This month, we are pleased to introduce you to Pete Cartwright, the Association For Creative Industries’ (AFCI) senior associate of membership and operations. Pete oversees the daily membership operations of the association and uses his personal joy and passion for creativity to connect with AFCI members. 

Where are you from?

I was born and raised just outside of Chicago and moved to Wrigleyville after graduating from Illinois State University.

What’s your favorite craft and/or hobby?

I learned at a very young age from my mother and teachers that being creative and appreciating creativity is a cornerstone of a life worth living. I enjoy writing, making music, doodling, cooking, tie dye, belt-stamping, photography and woodworking.

How did you become interested in the creative activities that you participate in?

I had a lot of different influences. Growing up, my mom sewed and made detailed photo albums. My time as a career Boy Scout opened my eyes to creative activities like leather-working and woodworking. Through my education, I focused on the arts and music. I also worked at my family’s commercial ink factory. Being there spurred an interest in abstract art and color theory. I would mix and stir dyes and pigments together and photograph the results to pass the time until summer ended.

Any cool DIY projects you’ve tackled?

When I was old enough, I joined Venture Scouts and went on a three-week backpacking trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. While I was there, I invested in a quality leather belt at a trading post and spent time throughout the trip documenting my journey with stamps, brands and engravings.

What’s the next creative project you’d like to try?

I would love to build my own guitar. I have my eyes on a C.M. Martin Rosewood “Build Your Own Guitar Kit” – if I could just trust myself not to break it.


Serving on the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) Board of Directors is a unique way for members of the organization to give back and help steer the future direction of AFCI. The individuals serving represent diverse backgrounds and have significant experience in the arts and crafts industry. Today, we introduce you to Lisa Kiser.

Lisa: I held various positions at Deutsch Advertising Agency including producer, project manager and account manager. After years in advertising, I decided it was time to bring the skills that I learned to my family business. 

AFCI: Tell us more about your current role.

Lisa: I am a fourth-generation family business member and serve as the director of marketing. I manage Beacon Adhesives marketing efforts, including digital marketing, social media, branding and design. In addition, I work on general management, new business development and growth of the company. 

AFCI: Beacon Adhesives has been an AFCI member since 1989. Since you started with the company six years ago, what have you seen as the most valuable benefit? 

Lisa: I have personally gained tremendous value from the connections I’ve established within the industry. AFCI plays a vital role in helping me do that through the events it produces and its online resources. 

AFCI: What inspired you to serve on the AFCI Board?

Lisa: I feel I can bring a fresh perspective that will result in success for the members and AFCI growth.

AFCI: What would you say to someone who is interested in joining AFCI?

Lisa: AFCI brings together the best of the industry. It is a great insider look at how the industry works and who works within it.

AFCI Member Update – Strategic Direction

Last week, AFCI hosted its first Virtual Town Hall in which AFCI Chair of the Board Jim Thielen, AFCI Executive Director Peter Finn and staff shared updates on important new initiatives, AFCI’s strategic plan and Creativation 2020. Thank you to all who attended and asked thoughtful questions regarding the direction of our organization.

If you were unable to attend the Virtual Town Hall, watch this recording or read a summary of the discussion below:

Changing the Management Paradigm

As many of you know, the AFCI Board of Directors changed the management paradigm of the association by partnering with SmithBucklin, a leading association management company. On April 1, SmithBucklin took full responsibility for the operational aspects of the Association. Now three months in, we are confident we made the right decision for the future of the Association. The board can effectively focus its energy and expertise on strategy, while SmithBucklin offers deep operational expertise in the areas of event management, education, administration, technology and marketing.

New Mission and Vision

This spring, the Board completed a strategic planning session during which we made decisions on the strategic direction of the association. With these changes, we developed a new mission and vision for AFCI that better encapsulates our goals, philosophies and the impact of our organization.

The new vision is:

An active creator in every home in the world.

The new mission is:

AFCI advances the global creative community by connecting, inspiring and educating the industry professional who in turn engage and enable creators.

We believe that these two statements, when executed well, will position the association and our members to be successful in the marketplace today and in the future. 

2020 – 2022 Strategic Plan

The Board also finalized AFCI’s 2020-2022 strategic plan, which defines the goals we want to achieve, how we will make decisions as an association and allocate resources, and what we will provide to the membership. Focused around three strategic pillars, we are confident the 2020-2022 strategic plan will set AFCI on the right course moving forward.


Exciting updates are underway for Creativation 2020, January 16-20 in Phoenix, Arizona. The show will include new seminars and workshops, more education and more ways to connect with AFCI and your peers on the show floor. The exhibit hall will include a revamped AFCI booth and pavilions centered around different categories, including: bead and jewelry, edible art, new exhibitors, new product showcase, stamping and yarn and needlecraft. The education schedule will be announced in early September, with early registration opening on September 23.

Year-round Education

AFCI is focused on providing year-round education to our members and the creative industries as a whole to serve, reach and inspire end consumers. Creativation 2020 education includes outreach to invited speakers, more education sessions on the show floor and an expanded array of session topics. Moving into 2020 and beyond, AFCI looks to provide online education opportunities for all AFCI’s audiences via webinars, podcasts and more.

Content Strategy

Coming this fall, AFCI will unveil a new website and content hub that will be easy to navigate and provide a user-friendly experience for members and non-members seeking resources that can help them run their businesses. Serving as the home for all AFCI content — from AFCI news and blog to Gradient articles — the content hub will be a valuable resource for our members. The new AFCI website will include a more sophisticated membership database and member center to support you as you interact with the Association.

AFCI is committed to listening to you, working to strengthen our relationships and delivering value in all that we do together. AFCI will continue to increase our membership engagements — including the formation of new committees for volunteer involvement, member visits by AFCI board members and staff and regular updates via email and Virtual Town Halls.

Why Participating in Live Events Is Great for Your Business

More brands than ever are investing in experiential marketing, a tactic for selling products and services through activities that engage your customers. Experiential marketing makes your customers active participants in your marketing campaign and allows them to develop a personal relationship with your brand. Have you ever organized a make-n-take in your store or exhibited at Creativation? If so, then you’ve already used experiential marketing to drive interest in your company and products.

Here are some of the most significant benefits of participating in a live event.


According to the Radicati Group, a provider of quantitative and qualitative research on email, an estimated 269 billion emails are sent each day. Furthermore, DMR, a curator of statistics, reports approximately 50% of emails are considered spam. Messages can be overlooked when sending them through email. The amount of noise decreases when you engage your customers in person.


Showing your products in person lets you see and hear real reactions to what you are selling or creating.  It gives you an opportunity to talk with prospective customers about what they like in a no-pressure setting. Meeting customers face-to-face, hearing what they have to say, and gaining valuable product feedback is important and can energize your company.


Events are a goldmine of easy, interesting content. When everyone is having a good time, people love to talk about products, share their experience online and feature what they love in social media posts. It is also a great way to grow your customer list by collecting contact information in person.


Giveaways, competitions and teaching new skills within your event space are excellent ways to make brand activation memorable – and it’s possible to do on a small budget. 

Live events are a great way to engage your customers, increase sales and grow your customer base. As with any marketing campaign, developing an experience at a live event takes time and preparation. But the return on investment can be worthwhile. If you get stuck in a rut along the way, remember as your Association, AFCI is here to help you! Contact us at to learn more or for more information on Creativation, North America’s largest creative industry trade event.


This month, we are pleased to introduce you to Alexia Malamis, the Association For Creative Industries’ (AFCI) senior manager of Finance Management and Accounting Services. Alexia oversees all of the Association’s accounting activities.

Where are you from?

I’ve always lived in the Chicago area. I grew up in Palos Hills, Illinois. I moved to the city of Chicago during college and stayed there for 10 years. Now I live in Elmhurst, Illinois.

What’s your favorite craft and/or hobby?

I really enjoy creative activities, especially when it comes to decorating for parties. Designing tablescapes is my favorite part. I enjoy running outdoors and have completed two marathons. Working out and shopping for bargains are also passions of mine.

Any cool DIY projects you’ve tackled?

I’ve worked with three of my kids on their state projects. I have one more to go in two years for my youngest son!

What’s a creative project you’d like to try?

I love using different fabrics when I decorate and want to continue incorporating different textured fabrics—smooth, bumpy, fuzzy, shiny—in my party décor.


Serving on the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) Board of Directors is a unique way for members of the organization to give back and help steer the future direction of AFCI. The individuals serving represent diverse backgrounds and have significant experience in the arts and crafts industry. Today we introduce you to Ashley Smith.

AFCI: Your experience in the industry over the past 20-plus years makes you a perfect representative of AFCI. Tell us some more about your current role.

ASHLEY: I am the Senior Manager of Education at Missouri Star Quilt Company, a large ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retailer, serving the quilting community all over the world. Education is paramount to everything we do. I oversee our educational initiatives to ensure that our customers have access to channels of learning throughout their creative journey.

AFCI: You are reaching your third year of membership with the Association. What initially drew you to join?

ASHLEY: There are so many benefits that the Association provides for me, personally, and for our business. What drew me to the Association were the networking opportunities. I am able to network with adjacent industries that create occasions for learning and strengthening our business and industry.

AFCI: What do you hope to achieve by serving on the AFCI Board?

ASHLEY: As a board member, I aim to support and guide the Association in creating true value for the members. I want to be an advocate for my fellow members by ensuring that all programs and benefits make sense to the individual member segments, while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

AFCI: What would you say to someone who is interested in joining the Association?

ASHLEY: AFCI is a strong organization comprised of a variety of member segments, which presents as a wonderful networking opportunity. The Association strives to produce programming and events that truly benefit all members.


Thousands of individuals are taking their favorite hobbies and passions and turning them into craft businesses. In addition to innovative high-value services, the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) fosters an invaluable industry support network that entrepreneurial startups can connect with to help them grow. We reached out to some of the craft industry’s most successful entrepreneurs for advice, tips and lessons they learned along the way.

KIM EVANS, Emerald Creek Craft Supplies – Supplier Member

“My biggest piece of advice for the new business owner is to find a good, strong mentor. Find someone who is willing to share industry secrets without hesitation in order to help you bypass hurdles that you would normally have to overcome. This will make sure you’re structured for growth before you begin to scale up.”

BROOKE ROE, Pinspiration – Buyer Member

“For new business owners, looking at big-picture systems through the lens of convenience is crucial. What can you automate, eliminate or delegate to help make doing business with you a pleasure? If you have more than one customer asking the same question, perhaps it’s time to adjust your response and automate by adding that question to your website FAQs. Look at eliminating any recurring tasks that suck up your time with little return. Delegate as much as you can to your strongest employees. Spending time to train on systems upfront is not as easy as doing things yourself, but it pays off in the long run.”

EILEEN HULL, Eileen Hull, LLC – Designer Member

“Be creative in all ways, not just in your craft. Set achievable goals and figure out ways to make them happen. If one way doesn’t work, chalk it up to experience and try another route. Do your best and don’t beat yourself up. Remember to live in between working. Smile a lot and be friendly. Do the research. Hire out when you need to. The thing that makes your business special is you, so don’t apologize for being yourself. Embrace your creative path and enjoy the journey.”

For more great tips from your industry peers, take a look at the article titled “What’s Your Biggest Piece of Advice for New Business Owners” in the summer issue of Gradient. For more information on how to take advantage of all that AFCI has to offer, contact Jason Baum, Director of Membership and Marketing at