MINT HILL – Imagine having a dream and the desire to go after it, but for some reason, life keeps telling you “not now.”
That’s how Katherine DePrater felt whenever she started to pursue her idea for a do-it-yourself craft boutique that offers classes. The Mint Hill mom and longtime Coca-Cola employee really wanted to open her own business, but heartache from a divorce, followed by grief from the death of her father, caused her to push that dream aside.
This year, she decided it was now or never and opened The Gift Workshop at 8329 Fairview Road on Black Friday.
“One thing my dad always used to say to me was, ‘Stay the course. Life is going to be really tough, but you’ve always been a survivor and you’re going to survive this too,’” she said.
DePrater first thought of the idea for The Gift Boutique in 2015 after one too many canvas paint nights with her girlfriends. Although she enjoyed the classes, DePrater realized she was running out of wall space to hang her masterpieces. There should be a place in Mint Hill for people to make other crafts and DIY projects, she thought.
She drafted the business plan and vowed to put it into motion the following year, but 2016 wasn’t too kind to her. DePrater went through a divorce and had to transition into life as a single mom.
“The first night when my son went to stay with his father, the house had never been so quiet,” she said. “The silence was piercing, so I went into my garage and just started tinkering. I would watch DIY videos and make things. I did that every other weekend and that’s how I healed.”
DePrater started crafting just for herself, and then for other people. Soon, she was taking orders in large quantities and she could feel the desire to open her business burning once again. She told herself 2017 would be the year.
Those plans were derailed again when her father died on Dec. 16, 2016. He had been battling pulmonary fibrosis, an autoimmune disease that creates scarring in the lungs. Over time, the scar tissue can destroy normal lungs and make it hard for oxygen to get into the blood.
DePrater didn’t leave her father’s side during his final days. They talked about life, love and the hopes and dreams he had for each person in their family.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘You need to find a way to bring people together and that’s how you’ll find healing in the next coming years,’” she said.
When he died, DePrater was devastated. She took time to grieve with her siblings and comfort her mother, putting her business dreams back on the shelf once again.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year. DePrater had just returned from a work trip when she learned that Coca-Cola, where she had been employed for over a decade, would be going through a corporate reorganization with possible layoffs. She realized it was the perfect time to leave the company and finally go for what she wanted. Armed with years of experience in brand management, she dusted off the old business plan for The Gift Workshop and thought, “It’s now or never.”
It’s been roughly a month since the grand opening and so far, DePrater said, people are loving the classes. They are held in the evenings Wednesday through Sunday and cost between $50 and $75 per person with opportunities for customization and special add-ons. DePrater provides all the tools and materials for the projects, and either she or another teacher walks the class through with step-by-step instructions.
This year, DePrater has hosted sign, jewelry and candle-making classes in her workshop. She plans to expand to sewing and custom pillow and bag-making next year, as well as offer more kid-friendly classes. She does some pop-up events at local restaurants and bars, but is dreaming up some type of mobile workshop truck for the future.
“During my classes, I’ll see a mom and daughter making a Lazy Susan for their brother who got married, a couple on a date and friends having a girls night and I just love it,” DePrater said. “My dad was very right when he said that creating moments and being a part of moments is what will bring me joy.”
Want to go?
The Gift Workshop, located at 8329 Fairview Road in Mint Hill, is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 to 9 p.m. on Sundays, although closing times depend on evening class schedules. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/thegiftworkshopnc, or sign up for a class at www.schedulicity.com/scheduling/TGW75K.