Nikki is half of the creative team behind Hagen and Oats, a custom wood decor business. Alongside her sister, Anna, they create handmade custom art with a focus on impeccable quality and one of a kind uniqueness. They are passionate about living their dream, growing as people and helping others do the same.
Nikki and Anna were born and raised in good ol’ Minnesota. Growing up they were taught that being a girl means you have all the power in the world. That being said, at a young age the girls learned they could do anything. From building a wood strip canoes to rebuilding a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle, these two grew up hands-on.
Last February the duo acquired a band saw from one of their in-laws. They made a piece of art for Anna’s living room and after a few posts on social media it didn’t take long for the sisters to realize they have a great talent to share. Two weeks later Hagen and Oats came to life! The twosome is inspired by each other, their family and of course their customers. They are always adding new products to their inventory and they are so exited to be a part of the local Minnesota community.
Talk about the beginnings of Hagen and Oats. What inspired you begin this endeavor? Our company name is based off of Anna’s last name (Hagen) and Nikki’s cat (Oatmeal). We didn’t know we would actually become a legit company and have to tell people we named our business after a cat, but here we are.
We have always been hands on girls. We acquired a band saw from a family member last February and decided we wanted to make a piece of art for Anna’s mantel. We did some research on how to use the tool, put some ideas together and after a few days we had ourselves a giant deer, made from scratch. We posted the piece on Facebook and within a few hours we had seven orders. We decided to go with it. Our next piece was a cut out of Minnesota, then Wisconsin, a bass, etc. We hit the ground running and we haven’t looked back. We never intended to start a business but here we are 18 months later, loving every minute of it.
Have you always been creative? What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey? Anna and I have been remarking that “we can make that” since we can remember. Our parents taught us how to think outside of that box and we definitely try and do that. We often reminisce about all of our different art phases. We have done string art, pottery, jewelry, painting, wood burning, etc. We gave wood working a go and it was the right thing at the right time. I went to school for Graphic Design and Anna and I have both been in management so I think the combo pack of skills has really helped us.
How have the items you make evolved? How have you evolved as artists and businesswomen? We started out telling ourselves we were only going to make our large sized pieces of art, two feet by three feet. The art was selling and what we were comfortable with. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were limiting our customer base by doing this. We now offer a variety of sizes of art, we make beer totes and cribbage boards and we wont stop there. We have learned to listen to what the customer wants. We have also learned that a growing business can be stressful, scary and difficult. We tell ourselves that being out of our comfort zone is a good thing. This means we are developing, being challenged and learning.
How has living and making in Minnesota influenced your creative work, specifically through Hagen and Oats? There are so many iconic images that represent Minnesota. It would be hard to produce the variety of work we have in a state we didn’t grow up in. The experiences we have had here really help us develop a sense of what a true Minnesotan is. The Boundary Waters, cabin life, Paul and Babe, winter carnival; all of these experiences have influenced our ideas for art. It seems like every piece of art we make triggers the next idea. Our ideas come from our team, our customers and of course our experiences. A perfect example of our product expansions is this: someone wanted us to create something for their baby room so we made them a cute little giraffe. That piece that inspired us to do all types of animals, dinosaurs and even growth charts. We are looking at doing an extended kids line in the future as well.
Do you like to experiment with different materials or techniques in your work? We love trying new things! When we started we were backing all of our pieces with dark colored wood. We eventually started changing the stain of the wood and that led to a whole variety of materials to back our art. We use radiator cover, white board, chalkboard, license plates and plexi-glass. We love trying new things and we cant wait to see where our business brings us next.
Do you feel like your work allows you to contribute to something bigger than yourself? One of the biggest motivators for our company is empowering women. We are big proponents of “girl power” and that is why we started teaching classes. We want to share our experience with people and show women that tools are not a scary thing and just another devise they can use. We have been adding power tools to our collection since we started Hagen and Oats and we have had to learn how to use all of them. Showing someone how to use a drill or even the difference in the types sandpaper is pretty inspiring for us. We have put out hiring ads a few times now and the majority of people that apply are women. We can't say for sure but I think but if a few guys were running a woodshop and put out a now hiring ad, we don’t think it would be a female dominated applicant pool. This to us is awesome!