Get to know the ‘Hazel’ behind Hazelmade

Hi there, my name is Susan Hazel Rich, and I’m the creator of Hazelmade. You might be familiar with my designs and products, but I want to share more about the person behind the brand.

I didn’t always know I wanted to be a designer and business owner. Looking back, it makes a lot of sense that life panned out this way. I’ve always been a perfectionist, very Type A, and definitely creative. When college rolled around, I planned on law school. My mom pointed out it would mean hours of reading, and I quickly changed my mind. When it came time to declare a major, which I had to pick quickly in order to keep my scholarships, I landed on graphic design not really knowing much about it. Turns out, I’d stick with it, and it would evolve into what today is Hazelmade.

Dreaming up Hazelmade wasn’t instant. I worked many jobs over the years, and each experience brought a little something to Hazelmade. For example, my internship at environmental nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute certainly influenced my Midwest-made and USA-sourced values. I also worked for a marketing company, food co-op, fabric shop and publishing company, learning more and more about design along the way. Then for eight years, I built relationships with my own clients as a brand and logo designer. Although I was good at what I did and proud of my work, my heart yearned for something that was truly mine

I didn’t know the first thing about creating my own product line, but I just let myself dive in without letting fear hold me back. Once I took the leap, the happiness that filled me was worth the risk. My parents gave me the middle name Hazel after my great aunt. When I entered my first craft market, I needed a name, and Hazelmade just clicked.

One of my most distinct memories in those early days is of meeting a Michigan business owner at a craft market. She noticed my work and asked me to stop by her shop to chat about wholesale (I had no idea what this even was.) So I did, a shoebox full of greeting cards under my arm, and an openness to learn. I had been printing them myself and filling in the illustrations with colored pencils; I was a broke beginner with no money for colored ink. For a year, I drove four hours roundtrip every month, to buy her lunch and ask advice on my fledgling business. In 2015, I attended the National Stationery Show in New York City as her guest.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve attended twice on my own. My first time, I came out with two Best New Product nominations. Meeting other creators and catching the attention of buyers launched Hazelmade into something bigger, something people recognize. Occasionally I’ll run into locals and they’ll say, “Wait, you’re the Hazelmade? I love your work.” That has been a pleasant surprise. I’m headed into my seventh year, and it feels really good. I’m in more than 400 stores across the country, and one in the United Kingdom. Don’t get me wrong — this hasn’t been a seamless process. There have been long nights of work and many mistakes. When you’re your own boss, and you screw up, there’s nobody to point a finger at but yourself. But Hazelmade is my baby, and I love it. I love it all: the emails, the adrenaline rush of planning for trade shows, seeing a new design printed for the first time. 

This journey has taken me from Ohio to Fort Collins, Colorado, to Mid-Michigan and back home to Kent, Ohio, where I grew up. Now I live here with my husband, Charlie, and our two cats, Dizzy and Meeka. I love sketching from my home studio, on the porch of our 1920s fixer upper or from a coffee shop downtown. I gain inspiration from all of these places and more. Sometimes our work feels disconnected from who we are as people, but for me, Hazelmade is more than a business. It’s a piece of who I am and my life. It demands so much of me, but it gives so much back.

Thanks for reading, supporting my work and taking the time to explore my corner of the world. I’m glad to share it with you.

Susan

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