Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, millions of people globally have lost their jobs, homes, family members and friends. In the United States alone, hundreds of thousands of restaurants, studios, theaters, shops and other various small businesses have had to make the difficult decision to shut their doors for the near future, or in many cases, permanently. Small businesses may be the heart of America, but far too many are struggling to find a pulse.
But in the midst of these shutdowns, a 16-year-old high school senior and my sister, Hannah Leto, decided to open her doors and make her dreams a reality.
Her Campus (HC): What inspired you to become a macramé artist?
Hannah Leto (HL): It all started with a quarantine hobby I picked up! I have worked with many visual arts before, like drawing, painting and working with chalk pastels, but I had never tried anything with fiber arts. One afternoon when I was super bored, I decided to take some yarn we had around the house, watch a macramé tutorial and I fell in love.
HC: Why did you decide to open a small business, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic?
HL: I love creating beautiful things that make people happy. When I discovered macramé, I wanted to buy a few pieces online, but I felt like they were all too expensive! My friends felt the same way and kept asking about the pieces I was making. I realized there was an opportunity—I love creating beautiful things, but I also want to make my art affordable and accessible to everyone. So, I decided to open Handmade By Hannah Leto, a small macramé art business.
HC: What has been the most challenging part of being a small business owner? What has been the most rewarding?
HL: The most challenging part has been time management. I am a senior in high school, an athlete and now a business owner. With school, homework, college applications, volleyball practice and tournaments, I still have to find time to create my pieces, run my business Instagram account and restock my merchandise in store! But, in just the seven months Handmade By Hannah Leto has been open, I have connected with other artists and customers across the country. These relationships are the most rewarding part, especially with other female artists and business owners. I always make a conscious effort to work with and highlight these women on my Instagram. Women should always support other women. One of my favorite connections has been with Kelly Orme, owner of Ruby and Rust in Winter Garden, Florida. She has been an encouraging mentor and friend to me, letting me sell my artwork in her beautiful store.
HC: Why should people support local artists and #shopsmall this holiday season?
HL: This year has been really hard on us all and small business owners are no exception. People should shop small this holiday season because small businesses want to create the best possible product for you. They put a lot of thought, love and passion into their work. Shopping small allows artists to be unique and use their vision to create something beautiful! I have found the most amazing items and gifts when I shop small. It is also better for the environment, as many small businesses choose to use less waste and more eco-friendly packaging. It truly is a win-win situation all around.