AR Workshop: This Team's Dream
So you're looking for the perfect time to launch your great entrepreneurial idea, are you? Guess what, says Laura Reed, who opened the locally-owned AR Workshop in The District at Prairie Trail in Ankeny in late 2017. There's no such thing; just go for it!
"Our first child was eight months old, so it wasn't necessarily an ideal time," laughs Laura, who with husband Jeff launched the first AR Workshop franchise location in Iowa. "But I don't think there really is...it's the same with having kids. You just have to jump in. If you wait forever, it's not going to happen."
AR Workshop full-on embraces the DIY craze with on-trend, personalized décor projects on various mediums. The boutique studio offers hands-on workshops for creating custom pieces plus sells unique retail items.
Perfect for Prairie Trail
The AR Workshop studio in The District is a beautiful space. Open and light, with oversized work tables, cozy lighting, and calming décor in hues of light tan and soft blue. "We knew when we decided to open the business we wanted to be in Prairie Trail," Laura says. "There really is always something happening and I firmly believe this place is just going to get better and better. It's unique. There is nothing around here like it."
"The AR Workshop concept fits perfectly with The District's vision to provide the best places to shop, dine and play," says Ashley Johnson, marketing director of DRA Properties, which oversees the development.
It's a long way from the world of social work where Laura started her post-college career, practicing for six years in South Dakota before she and Jeff moved to his Ankeny hometown five years ago. "I decided I wanted a change so went into office management work until the AR Workshop opportunity came around and we decided to go for it," says Laura. Jeff's background running several franchises provided key to the team's decision.
"Jeff's always had the desire to be a small business owner and had been on the lookout for different businesses to run," says Laura. "We heard about AR Workshop from some friends who had started one, and I said to Jeff, 'This is really cool! We should look into this.'"
Compared to other businesses they had considered, Laura says AR Workshop really stood out as special. "We both loved the concept," she remembers. "It spoke to our interests and is right up our alley because we love DIY."
In fact, the pair consider themselves ambitious DIYers...Laura crafting and Jeff with a power tool in hand helping her create custom pieces of décor and furniture for their home.
They divide and conquer the demands of AR Workshop as well. Jeff, who has a separate full-time job as a commercial project manager, preps all the wood for AR Workshop's project needs. Together they tackle any big business decisions. And Laura? "I actually get to run the business day-to-day and that's the fun part, I think!"
Workshops Offer DIY Décor
Fun it is for a self-proclaimed crafter and DIYer! Laura and team lead workshop attendees in hands-on creating from raw materials. Plank or framed projects and centerpiece boxes are workshop staples, customized and featuring an antique reclaimed wood look. Favorites include a U.S. map highlighting a family's travel adventures and a monogramed family crest wood sign or Lazy Susan. Special workshops are particularly popular, like the sure sell-out where participants make chunky knit blankets. Open workshops are also offered where participants can come in and work on whatever type of project they'd like.
In addition to roughly six, three-hour long regularly scheduled workshops per week, AR Workshop can be reserved for special private events. Think birthday parties for adults or youths, bachelorette parties, team building events, fundraisers and corporate events.
For Laura, there's lots more to running the day-to-day business than just the workshops. "Everyone thinks we just craft all day long, and although I wish that was what we did, there's so much more," she laughs. Her day is filled with customer interaction. Marketing the business, a big learning curve for Laura, she admits. Managing social media to communicate with customers - which she's found particularly powerful. All the administrative work in the background of running any small business. Paying bills. Prepping for classes. "And I firmly believe in networking, so getting our name out there and meeting new people is super important," she says. As the old saying goes, people want to do business with people they know. Laura has tapped into FemCity Des Moines and the Ankeny Area Chamber of Commerce, plus makes a point to book coffees to get to know the women she meets as part of her journey, their stories and how they have gotten to where they are today.
It all makes for a crammed full schedule for this entrepreneur. That's why she advises those considering opening a business to be sure it is something they love doing so they will be excited to go every day. "I've loved the flexibility it has given me, but you definitely work more and harder for yourself," says Laura.
"It's been a great learning process for me but I've loved every minute of it. It has brought so much joy to my life. I feel like I've pushed myself to be better because of owning this business."