Female Feature Friday: Judy Lee
It is no secret that I am passionate about women's empowerment and women in leadership positions. As women's history month ended in March, a new series emerged here at The Honest Mama blog. Each week throughout April and May, Female Feature Fridays will spotlight local female entrepreneurs in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities.
Meet Judy Lee, an artistic maker who uses CAD design and 3D printing to turn your vision into reality.
Name: Judy Lee
Business Name: Made in Urbana
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Judy and I run Made in Urbana, a maker shop. My background is in art, and I studied graphic design at UIUC. After graduation, I worked at the local makerspace in town called Fab Lab, where I taught people how to design using different machines.
How did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in 3D printing?
I was really inspired by my time at Fab Lab. The concept behind the community maker space was to make technology and machines available to the community, so I got to teach all kinds of different people how to make. I noticed that there was always someone interested in turning their hobby into a business. That was how the idea behind Made in Urbana started. We want to eventually branch out and offer lots of different kinds of services, but for now we’re focused on getting really good at 3d printing. We currently have 100 machines.
When did you start your business? Can you share what that process was like?
We started by creating different products and listing them on Etsy. I promoted the different products through TikTok, and we went viral for a few products. From there, we were able to scale up and purchase 100 3d printers. The business is currently me, my engineering partner, and our U of I intern.
What types of products and services does your business provide?
Made in Urbana has their own products that we sell to our online audience, and we also offer 3d printing and CAD design services. The last few client projects we did was: designing a donut for Industrial Donuts (in Champaign), creating a medical ear model for Photoni Care, and providing custom parts for a hobbyist.
Does your business have a brick and mortar location, or is it entirely online?
All of our business transactions are online, and we have printers in downtown Urbana and Lincoln Square Mall.
Has the pandemic impacted your sales or operations?
Honestly, it was really amazing. Before Made in Urbana took off, I was running a little shop called “Nifty Nook” where local artists could sell their work. The pandemic shut us down, and initially I was really devastated. But the pandemic forced me to really look at what we had and make the most of it. We didn’t have a strong online component for “Nifty Nook”, and we made sure that “Made in Urbana” was mostly e-commerce. We were able to make way more revenue online than I ever had locally.
You have a large social media following that continues to grow! How has social media impacted your business?
TikTok and Instagram has been EVERYTHING, especially TikTok. The platform is amazing because you can go viral with little to no audience. I’m really grateful to the internet friends we have made that love our little city.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love that I’m my own boss and I get to be creative everyday.
What are the biggest challenges you face within your line of work?
We’re a fairly small operation with a ton of sales, and we make and ship everything ourselves. Yesterday, we had a big shipping day where we shipped product for about 7 hours between two people. I’m exhausted but very happy. I’ve been looking to hire for people, but with COVID it’s been difficult to invite people into our spaces and hold interviews.
How do you stay current with all the fads and changing trends in your industry?
I genuinely love the internet, so I’m constantly looking at what’s trending and connecting with different artists. It’s a lot of fun!
What would your top piece of advice be to someone wanting to start their own business?
The best advice I got was to CASH FLOW EVERYTHING! I have other friends who launched businesses with fairly sized grants and investments, and I think it takes them longer to figure out how they’re actually going to make money. We started with one printer and didn’t buy more until we made the capital ourselves to scale up. This is really practical because it shows you what’s working or not, whereas grant driven projects you can experiment and guess a lot more… which can be a longer and more confusing process.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I want to thank Alyssa for always supporting us! She was one of the first bloggers to feature us and collab with us for a giveaway and her audience has been really amazing. So thank you for helping us grow. :)
You can find Made in Urbana online at www.madeinurbana.carrd.co and on Instagram @madeinurbana.