Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • Monka! Goods

HOLIDAY SHOPPING DEADLINE; regular shipping, customs, priority, international, etc.: Custom Monka! Ornaments and Tree Toppers must be purchased by 12/8 to ensure delivery before Christmas. Ready to ship items that are listed in my shop can be purchased up until 12/16. Unfortunately I can't guarantee the delivery date of International orders. All US Orders are shipped using USPS Priority Mail, International orders are shipped via USPS First Class International.

I will be at a pop-up holiday event at Blowtique located at 1 E Huron in Chicago's Gold Coat on November 30th. There will be a handful of other small shops including Mama Said Tees, Glam Banners, and Lo & Co Custom Sneaks (and more)! Drinks and appetizers too!

Lauren in her own words...

Do you have any fun nicknames? How did you get them? 

Some of my friends call me Lbeezy :) My maiden name is Braun, so it was a play on my initials.. :) Now people call me Miss Monka or the Monka Lady :)

Tell us about you!
I'm originally from the Chicago suburbs, I moved around a bit when I was younger and we also lived in Iowa and NY. My family moved back to the Chicago suburbs when I was in High School and I've been in the general vicinity since then. I met my husband working at a mom and pop owned copy shop back in 2002 and we've been together ever since! We've slowly moved further and further away from Chicago after living in the city for a handful of years and we finally bought a house in the northern suburbs (halfway between Chicago and the Wisconsin border) :) We have a 3 year old son, Ben who was my inspiration for my business and we just had a baby girl Samantha less than 3 weeks ago! When I'm not working, I love to spend as much time outside as possible. We especially love hiking through the forest preserves, camping, having BBQs, and hanging around the fire pit with friends. In reality, I spend most of my non-working time playing batman and dinosaurs with Ben :)

What is the name of your business and what is it you make? 
My business is Monka! Goods. I make home decor (wall hooks and drawer pulls), magnets, plus party and holiday items (table toppers, christmas ornaments, christmas tree toppers, and menorahs) from kids toys! Mostly dinosaurs and unicorns, but almost any kind of animal/creature!

How did you start your business? How has it evolved? 
I started it after I had been a stay at home mom for a few months. I was looking for a way to make some extra money and had gotten so many compliments on the wall hooks that I made for Ben's nursery that I decided that was the way to go! I figured I would sell one every few weeks, but I'm making sales daily and recently had to restructure and take on an assistant to be sure I could keep up with demand and stay sane :) I originally sold 100% custom pieces, now I sell my ready to ship collection and I take on 10 custom orders per month. 

What is the meaning of your business name? How did you come up with it?
I have a handful of nicknames for Ben. One of them is Monkey which morphed into Monka. I still call him Monka every now and then, but it feels a little weird now, haha!

What is your biggest dream for you and your business?
My biggest wish would be that I can be successful enough with Monka! that I wouldn't need to look for a job once my kids are in full day school. 

What is your favorite part? The part you don’t care for as much? 
My favorite part has been meeting all of the other makers in the small shop world. I have made such amazing friends and found so much support and camaraderie, which is just as fulfilling as running my own business! My least favorite part is adding new listings to my shop. It is tedious and time consuming! 

What is something we wouldn’t know about you or your business?
I am a beauty school dropout! :) I worked in salons for years at the front desk and made it through school up to the point where you cut hair on real people. The stress of possibly messing it up was too much! I've seen how clients react when they aren't happy with their hair! :) 

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far? What are you most proud of? 
I think I am most proud of joining Etsy Wholesale. I have started some really great relationships with retailers across the US and I cannot wait to expand into more shops!

What does shopping small mean to you?
When you shop small not only are you directly supporting families, but you are also buying super high quality, innovative, creative, and unique items. 

Why is handmade so important?
The most obvious benefit to me is cutting down the pattern of mass production to help the environment. I think it is also extremely important to support the arts and makers movement. Making sure that future generations see the value of learning how to make things on your own and how much work goes into making things. I want to be sure that my son and daughter know how to use a sewing machine, power tools, hand tools, and more! Having a creative outlet whether you make money with it or not is extremely important for your mental well-being! 

You're so awesome, Lauren! Tell us a bit more...
I LOVE that I make items that make so many people smile! I sometimes can't believe that people love the items that I make in my cramped and messy basement studio so much! :) (I definitely have a Type A personality, but my studio is the one place where I don't feel the need to keep it clean and organized. When I am down there my brain is in creative mode and I never force myself to stop and clean up. Thankfully my wonderful husband doesn't complain about the bits of plastic, paint, glue, and glitter scattered all over the floor :)

What are your plans for the holidays? 
We will be staying close to home for the holidays. We spend Christmas Eve with my husband's whole family, and Christmas Day with his mom and sister. For Hanukah I try to have friends over at least once for latkes. I love decorating the house and tree, and now getting to watch the excitement through my son's eyes has been the best part the last few years. He already asks to go to the hardware store to look at the decorations (which have been out since before Halloween!) :)


Thanks so much for your comments! We LOVE to hear from you!