Ames calligraphy teacher adapts business to social distancing

Iowa State alumna Lauren Gifford hosts calligraphy classes around Ames and Ankeny.

Sydney Novak

Lauren Gifford graduated from Iowa State’s Ivy College of Business in December 2019. Now, she’s a full time entrepreneur, teaching calligraphy classes in the Ames area for three months now. 

Gifford was the recipient of the CyStarter Entrepreneur 10-week accelerator program grant. This program helped her to start teaching her own calligraphy classes. Before receiving this grant, Gifford had a successful YouTube channel, where she shared video tutorials of calligraphy writing and bullet journals.

Gifford teaches her calligraphy classes at different venues around Ames and Ankeny. She partners with other local businesses and hosts classes at different locations around Ames. She has hosted classes at Nook & Nest in downtown Ames and, before COVID-19, hosted about one class every week or every two weeks. 

With new social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gifford has needed to be more creative with her business model. She now hosts online Zoom calligraphy classes that she feels has helped her learn how to scale her business. Previously, her classes were only available to people who were in central Iowa, and now they are accessible no matter where her students are. 

“I can have larger groups of people without being concerned about everyone being able to see the board I am writing on,” Gifford said.

Gifford had few difficulties transitioning her classes to online.

“Having an understanding of YouTube and social media made it easy for me,” she said.

Gifford is used to getting creative with her business model and also does freelance work for things like weddings or invitations, in addition to updating her YouTube channel and hosting in-person classes.

“My biggest motivation is when I watch something online that sparks something, and I just want to work on it,” Gifford said.

Gifford has about 90,000 YouTube subscribers and has found that sharing some of her personality throughout her videos has brought her success. Finding the right balance between teaching content and sharing her personal life can be one of the more difficult parts of her job.

“That’s what makes someone an entrepreneur, just being flexible and creative in your situation,” Gifford said.

Gifford predicts she will have to do more to adapt her business given the COVID-19 social distancing recommendations. She recognizes that her freelance work might stall for the time being if weddings are postponed. YouTube will likely become a bigger focus for her business, she thinks.