Happy 2017 to all my customers and supporters! I managed to write 5 blog post before falling off the wagon. Blogging and social media marketing is tough to stay on top of but I’m proud of the effort I managed to put in.
This officially marks 6 months since I started this project and I accomplished a ton of things I never would have imagined doing in a short amount of time. I designed 6 enamel lapel pins and a hat with a phrase that I have a hate/love relationship with; I made a few things I didn’t originally have plans to make (postcards, zines), and also failed to execute one or two ideas.
I also participated in two vendor fairs: it was an incredible experience to be a part of Toronto’s first Asian Zine Fair and to table at Xpace gallery. It’s a small art world out there and I’m looking forward to being inspired by all the artists I meet.
There is something incredibly satisfying having a physical product I can touch and engage with and I hope to explore other physical things to make and design in the new year. (A tshirt is in the works!)
“sadgay” is an experience that I personally relate to and it also represents the unique experiences QPOC face in terms of oppression, mental health, and relationships. It’s not trying to encourage dwelling in negativity, but I think it’s cathartic to accept that “sadness” is something we experience, but doesn’t fully define us. // some days you just want something to help express your monochrome mood~
Series #1 is officially complete with three enamel pins and one hat! I’m very satisfied that I was able to get to the point where I have one complete set of merchandise as originally planned. It’s so easy to lose interest and motivation when starting a project and I think it’s important that I find some time to reflect on my accomplishment. There has been countless times I didn’t feel like continuing, but I’m proud of myself to have managed to push through. Unfortunately, I’m not quite done yet, with another series on the go, and of course, I need to start finding a way to market and sell my merch (ha ha).
I also wanted to say a big thank you to my friends and family who have supported me in this project thus far and have been excited for it, particularly on the days I wasn’t feeling too enthusiastic about it. A special thank you goes out to everyone who has purchased something from me. It’s been extremely validating to have strangers buy my goods, and to know that my work resonates with at least one person out there has made all the hard work that has gone into this project worth it.
The original plan was to do three series, each one with three pins and one larger statement item. Series #3 will probably be on hold, but series #2 is going to start rolling out soon and it will be a much different vibe 🙂
Backing cards for my lapel/enamel pins are one of the many things I‘ve had to think through and design beyond the actual merchandise. I’ve had an interest in packaging design in the past, and I only now realize that although this is hardly a traditional “package”, it was still a fun little exercise into such realm of things.
I’ve been told that you can make backing cards through typical business card printing vendors. I’m familiar with ordering business cards from Moo, but I also wanted to check out some more (ultra) economical options such as Vistaprint. Thus, I ordered the free sample packs from them and felt through all of the cards while deliberating with my roommates.
I’m not being sponsored for this in any way, but I really want to express that hands down, Moo.com has proven to me to be the pinnacle of top-quality business cards / paper goods printing – not only for their exceptional paper quality, but their fantastic customer service and customer experience. It’s a little pricier than some other options, but well worth it if you’re into the details as much as I am. Honestly, I also love Moo because they are also all about little design details that make the customer experience fun.
Suffice to say, I went with Moo, and let me tell you, I wish you could FEEL these. I’m planning on doing three “sets” or “series” of pins and I wanted to put as much consideration into these backing cards as the merchandise itself. I want these backing cards to be so nice that you’d want to collect them by themselves – what do you think? I can’t wait to put pins on these babies.
Lately, I’ve been somewhat struggling in thinking about what I want for this project. I want(ed) this to be something fun to do, primarily out of passion in just creating something and making things (and maybe making some money on the side). However, I’m quickly realizing that there starts to become a fine line when a passion project is, or tries to become a business.
This kind of makes me think of the whole working millennial thing. Should you aspire to do something you’re passionate about? or good at? or simply something you can put up with, so you have the financial means for something more compelling on the side? If you make your passion or your hobby a job, is it still a hobby…?
I digress, and I don’t have any plans to leave my day job, so maybe I really don’t need to think so hard. However, these kinds of thoughts bleed into the considerations for what I want to make. Honestly though, it’s actually just a lot of (micro) design decisions…
For example, should I make the backing card of my (eventual) enamel pins, a bright colour, because I know that’s more attractive to consumers? Or do I go with black/white because that’s the theme I want to go for? Should I make products that I know would sell, but I don’t feel strongly for? Or do I only design things I really want to design and that speak to me and my experiences?
I feel like it’s bad business sense to simply do what I want. And I guess even if I end up executing on a lot of my own preferences, I feel like I’ll still have to sell my soul to market the shit out of my stuff.
Maybe in the end it still depends on how I choose to define success. Is it a dollar amount? Is it a positive response from people? Is it the fact that I will have did something? That I made something? I’m going to have to find a way to integrate these conflicting ideas together. If I want to do something for pure expression, I guess it probably shouldn’t be anything that involves making money.
My nice stickers came in early last week! I haven’t had a chance to write and post about it because I was busy getting ready for my trip to Alberta. I’m actually writing this in a gorgeous coffee shop called Rosso in Calgary right now and it’s my last day out west.
I got my stickers printed from stickerss_ who followed me on Instagram. I chose them almost purely based on the fact that they were able to print and ship to me in time for Toronto Pride versus some of my other larger printing company options. They also allowed me up to 4 different designs in their print batch which was nice.
Originally, I wanted to quickly get something out to promo as a method of marketing in time for pride. I was thinking maybe I would mass hand them out since people love stickers but soon realized it wasn’t the most efficient marketing tactic for such a small batch of stickers. Maybe if I had 500 or 1000 or 2000 on hand I could make a small dent, but definitely not with how many I had printed and definitely a poor return on investment for the cost – not to mention I don’t have much to show and anything to sell yet.
I didn’t (and at this moment) still don’t really consider this merch. I am still considering designing other stickers in the future, but am deliberating on what to do with these ones. Maybe I’ll include one with purchases once I have real merch up, maybe I’ll do a random stickers grab bag, maybe I’ll use them as business cards, maybe I’ll stick them strategically throughout town, maybe I’ll do a giveaway. As with everything else, figuring out the most effective marketing strategy for my soon-to-be products is going to be an insightful and interesting process!
Yes, I’ve seen it – Roots started a campaign recently called “be nice™” in celebration of Canada 150. You might have seen it around. They’re doing some shirts and buttons and pins that say “nice.” I’ve had a couple of people mention it to me because of the similar use of the word “nice” in some stickers I designed lately. I let out a groan and eye roll every time I think about it because I feel like the campaign is a bit of a stretch – I find that it’s a pretty inaccurate stereotype to say Canadians are particularly nice. Polite? sure, I guess, sort of; but it seems like the “nice Canadian” stereotype is one that is really only recognized by everyone except Canadians.
To be honest, this campaign lining up with one of my ideas also stresses me out. How do I approach design in a way where I can ensure I’m not accidentally copying someone else’s idea or work? What is the extent of due diligence? Is any work truly original? Is the key to be transparent? Is it that as long as I know I’m not doing anything shady, then I can be confident in the face of haters?
What if I legitimately thought of an idea myself – and someone else had the same idea? Is any idea original? I asked my coworker for her opinion. Her high level take on it was if you aren’t going out of your way to rip off someone’s work, then usually it’s okay. Can someone really put a copyright on a word/phrase?
She gave me an example:
H: Let’s say you want to make a pizza enamel pin because you like pizza or something. Are you going to be like “I can’t make one because someone else already made one before”? No you’re going to want to make the best damn pizza pin out there. If I see a bunch of different pizza enamel pins – even if they’re similar, they’re all going to be different. There’s going to be one in there I like the best that I’m going to buy.
Maybe that example was a little simplistic, but it definitely made me feel a little better. One of my fears is that someone will come up with the same ideas as me before I’m able to get them out (maybe I should work faster), or that someone will rip on me because I “copied someone else’s design”.
Anyways the “nice” stickers I made are coming in this week (and I think my version is better), but if you like Roots’, the proceeds from (only) their enamel pins and buttons go to WE’s indigenous youth programs.
I have no idea what I’m doing – I mean, I’ve never thought of doing anything like this before and I’m half winging it and figuring it out as I go. Anyone that knows me can probably attest to the fact that I usually like to have some sort of plan. I haven’t laid out a plan (yet?). I’m scraping things together as I go, and I’m trying to ride out this wave of focused frenzy to get this thing off the ground before I lose interest.
As a true introvert and as personal sentiment, I absolutely hate drawing any kind of attention to myself. I could be wrong but I think I have to draw some sort of attention to myself to make this “successful” – whatever that means. (I’ve yet to determine how I would define success here…) Lately I’ve trying to take more risks and care less about what other people think, so I guess this project is another place I can practice that.
I stopped by Sonic Boom on Spadina recently because I saw that there was a small pop up for some independent creators whose merchandise they feature. Sad Truth Supply, Lady No Brow, Rosehound Apparel, and Midnight Tremors were there. They sell enamel pins, patches, small swag… the same stuff I’m attempting to get into. I went to do some research (aka feel up some enamel pins) and maybe get a sense of what kind of things these pretty successful vendors were creating.
Sad Truth Supply was the only company that I was familiar with there. I was debating for a long time whether or not I should say hi and see if they would give me any advice on my venture. I was super nervous. She was busy playing with a small dog, so i walked up and down Sonic Boom being a weird person eyeing her booth every so often, waiting for her to finish playing with this dog so I could approach her. In the end, I managed to muster enough courage to go over. The owner’s name was Maria. She was super nice (and maybe vendors are kind of desperate to find something to break the boredom of sitting for 6 hours…). We talked for maybe 15 minutes and she gave me a lot of great insights into this kind of business that I’m moving forward with. It was a super productive day overall and I’m really glad me and my sweaty hands went to go talk to her – If you don’t try, you’ll never know, and all that jazz.
It’s a sunny Friday afternoon. Work is slow. My coworker looks over to me:
L: Heeeeeyy Janet, how’s your side hustle going?
J: Which one? (I have a lot of things on the go right now)
L: You should make a brand. How about… “Say Something Nice”? The name can be a phrase, like the store “I Have a Crush on You“.
My coworker has a lot of good ideas. I feel like deciding on a brand name is probably one of the hardest things to do when building some kind of business. There are a lot of considerations: is it too long? too regional? too common? does it already exist? is it unique enough? is the domain name / Instagram / Tumblr / Twitter / Facebook / Etsy taken? (did I miss any?) Can I say it out loud without making myself cringe? – that one’s probably the most important.
We deliberated between the handles: @saysomethingnice (already taken) to @saysomethingnicetoronto (doesn’t feel quite me) to @somethingnice.to (on-trend but maybe want to avoid regional limitation) to finally @somethingnicesupply which was available across the board, indicated that it focused on some kind of hard goods, and made me feel embarrassed the least.
And thus, one of the most spontaneous things I’ve ever attempted was born. I’m piecing it together bit by bit as I go, but the plan is to make lil’ queer goods and other designy things – you know, enamel pins, patches, stickers, small apparel – fun stuff like that. Keep following this blog if you want to watch me slowly figure this all out and stay tuned to see if anything actually comes from this slow Friday idea!!