In a nutshell, you need two main things to become a successful design entrepreneur:
1) The ability to design unique things that people want to buy, and
2) The means to produce those things.
A small family-run business called Lake Art in Harbor Springs, Michigan has nailed both. As locals raised in the shadow of the Great Lakes, they know that members of the local populace "share a passion for the rivers, lakes and oceans that are, or once were, an integral part of their lives," the company writes. "From the avid fisherman to the boating enthusiast to the beach lounger, we all appreciate time spent on the water."
Thus the company designs lake-themed decorative objects and producing them using the perfect digital fabrication tool: A laser cutter/engraver. Here's an example of some of their pieces:
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Lake Art's business is apparently booming. Since being asked to join the family business several years ago, Ashley Wiggins, a design grad from Northern Michigan University, has added staff to meet Lake Art's growing client base; business grew 200% since she came on board, according to local paper Harbor Light News, and the company supplies some 400 retail stores in North America.
Laser cutters are the ideal tool to produce slices for topographic maps, which also makes them perfect for cutting bathymetric (underwater) maps. The company has some 5,000 different bathymetric maps in their database, all of which can be incorporated into their products. But while they are the perfect tools for their product, that doesn't mean it's easy:
"People just assume we send information to the lasers and that's it," Wiggins laughed as she explained the step by step process. "Most of our customers do not realize how much work goes into creating a Lake Art map. Each one of our finished products is the responsibility of an entire team; every piece travels through several hands as it makes its way through production."