When Katie Burke started Board At Home in 2017, she wanted to share her crafting skills by teaching others how to personalize home décor at parties. What she didn’t anticipate was just how much that desire would spark empowerment in crafters, Board’s employees and Burke herself. Burke, who graduated from UNT in 2011 with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies and now teaches statistics at Denton High School, has long been a part of the arts and crafts movement.
“I can remember being a sophomore or junior in high school and making custom belt buckles for people,” Burke said. “I taught myself to knit and crochet stuff [and] I used to be a certified cake decorator. I’ve kind of been all over the place.”
But when she made her first sign to hang in her and her husband’s new home in the spring of 2017, that affinity for crafts began to take a new form. Burke posted a picture of her board on Facebook and received over 30 orders from friends wanting custom signs of their own. A lack of room to create prompted Burke to rethink her approach to crafting the décor, however, and Board At Home was born.
“I didn’t have the space to make it all because we lived in an apartment at the time, so I finally was like ‘Maybe I can bring it all and people can make their own,’ and that was my first Board At Home party,” Burke said.
Burke’s first party was such a success that she began to be overwhelmed by the number of parties that people were requesting and struggled to balance Board with her full-time teaching job. Burke reached out for help and as the business grew, so did the Board At Home team, which now consists of 11 members.
Board At Home team members aim to take the guesswork out of custom sign-making by providing would-be crafters with the materials and the expertise to create. Customers order online, choosing from nine board sizes and over 80 designs. Then, they are contacted by an artist who brings the materials and the know-how to the host’s event, allowing customers to experience the fun of a new crafting project without the risk of failure.
Board At Home employees are independent contractors who make their own schedules, committing to as many or as few parties as they wish and earning 70 percent commission with each event. Employees say that flexibility allows them to share fun experiences with customers without feeling like they are at work.
“I think BAH is empowering for women, especially for the artists,” Erin Wilson, administrative assistant at Board At Home, said. “When they join BAH, they become their own bosses; they have the freedom to make their own schedule. These women join the team because they have an interest in crafting and want to spread that love to others by help[ing] them create something they are proud of.”
Although her team has continued to grow, Burke said she is committed to avoiding the multilevel marketing business model, focusing instead on selling not a product, but a fun experience for artists and party goers alike that keeps them both coming back for more. Burke said a large part of creating that authentic experience and her vision for Board has been encouraging women to recognize the value in their creativity.
“I think sometimes, as female entrepreneurs, we tend to limit ourselves without realizing that we’re limiting ourselves,” Burke said. “Especially in a handmade business, we don’t maybe see the global impact it can make or how big it can get.”
Board At Home artist Lacey Holland said Burke’s vision for Board was central to her interest in joining the team.
“She wants us to succeed, it’s not just about building the brand,” Holland said. “To know that what you put in it is what you’re going to get out of it, that for me was spot-on with where I wanted to be. That’s why I joined and why I’ve stayed.”
Empowering the women she creates with has had an impact not just on them, but on Burke herself.
“When I was trying to manage everything, Board At Home became a burden,” Burke said. “As soon as I started to empower people and trust them to do things at the level that I expect them to be done, they rose to that level.”
As for the future, Burke hopes to continue to grow Board’s reach beyond North Texas. With one artist in Houston and one in Oklahoma, Burke is aiming to expand into Waco next – and expand in new ways here at home.
“I’d love to open a space where you can come and hang out with your friends and basically just go pick a kit off the wall and do it,” Burke said. “Bring snacks if you want to and just have a space where you can be crafty and hang out with your friends and have a few drinks. I think a space like that would be really cool in Denton.”
Whatever direction Burke takes Board At Home in next, employees agree maintaining the community she has built around crafting will be an important part of any future growth.
“I think it will [grow] as long as it stays on that grassroots level of getting to go into peoples’ homes and it being more [about] organic relationships and not just some sales pitch,” Holland said. “If it stays in that kind of humble space, I think it will continue to do really well.”
Featured Image: Board At Home owner Katie Burke holds a sign from a recent craft party at Steve’s Wine Bar in Denton, Texas, on July 3, 2019. Photo by Amber Gaudet