MANSFIELD – When McKenzie Opie became a mother in 2018, she immediately knew she wanted to stay home with her son. But her family was accustomed to the income she brought home from working in a restaurant, and first, she needed a stable way to supplement that.
Nearly three years later, Opie has officially transitioned to staying at home with her son while founding a successful online business.
A fiber artist, Opie specializes in macrame weaving and pyrography, which is the art of burning designs onto wood or leather. McKenzie + Stuff recently launched a new website, offering both custom orders and finished pieces. Each work is uniquely designed and handcrafted by Opie.
Opie shared her story of transitioning away from working in a restaurant as she built her own business and what her work-from-home schedule looks like as a busy toddler mom.
“I started dabbling with it, actually mostly giving away at first, but then eventually selling in 2018,” Opie said. “I opened an Etsy shop to see what I could do with that–how much money I could make off of it–and at first I kind of felt hesitant about selling because a lot of the people who supported me were friends and family.”
“It's about money, but it's also about the fun of people enjoying your stuff. Profiting off of it is fun when you get there down the road, but I think to start off, it's important to just let people enjoy the things you make and see what you can do.”
Opie’s daily routine starts with waking up before her son, Graham, to spend a few hours every morning working. As he gets older, it is getting easier to work during the day while he plays beside her. He particularly loves sifting through her basket of crystals and stones.
For anyone thinking of launching a small business, Opie advises them to find their niche first, then give that specialty their all. Before she found macrame, she tried painting, knitting, crocheting and jewelry making, but none of those art forms resonated like macrame has.
The art of macrame can be traced back to Arabic weavers in the 13th century, and it has experienced a resurgence in popularity recently. To stand out in a competitive market, Opie focuses on creating unique products with her own designs and techniques.
“If you can make them your own, then people will recognize your work,” Opie said. “I think it's cool when you find those people that have their ‘look’ and you can be scrolling on the internet and see someone's work and know exactly who it is.”
One thing in particular sets Opie’s work apart from other macrame artists: her use of natural elements. Rather than purchasing generic wood rods and beads from the craft store, she uses driftwood and natural beads.
“It’s easy to go to the store and buy wooden dowel rods, but a lot of the joy in it for me comes from going out and picking out driftwood, sanding it by hand or finishing it,” Opie said.
Graham, age 2, often tries to help his mom find these elements for her work.
“He’ll pick up twigs and stuff and say, ‘Stick for Mama!’” Opie said. “It's nothing I really could ever use on a macrame piece, but it's so sweet that he recognizes it.”
Opie enjoys supporting other small businesses with her work, too. She purchases some supplies, like crystals, from people who, like her, are passionate about finding and making.
Opie’s boyfriend, Dalton Workman, has watched Opie work hard as a self-taught artist since the beginning of McKenzie & Stuff.
“She's put quite a lot of time and energy into what she's doing and is always, always doing new things, trying to get better. It's just amazing to see the things that she's able to do,” Workman said.
Workman is grateful for the recognition Opie has recently received from their community as her business has grown, particularly in the last year. There was a surge in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and a noticeable movement of people wanting to support small, local businesses.
“She put the time and the effort into it, outside of just doing macrame. She spends a lot of time on pictures, a lot of time on social media and just trying to develop a business all around. It's really cool to see this sort of thing is possible, from your home," Workman said.
“She really enjoys and loves doing this, and she makes money off of it. It's pretty inspiring to see that.”