Entrepreneurs tap DIY popularity with boutique where guests create home decor items

AR Workshop part of new national concept
Posted at 7:00 AM, Aug 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-10 08:04:58-04

CINCINNATI — Katie De Pompei was scrolling Instagram when a post from AR Workshop caught her attention.

The concept of a DIY boutique and workshop where guests could create their own home decor intrigued her. After she did a little more research on the franchised company, she knew her career would likely take a turn that was far from her then-role in physician relations at UC Health.


Katie De Pompei and Karen Loeffler, sisters-in-law, recently opened an AR Workshop franchise. Both loved crafting and DIY projects, but neither had opened a business before. (Photo by Megan Fenno)

De Pompei knew if she were to venture into business ownership she'd need a partner, and her sister-in-law Karen Loeffler, who at the time was the assistant director at the Goddard School, was the perfect fit.

Last month the two celebrated the Hyde Park boutique's grand opening.

De Pompei said the idea of owning a DIY boutique made her want to take the leap into a new career path.

"I've always loved crafting and entertaining, so I thought the idea of merging the two and turning it into a business would be a lot of fun. And it is,” she said.

AR Workshop has been around for a little over a year, and there are already 30 locations in more than a dozen states. (Photo by Megan Fenno)

AR Workshop's concept was born after two DIY enthusiasts, Maureen Anders and Adria Ruff, saw an opportunity within their existing business. The Charlotte, North Carolina, moms became business partners and in 2010 founded Anders Ruff, a graphic design, party styling DIY blog and online shop.

Their “Ruff Draft” column on the blog is a source of inspiration for DIY enthusiasts. With many creative projects under their belts, Anders and Ruff had demands from fans and clients to offer hands-on workshops.

That's when the concept for AR Workshop was born. The company has been around for a little over a year, and there are already 30 locations in more than a dozen states. While the locations have similarities, franchise owners have leeway in the types of projects they offer, the decor they use and the classes offered.

"Before we opened this location, aside from building all of the furniture you see here in the workshop, we also attended training for a week at the company's flagship location in Pineville, North Carolina,” Loeffler said. “There we were taught everything from the projects we're offering to the technical aspect of the business. We also learned programs like Adobe Illustrator, which gives us the creative freedom to create our own designs.”

Author Megan Fenno tried her hand at crafting, creating a sign painted with the Cincinnati skyline. (Photo provided)

One thing each AR Workshop location has in common: Guests have a good time and leave feeling good about what they’ve created.

"People leave with a sense of accomplishment, and they're really proud of what they've made. Everyone starts with a blank canvas or a piece of plywood, and it's really the customer who makes the entire thing," De Pompei said.

AR Workshop is seeing plenty of interest in hosting parties, as well.

"We've had bridal shower parties, bachelorette parties, hosted corporate outings,” she said.

People who deem themselves artistically challenged might feel intimidated, but it's actually pretty easy. To see how the process works, I tried it out. The most overwhelming part was choosing which project to create, from dozens of options. I created a framed wood sign with a silhouette of the Cincinnati skyline.

It took a little over two hours, but I was able to turn four pine slats and a piece of plywood into a custom piece of art I'll display in my home for years.

AR Workshop also features a boutique that sells everything from handmade soaps from local artisans to jewelry.

For more information, visit