We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Lewis and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nicole, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
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. Art 2 the Extreme 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 never thought I would leave teaching, let alone develop an entire business around my love of crayons and color, but almost 15 years later, I am still making crayons by hand every morning and have plans to scale Art 2 the Extreme with some fun additions in 2022.

In the beginning, I was a new teacher, traveling from classroom to classroom to teach art from a cart. I saw over 800 students a week between two schools and I noticed week after week the amount of broken crayons discarded across classroom floors. My unit on texture happened to fall on Earth Day and was looking for ways to recycle left over crayon bits while creating a fun and functional crayon. This was the original spark to the idea behind my colorful rainbow crayons.

The thought process behind The Original Rainbow Crayon® 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). When I was a teacher, I had several students who could not hold a traditional crayon and my adaptive art supplies helped solve several problems I saw in my own classroom. My own boys come up with fun ideas and I love adding my own twist to new trends. I love that Art 2 the Extreme provides gift givers an option for a colorful and functional gift that is perfect for young children and the young at heart. With my Original Rainbow Crayons, anyone can be an artist!

I have always had art in my life, so when I look back at the thought process behind starting my handmade crayon business, Art 2 the Extreme®, I feel like I slid right into the idea and it became a part of me. The actual transition from teacher to founder was not so quick or easy.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Art 2 the Extreme specializes in customized and personalized crayon design for your gifting needs. We are known for the ability to customize almost anything out of crayon and we take great pride in our designs, work, and quality. I was the first person to ever create and sell a handmade crayon online, long before the days of Instagram, Pinterest, and the DIY world on social media. I am an Etsy “OG” of almost 15 years and love that I have been able to build a brand from my love of crayons and rainbows that originally was created as a solution to adaptable art supplies in my own classroom.

In 2020, I was a finalist in the Etsy Design Awards, placing in the top 10 of their Kids category out of 4.7 million Etsy shops. While we have since expanded to our own website in addition to Etsy, we just surpassed $1 million in revenue on Etsy, a huge milestone for any business with no employees.

I have bootstrapped my entire business without spending a dime on advertising because of my ability to think outside of the box and connect with other brands, businesses, and creatives for more exposure. I am a people person and connecting others is my business superpower. Since I specialize in custom crayon design, I have had the opportunity for some awesome collaboration projects and special requests from companies and brands such as the Oprah Winfrey Network, The Ellen Show, Sephora, and a ton of artists and brands. Collaboration and customization is my jam! I love creating crayons for birthday parties, businesses, and events (and could have absolutely nothing to do with crayon). My multicolored rainbow crayon creations are memorable, fun, and unique, not something that is going to get immediately thrown away or go unused, which is a huge point of interest for partnerships and collaboration from unrelated businesses.

Networking is so crucial as a business owner and cannot stress the importance of putting your face and story out there. I encourage readers to dig a little deeper behind the brands they support and get to know the faces and stories behind the brand. Society as a whole did a really great job of this in 2020, but so many businesses still need our help and support. People buy from people and get behind businesses they love.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). For me, it is so important be present and visible as the face of Art 2 the Extreme and this has been monumental in my success with Art 2 the Extreme.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Depending on the time of year, one of the more unique gems I have visited and fell in love with is Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch in Culver City. I also love the atmosphere of the Santa Monica Pier and the streets upon streets of food options. I have such a fascination for film and television production. There is no shortage of opportunities to get a behind the scenes look at a favorite show or a backlot tour, which is something everyone needs to do at least once while visiting. I have a dream to one day be able to visit the Jim Henson Company and Creature Shop with my boys (sorry, no studio tours, but a girl can dream, right?).

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to give recognition to Callie Christensen and Kelly Oriard of Slumberkins®, a children’s brand that promotes positive life skills in kids through plush creatures, affirmations, and interactive stories around emotional well-being. Slumberkins was one of my first collaboration experiences years ago and I am so grateful for their mentorship and inclusion within the kids and toy industry. I love that like myself, they both were former teachers with a similar start in business, selling their handmade creature creations at local markets and staying up at all hours to fill orders and make product by hand. Through inclusion during their own brand awareness events, they gave me my first experience in Los Angeles and I fell in love with California. Their support has meant the world to me. I admire these ladies so much for their hard work and determination in building their incredible brand over the past few years, now operating as a rapidly expanding company with a television show debuting soon!

Website: www.art2theextreme.com/shop

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/art2theextreme

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/art2theextreme

Twitter: https://twitter.com/art2theextreme

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theoriginalrainbowcrayon

Other: Etsy – https://www.etsy.com/shop/art2theextreme

Image Credits
Product Photos: Qiana K. Photography Headshot in studio: Kelli White

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