Crafting a Better Life for Themselves: The Will-Do Spirit of Female Artisans

Crafting a Better Life

Women Entrepreneurs

Crafting a Better Life for Themselves: The Will-Do Spirit of Female Artisans


by Katherine Kotaw

Women don’t give up.

If there’s one fundamental reason why women succeed as entrepreneurs, it’s that they simply refuse to be defeated.

No matter what their circumstances. No matter what obstacles stand in their way.

I know a lot of men who have never recovered from the severe economic recession that technically ended in 2010. Many were in great financial shape when they lost their six-figure salaries – they had summer homes on the beach, winter homes in the mountains and enough money in their bank accounts to live modestly for the rest of their lives.

But they could not, would not adjust. They couldn’t find jobs that paid as well and, by the time they looked for lesser positions, it was too late. When the unemployment rate reaches 10 percent – as it did in October 2009 – employers don’t wait for older, overqualified workers to forfeit their egos for a steady paycheck. They hire someone younger and less desperate instead.

I know men who lost their homes and their wives (not always in that order) because they didn’t react in time to their changed circumstances. I see some on street corners, dressed in worn khakis and Polo shirts, carrying neatly-printed signs asking for spare change.


When Life Gets Tough, Women Get Tougher

Life dealt them more than they could handle. They gave up.

Women suffered severe hardship in the economic downturn too. Some lost their mortgages and their health. Some undoubtedly failed. But I’ve never met a woman who did.

Nearly every day I meet a woman whose path to entrepreneurship was inspired – or powered – by difficult circumstances. I’m honored to introduce you to a few of them:


Tabatha Payne, owner of Inspired by Karma, a handmade jewelry company

In 2011, Tabatha lost a corporate job she’d held for 10 years. She also lost her house and car – everything, she says, “except my sanity.”

She put what she had left in storage but somehow misplaced her beloved jewelry, a collection of yard sale and thrift store finds she could never replace. A single mom, Tabatha became resourceful at providing for her family – from cat sitting to flipping treasures – and one day a friend suggested Tabatha put her entrepreneurial spirit into something she loved: jewelry.

Tabatha thought her friend was crazy. But the seed had been planted and, with a $60 yard sale find, Inspired by Karma was born. Tabatha only makes jewelry she would wear herself and among her favorite pieces are the ones she makes for military wives, moms and girlfriends.


Jennifer Broderick, owner of Jennifer! Designs

Jennifer has lived with two constant companions for most of her life: mental illness and art. Her art, which includes commercial designs and fine art that will be displayed at the Miami Art Biennial in August, are messages of triumph.

She refused to be defined by her disease, which includes ADHD, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and strong borderline personality traits. She has instead spoken publicly about her struggles and her art in the hope of helping others.

“Making art to me is as important as breathing,” Jennifer says. “It pulled me out of a dark place during my childhood and led me into a world of hope, happiness and opportunities.  I want my art to convey the feeling of an unquiet mind that became restful, focused and undisturbed.”

Jennifer embarked on a “One Doodle a Day for One Year” challenge, and designs from that project can now be purchased on tote bags, rugs, shower curtains and other items. She also co-owns STATIONTeen, a company that makes a whimsical stationery line for girls.


Rochelle Witt, owner of Earth’s Own Bath & Body, all-natural skin care products

Rochelle studied cosmetology in high school and medicine in college, but abandoned both disciplines for a career in sales. She felt purposeless until she gave birth to a severely ill daughter whom doctors gave three months to live. The 12 medicines the infant was prescribed destroyed her immune system, making her allergic to everything. A popular brand name baby product made Rochelle’s daughter break out in blisters over her entire body.

Determined to save her daughter – and make her more comfortable – Rochelle researched natural alternatives to shampoos, conditioners and lotions for her daughter, who is now 8 years old.

Rochelle’s born-of-love mission led to the founding of Earth’s Own Bath & Body, which has expanded to include makeup and anti-aging cream. Earth’s Own Bath & Body products have been gifted to celebrities such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Leonardo DiCaprio and Renee Zellweger.

Rochelle personally makes each product. She would love to strike a deal with a wholesaler but has turned down two offers that included adding preservatives to her organic products.

“I want to help people,” she said. “I won’t sell anything that I know could cause harm.”


Kathleen Sciola, owner of Rockin Wrapper, which sells handmade jewelry and decorations

Kathleen forfeited an active lifestyle – including scuba diving when she was in her late 40s – after suffering chronic illness that included fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis of the spine and hips and a blocked artery that required a cardiac stent.

Mostly housebound, Kathleen turned to her love of crafts, including crocheting and jewelry making. And then she turned her hobbies into a business called Rockin Wrapper. Like many entrepreneurs, Kathleen wants to grow her business with a company that will help her maximize sales without sacrificing the integrity of her handmade items. She says she is eyeing The CraftStar as her new home because of the company’s publicly stated commitment to selling only handmade items and nurturing the entrepreneurships of people who are too ill to work in a corporate environment.


Too Many Inspirational Women, Too Little Space to Name Them

My list of women whose spirit for entrepreneurship (and life) inspires me is too long to complete in this limited space. This is a blog, not a book after all. And the best thing about a blog is that it’s a conversation. So my parting question is:

What woman do you know who, despite difficult or traumatic circumstances, triumphed in business and how does she inspire you?




Share :


12 Replies to “Crafting a Better Life”

  1. Lori Johnson

    I loved reading this. We must always remember to encourage others, to listen, observe and motivate. My journey has been long and rough but I am finally getting back to being creative, what I not only love but NEED in my daily life. On the days I am not feeling up to working I jot the ideas down so I can pull from my notes when I am throwing in a great day being creative. I used to miss the ability of working 2 jobs and living a normal life, now I get super excited when someone likes something I have created. Over the top excited when something sells. And I remind myself to keep on keeping on. Loved the article/blog. Thank you Brian Wood for sharing it.

    1. Brian J Wood

      yw Lori I knew you would be motivated by Katherine’s words. It seems stupid to say this in this context but you get why I would share this post with my online friends and actually put in my post the command to add your comment please. That makes you special, alert and wanting to go for it to the best of your ability. DRILLING all the way down to Katherine’s major reason for writing this piece, you have inspired me in tons of ways by coming back up and becoming whole again after adversity. You are the one who triumphed business wise and family wise after being nearly beaten to death by an ex spouse. You are the one who had their house burn down on Christmas Day and on point with this comment I hope and know you were the one of the ones who saw the wisdom is Katherine’s writing and heard the points she was making. That comments seems overly inflated as far as pumping one reader up but I don’t think it is.

      1. Katherine Kotaw

        Thank you, Brian. You are a champion of pumping others up. You’re right: I’m inspired by all the women I wrote about because they faced adversity and decided not to give up. They decided to make a better life for themselves, just as I did for my daughters and me when I chose for us to go into hiding when the legal system in two countries failed to protect us from my sociopathic ex husband who stalked us and tried to kill me. So yes, I know about reinvention. I know about going from being an award-winning journalist and magazine editor to having to walk dogs and refinish furniture in order to make rent. I couldn’t take on a regular job without my name going into the system — that was part of the deal of going into hiding… Fast forward to today, nearly two decades later, and my daughters and I run a successful brand storytelling business together. We decided to come out of hiding with the airing of “Run For Your Life,” the Lifetime movie inspired by my memoir “Quicksand: One Woman’s Escape From the Husband Who Stalked Her” — in order to show other women that there is HOPE after domestic violence. Just as there is HOPE after all kinds of adversity. And through our boutique content marketing agency, my daughters and I are thrilled to tell all kinds of stories like the ones in this article and the ones in the comments section of this feed. We love stories, particularly happy endings!

    2. Katherine Kotaw

      Thank you so much, Lori, for taking the time to read my article and to add your words of support. You are so right: it’s essential that we support each other so we can build a community of love and kindness. And so we can remind each other to, as you say, keep on keeping on!

      I’m so happy you’ve built a life for yourself where you can feel true JOY at creating (and true GIDDINESS when an item you’ve created sells!)

      It’s so important to keep track of all the happiness in life, especially when you’ve experienced too much of the bad that life has to offer. I’m so sorry for all the pain you’ve been through. I can tell you are a survivor and I’m so grateful to Brian for championing you, your creativity and your empowered spirit.

  2. Brian J Wood

    I recognize the sacrifices you make for your crafting spirit and get why you do what you do when you do it and also get you need to do it better to be more successful even though you don’t have a handle on what doing it better is. That sums it up I think but I am not saying I have any of the answers to this dowhatyouloveandtherestwillfollow stuff. If I did you know I wouldn’t be adding my comment in support of this awesome post

  3. Joy Patzner

    I actually have two Etsy sites but my photography is my newest love and I put that one above. I am also a crafter/artist who has lost her home because of losing my job. However, that pushed me in to doing what I loved more then working an 8 to 5 job. My business now is my love. I am a starving artist but I am a happy starving artist. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    1. Brian J Wood

      I am so excited by your photography Joy. I have seen some pretty amazing pics come out of your camera. My encouragement is doubled by the knowledge that I put you in contact with awesome folks like Katherine who are on the same page when it comes to you doing what you do and being successful goes. WTG crafters with cameras!

    2. Katherine Kotaw

      I am sorry for the adversity you’ve faced, Joy, but thrilled that it led you to pursue your passion full-time. I expect you’ll remove the “starving” before your artist title before long. Thank you so much for joining the conversation here. I’m certain your story will inspire other women to follow their career loves.

  4. Teena

    Thanks so much for such an encouraging piece. I needed that.

    1. Katherine Kotaw

      You’re most welcome, Teena. I think everyone benefits from encouragement and seeing possibilities beyond our current vision. Thank you for reading and commenting — you encourage me to keep writing!

  5. Tabatha Payne

    Thank you so much Katherine! I love reading all of the stories of the other artists featured here, and I am SO inspired and humbled to be in such wonderful company! Call me sappy but, I was in tears reading about these women and their perseverance in trying make their lives better. In one way or another I could relate to them, and even though I don’t know them, I feel connected.

    1. Katherine Kotaw

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Tabatha. I am certain many women identified with your experience — single mom out of work in a dismal economic climate — and were inspired by the creative way in which you rose above your circumstances.

Comments are closed.