Many of the centers in this network have storefronts, and these storefronts often feature specialized products related to their store themes. For example, the Ministry of Stories in London features a Monster Supply store that sells an array of wonderful and weird products. One is a can that advertises itself A VAGUE SENSE OF UNEASE. There is a box of caramels that has been re-labeled to indicate that the caramels are actually boogers.

These products are useful in many ways. First, the centers with storefronts often benefit financially from the sales of these products. Second, if the storefronts are full of funny and odd products, then strangers coming into the stores might stay a bit, get some entertainment, and find themselves donating, volunteering, or telling friends about that great store that sells caramels relabeled as boogers. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the products are fun for the students to see and play with and be inspired by.

When a student comes into a store and sees all these insane handmade products, and all the wit and creativity that went into them, it’s inspiring. And it sparks their own creativity. There’s nothing more inspiring for a young person than being around an inspired adult. That is so important.

So herewith some hints and guidelines for creating products:

Some products will sell, others are more for display.

At the Pirate Supply store in San Francisco, there are peglegs for sale. These are real, hand-crafted peglegs. They are beautifully made. They don’t sell very often. But that’s okay. They are largely for show, to help create the atmosphere that this is a real pirate supply store. The things that sell are T-shirts, books, and small items. That’s okay, too. You need both kinds of products.

Anyone can make a product in an hour.

Go get a blank jar. It’s glass and has a cork top and costs $2. If you have a store for gnomes and elves, what would a jar like that be used for? A fairy containment vessel? Okay. Now ask your graphic designer pal to make a label. Print the label on adhesive paper, peel it off, and put it on the jar. You have a product. You have, in one hour, transformed an empty jar into a Fairy Containment Vessel, which now retails for $12.

You will need so many products!

To fill even a 100-square meter space, you will need a stunning amount of products. Go to your local grocery store. Count how many products are in any shelf. Fifty? A hundred? Yikes. It takes a lot of inventory to fill your shelves. So get going, and don’t get too precious.

Let your volunteers be part of it.

You need all the help you can get. There’s nothing more fun than having a product-making workshop with volunteers (and even students). Get a bunch of raw material together — jars, cans, random objects — and imagine what all these things could be. Your volunteers are always looking for ways to be creative, and this is about as good as it gets.

Not every product has to be brilliant and forever.

You might make a product that’s only kind-of funny or sort-of clever. That’s okay. That’s part of it. You have so, so, so much space to fill. You need every idea you can get. Make five of that sort-of good product and put ’em on the shelf. You can rotate them out later.

Not all products will be handmade.

There are products that involve you and your team relabeling existing objects. And then there are those products where you print your logo, or other messages and images, onto shirts, mugs, pens and other things. There are hundreds of companies that do this work. There’s likely one within an hour of wherever you are. Anything you want to print your logo onto, they can do it, and the prices are startlingly affordable. These things will likely become your best-sellers because, by and large, they are actually useful.

Keep it fresh.

Visitors will come to your storefront again and again. When they have friends in town to visit, they will bring them to your storefront. But you have to reward them for revisiting. Change things up. Add new products. New signs. Re-arrange things. Add new interactive features. There’s nothing sadder than an eternally static storefront! Everyone wants their attention and their loyalty rewarded. Keep it new.