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Alumna encourages finding creative outlets through artistic small business Cracker Jack Goods

Alumna encourages finding creative outlets through artistic small business Cracker Jack Goods

Alumna encourages finding creative outlets through artistic small business Cracker Jack Goods
December 08
12:00 2022

University alumna and artist Kara Belt once sat shoulder-to-shoulder with her best friend, listening eagerly to her friend’s “Granmom” demonstrate how to embroider as her encouraging nature lights up the room.

One dog, one idea and 23 years later, Belt still finds herself needle-deep in various fiber art creations as the owner and artist behind Cracker Jack Goods.

“I remember feeling like it was a privilege,” Belt said. “Like, wow, she is taking her time to teach us something, and […] I just didn’t stop after that.”

Named after a memorable childhood dog, Belt’s business features a variety of crafts ranging from embroidery and cross-stitch to stickers and jewelry. Belt initially began selling her embroidery on Etsy back in 2009, which blossomed into an embroidery business partnership. Her brand later grew into her own standalone small business, Cracker Jack Goods, in the fall of 2016.

“She just loves to be around people and talk to people and learn from people, and I think that’s what makes her successful,” said Katie Vail, content specialist and Belt’s childhood best friend of almost 30 years. “She takes these risks and goes out into the world and presents her art and is confident, and that’s how she has gotten this far.”

Belt’s work ranges from snarky pop culture references to abstract, intricate designs. She said her art grows alongside her and tends to reflect her stage of life and emotions at the time of creation.

“Ever since I was little, I was always very awkward and very anxious,” Belt said. “I knew that if I could just make it through the school day, I would get to be at home and I would get to be creative and make something. So, that was always such a great healthy outlet for me, and I feel like it kept me out of trouble. It gave me something to do that was productive.”

Belt doesn’t pinpoint her natural love for art to any one influence. Instead, she believes her creativity stems from experiences with her parents, teachers and various role models throughout her life.

She said her time as an integrative studies major at the university provided her with resources and expertise she could apply to her small business.

Cracker Jack Goods owner and founder Kara Belt, knits
on Nov. 19, 2022. Photo by Lauren Campbell

“Kara was and is an engaged student,” said Dr. Matthew Heard, associate professor of English and Belt’s former rhetoric professor. “[She is] very intelligent, hardworking, curious [and] would stay after class to ask questions. [She] would seek advice about applying class concepts to her business [and] she has always been, since I have known her, a very good communicator.”

Along with her many personality traits, Belt attributes much of her success to her all-in mentality and lack of fear in trying new things.

“I realized years ago if you don’t try something, to me, that’s scarier,” Belt said. “If you don’t say yes to things and some unknowns, then you’re not going to grow or experience the most out of life. I’ve found a lot of goodness coming out of just jumping in and trying things.”

Belt hopes to encourage this mindset through her art and small business and inspire others to find their own creative outlets, whether that be through traditional art or another creative channel.

“[Art] keeps my hands and my mind calm and busy,” Belt said. “So, anybody who tells me they aren’t creative, I’m like no, you’re creative — you just have to find the right outlet.”

Soon, Belt hopes to incorporate YouTube tutorials and workshop kits into her small business product portfolio. She said she always has an overwhelming number of ideas she wants to accomplish and integrate into Cracker Jack Goods.

“She’s multifaceted and hard to pin down,” Vail said. “Her work reflects that, and I think that’s so cool because there’s something in it for everyone.”

Belt said she doesn’t know where she would be without art and is grateful to have discovered creative outlets at such a young age. Because of this, she wants to pass on resources, knowledge and inspiration to others.

“Just go for it,” Belt said. “I think the best way to start is don’t worry about having an audience. Don’t worry about trying to have followers on social media. Just do it for the process and enjoy it. I think people know when you love what you’re doing, and that just carries on naturally.”

Image Courtesy of Kara Belt

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Sarah Hogan

Sarah Hogan

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