Starter Series: Artterro

Forrest Espinoza reviews & interviews

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The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.Tell us a bit about your business and how you started it.

Tell us a bit about your business and how you started it.
Realizing that there was a big hole in the arts and crafts market was what initially inspired me to start Artterro. In 2006, I was shopping for a craft kit to do with my young sons and I noticed that everything was either pink (as if only girls are creative) or full of cheap materials and wasteful packaging. It was impossible to find an eco-friendly, high-quality, creative kit that would be fun for both genders and adults.

I had a background in retail and art, so I started doing research and sourcing some artist-quality materials. My first kit was for Valentine’s Day. I sold it mostly to friends, neighbors and at community fairs. Then I waded into the wholesale market by going to trade shows and getting sales reps. I was lucky enough to meet my business partner Jennifer Conn, an artist and graphic designer, at an open gym where our kids played together. After working together for a while, we realized our talents and goals were very complementary. We decided to partner up and grow Artterro into the brand it is today. We now have a line of 12 eco art kits that make it easy to explore needle felting, wire sculpture, decoupage, art journaling and more. Just in the past couple of years we started selling directly from, and it’s exciting to connect to customers that don’t necessarily have an awesome eco shop in their area. 

We’re proud that we were able to create a product that people really love while staying true to our sustainable values. Out kits contain lots of natural, recycled and/or US-made materials, and we assemble them by hand here in our Madison, Wisconsin office.

What do your kids think about your job?
My kid's like to joke about how I always have to talk about Artterro with people. I try to point out that I don't bring it up first, people ask me. Despite their teasing, I've noticed that when I'm talking to someone about what I do, my children are always very quiet and listening to every word that I say. They have also given me some of the best complements, like “Artterro is cool like Lego” and “You’re right Mom, people should spend just as much money on art materials as they spend on tech gadgets!”

Tell us about a mom + biz fail.
Moving the Artterro operation into an office was such an exciting milestone. But having a separate space doesn’t always guarantee that home and work will remain separate! Sometimes my kids need to hang out here for whatever reason, and a quiet office environment is just not ideal for my high-energy boys.  Keeping them occupied while I work can be frustrating. Sometimes they actually ask to come to the office so they can work and earn money for a new toy they’re saving up for. But after about 15 minutes, the little jobs I find for them become “too boring” and I’m scrambling to keep them busy again. This is not conducive to making successful sales calls! However, I am lucky in many ways as far as work/life balance.  I have a flexible work environment, a business partner that goes through very similar challenges, and a supportive stay-at-home husband who is homeschooling our kids.

Share with us a total win (brag away!)
We get handwritten and email love letters from all over the country. Moms, dads, uncles, aunts and kids rave about the how unique the product is, the fun hours they spend with friends and family, the gifts, cards, and holiday decorations that they make for the special people in their life. They also say that they love to give Artterro kits as gifts because they know that the parents will appreciate the creative projects and the quality materials.  

So I guess my biggest win is that I love what I do! I love to think about inspiring creativity in our customers.

What's your relationship with Mamalode?
We just learned about Mamalode recently through one of our awesome retailers, Erika Hickey of Walking Stick Toys. We love to support mom-owned businesses, especially when they are helping other mamas like Mamalode. It is such a wonderful and much needed publication.

About the Author

Forrest Espinoza

Forrest Espinoza is the founder and CEO of Artterro. Forrest has a lifelong passion for art and is a self-taught artisan with expertise in many techniques and media, including paper making, needle felting, ceramics and pottery, painting, drawing, collage, decoupage, sewing, knitting and crocheting. Personally and professionally, creativity is Forrest’s #1 passion. She loves thinking of new business ideas, connecting with customers, and adapting to new challenges. She’s also an unschooling mom, avid gardener, biker, hiker and artist.

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