Last month we kicked off our DMM Artist Spotlight with Amy Kollar Anderson. Today we’re happy to introduce a friend of DaytonMostMetro.com and our next artist spotlight – Carli Dixon! Many of you know Carli’s husband Hamilton (or at least his work that can be seen in many local places). But Carli is an amazing artist in her own right, not to mention a mother and savvy business woman with a strong love for her neighborhood (South Park) and her city – Dayton, Ohio. We recently caught up with Carli to find out what makes her tick…
It was nearly 17 years ago that I sat at my desk as a freshman at the American University, searching for an inspiring business idea for my Small Business Development class. I wanted to care about the project, even though it was only a test-run in business plan writing. During the weekly phone date with my Mom, back in Ohio, I lamented my lack of enthusiasm for most of the ideas generated for the project so far. She had her own worries, strapped to her 8th year in what felt like a dead-end corporate job that was suffocating her. We talked about what life should be about, what passion should feel like, and what we could do to change our lackluster circumstances.
It was during that conversation that we decided to make a change. That small but powerful part of the psyche that is fueled by passion was speaking to us both, and we chose to listen. Within 3 months, we had discovered a small company that manufactures machinery used for preserving flowers. We researched the business, visited the machine manufacturer, and purchased our first machine in March of 1993. While my Mom spent that Spring experimenting with the machine, I enjoyed the exhilarating process of researching and writing the plan for a business idea I actually believed in.
companies. We have expanded our capacity with the purchase of 4 additional machines, and we now service all of Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Indianapolis, as well as any clients nationwide who discover our company via FreezeFrameIt.com or word-of-mouth. We have 9 full-time employees, with specialities in graphic design, custom framing, floral design, customer sales and support, accounting and marketing. We have developed a patented floral shipping cooler called an E-Z ship kit, which we distribute to our clients through our over 100 partnering locations.
In 2008, we expanded our floral preservation options to include Bloombeads, our exclusive flower-petal jewelry line made for a client’s actual flowers. After months of product development, testing, and system building, we launched the product line in Spring of 2009. Since then, the line has grown to include Bracelets, Pendants & Necklaces, Earrings, Rosaries, Rings, Men’s accessories, and even Pandora-style charm beads. Each jewelry item is custom-made by hand, using the actual flower petals mounted in sterling silver findings.
It’s been a wild ride, a passionate process, a bonding mother-daughter experience, and in the 17 years, we’ve never looked back.
And now – here’s Carli’s answers to our 10 questions:
Where are you from originally and/or what brought you to Dayton?
I was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio; I’m the granddaughter of a Sicilian stone mason and nature lover, Carmelo Ricciardi, who spent 12 years working with Hugh Taylor Birch to build what is now the Glen Helen Nature Preserve . My grandfather actually formed the “yellow spring”, built the original swinging bridge, and hauled in the slabs of stone to make the 150+ steps at the Cory Street entrance to the Glen.
What is the most surprising thing about living in Dayton?
How at peace I feel here, as opposed to any other place I’ve lived in or visited. I attended college in D.C., and when my college friends ask what’s here that makes me want to stay, I say “Time…and breath.
Have you reinvented yourself in your life, and if so, how?
Oh yeah, 5 years ago I bumped into the love of my life, Hamilton Dixon, at the Oregon District coffee shop, and since then, I am a new and improved version of myself. Our partnership has set the stage for me exploring the glories of motherhood and family life, has urged me to pursue my craziest ideas (i.e. AttaGirl Art & Gardens Complex), and pushed me to the limits of what I can accomplish as a business person and life partner.
If you weren’t in Dayton, where would you be?
Living on a farm/homestead in Kentucky, surrounded by wildflowers and vegetables, and farm animals…oh, and I’d have a big ‘ol tractor, and a powder blue pickup truck.
What do you think Dayton needs most?
When I think of what makes other urban settings seem alive and exciting, I picture PEOPLE…people sitting in cafes and restaurants and strolling the streets…Dayton has plenty of people in and around it, and it has enough (ideally, we would have more) attractions, cafes, galleries, restaurants, bars, etc….So what if Dayton focused on bridging that gap…daily transportation from U.D., Sinclair, Wright State, WPAFB, etc. to participating downtown locations that offer group specials or incentives. Fill the current venues and businesses with people, which might make downtown a more interesting market for other businesses. Point being; build momentum by creatively working with what you already have at your disposal, and funnel that momentum in a direction that encourages more people to engage in downtown.
What has been the most challenging part of starting your business?
Learning to become a human resource manager, while learning the art of delegating. Both are crucial in a growing business; you can’t grow without the ability to delegate tasks effectively, and you need staff members to delegate to, so a growing business requires proficiency in both areas. Having never held another full-time position in any other company during my career, I was starting from ground zero in both arenas.
What’s the most dangerous thing you have ever done?
Lead climb a 5.10 rock climbing route in Mallorca Spain; It was the hardest lead route I have ever attempted. I made it to the top, thanks to tenacity and a solid dose of terror.
Who inspires you?
My kids; I am so much more capable and motivated now that they are in my life.
Who helps you make your business succeed?
We are a team, and each team member truly does make a unique contribution. Nanci, my mom and business partner, is the jeweler, as well as our accountant and systems analyst. Our sales and production team is made up of Angie Poland, Laura Clark, Mandi Osborne and Coral Bruss, and they each bring unique skills to our organization. Tommy Cooper (bassist for the Motel Beds) is our custom framer and graphic designer. Susan Riley, former custom framer for the Rutledge gallery, is our full-time floral designer. Brittney Williamson is our full-time fresh flower processor and mini-memento designer. Lastly, my step-dad John Hames (the current Executive Director of the American Wine Society) is our building engineer and expert at machine maintenance.
What is your favorite quote?
“It’s the choices you make when no one is looking that ultimately define you.” -Hugh O’Brian Leadership Conference (I was 12).