Celebrating it’s one-year anniversary this month, AR Workshop Alexandria has gained a steadily growing community of DIYers and has earned a reputation as a must-try activity and go-to destination in Old Town Alexandria.
Corporate mom turned creative entrepreneur, owner Katie Nguyen Wells has created a cozy space with a modern farmhouse feel for those seeking a place to gather and create.
GETTING TO KNOW KATIE:
Describe yourself in 3 words:
Intuitive, Spirited, Resourceful
What inspired you to open AR Workshop?
I found myself feeling very complacent in a lot of areas of my life at the time. I had turned 40 and was approaching my 10 year anniversary with the same company and beginning to get restless. Then an opportunity to introduce, build and grow an unknown brand to a new market was presented to me. There was little data, little history, and no reassurance. That’s enough for most to walk away. But, those reasons were exactly what made me want to pursue it more. I can’t explain it, but I had this gut feeling that felt really right.
Why did you choose Old Town Alexandria?
There was no question. We live off the GW parkway 6 miles from Old Town and it’s where we eat, play, and shop. It’s charming, quaint, full of character, and rich with history. It’s a dream to have my studio right in the center of it all.
For those who haven’t been to your studio, how would you describe it?
Welcoming. It’s bright, open, and just has really good energy and vibes. There’s a lot of laughter and celebration coming through those walls. One of my employees told me recently that she stopped by the studio on her day off because she just missed it. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.
You’re celebrating your one-year anniversary this month!
What are you most proud of?
My team. It is hard to find good people and I am lucky to have found 12. We’ve accomplished a lot together in one year. I’m proud to call them my colleagues.
What lessons have you learned?
To accept that you can’t do it all and you have to empower others and delegate.
What are the challenges of being a mom and small business owner?
Turning it off. I haven’t quite found the balance and pretty confident I’m not doing this well. There is a lot of mom guilt. My 8 year old daughter randomly said to me one day, “When I grow up, I want to open up a store, too. But, it’s going to be a candy store with bright pink walls and be at the beach. And, when I make $1,000, I’m going to dance on the roof and throw money up in the air.” Does that not make you laugh and cry? While I may not be around all the time, it gives me hope that I’m teaching my kids some life lessons.
What do you do to unwind after a busy day?
I worked from home for 10 years and now work full time at the studio. That has been the toughest transition for our family. I really look forward to Friday nights at home with my husband and kids. A glass of wine while cooking and catching up in the kitchen while the kids are hanging out in the next room. Then it’s movie night, which means the family watches a movie and I pass out by 9pm. The struggle is real.
What keeps you up at night?
I voluntarily left a cushy corporate job and sacrificed family time and a social life to pursue my dream so I put a lot of pressure on myself to make this successful. To me, that means creating a business that is going to be relevant beyond year one. What and how I do that keeps me up at night.
What excites you about your 2nd year?
Mixing things up and introducing fresh ideas, workshops, and creating a learning community. In addition to our DIY workshops, we’ve lined up special guest instructors who will teach you everything from furniture painting, to macrame, to watercolor painting and hand-lettering, to business how-to workshops on Instagram and social media. And, that’s just through March so more to come…
We’re also going to introduce and test out ‘Open Craft’ sessions starting in March where you can drop in and make and take a mini project. No registration required, but it will be first come, first serve. Make sure to check our schedule of classes and come give us a try!
What’s special about your one-year anniversary?
It’s a celebration to show my gratitude to friends and family, employees, customers, and our community for welcoming us to Old Town. If you haven’t been to our studio, it’s an opportunity to see our space and make and take a complimentary mini project. We’ll be offering special promotions, giveaways, and some pretty awesome raffles, including a FREE PRIVATE TABLE for 6 at one of our workshops! I hope you’ll stop by for a drink and celebrate with us on March 14th at 6pm!