By Kerry Butrick Dowling
Lisa Marcantonio of Newburgh didn’t set out to be a small business owner, but as fate and luck would have it what was once her hobby is now a booming small business out of her home. Now, her small business ships nearly 700 custom orders around the country a year.
After her older sister received a clay bead making kit as a gift, Marcantonio took an interest in the craft as a child and before she knew it, she was quickly creating beads and other objects out of polymer clay. When she was about 12 years old, a family member noticed her interest and bought her a book about making clay animals which she immediately began using.
“I honestly just started playing around with it one day and it took off from there and I taught myself. I enjoyed making little animals and things,” shared Marcantonio. Marcantonio was able to bake the items she made in an oven and harden them into little figurines.
With the advent of social media, Marcantonio began posting her creations online to sell and they often caught the eye of friends and family. She eventually started selling her jewelry and generic ornaments at craft fairs and other small venues locally in addition to giving them to family and friends.
She recalls the moment everything changed for her from an artist standpoint. A former classmate reached out to her to make an ornament of her family and a humble Marcantonio initially declined the request.
“I didn’t want the pressure of making actual people,” she joked. The following year the friend inquired again and Marcantonio decided to give in to the request and try her best to make the custom order. The ornament was a success and when her friend shared it on social media the requests from others began flooding in.
“I remember it so well. It was the first time I was getting requests,” she said of the sudden burst of interest. In 2015, she began creating custom ornaments as a side business and a way to make extra money.
After showcasing her work at local craft fairs the self-proclaimed introvert decided to pull back and focus on growing her business virtually. She began by creating a virtual storefront on Etsy and was featured in Etsy’s marketing campaign after posting an Instagram story about the ornament creation process. In addition, her own website, lilacandpoly.com, was developed where she could control the workload and allowed customers options to customize their ornaments as needed. Now, she makes ornaments year-round with the holiday season naturally being the busiest time of the year.
Earlier this year, Marcantonio left her full time job working for the Town of Newburgh Recreation Department to pursue her business full-time while also focusing on her family life as a wife, mother and fur-mom to her new puppy. In 2020, Lilac and Poly sold over 700 ornaments nearly doubling the 400 made the previous year. This year, Marcantonio is set to hit or surpass the 700 made last year.
She is thankful for the gift she has been given and is appreciative of her customers. “I feel honored to be part of every family’s life and part of their holiday tradition. It brings me joy to see the little baby added to the family and then the next year I make the baby as a toddler. I love watching these families grow,” she shared.
Now a small business owner, with requests coming in from all over the country including Canada, Marcantonio is grateful for the support her small business has received over the years. “I didn’t set out with this hobby to have the goal of having a small business and now career out of it. It’s something that just grew over time. I really appreciate all the support I get and I’m so grateful for that. It’s really changed my life,” she said.
Marcantonio expressed that the pandemic really hurt small businesses locally and whenever possible supporting local small businesses is appreciated more than most customers know.
“I know a lot of people are passionate about supporting small businesses especially with what happened to a lot of them during the pandemic. I hope people know that supporting a small business, even by simply sharing their work online or by word of mouth, can build a business locally. My business was really built on that and I’m really grateful for everyone who supported me,” Marcantonio said.