Alt Connections: Caravan Shoppe

By: Amy Hackworth Image by: Caravan Shoppe

We all agree that the best thing about Alt is the incredible network, so we’re excited about a new series featuring the people, connections and stories that make this such an inspiring and vibrant community.

Graphic designers Alma Loveland and Melanie Burk first met at Alt in 2011, when Alma was on Melanie’s list of people she had to meet at Alt. When Melanie saw Alma in the hall she rushed toward her, calling Alma’s name. While they laugh now about Melanie’s enthusiastic approach, the two have been, in their own words, “joined at the hip ever since.” 

They each work independently as designers—Melanie at Fifth & Hazel and Alma at Ollibird (with her husband, Mike Loveland)—but joined forces to launch a new business in 2012. Their collaboration, Caravan Shoppe, is a brilliant collection of digital downloads for décor, toys, prints, cards, calendars and more.

We were lucky enough to catch them at the same desk, so while Alma answered our questions, Melanie was nearby to offer her input. Learn more about their belief in collaboration, the value of sharing secrets, and how friendship has improved their business in our interview below.

Q: How does working together benefit you?

A: Shortly after Alt (2011), I invited Melanie to come work with me in my office since I found that working away from home and kids was amazing for productivity. We fit together very well, and were able to improve one another's ideas, boost one another's confidence, and help one another to grow.

Melanie and I have always believed in collaboration over competition. Being honest and forthcoming with business details, even the nitty gritty money secrets that you're not supposed to talk about helped us both learn from one another.

Because we design differently, we have been able to push one another outside our comfort zones. Neither of us is particularly sensitive, so we can tell each other straight it something is a great idea or a terrible idea. Then, when it's time to actually implement the idea, we help to keep one another on track and accountable.

Q: How did Caravan Shoppe come to be?

A: Melanie and I both had existing shops for digital downloads that we ignored. They kind of sat there and occasional sales would trickle in. I released the Olliblocks in my own store, and they were so successful that we realized our digital downloads could so much better if we actually paid more attention to them. And it didn't make as much sense for both of us to continue doing our own stores than it did to team up and unite our efforts. Instead of both of us repeating the same groundwork for our own stores, we were able to create a variety of products, and a fun brand. Working together, we push ourselves harder to create products and be more organized. 

Q: How has the Alt community influenced your business?

A: We understand the importance and influence of social media, and the relationships we have formed at Alt and during Alt channel classes are key to spreading the word about our company, products, and purpose. More than anything, we have become very good friends with those we have met at Alt. Those friendships and connections have led us to greater success as creative entrepreneurs. 

Q: Any other thoughts on collaboration?

A: Lots. So many in fact that we created a whole course for Nicole's Classes together about Success as an Artist. We really feel passionately that collaboration instead of competition can build better art communities, and more success. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with others as well!

Thanks for sharing your wisdom and inspiration, Melanie and Alma! You can see some of what they’re up to by keeping up with their incredible 365 Patterns project, a gorgeous and clever new pattern everyday: Fifth & Hazel 365 Patterns and Ollibird 365 Patterns or #365patterns on Instagram.

If you have a collaboration story that has roots at Alt, we would love to know it and consider it for this series. Please contact Amy@justinhackworth.com