Originally published in HerFamily March 2015
Lilly Kassal is still in kindergarten, but the aspiring dress designer already has her first grown-up sewing machine and is ready to start learning how to turn her fashion drawings into haute couture. Creativity is definitely part of the little girl’s DNA. Lilly’s mom, Kristin Boe, is the owner of Kids DIY Studio, a drop-in craft studio that opened last spring.
“You can come in and do arts and crafts projects and paint, and we have classes and parties,” Boe says. “Crafting stuff is messy and it’s nice to have a large supply in one area besides your house. You can leave the glitter on the floor here and splatter paint. You can be creative.”
Like its name suggests, her business is geared toward children mid-teens and younger, although some adult classes are also on the schedule. Boe, whose first entrepreneurial endeavor was a home-based daycare during Lilly’s infant and toddler years, says she enjoys expressing her creativity as much as her customers do.
“Every aspect of this business is creative. The job itself is creative, the marketing takes a lot of creativity,” she says. “It’s fun because there’s a constant rotation of projects and classes to dream up and see if they will work, so there’s a lot of trial and error.”
Lilly, 5, says she enjoys pitching in at the studio, although her mom gently chuckles at her claim of helping with the cleaning. What she does do, Boe says, is try out new projects, or in Lilly’s words,
“I make examples.” The success of Lilly’s proto-types are a good indicator of how other children will respond to new projects, Boe says, and Lilly is also good at initiating activity with groups of children and helping shy visitors feel comfortable at the studio.
“I talk to them if they need help, if my mom is helping someone else,” Lilly says.
Lilly’s dad, Jeff Kassal, is also creative, but in a more academic sort of way. He is in his first year of teaching special education math classes at Kirn Middle School in the Council Bluffs Community School District after teaching in the elementary grades at a private school in Omaha. Not only does he find ways to reach individual students with respect to their special learning needs, but he also teaches an age group that can be a tough audience: seventh-graders.
“I’m always trying to make everything interesting and (apply to) real-life situations,” Kassal says. “Luckily, the majority of my class likes football and sports in general, so I try to make connections there.”
Kassal says he wasn’t planning on teaching special education when he started his career as an educator.
“I did my undergraduate in general education/elementary. When I graduated, it was right after Christmas break so I did some subbing and long-term subbing in general education,” Kassal says. “Then I got a summer job at a special education school and thought it would be just that: a summer school job. But I ended up really liking it. It was a different kind of challenge.”
Although Boe and Kassal work in two different career fields, the couple say their worlds do intersect from time to time.
“It’s nice to have Kristin’s help with decorating schoolrooms or her ideas to make things look better,
like presentations,” Kassal says.
“And vice versa,” Boe adds. “Especially when he was working with elementary kids, I’d ask him about projects we were trying out.”
Boe also applies some of her own experience as an educator—having taught English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Korea in her single days—when she’s dreaming up new ideas for Kids DIY Studio. She also says that overseas job helped give her the courage to take the risk of starting her own business years later. “That was probably the scariest thing I ever did, taking that big leap and going somewhere so far away. So everything else is, ‘Give it a try.’”
The couple (Kassal is from Omaha, Boe grew up in the Bennington area) were introduced by Boe’s sister and a friend of Kassal’s who is now Boe’s brother-in-law.
“We went to a comedy show together,” Boe says, but Kassal questions that fact. Kassal’s conclusion? “Yeah, we did. It was pre-dating.”
They may not quite agree on their meet-cute, but the couple enjoy gardening together—Kassal is the avid gardener, but quite a few garden-themed projects have found their way into the studio—and both Boe and Kassal are runners. And with a five-year-old in the house, a lot of their spare time is devoted to kids’ movies and activities.
“We’re fairly average. We work hard, we raise our kid,” Boe says. “We eat a lot of pizza.”