Is it possible to feel cool just from looking at a brand? If it ever were, that brand would be A Shop of Things. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that the shop, created by Mia Calotta, was a relatively recent find for me, mostly because the moment I looked through her items, I wanted everything. From shirts that say "Fuck You, Pay Me" to Schitt's Creek keychains to profane cross stitches, Mia makes, well, all of the things.
What I love about A Shop of Things is that even though it's full of a variety of items, every piece feels intentional. It's clear that Mia designs the type of items that she loves, and judging from how she describes her work ethic, wants to be doing nothing more than this. Every piece feels special, and they feel even more so once you not only see how many items are geared toward feminism, but her thoughts on social justice. I was also incredibly interested to talk to Mia about her thoughts on creating weed-related items. It's an industry that's gone from taboo to trendy, and Mia is creating her own voice in the space and not caring what people think. And if I were to describe the kind of girl who buys from A Shop of Things, that kind of sums it up - someone with killer taste who's kicking ass and doesn't care if you like it or not. Enjoy!
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: Maybe this is common, but my business started by accident! All throughout college I had a side hustle of making cross stitches with funny phrases. I would find a fun font pattern, stitch them, and frame them or sew them into pillows for friends and family. Friends of friends started reaching out for commissioned pieces and then those friends would ask for my business card or website.
Then I started teaming up with my friend Gionna and we would sell our handmade goods at fairs and markets all around NYC. I didn’t even have a website or a business card! The year after I graduated we made our business official, calling it A Shop of Things because that was the best name we could think of to encompass all of the random things we made by hand and sold. I made collages and turned them into buttons, wallets out of leather scraps, cross stitches and embroideries and Gionna made beautiful ceramic pipes, ash trays, tea bag dishes and intricate woven bags she made from perler beads.
Gionna was definitely the catalyst to our official “business”, without her I never would have taken my hobby to the next level.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: Because I started my business with a partner, we would team up and think of products that would go well together. I made a cross stitch that says Home is Where the Weed Is and she made adorable pipes and often people would buy them as a set. I also hand painted lighters with funny phrases and we sold those as a set with the pipes too. In 2015 we did the Bust Craftacular market and Bust did a write up of all our 420 products. After that article came out we saw a surge in Etsy sales and Instagram followers.
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: I remember the day we got our LLC I called my parents to tell them and all my mom could talk about was how my sister won a TV at her prom. Now that it’s my full-time job I think my parents think it’s cool but they’re super worried that it’s not a stable form of income. They also totally don’t understand why I’m always so busy!
But I have to say the first three years of my business I was really shy about promoting it. It felt really personal and in the age of MLMs I didn’t want to come off as a pushy salesperson. Until about 100 people said to me “you have a business? That’s so cool!” I started to think so too!
Q: Did you still work a full-time job like it says on your site? Do you have plans of turning this into a full-time gig?
A: I actually just quit my job in October!! A Shop of Things is now my full-time job! I definitely worked my full-time job for about a year too long and towards the end, I was 100% uninvested in my job but I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to spend all day on my business!
Q: I love that so many of your items are geared toward feminism. Was that a conscious decision or did it just happen as you started designing?
A: Totally a conscious decision! I wanted to design a product that had a feminist edge and donate the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. This was before the age of Trump when I just felt plain rotten about being a capitalist so I designed the Women’s Rights are Human Rights pin in 2015 and the proceeds from the first production round went to Planned Parenthood NYC.
Q: What has your experience been creating and selling some weed-focused items? What advice do you have for anyone looking to enter that space?
A: I love this question!! At first I was hoping no one from work or from my family would ever look at my website. My business partner was a teacher and she was kind of paving our business path so she helped me feel a bit more brave because she had more to lose than I did. Then in 2015, I worked on a weed farm and kind of stopped caring what people thought. I smoke weed and run a business and pay my bills, who cares what misconceptions some people may have about me. And now it’s decriminalized in so many places it’s much less taboo. The issue I have with those items now is the racial justice side. It’s cool for a middle class white person to have this cross stitch and pipe in their home but if a person of color had those items I can’t imagine they would be treated the same. I’m constantly wondering what those consequences are and if I can step up in any way to combat them.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge of running a business for you?
A: I love working, I am a full-on workaholic. I will probably work myself to death. I have really bad boundaries with myself and I have no idea how to relax or what “down time” is. I also recently went through a breakup so now that there’s no one in my house saying “maybe we should eat dinner soon” I’ve had a really hard time creating a healthy routine for myself. My business goals for 2020 include finding a studio outside of my home so I can have a more fulfilling life and taking more breaks away from my business.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: The bad bitch sweatshirt! I’m living in it now that it’s cold again! And the cherry earrings!
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: Next year I think I’m going to hire my first full-time employee to help me achieve my goal of taking breaks away from my business. And I’m going to hire a bookkeeper to do all the nitty gritty that I’m so bad at! And ask for help as much as I can :)
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
@madeaugold who is an amazing friend and a talented designer
@shopluella for the coziest sweaters
@thesilverspiderprintshop for pins
@thefive15 for quirky gifts
@gladandyoung for the BEST handbags
@ashandchess for art prints and cards
@luckyhorsepress for stationery and pins
@miagraffam for tattoos
@crosekauf for amazing affordable art
@blushdaisy because EARRINGS!
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