Creator Spotlight: Art 2 The Extreme
Tell us a little about you and your company
I am the founder and creative behind Art the Extreme®. Art 2 the Extreme specializes in customized and personalized crayon design for your gifting needs. Our Original Rainbow Crayons® are multicolored, uniquely shaped crayons that encourage creative thinking and imaginative making outside the traditional crayon box.
In 2007, I became the first artisan to ever create and sell a handmade crayon on Etsy. This was long before the days of Pinterest, Instagram, and the DIYers out there now. My business started off as a hobby, then a way to supplement my teaching income and then eventually transitioned to my full-time career when my first son was born. I am also an Etsy Design Award finalist. Out of 4.3 million Etsy shops, I placed Top 10 of the Kids category in 2020. My husband and I both work full-time in the business that is currently out of our home studio in Noblesville, IN.
How did you come up with your business concept?
I am a former art teacher of 10 years, crayon artisan, and mom of two boys. Before devoting my work full-time to The Original Rainbow Crayon®, I drew inspiration for my specialty crayons from my 15+ years of expertise in the arts, with 10 of those years as an Elementary Art teacher. Not only did I teach visual arts from a cart with the extra challenge of going from classroom to classroom, but also saw a need for adaptive art supplies for her growing number of students with special needs and accommodations. I incorporated recycling crayons into a kindergarten unit on texture and it also happened to be Earth Day. We made the horribly awesome circle crayons out of wax Dixie cups, but knew there had to be a better way ( I found it and turned it into a career!). I have a passion for color and crayons, with the added bonus that I get to be my own boss now and be home with my kiddos while they are young.
What does an average day at Art 2 The Extreme look like? What's your favorite part of a work day?
I start my day at about 7am when I get my oldest on the bus and take my youngest to preK. My husband heads to the meltery where we produce the crayons. He usually creates about 100-200 crayons each morning by the time I get my kiddos to school and get started on the packaging and shipping for the day. I spend the morning shipping, eat lunch with my husband, and then the early part of the afternoon networking, responding to emails and connecting with my audience on social media. My husband heads to the post office each afternoon after the kids are home from school and then we begin dinner, homework, and some family fun to fill the rest of the evening. I do work late hours, sometimes until 1 or 2 am October-April, but I feel like that is a great trade off for being able to stay at home. I like the quiet late/early hour. To pass the time, I listen to a ton of podcasts and have watched every single streaming movie and series known to man kind by now…
How is your business different from others?
They say that there are no more original ideas, but I can proudly say that I was the first online to create and sell a handmade crayon online and go one step further to create a business out of customization and personalized crayon design. I am an Etsy OG of 14 years and love that I have been able to build a brand from my love of the arts that originally solved problems in my own classroom. People buy from people and get behind businesses they love and invest their heart into and it is so important for me to be present and visible as the face of Art 2 the Extreme. Art 2 the Extreme® is known for the ability to customize almost anything out of crayon and we take great pride in our designs, work, and quality. When you make a purchase from Art 2 the Extreme, you are getting the best customer service, a beautiful product and you are supporting a real life family who are working their butts off each day to make this dream happen (we really do a happy dance like they say).
What inspires your new designs?
My design inspiration comes from a mix of practical/education use that I would have liked to have access to as a teacher (Crayon Stix® that won’t roll off a table and have a grip groove for little hands, skin tone colors that blend well, etc.) and a parent (personalized options for those with unique names). My kids come up with fun ideas and I love adding my own twist to new trends. Our Original Rainbow Crayons® are a mix of fun, function and funky.
What plans do you have for Art 2 The Extreme? Are you working on anything special?
In January 2020, we started looking into purchasing a warehouse and hiring an employee or two. I am so thankful that this process took a long time and never got to that point because the world shut down about a month later. We pivoted our plans a bit and decided to purchase a new house in the summer of 2021 to build on a crayon studio/makery with additional spaces for shipping, storage, and filming projects to “ride out” COVID and plan our next moves in the months to come. We plan on expanding eventually, but for now, I am extremely happy with our new space and the room to spread out!
We have a few projects going on behind the scenes that are pretty exciting for 2023, but have to keep that a secret for a bit. We have a Halloween release coming up (we typically skip over fall and go right to holiday, so this will be a fun one) and working on Back to School 2022 already!
What are your favorite tools or resources?
My favorite resource is relationship building with other small business friends. I love thinking outside the box to partner with brands and companies that have nothing to do with crayon. There is always a super fun outcome! I have worked with the Oprah Winfrey Network, Sephora, Marco Polo, and a ton of small brand friends for a variety of projects. Custom crayons for special events and companies are my jam behind the scenes!
What have you learned from working in a small business?
If I had to give an important piece of advice, it would be to be reliable, consistent, and put yourself out there. You miss 100% of the shots you do not take. Networking and connecting with others is incredibly important without a business background and hearing other’s journeys and triumphs can be really inspiring (and also can teach you what not to do).
Who are some people who inspire you?
I am a HUGE fan of my two friends, Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen of Slumberkins®. They have built this incredible brand over the past few years and had a similar start like I did, selling their handmade creature creations at local markets and staying up at all hours to fill orders and make product by hand. Now they have a full-blown company, employees, manufacturing, and a TV show debuting soon!
Nicole Lewis is the founder and creative director of Art 2 the Extreme, LLC. Since 2007, Nicole has made her colorful mark on the world of art supplies and children’s gifts through her playful collection of Original Rainbow Crayons®. Her designs not only provides a unique gift for any occasion, but takes a creative approach to the fun and functionality of traditional crayons.
Before devoting her work full-time to the crayon business, Nicole drew inspiration for her specialty crayons from her 15+ years of expertise in the arts, with 8 of those years as an Elementary Art teacher. Not only did Nicole teach visual arts from a cart with the extra challenge of going from classroom to classroom, but also saw a need for adaptive art supplies for her growing number of students with special needs and accommodations.
As the first artisan to ever create and sell a handmade crayon online, Nicole’s vision and former side-hustle has developed into a full-time business, bursting at the seams. Nicole made the decision to leave teaching and dedicate herself to the business and her growing family full-time in 2014 and has not looked back since!
Her company has seen continuous growth both on a local and national level. Her work has been featured in major publications such as Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, and People. Specializing in custom crayon design, Nicole has also created projects for The Oprah Winfrey Network, Sephora and Marco Polo. In the fall of 2020, Nicole was a finalist in the Etsy Design Awards, with her personalized designs finishing among the Top 10 best products in the Kids category worldwide.
Nicole has seen great success in adding personalization and customized options with her designs. She currently works from her home studio in Noblesville, Indiana with her husband and two young boys.
Want to see what Nicole is up to? You can follow her on Instagram at @art2theextreme, shop her website at www.art2theextreme.com or drop her a note to say hi at firstname.lastname@example.org