slows down a little, which fortunately does not happen to her too much anymore.

“Enough years have taught me that things always pick up again!”

After running her jewelry business for a few years, Jess decided to start Create & Thrive as a source of practical advice from people who thrived (again, no pun) in their handmade businesses. She wanted to get writers that were a part of the handmade business community and she will actually be welcoming six new writers in 2014!

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

“There is a lot of advice and info out there written by coaches, consultants, and marketers… but not so much written by people actually walking the talk of running a handmade business day-to-day.”

Jess and her husband, Nick, work in two rooms in a converted barn (she really is a greenie!) and her studio takes up the wall of one room. She has a desk with her computer and another desk for all of her jewelry work. She also has a soldering and buffing station outside.

She recently took a digitial sabbatical for a few days, which she credits for improving her workflow and she wrote about all the changes she is making here. She says that her routines, calendars and schedules ensure that she stays on top of everything, and even though it may not all go smoothly, she is usually able to get everything done.

Yup, that's an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

Yup, that’s an old barn. Crazy, eh? Photo from Jess Van Den. Credit: Paul Harris

“I also have a fabulous Assistant Editor for C&T – Megan Eckman – and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Jess names jewelry designer Megan Auman and Business Strategist and writer Tara Gentile among her many mentors, but she can’t pinpoint where her inspiration comes from. She says that sometimes an idea will pop up fully formed in her head.

“Other times I’ll sit down with my sketchbook and deliberately doodle until I come up with something I want to turn into reality. My morning walk is always a good idea-generator, too.”

When Jess is not busy creating beautiful jewelry and motivating small business owners with Create & Thrive, she loves to read and is currently on her third Kindle. She’s mostly drawn to the indie fantasy/paranormal romance genre and science fiction, her first love. An amateur triathlete, she also runs, swims or cycles almost every day.

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Her new bike! Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

Photo from Jess Van Den

She and Nick also love going hiking, and traveled through all of the National Parks down the US West Coast this year. They have traveled all over the world, and Jess takes a little something from each place she has visited.

“There have been so many amazing places – each one with something unique. I loved snorkeling off the islands in Fiji; taking a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef at sunset; walking the streets of Paris and New York; hiking amongst the Redwoods in California; swimming in Crater Lake in Oregon; playing in the snow in Whistler, Canada… and the list could go on. The world is endlessly beautiful and I only wish I could see all of it before I die.”

Jess says that anyone who hopes to venture into the world of silversmithing should simply “just start playing.” She recommends taking an in-person course (something you might be able to find on Skillshare) and she also recommends checking out Flourish & Thrive for the business aspect, as she says they are focused on helping jewelers grow their businesses.

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Nested Necklace. Photo from Jess Van Den

Looking into the future, Jess hopes to grow Create & Thrive and to reach more people with the same mindset she has now – to give them practical information and advice to make their handmade businesses a success. When asked what she liked the most about the handmade community, she said “the warmth and support.”

“People are part of our community because they have a passion for what they do, which I love.”

She wants people to realize that they don’t have to stick with the same day job day in and day out, if it’s not something they love and enjoy doing.

If they have a passion or an idea that they want to turn into a business, they owe it to themselves to give it a red-hot go. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and keep doing that job. But if you make it work, you get the satisfaction of waking up every day knowing you’re doing something you love, following your own path. No-one’s going to do it for you – it’s up to you. If you want it, go for it!”

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Entwined Oxidised Urban Eco Earrings. Photo from Jess Van Den

Find about more about Jess and her beautiful jewelry by visiting her at both Epheriell and Create & Thrive. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. My Meet the Maker series appears every other Wednesday and you can find out more about these lovelies by visiting me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I would love to keep this going as long as I can, so if you know of anyone who would be a good fit, let me know!