Last Design Hive is alive with entrepreneurial hope
Design Hive, the local fashion crafts fair, held what is likely to be its last Cambridge event Sunday, with dozens of vendors, a steady stream of holiday shoppers and several fundraising eighth-graders and their parents in attendance.
Design Hive founder and organizer Valerie Fox said she’d sent a letter to officials at the hosting Maria L. Baldwin School to see if there was a way to undo the dramatic rise in rent forcing out the craft fair. That she heard nothing back was “disappointing,” she said.
Eighth-graders trying to raise $22,000 for a 40-person trip to Washington, D.C. — one $1 raspberry square or $2 slice of cappuccino cake at a time — were also disappointed, but undeterred from their goal.
“This was definitely a good opportunity,” said Ezra Corazon, 13, of fundraising at Design Hive. “But we have several things going on, and I don’t think it’ll totally deteriorate. We’ll find other opportunities.
The students have about $2,000 socked away and have earned about $300 during less well-attended Design Hives, or one with other factors at play (such as the one after Halloween, when people needed less sugary treats to make it through shopping). Sunday’s event was certain to do better for them, the fundraisers said.
To contribute to the fundraising, contact teacher Michael Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But those who think bake sales are cute haven’t seen anything yet.
Behold the Cozy Cup Hoodie
Maryellen Paquette, the parent of a Baldwin School eighth-grader, has her own contribution to the fundraising effort and, quite possibly, an argument to become heir to a pet rock- or troll doll-style fortune. Except that her invention has function as well as cuteness: She has invented — patent pending — the Cozy Cup Hoodie, a tiny sweater hood that fits tightly around a hot or cold drink. It allows the drink to be picked up comfortably and absorbs spills.
“People won’t want naked cups after this,” Paquette said Sunday, although she confessed reaction to the idea has been mixed. “Some people are like, ‘What the hell is that?’ and some people say, ‘You’re going to make $1 million!’ It’s the kind of idea you can’t really explain, because it sounds really stupid.”
Surely no more stupid then the pet rock.
The idea came only a few weeks ago to Paquette, who was seeking a cheap but profitable item in which students could be involved. She sewed the first hoodies over the Thanksgiving break with recycled sweaters from Cambridge’s Dollar a Pound Plus store, and now students are sewing them as well. The next step is to make them in Baldwin school colors, black and white.
The hoodies sell for $6 through email@example.com or at the school, at 28 Sacramento St., Cambridge. All proceeds from the sale of the hoodies go toward paying for the Washington, D.C., field trip (with Paquette and her eighth-grader daughter, Aven, hoping to reap the profits afterward).
There were other great ideas at the Design Hive show.
And behold the Atari Cartridge Wallet
Niles Zwolak, who goes by Nilez, spent years gathering and making his Atari Cartridge Wallets — which are exactly what they sound like — amassing thousands of cartridges before beginning to sell the wallets this summer. “The Atari community online were atwitter about it, to use a phrase that’s been revived,” Nilez said, copycats have popped up and local and online media are enthusing about the clever product.
Take a cartridge for the ancient Atari 2600 video game system, cut it in half, apply magnets to keep the case together and repurpose the innards so they hang onto cash and cards on each side. You may browse among the dozens of titles for “Bowling,” “Berserker” or “Pac-Man,” with older, text-only cartridges selling for $35 and better-illustrated ones going for $55.
They’re the same size as a standard wallet and, if larger, lighter than most you’ll find, Nilez said. His wife, a Massachusetts College of Art graduate identified as Phetnikone, makes and sells matching wristlets, so people can take their Ms. Pac-Man cartridge wallet out of a vibrant Ms. Pac-Man bag.
Each of the 1,000 wallets on sale took two hours to make, but more significant is the five years Nilez said he spent buying cartridges and systems in preparation for selling the product. He resells complete game systems on eBay, giving 30 percent of the earnings to children’s charities, he said.
“This is all I’ve been doing over the past several years,” Nilez said, before listing several sports he pursues to break up the tedium. “The engineering, research, testing and experimenting consumed as much time as a part-time job, except this job cost me money every step of the way. It’ll take selling at least two hundred wallets to recover the costs I have put into this so far.”
Online sales began Monday.
Now for a hand-crafted marshmallow treat
Erika Larson took a different approach. She came to Design Hive with hand-crafted marshmallows and other delicious treats to launch her part-time business, 3AM Confections — so named because that’s typically when she’s creating them.
As a 2006 graduate of Wellesley, she dove directly into work at a Cambridge pharmaceuticals company. It was boring, though, and she shuddered as she “realized I’d find myself there in 10 years.” That led to a year off during which she attended Porter Square’s Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
Although she took a nonpastry course and later worked as a personal chef and at The Beehive in the South End, “I discovered pastry is what I wanted to do.” A further push came when, amid her general desire to sell something at Design Hive, “I realized I’d actually need a product.”
Marshmallows, she admitted, have an excellent profit margin. And people love them — as demonstrated by the devouring of the mango- and grapefruit-flavored samples she brought to Design Hive. The salty chocolate caramels nearby also went quickly.
As with Paquette, marshmallow production began over Thanksgiving vacation. (All Design Hive product was made fresh before the show.) Larson still works weekdays at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Business, but has begun to take flavor requests and sell her confections online (order by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org) and at shows, and to look for shelves at a retail location.
Bags are five marshmallows for $3 or a dozen for $6. Larson also sells vanilla hot chocolate mix for $5, caramel corn bags for $3.50 and makes the occasional wedding cake. All (except the cakes) are “great stocking stuffers,” she said, “and keep very well.”