Happy Crafters spins an online business into a bustling hangout for creatives.


When shopping at Happy Crafters, a small shop on Morgantown’s Don Knotts Boulevard, it isn’t unusual to meet crafters on pilgrimages from other states. “People come in from eight hours out of town,” says Chelsea Hellen, Happy Crafter’s brand manager. “This is one of their stops when they go to a WVU game. Some people call Friday afternoon to see if we’ll still be open at 6. They’ll drive four hours just to look at the inventory.”

Happy Crafters began in 2012, when the company started selling vinyl sheets online. The timing was fortunate. Electronic cutting machines like Cricut and Silhouette were just coming onto the market, opening up new possibilities for crafters—suddenly crafters could create everything from personalized T-shirts to intricate decals and home decor.

Early on, to generate interest, the team decided to ship one free sheet of vinyl to anyone who signed up on the website. When the deal found its way to the Reddit crafting community, business really exploded, with orders coming in from all over the country. The bulk of business is still done online, Hellen says.

While vinyl crafting has been a big hit in the Deep South for a while now. “In Texas, there’s a vinyl shop on every corner,” Hellen says. The trend is just beginning to take off in West Virginia and surrounding states. Though big-box shops like Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and Hobby Lobby are beginning to tap into vinyl crafting, Happy Crafters is one of the only stand-alone vinyl retail stores north of Kentucky.

Happy Crafters’ two-year-old brick-and-mortar location is mainly a way to interact face-to-face with customers, Hellen says. The crafting world keeps evolving, and meeting in person allows the team to learn what customers are creating and what they need, which informs their product selection.

The six staffers who make up the close-knit team at Happy Crafters all share their customers’ creative drive. They craft off the clock as well. Hellen emphasizes this tightness of their crew and passion for the work in the business’ success. “We’re all women,” she says, “and we all work well together.”

Be customer-obsessed. “If something goes wrong and you make it right, they’re gonna remember that you made it right, not that something was wrong,” Hellen says.
Stay on top of social media. Post on a schedule. “You don’t always have to have something crazy to say. People just want to hear from you.”

Hire a passionate team. “Everyone here is very creative,” Hellen says.

Don’t compete—collaborate. “We’re getting ready to work with Hoot and Howl downtown and with Tutto Gelato Cafe. We’re going to use our products and take some pictures in their shops.

They’ll be able to use those pictures to market their company and we’ll have a different setting for our product images as well.”

 

written by Emilie Shumway