GREAT MINDS BEHIND GREAT MISSIONS- RYANN FAIRWEATHER & MAUREEN ANDERS OF AR WORKSHOP, BELMONT
Last week, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with two local Belmont business owners, Ryann Fairweather and Maureen Anders, who just opened up shop this past month. I stumbled onto their Instagram late one night and as I looked through some of the recent projects they had hosted I was over the moon about their product. Immediately, I knew 2 things: 1.) I was determined to make one of the signs I saw on their social media site to hang in my bedroom above my bed and 2.) I had to meet these women that had just opened their shop a mile down the road from my office. The concept was so exciting and so unique, I'd never heard of anything like it.
When I walked into their workshop I felt like I was a kid again walking into Santa's workshop, except instead of toys, the shelves were lined with beautiful custom artwork, (basically everything I have ever pinned on my "Ideas for the Future" Pinterest Board that I daydream over for my "someday" home.) and instead of elves to build your wishlist for you, YOU GET TO DO IT YOURSELF. Their space was incredibly beautiful, they clearly had an eye for design and their use of the space was so charming and creative. Naturally, I immediately fell in love and wanted to move myself right on in to my new home.
While taking photos of their space, I brainstormed how and who I would be bringing with me for a couple's date night so that I could make the sign I already envisioned in my mind as, made, completed and hanging proudly over my bed. I sent their Instagram information to one of my girlfriend's and within about three minutes of glancing at their Instagram and seeing my texts containing the words, "framed wall decor," "custom" and "HERE IS YOUR CHANCE TO FINALLY PUT THOSE BEYONCE LYRICS ALL OVER YA'LL'S HOUSE," I had my other couple for date night signed up for the following night
Now that I knew I would be coming back to experience the fun first hand and that I had completed the pictures, I was all but bouncing up and down from excitement to speak with the owners. Flying through a million questions, I had to reign myself back in. I asked them to start with the company itself and to tell me more about the origin. Ryann and Maureen were so sweet and so friendly. Their energy and excitement for their workshop was infectious and their passion for their business, women and DIY was unbelievably inspiring, as was how the company got started. Maureen took the lead on telling about the franchise and how they made their humble beginning.
"We are a boutique DIY workshop that offers hands on classes to create charming and custom home decor. It offers everything from, your table top, to your walls, to your bed. We also offer some retail, as well. We like to fill the space with unique and beautiful jewelry along with other pieces and even home decor. We chose to offer this variety of products so that it would be something that client's could purchase while they are here for a workshop and so that they also pair well with our projects. For example, our jewelry is hung on jewelry boards which is a project we offer. They're affordable, but very on trend. Since we can design anything, we will just continue to create whatever the trend is or even create the trend."
"Anders Ruff Design Co. was my company, named after mine and my partner Adria Ruff's last name. We met at a Pre-School Open House in 2010 and long story short, we jumped into a business together. We started an Etsy shop together selling printable invitations, graphics, a little calligraphy, etc. Basically, in the beginning, our shop was structured so that the client would go to our shop and pick out a template they loved for whatever the occasion and we would personalize and customize it with their photos. Once it was finished, the client would be able to take the final piece and print it themselves wherever they wanted to. Over the years we continued to grow that and started our own e-commerce and blog, kind of like what you have, it's andersruff.com. We would feature different themed parties highlighting the "how to" about it. Basically, how to put together a party. For some, it can be a challenge visualizing how to put together a party. We would feature everything from recipes, to the decor, favor ideas, activities and we would lay out an outline of how people could make it happen. We would also sell our printables with them so they would even have the invitations to go with the themes, as well. We started getting some really different, really fun, free lance jobs with Universal and with different magazines and we always tied it back to our love for "DIY," the readers just loved to see the "how to's."
"Last year we decided we were ready to finally come out from behind the computer screen and take on a new wave of our business where we could actually take our business outside of our homes. All of our fans and followers loved our DIY blog posts, so we decided there had to be a market for this type of concept. At Anders Ruff, we have always prided ourselves in the concept of "custom." So, at our shop, we always work to customize our product for the client, whether it is the name or the colors and we started noticing that there was a gap between the awesome ideas on Pinterest and the consumer's understanding of how to put together wood. We've found that a lot of women tend to be intimidated by tools, so we decided to do a workshop."
"Wood is very in right now and, of course, you could go to the store and purchase the decor, but, you don't receive any fulfillment out of that. There is not any gratification like that of creating something you made from start to finish. The look on client's faces when they take out the stencils, it's like they are very perplexed by it, but then when they finish they want to do it again and it is just such a gratifying experience and it's entirely fool proof too, because of the stencils."
"We opened our first location in Pineville, North Carolina in June of 2016 and we just opened our new space in Belmont, North Carolina in July of 2017. Since opening the first location, there has been 36 locations opened. They all look like Anders Ruff Workshops, but they all have their own little personal touches to them. All the owners are different, for example, some of them have backgrounds in corporate offices, some of them are stay at home moms. All of the owners are unique so their shops, while sticking to the theme of the franchise, are all unique like their owners. Everything within the workshops are DIY since that was our vision for the company. So, since the brand is DIY, we LITERALLY built everything that furnishes the workshop ourselves. The only things we didn't build in here is the stools and the lighting, pretty much. In opening our newest location I feel like we hit a lot of different little victories, for example, when we put the bar in, hanging the lighting and filling up the schedule with classes. For our grand opening, I feel confident in saying we had at least 200 people in here throughout the night. It was very exciting.
Ryann added, "The local Main Street businesses have been so very welcoming to us, everyone has been so awesome and is also wanting to collaborate with us. We're very excited to start partnering with other local businesses here who share our same love and vision for home decor and DIY."
I must have repeated back about 10 times, astounded and having a very difficult time wrapping my brain around the beautiful blonde sitting in front of me who was so incredibly reluctant to brag on herself or on her accomplishments, "So you are telling me, Maureen, that you opened the original store, that was your concept and inspiration, 13 months ago in Pineville and since it's opening there are now 36 other stores in the United States that have been opened by other women, inspired by what you did and wanting your help to do the same, to the point that AR Workshop is now a franchise? What an incredible legacy. What an incredible testament to your work, to your vision and to your mission." Her response was to laugh at me saying, "Yes, I guess I'm just too hard on myself." The words humble and kind are a vast understatement. I proceeded with, "What is your goal for AR Workshop?"
"For the overall franchise, my goal is to partner with women who are entrepreneurial at heart, but feel more comfortable beginning their own business among a group of women who can help support them through the process, essentially among a group of women who support each other. I want to partner with women who want to create a beautiful experience within their communities, who would like to partner with and add value to the brand and the designs we have already created. This business gives women the flexibility to be their own boss and that can be very empowering. Essentially, we are after creating a community of entrepreneurial women, the "Do It Yourself-ers, a network to lean on. Anders Ruff Workshop is a community of entrepreneurial women and business owners, with the intention of creating their own individual communities to lead, inspire, empower and build confidence in the women within those communities."
"Even within the classes I have seen the inspiration that Anders Ruff brings women and I feel as though that is really what it is all about, inspiring other women. I see women use these nail guns and drills who really never have before while they get to fellowship with one another. We are a firm believer in collaboration over competition. We love to see the way other women work together and encourage each other in the workshop. They leave our shop just so proud of themselves and what they have done, or made rather, and then they get to take that home with them too as a reminder of what they just accomplished."
Keeping with my trend in picking people's brains about, "Why Gaston?" I asked, "So, why Belmont?"
"We love Belmont because of how much potential we see here. Since opening, it seems like I see so much about Belmont and the growth that is happening here. We just want to focus on opening our niche within this community and nurturing that while we continue to watch the growth that is happening all around us."
After about an hour of their time, they helped me schedule my double date for Friday night through their website and showed me how to choose and customize the design I wanted. The following night we all went back to AR Workshop and we had an absolute blast. Just as they had described it, all the seats were full and all the women (and boyfriends) collaborated so well together. They had helpers floating around to make sure no one felt lost or uncomfortable and it quite literally was fool proof, or rather Alex Love proof. Our sign came out beautifully and even inspired us to redo the entire wall after hanging the sign!
I can honestly say without any hesitation that both these women and their mission for the workshop, the franchise and for inspiring other women is truly infectious. They are insanely talented in their eye for design and the legacy that is being left behind by Anders Ruff Workshops everywhere is incredibly tangible. The encouragement and confidence these women leaders are building within each class they teach remains with women long after they have hung up the drill and nail gun. I know this was certainly the impact they had on me.