The Origin of I Heart Indie Markets

Where did the idea of I Heart Indie Markets sprout from? ​ The answer is a bit complicated and involves a little background and a whole story, but bear with me...

I move a lot. I'm 30 years old as of this post and I've moved more times than my age.


I was born in Minnesota, and was a toddler in Nebraska. I spent most of my childhood running wild in a small rural town of 1,200 in Northern Iowa, but then later graduated high school in Eastern Iowa in a town of around 125,000. After high school I was excited for a change and went to college in Chicago, Illinois. Later I moved back home to Iowa long enough to fall in love and get married. Then there was a very impactful stint where I decided to branch out and experience a new part of the country, and found myself living in Northern California. However, five years later I found myself back in the Midwest and I now call Madison, Wisconsin home!

The thing that each of those locations has in common? I have always been a maker and sought out creative people I can spend time with, whether it was on my own or because I was hopping craft shows with my mom, who had a basket weaving business.


I have many other identities as well (as do we all) but one I'm pretty darn proud of is that I am a maker.

I've been a maker and creator since I can remember, no matter where I've lived, but I really dove into the indie craft scene and learned what it was all about, while living in California. I started my business, No Coast Paper Co., and hit the ground running with craft fairs and pop-ups along the West Coast.

This is me: Sara Thompto, owner of No Coast Paper Co & creator of I Heart Indie Markets.

My business grew quickly and everything was going great, but life happens, and when I suddenly found myself moving back to the midwest I was a little lost.


I could not - for the life of me - figure out the craft scene here.


I knew it had to exist because I saw many awesome indie makers on social media but I just couldn't figure out where to start. I became worried my momentum would go down hill and my business would tank. I used Google and tried to search for craft shows that would fit my business, and to figure out the midwest indie art scene so I had something to go off of, but I just kept failing to find anything helpful.

Truth be told - some of my fears came true that first year back in the Midwest.


My business didn't tank like I feared, but sales went down. I ended up wasting a ton of time and money on shows that were not the right fit because I just kept telling myself "I need to be out there if I want to succeed." I learned quickly that "being out there" is not always helpful. I barely broke even at any of the shows I went to that first season back in the Midwest, and unfortunately I had a show or two where I didn't even make back my booth fee.

I am not saying the craft fairs I attended were bad craft fairs, but I am saying that my business was not well suited for those craft fairs. I needed an indie art scene.

So, after a horrible fall/winter season, I started hunting Instagram and Facebook non-stop. When I found an indie market that looked like it might work well with my products and was within driving distance, I reached out to the coordinators. If there wasn't an application open at that time they would have me sign up for their mailing list and even sometimes point me in the direction of another event coordinator in the who might be able to help me out with another show option.


In the end, due to having to wait for application deadlines and events to come around again, it took a long time to feel connected to the indie craft scene again. It was around 9 months before I felt like I was getting somewhere and felt like I was becoming connected to the maker community, but it felt great when I was finally surrounded by indie makers again!

Not only did I find a community here in Madison that has been phenomenal, but I've learned a ton about how to find indie markets and networking. I knew they existed in my area, but when you're just starting out, or moving back into the area, it can be hard to find and tap into that scene.

The more I get involved in the indie makers community, the more I realized there are dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of people out there in a similar situation as I was in. Especially now that I am running indie markets of my own. Indie makers want to be part of the maker community in their area and they want to expand their business, but they just can't find the right events that fit their business.

This is where this website and community - I Heart Indie Markets - comes into play.

After all of that research on indie markets in Wisconsin and surrounding states, plus all of the information I already had from living in California, I wanted to figure out a way to share this information.


I know there are other people looking for an indie market for their business. There are people out there who want to grow their business and expand outside of their own city, but still be within an easy driving distance. I also know there are people worried their business is going to fail because they're moving from their home community, one that's nice and established, to a new community where they haven't carved out their place yet.

It's my hope that I Heart Indie Markets will help you find your place and help you grow your business!


It's my hope that I Heart Indie Markets can be a community for you when you don't quite have one yet.


We can help prop each other up, because even though competition can be tough, we all know at the end of the day we also tend to be each other's best support network and customers too!

It's my hope we can keep building this beautiful community throughout the entire country, keep the indie art scene thriving, and show everyone that these indie markets are the place to shop and be!

I hope you find this website and community helpful.

Warm Regards,

Sara

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