Phew, 5 years! To celebrate our 5 year anniversary as a small business, we wanted to share some highlights and behind-the-scenes shots over the years. In the whirlwind of running a business, we rarely get the chance to look back and appreciate the many small moments that make up our story.
Native Maps truly started out of a love of my hometown, Dallas, but also out of a hope that I could support myself (and family) as an artist/creative/maker. I'm so grateful that it worked (somehow!), that we get to stoke that love-of-place for locals all over the country, and that so many people have supported us along the way.
Before Native Maps officially launched 5 years ago, I made the Dallas Neighborhood Map back in 2011 in this studio (above) in Dallas, Texas. This was my painting studio after undergrad in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas. After making the first map here, I started to sell it at markets and stores around town.
Below is my first attempt at product photography with our very first map.
I officially started Native Maps in the Fall of 2014. By that time, I had married Becca, and we had moved to Knoxville, TN for grad school in painting (for myself) and soil science (for Becca). We had our first daughter (Augie) earlier that year. To be honest, I was starting to think hard about how I wanted to support myself (and my family) as an artist/creative, and this seemed like a good moment to expand the neighborhood map concept to other cities. I was interested to see if it could work at a larger scale, without sacrificing quality or detail. I wanted to make a map for locals, by locals, for cities all over the US.
We turned our attic space into a studio, and I used an old t-shirt press to print the maps at home by hand. You can see my painting in the background (below) - I used the 200 sq ft space for my MFA work and for the business. It was a tight fit for sure, but it worked.
Washing screens in the bath tub for the first year!
Year 1 was marked by being a finalist in the West Elm LOCAL Grant Competition (above). We came in 3rd place, but in the process, we established a working relationship with West Elm (still going strong), which really helped to get the word out during those first couple months.
Darling Magazine posted the above photo on Instagram over Black Friday weekend that first year. This felt like our first big break, leading to a spike in sales and giving us a swift introduction to the "holiday season". I remember this was the first moment I thought we might be able to "make it" as a small business.
Below was our very fist market at the Retropolitan Craft Fair in Knoxville.
Year two was the year of travel for Native Maps. In addition to a series of pop-up shops in Nashville, Austin, and Chicago, I was asked to come to NYC to sit on a panel discussion hosted by West Elm for the Fast Company Innovation Festival that year. I also attended the Etsy Maker City Summit in NYC with a team representing Knoxville.
Pop-up shop at West Elm in Nashville (above)
Panel discussion for West Elm x Fast Company in Brooklyn about supporting small businesses and makers (above)
Terrible photo of my TEDx talk at UTK on the new "maker movement" (above)
Figuring out the challenges of receiving freight deliveries at home.
New vacuum powered press for the studio!
The Knoxville team at the Etsy Maker City Summit!
If year two was the year of travel, year three was the year of the studio. We started off the year by moving into a new, much larger space where we could make plans for future growth. We honed-in on our frame offerings, working with local woodshops to create our magnetic wood hangers and our solid wood frames. We had our first intern and hired our first employee, and we were even featured in our first publication!
The new studio!
New box of frames!
Our magnetic wood hangers in-process.
Photo for feature in Good Grit Magazine.
One of our first "official" product shoots.
Along with a team of local makers, I helped launch the very first Maker City Summit in Knoxville.
YEARS 4 - 5
Years 4-5 were defined by finding a rhythm in the ebbs and flows of small business life. We took this time to fine-tune many of the nuances of our business - like rebuilding our website to be more user-friendly, designing custom packaging for both in-store products and shipping. We built out the studio space to accommodate new inventory, and we streamlined many of our processes. Doesn't sound as interesting, but it's definitely part of creating a sustaining small business.
Ordering shipping material by the pallet!
Hey Rooster General store in Nashville (above). We've really enjoyed finding great stores across the country to partner with.
Fine-tuning our craft show setup.
Packed up for another craft show and holding our new addition, Elias.
Last summer, I had the chance to attend our first trade show at NY NOW.
We look forward to what the next 5 years brings for both family and business, and we greatly appreciate your support along the way!