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Local business finalist in national competition

A paper crafting business based just west of Campton Hills is a finalist in Martha Stewart’s second annual American Made Program, a nationwide competition that recognizes makers and creative entrepreneurs.

Leo Kowal – who runs with his wife, Mary Rudakas – said the $10,000 prize doesn’t concern them as much as the other prizes, which include opportunities to be featured on and the Martha Stewart Living radio show on SiriusXM radio.

“This is a big deal for the entire paper craft industry,” he said, noting a decline in independent scrapbook stores.

To win, the newlyweds need to beat five other finalists in an online vote at Voting for the Audience Choice Grand Prize Winner ends Monday night.

“We’re going all the way,” Kowal said.

The other finalists are Grey Cardigan of Cleveland, Ohio, in the design category; Feast it Forward of Napa, Calif., in the food category; The Oak Leaf of New York, N.Y., in the garden category; Ella Dynae Designs of Eugene, Ore., in the style category; and Modern Yardage of Woods Cross, Utah, in the technology category. is the finalist in the craft category, an achievement that didn’t surprise Kowal, he said.

“Our fan base is so loyal and protective of us,” he said. began as an Etsy shop in February 2009 with Rudakas selling cards she had created, Kowal said. He said that led to her selling the digital die cuts that people can download.

“She has always been crafty,” Kowal said of his wife. “Mary actually used to watch Martha Stewart when she was little.”

The business has evolved from offering two-dimensional patterns to mostly three-dimensional designs, Kowal said, noting the figures can be used as gifts, home decor and party favors.

“It’s really morphed into something that we really didn’t expect,” he said.

On the Web

Visit to vote for in Martha Stewart’s second annual American Made contest.

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