"My purses are a three-step process," says Murray. "I start by laying all of my fabric out to try and decide on the design I want to use. Then I cut the designs out of the fabric and sew them together."
In June, Murray and her mother/business partner, Debbie, opened local gift shop Romiette and Julieo, which specializes in the pair’s own unique line of purses and jewelry.
“My mom, she’s always made jewelry, but she really started selling it this past year when we started the business,” said Murray. “We’ve both always been pretty creative.”
Call it creativity or dyslexia, when it comes to their unique shop name, this design duo gives credit where credit is due.
“Well, we just say a lot of stuff backwards in my family, and one day my nanna was talking about the Shakespeare play and, of course, said the names backward. My mom finally caught it about a day later and she just loved it,” Murray said of the Romiette and Julieo moniker. “It just fits my family perfectly.”
The mother/daughter team are also two of the featured artists at the third annual Winter Market Weekend at the Anniston Museum of Natural History Nov. 8 and 9.
The Winter Market is an invitational art exhibit, showcasing the designs and handiwork of more than 20 artisans. From hand-poured candles to soapstone vessels to sea shell art, the diverse list of showcased artisans range from one end of the spectrum to the other and will be on display throughout the museum’s lobby and auditorium. The market gives earlybirds a jump on Christmas shopping and kicks off the museum's season of holiday events.
Another featured artist who started a business this year is Leigh Cummings. Like the Murrays, Cummings found inspiration for the name of her online shop, Melba’s Market, from her grandmother.
"Melba was my sweet great grandmother, Mother Ray, who passed in 2009,” Cummings said. “She always wanted everyone in her family to be happy doing whatever they wanted to do. I am honored to share Melba's Market in her memory."
Cummings studied graphic design at Auburn University before deciding to veer her artistic talents toward the home décor market.
“I’m a very practical person and I think people need practical things,” she said. “It's fun for me to paint and create abstract art, but I really enjoy using my talents to create art that serves a purpose. I chose to focus on home décor and gifts to try to meet the needs of my customers with practical items that bring art into the home.”
Cummings has become something of a regular to the art show scene.
“I think events like this are a great way to get myself out in the community and it allows customers to see my products in person," said Cummings.
Most of Melba's Market customers are out of state, buying online through Etsy, she explained, so participating in regional expos gives her the opportunity to market herself to her local customers.
"The shows also allow me to unveil new items and see how they do before posting them on Etsy,” she said.
Along with some new items, Cummings will have plenty of her top sellers available at the museum market including printed signs, pillows and customized bag tags. Cummings also specializes in items for dog lovers, which were featured at AMC’s PetFest. Piper's Playhouse doggie daycare on Noble Street will soon begin selling the dog-lover line, as well.
Linda Hearn, manager of Calhoun County's Chamber of Commerce, says she has seen the local small business market grow substantially over the years. She hopes this year’s Winter Market will help promote the importance and benefits of shopping locally.
"Shopping locally really benefits the entire community," explained Hearn. "It helps with employment, keeping the small businesses alive. It helps support our city's schools, police department, local teams and charities, helps our city have better roads and highways. It also lowers taxes by expanding the tax base. Not to mention the better customer service small business gives you."
The chamber's small business committee started the "Spend $20 on the 20th" initiative to try and boost the local small business economy. The initiative encourages consumers to support local business by spending an extra $20 on the 20th of each month.
"It's really just a concentrated effort to help support our local small business. We hope everyone continues throughout the whole month, but we just take one day out of the month to promote that," said Hearn.
While Winter Market Weekend doesn't fall on Nov. 20, Hearn says she hopes shoppers will extend the “shop local” message of initiative when the time comes to buy. Market participants are optimistic that they will.
"I think it's important for small businesses to be a part of community events like Winter Market," said Cummings. "The vendors specialize in many things and everything is handmade. It's the perfect way to get all of your holiday shopping done in one place."