- Associated Press - Saturday, October 21, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - When mother-daughter team Patience Pickner and Chelsea Tracy opened a home decor store near downtown Sioux Falls earlier this year, their goal was to provide a unique experience for buying home decor.

And one way to sell customers on that experience was to help them make the decor themselves.

The store, Conversation Piece, now hosts regular “make-and-take” events, in which customers work through a craft with step-by-step guidance from Pickner. They all leave with their own handmade project.

“That’s a huge draw,” Tracy told the Argus Leader . “People are excited to be working with their hands.”

More Sioux Falls businesses are jumping on the make-and-take trend in recent years as a way to not only get customers in the door but also to educate them on products and build relationships to ensure they keep coming back.

While there are no set rules for what a make-and-take looks like, they all typically involve a class-like setting where an instructor guides attendees through a craft project step-by-step. Customers usually pay for the materials, and the business provides the tools to put it all together.

Often, customers turn make-and-take events into a social event.

In her first week in business, AR Workshop owner Tracy Hinkkanen has seen groups from mothers and daughters to friends to bridal parties at the new do it yourself franchise in Sioux Falls.

AR Workshop’s entire business model hinges on the popularity of make-and-take. Customers choose a time to work on a craft, such as a farmhouse-style sign or a centerpiece box, and as they’re guided through the project, they can have a few drinks and socialize with friends.

The early success of AR Workshop solidifies for Hinkkanen the popularity of DIY as a social experience.

“People are, first of all, really, really busy,” she said. “And so when they get together with friends, it feels good to be productive … They also get to create something, that sense of satisfaction.”

Make-and-take events also give employees a chance to educate customers about products.

At New You Infrared Spa, Manager Stacey Harris hosts make-and-take events about essential oils. It’s a way to bring in new customers and also a way to share the benefits of essential oils in a no-pressure environment.

“We tell them to try it out,” Harris said. “They’re trusting that we’re not just trying to sell them something. We’re really trying to help them.”

The personal interactions during a make-and-take help customers see the passion employees and business owners have for their work.

“We become closer to our customers because people can sense when you’re passionate about what you do. … They become a little extended family for us,” Harris said.

Landscape Garden Centers has hosted make-and-take events for about six years, said Betty Tarrell, retail store manager.

In the last few years, Tarrell has seen these events become more popular, and in the spring, she’s hosting up to four events per week.

“It’s worthwhile to us because we are passionate about our industry, and we like to pass that passion to our customers,” Tarrell said.

Make-and-take events empower customers to use Landscape Garden Centers’ products confidently, Tarrell said. It’s a way for employees and employers to create a shared passion for gardening, flowers, fairy gardens and arrangements.

That’s true for other businesses as well. Harris sees repeat customers coming back again and again for a certain essential oil they first tried at a make-and-take.

For Tracy, make-and-take events give customers a chance to try their hand at DIY decor, but they also get a chance to see the offerings at Conversation Piece.

It gets customers in the door, having fun and interacting with employees, and, often, they come back.

“You build that personal relationship,” Tarrell said. “And I think you build customers for life.”


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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