By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Small-scale merchandisers like Rhonda Bunn of Cokato are using local farmers’ markets and online retail websites to sell their one-of-a-kind handmade designs.
Bunn started out sewing clothes for her children, and her collection grew from there.
Now, she makes aprons, oven mitts, T-shirt shopping bags, coin purses, and pillows, which Bunn seems to enjoy the most, she said.
Her color schemes are typically bold and bright.
“That’s what I’m always drawn to,” Bunn said, which is also how she came up with the name, Optic Designs.
Because of her bold, bright colors, Bunn was looking for a word that complimented the visuals aspects of her designs.
About three years ago, Bunn discovered the website, Etsy. Etsy’s mission is “to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers” with a vision to “build a new economy and present a better choice.”
In February, Bunn started selling her handmade merchandise through Etsy.
Etsy allows designers like Bunn the opportunity to showcase their merchandise on their personalized online store.
Utilizing the tools provided on Etsy, Bunn created her online store, Optic Designs, at www.etsy.com/shop/optic.
On Optic Designs, customers can browse and shop for Bunn’s merchandise.
Currently, there are 36 items for sale, but items change as they become available.
Since there are so many products and sellers on Etsy, business has been slow, she said, but was told it takes about a year to find a niche among the buyers.
The online forums have been helpful in starting her business and helping it evolve, she said.
Etsy makes it very easy to start a website, with helpful tips on how to create a site complete with a logo, banner, and business cards, Bunn explained.
Having just made a sale on Etsy the morning of the interview, Bunn was “pumped,” she said.
“It’s exciting,” Bunn said.
Locally, Bunn sells her items at the Cokato Farmers’ Market Wednesdays through October from 2 to 6 p.m. located next Cenex/Lake Region Co-op.
“It’s getting busier and busier each week, so that’s been really fun,” she said.
Pillows range in price from $15 to $30, aprons are $16.50, coin purses are $6, shopping bags are $10, and kids clothing varies from $16 to $21.
Bunn is currently working on designing her fall and holiday line, and will start sewing more in the fall.
One design she is focusing on creating is a modern poinsettia pattern for pillows.
In November, Bunn hosts the Handmade Holiday Boutique at her home. Typically it’s the weekend before Thanksgiving. Look for an advertisement in the Enterprise Dispatch for details, she said.
Rhonda and her husband, Ben, moved to the Cokato area six years ago. At the time, Ben was working for a plumbing and heating company out of Kingston.
Although he later started working for his brother’s masonry business out of Waconia, the couple decided they liked the community so much that they would stay.
Together, the couple have eight children.