Founders Everywhere: Nora Abousteit
Nora Abousteit is the CEO and Founder of CraftJam, a company that provides self-care and socializing through crafting.
Welcome to Founders Everywhere, where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at Everywhere Ventures, a global pre-seed fund supported by a community of 500 founders and operators.
Did you know a strong crafting exercise can literally rewire your brain? After eight weeks of crafting with no prior experience, participants in a clinical study saw improvement in at least one cognitive area: fine-motor speed, attention, short-term and long-term memory, and verbal recall. The company CraftJam uses the science of neuroplasticity and the technique of crafting to help organizations and teams perform better, drive engagement and improve wellbeing. Founder and CEO Nora Abousteit, along with co-founder Meg Glasser, have spent the last five years helping leading companies, universities, and nonprofits learn, craft, and connect in-person and virtually. As more companies now have remote workers, they also ship their craft workshop kits all over the world, so no amount of distance will get in the way of community building and team building.
Nora is Egyptian-German. She grew up in Germany and went to the American University in Cairo, where she received degrees in Middle East Studies, Political Science, and Philosophy. She moved to the United States over 15 years ago and has been in the creative crafting space for just as long. Nora is a serial entrepreneur having previously founded two crafting communities with over a million members.
Tell us about CraftJam.
We started out with group workshops locally in New York. More and more people came, so I decided to create a company. When COVID hit we pivoted online and that’s when our growth really accelerated. People are lonely and need connection. Mental health is so important and, as studies show, crafting is great for overall well-being. We started working with a psychologist who’s an expert in behavior change and mental health, and we came up with five elements that we use to design all of our “Craftcare” Workshops: the three pillars of happiness (purpose, connection and control) and also mindfulness and ritual. Based on these elements, we train all our JamMasters (teachers) to guide, ask questions and give feedback.
We started to specialize in corporate events and team building, because the well-being of employees is so important to reduce burnout, address anxiety, and foster connection which ultimately increases retention and attraction of talent.
How does CraftJam inspire “customer love”?
We have a 96% customer satisfaction score and 74% of our in-person and virtual corporate clients are repeat customers. We have over 100 different Craftcare Workshops in 20 different craft categories. Glass etching, needle felting and water coloring are very popular. We always tweak and adjust our projects, motifs, and designs so they are part of the zeitgeist. We make sure that we teach skills that are achievable and design projects you can finish within the time allotted. At the end of the workshop we hear that people feel more calm, peaceful, inspired and more connected to their peers. It’s very rewarding (in psychology it’s called “effort-driven reward circuit”) and something to be proud of when you make something with your own mind and hands that you can see, touch, and enjoy.
What sets CraftJam apart from competitors?
The combination of our scientific approach and our consistent high-quality experiences. We use cutting edge research and combine it with 1000’s of years old traditional crafting using great materials and excellent JamMasters. We also do it in a way that is 100% seamless. Customers tell us what they want and we make it happen from start to finish.
Tell us about some recent wins for CraftJam.
We just launched a new website, which is exciting. I’m also thrilled to share that CraftJam made the cover of the Los Angeles Times in an exciting article on the growing popularity of crafting in the corporate world and the link to cognitive improvement. We’re also expanding our in-person workshops to various cities across the country (we’re currently in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.)
Any favorite podcasts or books?
In terms of podcasts, Startup School by Y Combinator is really phenomenal. It’s worth watching some of the videos because of the slides. And then the book I want to recommend is The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. There is actually a chapter about me in there. Gathering and hosting has been a constant part of my life. When we talk about CraftJam and when we hire “JamMasters” or instructors, it’s as important to be a good host and to be a hospitable facilitator as it is to actually teach the crafts. I love bringing people together and hosting.
What makes you tick?
I would consider myself to be a neophiliac (meaning a love of or enthusiasm for what is new or novel). There’s a line in the poem Steps by the German author Herman Hesse that says, “Magic dwells in each beginning.” Each time there is something new, there’s magic in it and I just love when people tell me about a new craft, project, company, or idea. It’s something that’s really important to me and keeps me going. I’ve also been practicing transcendental meditation for the past 10 years and consider good tea to be a part of my daily ritual.