Win a FREE year subscription to Ponoko Prime! — 10 days, 10 winners!

promotion ends June 30

We love to run promos that get people excited about making stuff with Ponoko. But the best deal around at any time is Ponoko Prime.

Ponoko Prime is a monthly subscription with tons of benefits like:
• cheaper pricing on laser-cutting, cnc routing, and 3D printing
• free shipping on orders over $100 within the continental USA or NZ
• your laser-cutting orders placed in the faster Prime queue
• request manual design file checks before you order
• bulk pricing for orders over $3,000
• request materials that aren’t available in our catalog

Many of the folks featured in our Retail Ready series use Ponoko Prime to help run their small businesses more cost-effectively. And even if you’re just making a handful of hobbyist projects, the savings really add up.

So here’s your chance to win a FREE Ponoko Prime subscription for a year!
(Already on Prime? You win; you continue your subscription for free.)

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Small Business Stories: interview with eco-jewelry designer Leslie Yang

Retail Ready with FiestyelleLeslie Yang is passionate about jewelry, eco-awareness and San Fancisco. Her jewelry line Feistyelle is yet another fantastic example that green design doesn’t have to be all brown rice and sandals, but can communicate a polished, modern aesthetic. A Ponoko regular for a number of years, Leslie was the first person to laser cut felt for jewelry. With that innovative approach to materials she has been evolving her ever-popular, wearable laser cut designs and regularly introducing new ideas.

Getting Started

• What made you decide to start your own business? I officially started feistyelle in the fall of 2005. At the time, I was pretty active on online crafty message boards, and some makers were starting to set up small businesses selling their work online and at shopping events. This was all pre-Etsy! It felt like the next, exciting step for me was to get my work out in front of a increasingly DIY-friendly public. I was making really different pieces during those first couple of years: brooches, hair clips, badges, out of needle felted wool and Japanese textiles.

• How did you decide on the jewelry direction? I’ve always loved jewelry, but it was actually serendipitious that I started making earrings. When I found out that Ponoko was offering to laser cut felt I about dorked out with excitement. I started by designing a dahlia brooch, and because I didn’t want to waste the felt, I threw in a smaller vector of the dahlia in remaining space. A co-worker wound up wanting to buy the brooch but when she saw the smaller pieces, she said she’d love them as earrings and asked if would I make her a pair. I said, “Sure!” and then walked to my local bead store and asked the shopkeeper sheepishly, “Um, how do you make earrings?” I poked around the bead shop and settled on the hoop design that I still use for the majority of our earring designs. When my co-worker wore the earrings to work, it started a stampede to my office of female coworkers asking for their own pair. I started to realize that I had a hit on my hands!

• What skills did you already have when you started your business and what did you have to learn? I’m a graphic designer so it was helpful to have experience in branding and packaging and of course design software. I did and still am learning about marketing, accounting, and all those very necessary business skills.

The important takeaway here is that you should know how to do everything but you should definitely not do every single thing yourself! I love the extra time I get by having a photographer shoot my product and model shots as well as a person handle online order fulfillment.More from Leslie after the jump:

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Small Business Stories: interview with accessories designer John Patterson

Retail Ready with Sniffle Co entrepreneurJohn Patterson is a musician and a designer. His musical passion is expressed through The Grates, while his graphic creativity lies behind the Brisbane based company Sniffle Co which he runs alongside his friend Melissa Perry. Most of John’s designing is done on the road, and the shot of his work space (above) is an apt illustration of his working lifestyle. John designs whimsical jewelry that is laser cut from poplar plywood before being hand painted and lacquered.

Read the interview after the jump:

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Stitch — software to manage your small business! (Get a FREE 45 day trial from Ponoko)

You make stuff. Stitch makes selling your stuff easier.

People don’t just make cool lookin’ stuff with Ponoko — they start their own maker businesses! (You can check out their stories in our new blog series “Retail Ready“.)

So when we came across Stitch, a new subscription-based software for managing your small business, we thought “We should share this with our customers! And see if we can get it to them for FREE!”

Anyone can try Stitch free for 30 days, but thanks to Jake over at Stitch Labs, we’ve got a promo code that gives you a free 45 day trial. Plenty of time to give Stitch a try and see if it’s right for your maker business.

We’re putting the Stitch code in our next newsletter so keep an eye out! And if you aren’t subscribed to the Ponoko newsletter, just go to our homepage, scroll all the way down, and put your email in our newsletter subscription box.

Now let’s talk a little bit more about why you should check out Stitch.

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Small Business Stories: interview with jewelry designer Janice Law

Retail Ready with Little MisoPerth jeweller Janice Law branched out from graphic design and illustration when she came across Ponoko and realised the potential of making with Personal Factory.  Step by step, the new hobby turned into a small business – Little Miso.  The acrylics and cherry veneer are turned into spirited words, quirky characters and little tokens of happiness that are designed to make people smile.

Getting Started

What made you decide to start your own business? I never intended to start my own business, but I’ve always been interested in making, designing and creating things. It just happened as a natural progression – from wanting to make a piece of jewellery for myself, to launching collections and seeing people wear them.

How did you decide on jewellery? At the time when laser cut jewellery was just starting to grow, I stumbled upon Ponoko.  I had a few ideas on my mind that I was searching for myself, so I thought why not just make it?  Jewellery has come to be a really versatile medium. It can be made from so many different materials, shapes, sizes and colours, and suit someone that’s 5 years old or 55 years old.

What skills did you already have when you started your business and what did you have to learn? I studied advertising and graphic design, so already knew how to use vector programs, use photoshop and basic photography. My passion for illustration and design also helped with branding, packaging and marketing the products.  Getting into the real business / admin side of things was the hardest – I still struggle every time tax time rolls around.More from Janice on running her business after the jump:

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Small Business Stories: interview with clock designer Maiko Kuzinishi

Retail Ready with DecoylabAs promised in December, this year we’ve started a regular feature focussing on small businesses.  This year’s first interview is with Maiko Kuzunishi who has earned a worldwide following with her Decoylab range of beautiful eco-friendly and quirky clocks.  Maiko also creates jewellery that visually echoes her clocks, and more recently she added additional products for the home to her selection of existing and ever-evolving designs

Getting Started

• What made you decide to start your own business?

It was the emptiness I felt inside after dedicating 8 years of my life to working for design companies. Some say “In order to find what you want, know what you don’t want first.” That’s exactly what I did. The career oriented mentality, competing for “Best” designs, working endlessly on computer for seemingly unimportant projects – those are the things I no longer wanted. In 2006 I resigned the company and decided to “take a break.” I had no idea what was in store for me but took a step to move away from what I did not want.

The first year was chaotic to say the least but I eventually figured out that I wanted to be a mom and I began imagining doing what I love doing and making a living. Some sort of a paradigm shift happened soon after and both things manifested (at the same time actually). I did not imagine making clocks for a living but it was exactly what I wanted. After that, my focus has been to not waste my time (life) on something I cannot pour my heart and soul into.

Read the full interview with Maiko after the jump: (more…)

Small Business Stories: creating a show-stopping trade show booth

Retail Ready with Made On Jupiter

If you’re a small business owner, exhibiting at a trade show is something that can really boost your business. Not only will you meet lots of prospective clients and buyers, but those places are always packed with members of the press. I’ve been to a handful of ICFFs, Stationery Shows, NeoCons, and lots of art fairs — and let me tell you, your booth design makes all the difference.

When it comes to trade shows, your booth matters more than your product. So what does it take to create a booth everyone wants to visit? Well it isn’t easy, but it’s certainly attainable.

Just ask Made on Jupiter, the digital fabrication specialist branch of New Zealand based design collective Jupiter Jazz.

Their latest project was the Puffer, a cumulus-cloud looking trade show booth developed for Siggraph Asia. The time lapse video above shows the assembly of over 1000 uniquely shaped cones to create the booth.

Tom Kluyskens published a detailed account of how his team went from design idea to booth build in less than 5 weeks.

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Small Business Stories: interview with jewelry designer Kimono Reincarnate

Retail Ready with Melanie Gray Augustin

To some people, creativity is as natural as breathing or the love of freshly baked bread. Being a creative mind or a pathologically hands-on designer is one [wonderful] thing.  However, creativity doesn’t always translate successfully to business savvy. Creativity often covets freedom and experimentation, but business demands discipline and focus.  Fortunately, there are still plenty of creative entrepreneurs to inspire those with a design vision to start their own business.

In the New Year we are starting a new feature that will focus on all things small business. Don’t worry; there will be none of that tedious business school textbook material.  As part of the small biz feature, we will bring you regular interviews with Ponoko Makers who rely on Personal Factory to create their line of products, be it household objects, jewelry, electronics enclosures or other made on demand goods.

As an extra dose of pre-holiday inspiration, we’re giving you a sneak peak at the interview series!

Meet Australian jewelry designer Melanie Gray Augustin.   Her label Kimono Reincarnate perfectly expresses her design style: modern handmade jewelry that features upcycled materials – inspired by traditional Japanese textiles and design.Read the full interview after the jump:

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