What I’ve Learned about Tackling Scary Things.

Hi Everyone!

I’m in a bloggy (it keeps auto-correcting to “bloody.” ugh.) mood tonight so I thought I’d hop on and do a little brain dumping. I’ve had so much on my mind lately that I wanted to kind of get some thoughts out of my brain and turn it into a post. I’ve been SO BUSY lately with work. If you don’t know, Keola left his job and is now helping me with SoPupuka full time. It’s kinda really scary sometimes but I think we’ve figured stuff out enough to the point where we’re ok. I’ve been SO BUSY with work. It’s kinda weird to call SoPupuka work, because I never took it myself seriously enough, but now I do, because it’s our livelihood. So. I’ve been so busy with work because it’s the Christmas season, and I signed up for every craft event I could find. I ended up with Friday-Saturday craft fairs every weekend for a MONTH. I’m halfway through them now. The first event was good. Great traffic, good sales. The second fair was kind of pathetic with not much traffic (though it was the weekend after Thanksgiving and with Black Friday and all, we had a lot to compete with.) This weekend I’m headed to what should be the biggest event of the season, and I’m so excited for that! It should be a good one.

I’ve been learning so much as I’ve gone to these and other events over the months, the biggest lesson being that it’s NOT THAT HARD. I remember when I first started doing events, it was Wailuku First Friday and we lived on Maui. I was so nervous about it I did a complete set up before the event every single time I went. I had crazy butterflies in my stomach. Even after I had been doing them for a while I’d still get nervous. For a long time I wouldn’t want to try for big events because I didn’t think my stuff was good enough and they wouldn’t let me sell at their event. I thought other vendors would be mean or stingy. I thought no one would want to buy my stuff.

NOT TRUE, NOT TRUE, aaaand NOT TRUE.

I’ve been accepted into every single event I applied to (and the event planners have all been very nice). I’ve made wonderful friends with other vendors. NOT ONE has been stuck up or unwilling to share their own insights and experiences. People buy my stuff. Some people buy A LOT of my stuff (which is really cool.)

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I’ve gotten into a groove. I have a “set up.” I no longer have to plan out my set up in advance. I just pack everything up, head over and set up when I get there, making the best use of the space I have.

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It’s NOT THAT HARD. Of course, it takes time to learn these things. I go through a lot of trial and error and I’m constantly changing things up and figuring out what’s the best way to do things. I learn more with each event. But the cool thing is, that the more I do this, the less scary it becomes.

Tomorrow I’m heading to my biggest event to date. Earlier this year I would’ve been a nervous wreck. Heck, earlier LAST MONTH I would’ve been a nervous wreck. I would obsessing over my set up, loading of the car already and making sure  I have EVERYTHING. What am I doing instead? Writing a blog post. Later I’ll probably make some cocoa and watch an episode of Supernatural (or Downton Abbey but I think Keola wants to watch Supernatural). I’ll make sure all my electronics are on chargers tonight, but other than that, it’s just another event and everything’s been ready to go since my last event.

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I could never have imagined this being easy when I first started, but each event brings new information and new opportunities, and after a while, it’s no big deal. Seriously. January and February are already half booked because I met people and events who have told me about them.

I love doing these events and meeting new people and growing my fan base. I’m hopeful about next year being a year of even more growth as more people learn about my brand and as I shoot for bigger and bigger opportunities.

The takeaway? If you’re just getting started with something new and it scares the heck out of you, just keep going. Take every opportunity to try. Scary things are scary because they exist in the unknown. Once you shine a light on it, it won’t be so mysterious. It’ll get easier. I look back on where I started and there’s no way that girl could’ve imagined what I’m doing now. I’m sure in the future, if I continue on this trajectory, I’ll look back at my present self and think “Wow. I’ve come a long way from that.”

Progress is progress even if it’s slow progress. Don’t stop.

My Kickstarter Story Part 2

Read Part 1 here
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So….crowdfunding it was. I pretty much knew I would go through Kickstarter. They just seem like THE crowd funding platform to use nowadays. It seemed simple enough. Figure out how much you need, make a video, make a write up telling your story, what you want to do, how you plan to do it, what the money’s for, etc. Figure out what your funding goal is, what your rewards are going to be, how much it’s all gonna cost….ok…not so simple! I always excel at the creative parts. The video was the first thing I made. In retrospect I should’ve solidified my rewards first because I ended up having to back and edit the video because I changed my mind about certain rewards and I didn’t want to mislead anyone. Putting something visual together makes it feel real so thatʻs why the video got made before anything else.

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Trying to figure out what something costs without really knowing how much you’re going to need to purchase. Kickstarter says that your funding goal should be the cost of the project + rewards. In my case that’s the cost of a heat press + rewards. That’s really hard to figure out because how the heck do I know what people are gonna order?!? I still to this day don’t really know how much money I need. My funding goal of $2,500 was a combination of things:

1) The estimated cost of rewards.

2) The length of time I was going to run the campaign (just over two weeks so it had to be a number I thought I could hit in that time)

3) The size of my reach – I don’t have a huge following, so it had to be a number that my limited audience could come up with for me. There’s no way that 300 instagram followers could come up with $10,000.
4) Kickstarter/Amazon fees: Kickstarter takes 5% and Amazon takes 3-5% for each card transaction. I know. Ew.

5) Oh yeah – the cost of the heat press. Fortunately my parents offered to purchase a cap press for me, so that was a HUGE relief and I didn’t have to include that in my funding goal.

I had to be realistic. When the campaign wrapped up, I ended up with almost $2,800 and that extra $300 covered the cost of all the fees so I’m actually ending up with my complete funding goal of $2,500. Woohoo!

I’m getting ahead of myself.

So anyway I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my funding goal should be, and eventually after taking all of the above things into consideration, I went with my gut and picked $2,500 LITERALLY minutes before going live.

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I was done putting my campaign together long before going live however. Like I said earlier, I was petrified. I literally could not move on it. I needed something to give me a boost, and it came in the form of my husband:

On a whim, he had submitted a piece to the Good Men Project. He hadn’t heard of them before but I knew they were a HUGE blog and I had seen them put out a call for sports writers. He love sports and would love to pursue a career in writing so I encouraged him to send something in. This was his FIRST time pitching a piece to a blog and the editor loved it and told him they were going to run it. Fun new fact: If you google “Keola Birano” the third hit says “Keola Birano, Author at the Good Men Project.” HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!?

So there I was, sitting at the computer at war with myself over whether or not to hit “Launch” (no, I hadn’t even announced a launch date to my followers just so I had an out, an option to stop the madness before it started) when he called me with the good news, and in my euphoria over his success, I thought to myself “Well, if Keola can get published in the Good Men Project, I can raise $2500 in a little over two weeks.  I love how my inspiring him ended up inspiring me.

And I launched.

…to be continued…

My Kickstarter Story Part 1

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This has probably been the longest blogging break I’ve ever taken, and most definitely the most productive and creative I’ve ever been in business. A LOT has happened since my last post and I feel like I’ve now been on this current trajectory for so long that I can’t even remember how it all came about. I have so many thoughts about the last month and I’ve been struggling to process all the changes to my psyche and my behavior, my outlook on life and business… It’s a lot to piece together and I’m probably going to do a terrible job at it, so I apologize in advance if this post is all over the place.

I wanted to bring my designs to apparel for a long time. That’s where I had the most potential to make decent money. To be truly honest, I wasn’t completely committed to doing whatever it took to make that happen. I did EVERYTHING ELSE besies that to feel and look busy but in actuality I accomplished very little. I didn’t want to hire someone to do the printing for me. It was too expensive for the quantities I would be doing and it didn’t allow me the flexibility to print whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, in whatever quantities I wanted. I thought DIYing it was the way to go, until I tried my hand at screen printing and man, was that NOT the path for me. There were just too many steps and the quality…well let’s just say that it wasn’t something I would be proud to sell.

Then I discovered drop shipping. It was like a revelation! A company that will print and ship my designs onto shirts!?!? It sounded like Zazzle or CafePress but the difference is that I could sell their products straight out of SoPupuka.com. The ordering process would be exactly the same for customers but their order would go to the drop shipper and they would fulfill the order. I could just make designs, put them online and that would be the end of it, and if I was making a generic t-shirt company that was targeted to people on the mainland too, that would totally work. It’s hard to grow a Hawai’i brand using JUST drop shipper. It would severely limit my business to ONLY online sales. I wouldn’t be able to be a vendor at events, I wouldn’t be able to wholesale (too expensive), and I didn’t like that I wouldn’t have control over the creative process. Plus their clothing selection wasn’t what I had in mind, plus Hawaii shoppers really value things that are made in Hawaii, and they want to know who’s making it. I wanted my business to be a local business as much as possible, and I wanted to be able to have complete control over my product. I stumbled on this guy on youtube who talks about running a t-shirt printing company using a heat press. It’s pretty mesmerizing and he makes it look so easy. In the end, I decided that printing my designs on a heat press was the best option.

Once I decided that I was going to go the heatpress route, I was left with the decision: How on earth was I going to get my hands on one? Actually, I needed two: a hat press and a shirt press. I had two options: Put it on the credit card, or raise the money through a crowd funding platform. The credit card sounded appealing because I could just go and buy it and start making stuff right away without having to prove my idea was viable in the market. It was also super ultra risky, because what if my designs were a complete flop? We’d end up with more debt that would take forever to pay off. Taking on more debt was NOT an option, but I was pretty terrified of being a crowd funding failure. I was so close to being willing to sacrifice the bottom line over my ego. I DID NOT want to be vulnerable. It was terrifying, but it was my only option if I really wanted to do this.

…to be continued…

Read Part 2 here

Speaking my Truth and Changing Course

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The first paragraph is a journal entry from a few days ago – reminding myself what’s really important.

What is wrong with being completely ordinary? Does ordinary really exist? If we decided to, we could make everything extraordinary. Ordinary is a decision. We can be content and happy if we choose it. We can be bored as well. We can be ungrateful, or we can choose to see every moment of our existence on this planet as a gift that fills our lives with wonder and experience. We don’t need to travel the world, start a fortune 500 company, be the next Oprah or upload the next viral cat video on Youtube. So many of us are scrambling for our 15 minutes of fame, thinking that it’s the same thing as love. It’s not. I know what love is. The vast majority of us do and it can’t be found staring at a screen. Love is the way my Leo bear hugs my legs so I can’t walk, silently beginning me to stop being so busy. Love is a game of chase-master around the sofa. Love is the way Keola grips my hand as we’re driving home after a long day apart. My life is full of love. None of it is worth an Oscar, or a Pulitzer, or will make us a million bucks. It’s so insignificant and so vital – these ordinary moments.

This month I wanted to launch so many products – physical products, but I bit off more than I could chew. Part of the difficulty was financial, part of it was underestimating how much time it would take. Part of it was fear that no one would buy it. Part of it was the amount of space all this stuff would take up in my house. Part of it was knowing that we could easily be living across the country in a year and where would that leave things? But all of those concerns go away if this is really what I want to do, but I don’t know if it is. And if you’re going to get in as deep as I was, you’d better be SURE that this is what you want to do. I wanted to really make some strides with building this business so that maybe one day Keola could be home with us, but the truth is, I am sacrificing the time I have now with the ones I love for something I’m JUST NOT SURE ABOUT.

On Friday I decided I would just be a mom. No attempting to write a blog post. No working on products, no fretting about money and how we’re gonna make things work. I strapped Leo to my back, slowly picked up the house, washed the breakfast dishes, vacuumed, then read books and played with blocks until it was nap time. I felt relaxed, calm, focused, and best of all, not feeling guilty about anything. Amazing.

I know every day won’t be like this. I still need to have my thing, the activities that give me a break from motherhood and stimulate my mind and challenge me to learn and grow. I still love the idea of one day creating a situation for ourselves where Keola doesn’t have to leave us for 8 hours every day, but making and shipping a ton of different things from my house probably isn’t it at the moment. Notecards are here to stay, but everything else would just drive me crazy. So, I’m in pruning mode, trying to be perceptive and notice the things that are really speaking to me, and eliminating the things that aren’t. If I do choose to proceed with other physical products, it will be slowly. There’s no rush.

I really want to focus on doing one thing really well, and for now that one thing will be this blog. It’s already a huge relief to let myself off the hook on everything else. I’m looking forward to spending time with Leo and Noweo and really getting our house in order – ordinary things that make all the difference.

This Week

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Well, last week started off AWESOME. I got a ton of stuff done…and then we got hit by a tropical storm. Fortunately no one was hurt, but there was a lot of property damage in some areas. Our house was fine, but Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were pretty much a total loss. Noweo’s school was cancelled, Keola was off work, we were doing a bunch of stuff to get ready, plus it was Leo’s birthday on Friday and everything business/blog related just flew out the window.

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I’m having a hard time switching gears back to “normal life.” So that’s my excuse for not getting everything done, even though I still accomplished quite a bit. At the same time, I changed my mind on some of the things I wanted to get done last week so it actually evens out. Whew! Here are my high hopes for the week:

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1) This week my focus is back to product development – making what I can and ordering what I can’t.

2) I want to spend some time focusing on the house. I feel clutter beginning to creep in and collect on countertops and in corners. I already cleaned out the kids’ room and got rid of a ton of stuff. I need to remind myself more often, that not buying stuff is a lot easier than having to get rid of it.

3) I’m working on moving our photo collection into Lightroom. I absolutely LOVE the fact that my pictures don’t have to live on my computer to edit them. I moved everything to an external hard drive, built “smart previews” and now I can view and edit them in Lightroom without having to have the hard drive connected. My goal is to build a lirary where I can easily find any photo (and I have over 10,000).

4) Get another shipment of cards out to Sugarcane Shop. My first shipment of Mahalo cards sold out. Yay!

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What are your big plans for the week?

This Week

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In an effort to stay on task this month, I’m introducing “weekly goal” posts just to put my intentions out there in the universe and hopefully increase my chances of accomplishing everything.

This week is all about R&D (research and development). Making screens, test printing, printing and sewing some prototypes, and designing some new branding stuff.

1) There are lots of things I want to screen print, but I’m going to start with trucker hats. Last week I put out a bunch of mock-ups on Instagram to find out what people liked, and hands down it was the dark and light grey and turquoise hats that were the most popular, so I’m gonna start with those. Do I have the equipment you’re “supposed” to have to screen print a hat? Uh….no. But I’m just gonna jump in and give it a try, and if it turns out that I’m better off having someone else do it, then I’ll go that route, but there’s no harm in giving it a go.

2) Since I’m back on the horse with my editorial calendar all scheduled up, I’m going to try and get a few blog-related things done WAAAY ahead of time for a change. I really want to be doing more interviews on this blog so I will be asking some folks doing business-y things to come and share some thoughts, and I’ll be prepping and getting those questions out this week.

3) I’m also working on designing some new branding things – thank you cards to send with orders and a stamp to brand some brown paper gift bags I ordered (for when I do events).

4) NOT business related: Pick up a birthday present for Leo. Noweo and I had the best brain-storming session this afternoon that went something like this:

“Noweo, what do you think Leo would want for her birthday?”

“Unicorns make good presents….”

“That is SO true.”

 

Really thinking about and talking about these things and having it in my face all the time really gets me excited about doing them. What are some ways that you stay excited about your work?

Looking forward to August

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It’s been a while since I came up with goals for the month and I thought that since I have a ton of things I want to get done in a very short amount of time, I’d better get more organized about how I divide my tasks and spend my time. Luckily, the perfect post landed in my inbox this morning with some great tips, many of which I used to plan out August. I’m not going to re-write what was already shared, except to say I filled out my editorial calendar, I made a list of projects I’m planning to push this month, I broke down each project into small tasks, and I wrote them all in my planner. Now instead of wasting time on Facebook or Instagram because I’m not quite sure what I should be doing, I should be able to look at my planner and say “Oh. I’m supposed to be ordering decals right now,” and then go and do that.

Besides business-y stuff that’s happening, Noweo’s starting preschool. She will be there all day and I’m not sure how I’m gonna cope. I think she’ll be fine, but I don’t know if I can handle her being away ALL DAY. Part of me is looking forward to it and all the extra stuff I’ll be able to get done without her around, and part of me is really sad that she’ll be spending more waking hours with other people than with me. I can always pull her out of extended day so we’ll see how it goes.

Leo’s turning one in a week and we haven’t planned anything. Just a day together as a family and then a simple dinner with our extended family. We’re pretty low key that way.

So, without further ado, here are my goals for the month:

1) Run test prints on several new products I want to add to the shop

2) If all goes well, list and start selling those products

3) Exercise every day

4) GO TO THE BEACH

5) Go on a hike

What are your big plans for this month?

Behind the Scenes: Product Photoshoot

Since I just re-vamped the listings at SoPupuka, I thought I’d share a little bit about the product photoshoot because my method changed quite drastically.

This time I tried something different. I used the wooden box and easel my Dad made for me as my backdrop. I love the wood grain for some interest while still keeping things clean and simple. The deep color also contrasts well with my products. Normally, product photoshoots (especially for notecards) involved me hunting for a cool background, putting the card on the background, standing above it and taking a picture from above. It worked fine, but there was really no depth of field and so images were a little flat. This time I decided to stand my cards up (stand everything up really) and place the camera in front of the items rather than photographing from above. This proved challenging, until I made this amazing discovery:

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One of the unexpected goodies that came with my camera was a Wu-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter (horrible name, I know) – a tiny device that plugs into the camera and creates a small wifi signal.  I downloaded the free companion app and made sure my phone was on that wifi signal. This allows the camera to communicate with my smartphone. When I open up the app, there are two options: view photos and take photos. At first, I had only been using the app to view and download the photos to my iPhone (I was plenty impressed with that, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.) When I started taking product photos, I decided to try using the “take photos” option. When I tapped that button, it took me to a window with a LIVE VIEW of the subject. I could place the object exactly where I wanted it to be by looking at my phone. Here’s a screenshot of what I see on my phone. As you can see, my hand is in there moving the card around. I see all that happening in real time.

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I could also change the zoom and the focus on the camera and see the result very clearly on my phone’s retina display. The app also has a remote trigger, and once the photo is taken it shows me a preview and downloads it to the phone which automatically gets sent to my computer via Photostream.

This made things SO MUCH EASIER. It meant I didn’t have to be behind the camera. The wooden box I was using wasn’t very tall. I had the camera on another box of similar size a few feet away so if I wanted to take pictures the old fashioned way, it meant I’d have to be lying on the ground. Could I have put everything on a table? Yes, but it was really humbug to break it out. Each time I wanted to photograph another product, I’d have to get up, walk over to the product, switch the product, walk back to the camera, lie down on the floor, try to get it into focus and take a picture, only to download it to my computer and realize that while it looked ok in the camera preview, it actually wasn’t that great. MAJOR HEADACHE.

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But with this magic little device, I could sit comfortably in between the camera and the subject, make sure it’s positioned perfectly and in focus by looking at my phone, making adjustments to the camera or the product simply by reaching over and moving it, and then take the picture without touching the camera. MAGIC.

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Needless to say, a part of my work that was kind of a pain is now a lot more fun. With better results. WIN!

Small Business Spotlight: Ekolu Designs

Hi friends! Today’s my first time posting to this new blog, and I thought I’d start off with something a little different. I’m SO excited to welcome my long time friend (by long time, I mean from the hairy legs, bushy eyebrow days…oh wait…that’s today – for me anyway). Kaili Poliahu is the uber stylish creator of ‘Ekolu Designs where she makes impeccable beach jewelry. She just launched a couple months ago, and I wanted to capture those very early weeks of a business in infancy. Though we grew up together on the Big Island, she now lives on O’ahu with her husband John and baby girl Brooklyn. We recorded a FaceTime chat about the beginnings of business, figuring out family time and work time, pricing and more, and I transcribed it (cleaning it up a bit to make it easier to read). Click on the photos to view the listing. Enjoy!

Oceandrop (teardrop) Freshwater Pearl Earrings and Matching Necklace, 14k Gold Filled or Sterling Silver

The last time you and I talked, you told me you were thinking of sewing something to sell. And you’re the most stylish friend I have, so it’s no surprise that you went into jewelry instead, but I wanna know, what made you pick jewelry?

Over a year ago, beach jewelry came out and it’s been super trendy and I thought, “Oh my goodness that is so easy to make.” I took a jewelry class in 7th grade, so I thought “I can totally make that. What these people are selling, I can make that!” So the only thing that held me back was “How do I find all the shells, because I have Brooklyn how do I go to the beach?” So the thought was always in my mind, I even got all the supplies. I had everything. And of course I was thinking….”Ok should I go more into sewing? Because I sew? Or should I do this jewelry?” So I was really tossed. And when I meant sewing I also meant clothing or something. But I think the easier route was jewelry because it’s so easy. I look at something and I think “I can totally make that. Why should I buy that?” That’s ultimately the reason why I started making jewelry, because instead of paying for it, I could just make it. And I can make it exactly how I want it. THAT’S what I want. I would look at a necklace and think “Oh that’s super easy to make, but I don’t like this. I would do that. So now I can create whatever I want.

I know what you mean. That’s exactly how I started designing stuff. I just thought “I can make that!” I didn’t want to pay someone else to design graphics for me, so I taught myself. Some people don’t want to do it themselves, so they hire someone.

Real Jade, 'Mommy and Me' matching Infinity and Heart charm Bangles, thick 14 Gauge 14k Gold Filled or Sterling Silver

Let’s talk about what you did to prepare before you launched.

Ok. I did a lot of research. Before I began even making, I spent…I would say I would go to sleep at about midnight/one in the morning. We would go to bed around 9 right? I would stay up several hours and during the day just researching. What’s popular? What’s trending? I would look at other peoples’ sites, and not really get ideas but more so be like “Ok I DON’T want that look, or I like how she’s presenting herself, that’s where I wanna hit towards. So I did a lot of research. I’d say several months just looking things up, not even creating anything, not testing anything out. I would just look online, and my main purpose was so that I could get an idea of who I wanna be, how I wanna present myself to the general public? And once I decided “Ok. I want this look,” that’s when I started. I started very small, creating my name, the font, like, to the very “T” I wanted everything to just look professional. Coming from me, professional. You know I don’t know any web design, I don’t know ANYTHING about business to be honest, but I did everything on the computer, I looked around and gathered ideas of how I wanted to come out, and so I spent a lot of time thinking, not just saying “Oh I like that color let’s do that.” I really thought about the process of everything, all the way down to my name card, how I wanted to present that. Just all the little details.

You’re on Etsy. Did you look at any other sites or any other places to sell or was Etsy where you always wanted to start off?
I looked around, but I didn’t spend much time looking around because I knew if I started with Etsy, everybody goes on Etsy. You know? Etsy’s just popular. It’s like Facebook or Instagram. Everyone goes there. You don’t hear of these other little sites. It’s like Skype or Facetime. Everyone knows about that but you don’t hear of other sites. So I knew that if I went straight to Etsy…everybody who goes on Etsy, they keep clicking. You know it’s like Pinterest. You just clicking and you find and eventually you’ll land on something. So I knew the best way to get myself out there was to go with something that was popular first. So maybe now that I’m on Etsy I like it. I may venture somewhere else later, but it’s been going really well for me.

How long has it been now since you launched? I count launch date from when I saw your new Instagram handle?
Yes. That’s how I count it. I started the Instagram maybe a week before, or two weeks…I can’t remember. Maybe a week before. But it was just to get things up. You know? Like I did Etsy maybe a week before I came out, but I did that so when people look at my stuff there’s a variety. I really want, when people land on my page, or they hear about me, they have options, not just like, “Oh there’s two things?” You know? “That’s it???” So I started everything before it actually came out. But I think it’s been two months maybe? At the most? Maybe less than two months I think. It’s so new you know, like last night I got my first international sale. And I’m like SUPER excited, like “Oh my gooness! Someone on the other side of the world wants my things!”

Yes! That’s the best feeling. I just wrapped up a project for a shop owner in Finland, and it’s just cool to work with someone so far away.

So what has been your greatest challenge so far?
There’s two things: Working around Brooklyn’s schedule is the HARDEST thing. Since she’s the only child she’s very clingy, and literally wants me to do everything with her, unless she’s with John or my inlaws or my parents. I think those are the only people she really takes to. So, I can’t do anything when she’s here, when I feel like I have so many things to do. So my greatest challenge with that would be trying to focus on her, and not CONSTANTLY running my mind on jewelry. Being MENTALLY there with her instead of just physically there with her. So that’s one challenge. A lot of my creating is done in the evening. Once John gets home he takes her out, they go exercise together, and that’s when I try and pump out as many things as I can, or when she naps but a lot of my work is done at night time. I think I kinda like that more because that way I can actually be with her. You know? Because she grows so quickly. I don’t want this business to take over being with her.

The other greatest challenge would be to stay original. There’s so much of the same product out there. How do you keep on top of everything else? How do you stay unique?

3 Stacked Beach Bangles Connected by 3 Floating Hearts, 14k Gold Filled 14 Gauge

Yeah that’s is REALLY saturated market. It’s so, so popular. But you came out really strong, and your last giveaway got a great response.

Yeah it really did and that was my actually coming out. I came out to other people besides family and friends. You know Facebook is just family/friends, but this came out to the public.

What’s been your greatest challenge so far? What are some things you didn’t plan for?

This may be silly, but one thing is handling returns, not because of the product. One customer wanted her item shipped overnight because she wanted it by Easter. So there I am, and I only do standard shipping. I don’t now how to overnight, I don’t know the process of that. So that was a big ordeal. For the most part everyone’s been very generous. A lot of people don’t know their bangle size. So that’s been something where I have to be repetitive. They need to be sure about their size because everything is made to order. EVERYTHING, so once I make it it’s finalized. But other than that it’s been very nice.

So, where do you get your supplies from?

Everywhere. I order a ton online, from every place possible. Shells are local, I have suppliers on the island. Some I hand pick. I have a collection since John and I got married. So I use those shells. Those are more special though because I hand picked them.

Gold Dipped Coral Statement Necklace, 14k Gold Filled

Have you figured out how to pay yourself yet?

No not yet. Not with money (haha). I’m still trying to break even because I put out a lot of money. I make in return, double that but then I put out money again in supplies and because it’s genuine gold and silver, it’s expensive. Just to give you an idea, if I bought the metal, let’s just say it cost $10, I would probably price it at about $25-$30. Other people would be at $40-45, but I price it $5-$10 less than these bigger people because I’m not as big as them. So when I put it out I’ll get half of that, but then all of that goes straight back to getting more. So I’m still trying to break even.

Yeah. That was the tough thing for me about doing a physical product was breaking even and making a profit. So for me doing design work ended up being more profitable because I’m not putting money up for a physical product. I’m just spending time. But that’s a challenge I don’t think I was ever able to figure out – the right system. So I guess that’s something you’re gonna have to figure out as you go along.

I am. My prices stay pretty consistent, but I do have these random secret sales where I go online and drop it for a week or so and then put it back up. When I get big orders I have to replenish what I used, so that makes things fluctuate. But I am hitting pretty close to where I want to break even. So…I don’t pay myself.

But you will. You will because like you said, quality is important.

It’s SO important. I wouldn’t say I waste a lot of money, but I do waste some money because if I’m making something, and it doesn’t come out exactly how I feel it should, I’ll toss it. I can toss something that costs about $7 in a matter of minutes. You form it, it gets ruined already, because I don’t want to send something out there that looks a mess, or half a job. Right because that’s your name, that’s your business

I’m sure people appreciate that.

I hope so. I received a very nice compliment from one of my first orders. Because of her posting my product on her instagram, a lot of her followers followed me. And her comments you know they blew me away because they were just so kind and generous. She said “It’s nothing like my other bangles and you know I have a lot of bangles but she keeps it thicker…” and used all these terms that people use. So it really touched me because I spend a lot of time. I mean if I were to go through the process, I can make something in about 10 minutes – you know – a regular bangle with a few charms. But I probably take a good 20 minutes because I sit there and I take my time. I eye it out a good five minutes. You know the process it takes longer but I wanna make sure it’s perfect.

That’s awesome. That’s how it should be done.

You talked about how you balance your work with caring for Brooklyn, but how about John? Do you guys feel like you get enough time together?

I think we do because he helps me. We have this system. During the day I’m with Brooklyn. When she naps that’s when I prep orders. I cut things, I get things ready and that’s also time where I think of new designs. So I have that time. When he comes home and takes her out, he gives me a good hour to create. Then we have dinner and then that’s when John and I spend time together and he helps me with my jewelry. He does little things that he can do – help prepping and stuff like that, and all the time Brooklyn’s there with us. She either watches Barney or plays with her toys, but we’re all there together. That’s when John and I get our time, and then at night time she goes down, I finish up a few things, and then we’re in bed and that’s where John and I have our personal time. It’s working for us now. I think what makes up for the week is I don’t work on weekends. I treat it like an actual office job where weekends are strictly for family, unless it’s for a special order but other than that we spend Saturday and Sunday as a regular family.

It sounds like you have a good thing going and having John being so supportive I think makes all the difference.

I don’t think I could ever do this without him. To be supportive like you said, to even allow me to take a big chunk of our money for the starting costs. He is the backbone to ‘Ekolu Designs.

Too bad he can’t really enjoy the product himself right? He can’t wear it…

He helps. He gives me ideas, runs ideas by me…

Yeah…maybe you could do tie pins or rings for men or something

Eventually I do want to venture into the men’s department. Not jewelry, but maybe some items like clothing accessories that men can wear. It’s just ideas right now.

 Well whatever you do I’m sure it’s gonna be fabulous. You’re so talented. So, that’s about it. I think that’s a good note to end off on. Thank you!”

And there you have it! Isn’t she amazing? I hope you enjoyed my first interview. Thanks again to Kaili for sharing her experiences with us. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and here’s her Etsy shop one more time. Aaaand, as an added bonus for making to the end of this post, get 5% off your next purchase with coupon code EDMAHALO.

photo credit: Kaili Poliahu

Event Recap: Family Affair

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This Saturday I attended the Family Affair at UH Hilo. I was a bit nervous going into this because 1) it’s been a while and 2) my booth got a complete overhaul and 3) I was introducing a few new products – hats and some new card designs and 4) every location is different, and you never know quite what to expect, so there’s that fear of the unknown to deal with.

The Set Up

After getting everything set up (they had guys to help me unload my stuff!) it was pretty smooth sailing. Sorry for these sub-par pictures. The light was behind the booth and I didn’t want to spend too much time being a weirdo taking pictures of my own booth. My dad built me the shelf and easels that are housing my products, and I couldn’t be happier with the way they turned out. Everything was visible at a glance and I never had to worry about anything getting knocked over.

The System

I have the display set so that people could see everything without having to touch anything. I did this mainly for my cards, which are all packaged on the spot. This time I used a numbering system, like a fast-food drive through. People could put together custom packs by telling me which number they wanted and I’d pull out the corresponding cards. The easel houses a sample of the final product, which also displays the price. This really cut down on my need to talk. In previous events I’d lose my voice explaining how to put together custom boxes. Now all the information they need is concisely explained on the easel, and ordering was quick and easy for both the customer and me.

Everything else I could just quickly grab from under the table.

Feedback/Impressions

Events are the best because I get lots of good constructive feedback, and now I have great ideas for what to do next. Stickers are a must. So many people said they wanted heart and honi honi stickers, and while I’ve done heart stickers before, I never re-ordered after I sold out. I’ll be doing that soon and with new colors this time. I also want to make SoPupuka stickers.

The other thing that I kept hearing was how much people loved my business card. Some people took one of each design, so now I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out how I can incorporate my business card designs into a product because seriously…people were crazy excited about it.

I was sad and happy to see that mine weren’t the only trucker hats at the event – sad because I had STEEP competition, happy because I got to see other peoples’ creativity and that inspired some new ideas for hat designs.

I need to work on branding – putting “SoPupuka” on my products so people know where to find it, and I have new ideas on how to do that without taking away from the main design.

I also had a great time getting to know my neighbors and geeking out over graphics – a great reminder that people are generally awesome and there’s plenty of room for everyone.

The Final Word

While there wasn’t a TON of traffic, and I shared space with some awesome, well-known brands, the booth fee was dirt cheap and I  did pretty well all things considered. I know that my stuff isn’t really mass-market, and I’m slowly trying to shift toward things that have a broader appeal but still stay true to my personality and aesthetic. It still blows my mind that anyone buys my stuff at all. It really is a cool feeling, and there’s nothing like that face-to-face interaction to remind me that I’m designing for people. I love playing this game of creating, putting my work out there, getting feedback and trying new things. That is thrilling to me, whether I make $5 or $5,000.