TEXT OF STORY
Steve Chiotakis: There’s one couple who found a love of crafts — and of one other through the internet. It’s a story of love, work and online commerce. From the Entrepreneurship Desk at Oregon Public Broadcasting, Mitchell Hartman reports.
Mitchell Hartman: Michael Wood has dark unruly hair and an impish smile. At 6’8, he towers over Mona Harris, a petite strawberry blonde who is his partner in business and domestic affairs.
The pair bustles around their Portland workshop, sewing artsy vinyl wallets and a line of 70’s superhero handbags.
Two and a half years ago, she was living in Miami with her two kids. He was in Vermont with his ex-wife and child nearby. Each was a top seller on Etsy.com, a shopping and networking Web site for hand crafters.
Mona Harris picks up the story:
Mona Harris: I spent a lot of time in the forums, reading different, you know, people’s advice and things like that, and he would always come in there and post something, you know, sometimes controversial, sometimes a little snarky.
They started emailing one-on-one, first about the craft business.
Michael Wood: And things that had nothing to do with our business at all. And we decided to meet in New York, in person, and the rest is history.
They moved in together, then relocated to Portland and have been doing a booming business ever since — about $150,000 in sales last year, mostly from the wallets, which are in boutiques from Russia to Singapore.
Still, the tough economy is pushing them to get more aggressive, and taking some of fun out of the business.
Harris: We’re artists, we’re not business people. And because we run a business we have to be both.
Wood: We’re asking two very right-brain individuals to act like adults and use the left side of their brain, and at times it’s very challenging.
And there have been some rude awakenings at the place where romance meets work life.
Wood: It’s very stressful, and living and working with someone 24 hours — it ain’t easy being with someone all the time.
Harris: I would say that the most important thing for the two of us to be able to live and work together is to both have our own interests. Michael’s really into, you know, bikes and cycling and I do roller derby.
Wood: I worry that she’s going to get hurt. And every time she comes home unscathed, I’m very happy.
Michael Wood and Mona Harris.
I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.
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