October 30, 2019
Sarah Van Dyke, owner of Revel Craft Bar in Madison, Wisc. (Photo by Nicole Reis)
MADISON, Wisc. — “I was so eager to get out of IT that I didn’t dwell on the risks too much,” Sarah Van Dyke said, as she thought about the biggest risk she took when opening Revel, her unique craft bar and social space in Madison.
Right off of the Capitol Square in Madison, Wisc., Revel is putting a modern spin on a DIY studio.
Walk into the drop-in craft bar and you’ll be presented with a menu of DIY crafts to choose from. Once you’ve selected a project, grab a seat and the colorfully dressed, midwest nice staff will bring you a tray with all the supplies needed to complete your project.
If you’d like a snack or drink while you work, the space is licensed to sell food and alcohol, and serves up a variety of Revel-specific cocktails and snacks. Uniquely Revel, there is a permanent Prosecco tap ready to serve up bubbles with your crafts.
The oldest of five from a family steeped in business, Van Dyke studied music education and business at the University of Wisconsin. After college, she spent a decade working in healthcare IT at Epic Systems and later, a startup consulting firm.
After a resolution to “find my new career” on New Year’s Eve 2015, Van Dyke began searching for the intersection of what she loved, what she’s good at, and what people would pay for, to find the first iteration of her imagined social space.
In June 2016, Revel opened its doors to its first eager crafters.
After 10 years in IT, Van Dyke knew she wanted to be doing something fresh and social that didn’t exist in Madison just yet. And she also knew she wanted it to bring joy and inspiration to herself and others.
Sarah describes her inspiration for starting her own business not as a sudden “Eureka!” moment, but rather as a series of small moments, little ideas that came over time. She still has the notebook she used to doodle ideas while traveling around the world for Epic.
Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, she attributes the confidence it took open up her own business to support and encouragement from her family. “If anyone thought I was crazy for leaving my cushy day job to start my own thing, they never said it,” she joked.
Like any entrepreneur, she fully believes in her business but still has her moments of doubt, especially on a slow day or one more occupied with operations than the fun part of the job.
In these moments, it’s her co-workers and her husband that remind her of all the accomplishments the business has had so far. And when that’s not enough, she checks the books. “Numbers don’t lie!” she said about checking the financials when she’s not sure if her emotions match the facts.
The facts don’t lie, indeed. Revel first opened its doors in June 2016 and now employs 14 staff members.
When asked what advice she would give to someone starting a new business, she says it’s mission critical to surround yourself with good people. “There’s no way Revel would be what it is today without the skills, hard work, and enthusiasm of my team – and the experience they create for guests in our space each day,” she said.
“Don’t go it alone,” she said. “Find the people who are going to help you bring your vision to life, keep you inspired, encourage you when the going gets tough, and celebrate your wins.”
When speaking to her business model, she said that while it’s light and fun on the surface, the business is highly complex, with significant variation in operational logistics from month to month. With a rotating menu at the craft bar, coordinating the logistics – the storage, the suppliers for each piece or part, the instructions – is incredibly complex to manage. Figuring all of it out is one of her biggest challenges each week, but also one of the elements that she enjoys.
While some challenges change day-to-day or week-to-week, some remain the same for the wife, entrepreneur, and mother of one. Complexities like staffing, growing the customer base, and balancing family and business life, are all plates Van Dyke works to keep spinning each day.
Looking ahead, it’s tough to say exactly what’s next, but Van Dyke says that it always comes back to creating unique, fun, and inspirational experiences for the guests.
“Who knows what’s next for us – Revel Kids? Revel Retail? A Midwest craft tour? It’s exciting to think about where we could go from here,” she said.