Inside a Brooklyn studio, five people gather around canvases with gun-like machines loaded with yarn. Designs of their choice are sketched ahead of time, and by the end of the six hour class, they’ll have the beginnings of an original rug created with their own hands.
The designs are sometimes very bespoke – for example, Patrick Star, Pikachu or croissant. (Yes, someone wanted to make a croissant rug).
It’s a rug-tufting workshop, one of the relatively few operating in real space. Andrew Kim, the owner, is a former cybersecurity consultant who began pursuing rug tufting full time in 2021. He’s much happier in his new occupation, he said.
“It’s been such a wholesome last couple of months,” he said. “Like, oh, man, it just feels nice.”
Last year, rug tufting took online DIY spaces by storm. TikTokers and Youtubers posted videos of their attempts, and professionals showed the satisfying process of filling in a design on stretched canvas with the tufting gun.
The materials tare expensive to try – the tufting gun alone goes for about $200. You also need to buy a frame, canvas and yarn. And it makes a big, dusty mess once you start to trim the rug, Kim said, which is especially impractical for New York City-sized apartments. Enter his workshop.
Kim jumped on tufting himself via the online trend. But once he got started, he fell in love. He liked that he was making something tangible everyday and getting to be creative.
“I feel a lot more like myself – more than ever, honestly,” he said.
Commission Didn’t Quite Work
He began by making rugs for commission, but knew it wasn’t scalable long term. He also missed working with people all day. So he had the idea to launch the workshops to share his newfound passion with others
He launched his class in July, starting by testing out the idea on his friends. One of his commissioners paid him in crypto currency, which increased in value and gave him enough money to afford the few thousand dollars of equipment and studio rent.
Now, he’s teaching up to five classes a week and has hired five people to help him part-time. Each workshop costs $225, which includes all the materials, and prep and finishing – such as drawing out the design and gluing the final product, which Kim and his team do. So far, Scattered Kind has brought in about $100,000 in revenue.
In the six months since opening his classes, he’s also outgrown two studios. He got the key to his new 800 square foot studio in Williamsburg last week and plans to up the number of workshop tufting seats from five to 10. He also plans to add a membership feature, so people can come freely to use the tufting gun and studio. He’s still figuring out the pricing structure for that.
Building from Scratch
Kim’s studio could be one of the only tufting workshops in the world. Tuft the World, a Philadelphia-based workshop that launched in 2018, was one of the first workshops in the U.S. In Singapore, Tuft Club began offering workshops last year.
Without many players in the field to reference, Kim took inspiration from ceramics studios. The process has many parallels, he said – for instance, you are provided the materials and guidance and the final touches are done by staff. He used the format as a reference to build his business.
It’s definitely been a learning process, he said. There were some disaster pieces during those first few classes with friends, Kim said. But he made the necessary tweaks and each of his customers have produced finished pieces.
For the majority of people, it’s their first time tufting, he said. And it can be intimidating – the tufting gun is a machine with moving parts. “In the beginning, people are so scared to press the trigger and everything,” he said. “But by the end of it, everyone’s rugs always come out nice.”
Try something new. Kim’s business began with him trying rug tufting for the first time. Then he created a workshop from scratch. “You can’t try to explain everything based on what’s already been done before,” he said. “Sometimes things haven’t even been done.”
Don’t pretend. Don’t just start a business, or get involved in something, because you think it’s a good opportunity for most people, Kim said. He spent years pretending he liked jobs because it was in a growing field. But once he allowed himself to be creative and do something he enjoys, he was able to be happy.
“This time around, I really made sure I knew myself – not in terms of just what I’m good at and what I’m not good at, but also, what gives me that feeling where I can work 12 hours a day, and still be wired and excited by the end of the night,” he said.
This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.