Has there ever been a week/month/year where all of us were in need of a little magic more than this one? Who couldn't use a little bit of pixie dust right now? I'm choosing to distract myself with a number of things, and one of my self-care items this week was buying art prints from Be Magical Studio.
Created by a pair of friends, Stephanie and Dee, Be Magical Studio truly lives up to its name. Colorful T-shirts and sweatshirts, adorable pins, art from your fandoms, and more - they've taken some of the happiest bits of Disney and pop culture and made a slew of products you'll want to collect. In a normal year, they'd be items you'd pick out to wear for your next trip to Disneyland or Disneyworld. This year, though, they're an added bit of comfort to help your lounging around the house feel more special. Stephanie talked with me about how she and Dee started the brand, what it's like working with your friend, and what they've both learned along the way. 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: We have both always loved making things for as long as we can remember! As artists at heart, we knew that we wanted to pursue creativity as a career. I studied design for a little while in college, and Dee majored in illustration. Neither of us wanted to create ‘conventional’ art, but rather create the kind of things that we ourselves loved, and would collect to fill our world with joy. It wasn’t really until we met each other that we felt truly inspired and motivated to turn our art into something tangible, and then into a business. Our first brainstorming session was like a ping pong match of stars shooting all over the room and bouncing off the walls. So, we started Be Magical Studio in 2017 with three enamel pin designs. It didn’t take off like crazy over night, but it was an absolute overwhelming thrill to see that anyone at all seemed to like what we were creating enough to collect and wear it! To me, that is still wild. We still have so much more growing that we want to do, but I’m amazed with how far we have come, having only truly started with nothing else but a wish to create.
Q: Was there a moment when you felt like this was something that was going to take off and become a success for you?
A: Not one moment in particular, but a many of them, sprinkled throughout the past several years. One of those moments was when we did our first big convention, DesignerCon in California. I’d dreamt of visiting California since I was a kid, so it was the first time I’d ever been and it was for our business! Meeting friends and customers that came out, to see us and shop in person, was unbelievable. We’ve also gotten to meet and connect with so many other amazing artists and creators over the years. For me, I absolutely freaked out when Sherri Dupree Bemis (beautiful songstress and one of my personal heroes) DM’ed me asking if I still had any stock of a sold out pin. For Dee, it was meeting one of her art idols Joey Chou (illustrator and character designer) and becoming peers, and friends. This moment right now, doing this interview, is also pretty spectacular!
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting this as a career or a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: Neither of us were nervous or scared to share it with our friends or families, but our parents definitely didn’t understand what “enamel pins” were at first (and tbh I’m still not sure that they do)! Regardless, they definitely supported us and believed in us. Over the years, we definitely had our personal lower points and our situations weren’t always ideal. Just keep believing that the sun always rises, because I actually met my fiance thanks to our business! I came across his instagram, and saw that he made art and pins as well. It was what brought us together, and one of the first things we bonded over. At our first date, I awkwardly gifted him one of my new Spirited Away inspired pins that I was very proud of LOL! I had to flex on him but hey, it worked! Dee also has a super supportive boyfriend who is always there to keep her motivated and believing that she can accomplish anything.
Q: Is this your full-time job? If so, how long did it take you to transition into full-time?
A: It is not our full time job yet, and for that reason we are glad it is a partnership! Being in this together allows us to both take on responsibilities that we wouldn’t be able to handle on our own. We also actually work at the same company together as our full-time job!
Q: How is working together as a partnership? Has it affected your friendship at all?
A: Honestly, it has only brought us closer together. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes on day 4 of a convention when we are running on three hours of sleep...tensions can run high haha! But even then, we love each other and know that we are there together, for one another. We have also reached a point in our friendship, and our working relationship, where we are not afraid to tell each other anything and don’t ever feel the need to hold our tongues. If you are considering going into any kind of business partnership with a friend, make sure that you are on the same page in every way possible, and that you both understand that communication and transparency is key. We want the best for our business, and for each other, always!
Q: Obviously, we’re in strange times right now so I have to ask everyone I talk to - how has COVID-19 affected your business and what are you doing to keep everything going during this time? What can people do to support you and others during all of this?
A: It has definitely affected our business in a technical sense, with overseas manufacturing slowdowns, conventions being canceled, and the economy being so fragile. However, it has also given us the opportunity to reflect on how seriously fortunate we are and to share as much positivity, joy, and creativity as we can with the world at this generally dark and gloomy time. We started making face masks in fun, happy colors! We released apparel collections that donated 100% of all profits to Project Cure, Feeding America, and Color Of Change. Now, we are donating to Cast Member Pantry as well. Doing what we can has helped us get through this, knowing that there is always hope and reason to keep going, and keep creating.
Q: What do you wish you wish you knew when you first started your business?
A: So much! We wish that we had known more about how to be financially smart, and how to properly invest in the future of our business. Nobody really teaches you these things, or even really talks about these things when you’re younger. Our best advice to anyone starting out is to do the boring stuff at the beginning! Find some courses online about finances and business planning. Watch those videos and learn all you can! There are also amazing platforms like Skillshare where you can learn SO many creative skills! You don’t need to go to art school, or put yourself severely in debt to find your own magic or success. There is no “right” way, only your own way. Oh, and invest in things that will make your life easier like a DYMO label machine for shipping or a guillotine cutter for prints. You’ll thank us later.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: We want to keep making products that bring others joy, and that bring us joy as well. We started with only a couple of enamel pins, and now our shop includes pins, tshirts, sweatshirts, dresses, bags, hats, patches, and more. We have plans to keep expanding into new products and trying new things, and we can’t wait for you to see them!
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
A: Oh my gosh, this is SO difficult because the list is endless. To name just a few: emandsprout, thepinksamurai, tinydeerstudio, shoptwentyseven, heymama_shop, femmedebloom, unicorncrafts, shophouseofmouse, wawestudio, drawwithchoco, tealteacup, parknative, bearandbirdgallery, tonibeehq, yippywhippyart, and a zillion more. How are you all so talented?!
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