How one mom’s pandemic boredom-buster turned into a colorful and blooming business

Photo by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

When Amanda Mertel took a break from teaching to stay home with her two children this year, she didn’t think there’d be a pandemic. She also didn’t think she’d be running a full-fledged business out of her own kitchen.

“Once Covid hit, I just kind of found myself looking for activities and things to do with my kiddos since we couldn’t really go anywhere,” she says. “I had come across all these broken crayons that we had. Then through experimenting, I found that I could create crayon letters and shapes.”

Mertel made the crayon letters for other friends and family, and she was urged by her friends to advertise through her personal social media accounts.

“I got this crazy response from people, like people from high school I hadn’t heard from in a while,” Mertel says. “And then all of a sudden I started getting contacts I didn’t know. It’s just been insane how it’s blossomed.”

In fact, since opening her store, Crayon Letters KC (, online on June 10, she’s made almost nine hundred different crayon names—and that doesn’t include shapes.

“Each day I have anywhere on average between six to ten orders to fill, depending on how many names and shapes are in each order,” she says. “I really have no days off.”

Mertel noticed that her two sons loved using the letters she made. “I had made them mostly for my two-and-a-half year-old just as something for him to do, and I noticed he wasn’t only coloring with them but he was utilizing them to say his letters and numbers,” she says. “Then we started doing activities with them, so I saw all these learning benefits.”

The letters and shapes are made with Crayola crayons and Mertel says the process of making the shapes can become pretty time consuming—she breaks up the crayons, puts them in a mold, cooks them in the oven and then lets them cool and dry.

“I’m working on and off all day,” she says. “In my free time, my husband and I will sit on the couch and he helps me break up crayons. Our parents have been helping break up crayons—they bring over boxes all broken up. It’s like a family affair.”

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