Katy Sensenig Schilthuis is the founder of Mosaic Makers Collective, a Dallas-based retail shop that curates handmade products from more more than six dozen female makers. Selling everything from art to beauty products, home goods, and clothing, the shop is staffed by the women who make the products.
Hello Alice recently spoke with Schilthuis about building a community of entrepreneurs, figuring out POS systems, and inspiring the next generation of women. What follows are her own words, lightly edited for length and clarity.
Katy Sensenig Schilthuis
Owner, Mosaic Makers Collective | Dallas, TX
I’ve been a leader my whole life and a creative entrepreneur since I was 3. I used to make my own jewelry and try to sell it to my parents. I had a cosmetic line when I was 8. I had a dog sitting business and dog walking business when I was 12. It’s always been part of my blood.
Before Mosaic, I was a freelance social media marketer. I worked with small businesses, mostly local to Oklahoma, where I lived at the time, and then in Texas, when I moved here. I just helped run their blogs, their social media accounts, their Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram — all of the above.
I enjoyed writing for social media accounts, but it was a little dry. For me, I needed something a little more fun and creative in my life. That was when I decided to start a stationery business. It was great, and people responded really well to my products. But I quickly learned that it can be very isolating to run your own business. You’re wearing all the hats, you’re doing all those things as a small business owner — the accounting, the marketing, the product, the outreach, the PR. And you’re working by yourself! You kind of feel like you’re the only one out there who’s doing all of this. I knew quickly that some day I wanted to form a community for woman makers.
Then in March of 2018, I went to drop off my cards at one of my stockists in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas when I learned a shop was for rent. I took a look, and everything started to fall into place. Mosaic opened shop in May 2018 in this tiny little space, about 300 square feet. The response was great. Everyone loved the woman-owned concept, plus it was all handmade and locally sourced. We just grew from there.
One of the initial challenges was the financial investment. We had to furnish and add technology and all of the things you need for a small shop, which wasn’t an easy feat for someone who was just using her own money to get started. And then the risk of just not having run my own shop before and not understanding what it takes. For example, I had trouble finding the right point of sale system. We tried Square and Shopify, but now we are on Ricochet, which is a new POS that is for consignment shops. What we wanted was something where the vendors can actually log in and see their sales, see their inventory, keep track of everything that’s going on in the store. Ricochet allows us to track sales, and it splits the percentages for us, integrates with QuickBooks, and allows us to do our payments easily.
We call Mosaic a collective, but I’m the owner, along with my husband who owns about 15% of the LLC and helps with the numbers. I work on contracts with our makers. They can choose either a collective model, which is a small rent and a small percentage of sales, or a consignment model, which is a larger percentage of sales. We basically work on a monthly basis, paying them out and getting new items in the shop and things like that. Our contracts run for either six months or one year.
Our community has grown to 75 women, and we moved into a new, much larger space in March 2020. I think the makers were craving this — they needed this. That’s why we do a lot of things together as a community. We have an online network where we all talk all the time through Mighty Networks, which is like a private social media platform. That allows our makers who are from Austin or Houston or other areas to really get involved as well. We do monthly happy hours, and we just collaborate on things like giveaways and new products and really support each other.
For example, some of the big challenges that a lot of people deal with is the numbers part of the business, simply because we’re all creatives, right? We like the art side, we like the product development side. But when it comes to things like taxes, accounting, or even pricing our product, that brings everything to a real standstill for some people. They just don’t know where to go next. Having a community where you can come together and be like, ‘Hey, what’s your pricing formula?’ Or, ‘Who do you use to file taxes?’ That was a big help for us.
After that realization, I started doing a lot of things at Mosaic to provide more value to the artists. Now I’m working on a new project called Maker Masterclass, which is going to be something I’ll offer all of my collective members for free. It’s a slow process, but it’s basically an education program that will walk you through starting a product-based business and how to do it from start to finish. That means everything from forming an LLC, developing your product, pricing your product, getting a website, doing trade shows, selling online — everything all the way to opening your own shop.
There’s only going to be more need for our services. I saw a stat the other day that said that women entrepreneurs, there are 114% more of them now than there were a few decades ago. It’s growing like crazy, and these women need a platform. Yet despite the fact that there’s so many out there, often, we still go unnoticed, or we’re under appreciated for our work and undervalued. I think spreading the message of this creative work and how valuable it is will be really good to help the movement grow and bring more opportunity to future generations of women.
I personally see that happening every day. We have a lot of moms who are makers in the shop and bring their daughters sometimes. We actually have a maker whose 9-year-old daughter wrote a persuasive essay for school about why Mosaic is the best. It was the cutest thing, and it’s just so cool to see their admiration and watch them get creative and think, how could I be like mom someday and do this?