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Blog Guest & Interview: Kelly Palencia

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Ever wonder if you should take a leap from hobby to business? from passion to pressure? Most would never consider it. How can you? There's work, kids, bills to pay, a full schedule already. But what if you could have it all and still succeed?

In celebration of women's day, we are excited to introduce a women that did just that. Welcome to our first blog guest, Kelly Palencia, Founder of Handmade in Norway (HiN). Started as a facebook group in 2016 to becoming a highly popular and well sort after platform to promote the artisans and makers of Norway. From cards to ceramics, toys to jewelry, expect to find an array of artist and makers with fantastic products on offer.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Can you tell us a bit more about your background and the link that helped you realise HiN?

Thanks for inviting me to take part. It's a pleasure to be given the opportunity to talk about one of my favourite subjects - Handmade in Norway.

My background is a bit of a mixed bag, since I moved to Norway in 2005. Prior to that I worked as a graphic designer, product designer and in-house designer in the UK, totalling ten years of experience from packaging to advertising campaigns. I loved being able to make a living being creative, although the work was not always fulfilling creatively.

When I met my husband and moved to Norway, I had two goals - to learn Norwegian, and to be my own boss, working as a designer. The next few years had me doing a wide variety of jobs, mostly to improve my Norwegian. But, I really missed being creative. I missed it for a very long time, and didn't find my way back to my creativity until 2016.

Honestly I thought I had lost it, I thought I'd never be able to tap into it again. It was missing and I had no idea how to get it back. Several jobs and two kids later I picked up a paintbrush, and I somehow managed to get a commission to illustrate a children's book. It was stressful, it was a rocky road of self doubt and anxiety. But I managed to pull it off. The relief wasn't enough to squash my self doubt, but it felt great all the same. That's where HiN began.

You call HiN your "happy accident", What was your "aha" moment, when you thought this could work?

After creating the Facebook group, I just wanted to connect with other creatives. I thought that if I could find a handful of people that were interested in the same thing, then we could support and motivate each other. The group grew faster than expected. Now four years later, there are over 4000 members. The network consist of creative people that all live in Norway, about 2000 of those live here in Oslo.

After arranging our first craft market in 2017, I realised that I needed to do this properly, and needed to be set up as an AS for people and other businesses to take us seriously. That was the "aha" moment, when I realised that I wanted to go ahead and do this, there was a need for it, 'WE' needed a creative community and I was on my way to building it, completely by accident. This was going to be a full time job, and most likely self funded for a while. But I felt compelled to do it.

Photo: Laks By Lisa

Hobby to business can be scary. Your activities has now turn to a "job". How do you stay motivated?

It's a tough transition from hobby to business. Turning something you love doing into something you have to do to make money can be very challenging, and I won't lie, it's an emotional rollercoaster. Makers don't just make things, we create, with skill and passion. By selling our products we have to accept that some people might not like what we make, and some will feel it's too expensive.

You're putting your heart on your sleeve every time you stand at a market to sell your handmade products, and you're inviting people to tell you what they think about it. It can be hard not to take it personally when someone doesn't buy from you.

My motivation comes from being able to help other makers through this process. I help my Inner Circle members develop their products, price them, promote them, and sell them. I guess I'm a cheerleader and a mentor in one.

"Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Some of my darkest moments have opened up doors. If I had done everything perfectly then I would have missed out on a valuable experience."

What would your advice be to those thinking of starting their own business? What are 3 things you wish you knew before starting?

Yeah, that's a good question. I have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I have grown and become more robust from making them. You need to be patient and kind to yourself. You will learn what you need to know along the way, and you'll learn it when you need to.

The three things I wish I knew before I started are;

Don't be afraid to make mistakes, learn from them. Some of my darkest moments have opened up doors. If I had done everything perfectly then I would have missed out on a valuable experience.

Don't be afraid to reach out and ask questions. There are so many things you don't know, and you don't even know that you don't know it, until you need to know it. Does that make any sense? But there are countless others that have been there before you, and can help out.

Don't do it alone. There's a network out there for every kind of entrepreneur. It's not a cliche that we're stronger together, it's a fact! My business has grown because of the people I have met along the way. Find people that have a similar interest, maybe even other businesses that complement your own. Help each other and grow together.

Photo: NK Jewellery

HiN offers a scholarships that tackle some of the issues people may have when starting a business. Can you tell us more about the scholarship and what we can expect?

The scholarship is an outpouring of all of my experience and a genuine interest in seeing others succeed. It covers everything from how to register a business to handling your MVA. It's a 3 week course designed around your fears and questions when starting a business. I help markers prepare emotionally, legally and financially. My goal is to support markers to get them through it all, while still having the energy to be creative. To make them feel relaxed and confident in helping them find the answers they need.

Together we work on defining your story to be able to grow a genuine audience on social media. We talk about selling, designing to make a profit, pricing. We even cover how to justify your prices if anyone should think they are too high.

All classes are hosted via the online platform Handmade in Norway HQ and is designed for you to have unlimited access to all materials and regular live videos as often as you want, when you want. This way, it allows people to focus on where they are now and how to take the next step.

The pandemic was hard on most businesses. Financially and mentally. How have you tackled each day with enthusiasm? and what is your biggest challenge right now?

I have to be honest, not every day was tackled with enthusiasm, and my motivation was scattered as I was business women, mother, homeschool teacher and creative. But I did the best that I could and I found out that just had to be good enough.

The pandemic gave me the time I needed to get creative and find a way to keep the network active. This is when Handmade in Norway HQ was created and I started teaching. I was able to help people in groups and individually in a way I couldn't before.

My biggest challenge now is that Handmade in Norway has grown so much, I really can't do everything myself. Juggling 5 Facebook pages, 2 Instagram accounts, 2 YouTube channels, 2 websites, and an online learning platform to manage... soon markets and pop ups to organise. It's time to admit that I have reached my personal limit and need to find ways to spread the load so that the business can continue to grow.

Photo: @millamillano // @nevenbodycare

You are also a "maker" and contribute to the beautiful products via HiN. Can you tell us more about your work?

I have always been creative, even as a child I wanted to draw, paint and make things. I've tried many different creative styles, jewellery, sewing, sculpture, even worked as a "praktikant" (apprentice) in the pottery workshop at the folk museum here in Oslo. But now, I have settled on digital drawing using my iPad and Adobe Fresco.

My illustrations are mostly based around nature, flowers, plants, bugs and fluffy critters. I have a love for nature that originates from a childhood growing up in rural England, with two very green-fingered maternal figures in my life, my mum and my grandmother.

Some evenings you can catch me drawing live on my Behance profile, just to share the joy of creating something. As I like to learn from others, I also like to think that others can learn from me. You can find my creations on Kelly Palencia Draws.

You once said you categorized your wardrobe in to 'treat it with care and it will always be there' and 'the cost was so low, just destroy it and throw'. How sustainable are handmade products? What would you say to those questioning the quality?

Yes, I did say that. I try to buy good quality clothes and not give into the temptations of fast fashion. I like to have a relation to the items I buy and will go the extra mile to look after them.

Fast fashion is made to be used and fade away, as trends change and cheap materials tear. Handmade products are made with a passion, by someone that wants them to be the best quality and that wants them to last. They are not only made to last, but made with skill and care. I'll happily pay for that.

The higher price of handmade products is justifiable as is the higher price of good quality clothes. I don't waste money on cheap products or buy often, so when I do, I'm happy to invest a little more, so that they last.

Photo: Kelly Palencia Draws

As HiN is growing, we can image the demand and ambitions of both your members and yourself are growing too. Tell us what more we can expect. What are you working on now? and what's coming next?

You're not wrong there. This year I am venturing into the world of pop ups to give makers the opportunity to put their products into shops, on their own terms. In the future I would love to have physical shops where makers can sell their products without having to face all of the overheads themselves. It's a dream. But if we don't have dreams then there is no incentive to move forwards.


"Fast fashion is made to be used and fade away, as trends change and cheap materials tear. Handmade products are made with passion, skill and care. Quality that last"

Jean Marc

Second Launch

Has this interview made you want to explore your own hobbies further?, start your business? or may be showcase those amazing products you've been working on? Leave a comment or get in touch directly with Kelly at

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