The Internet can often feel exhausting and overwhelming, but it starts feeling like a beautiful place when you find people you connect to across the country. That's how I felt when I met Holly and discovered her shop, Holly Oddly. Looking at her store for the first time, it felt like someone had taken the inside of my brain and turned it into art. From the colors she uses, the phrases some of her products say, and the pop culture she references, Holly just gets me.
Now that that personal connection is out of the way, let's meet Holly, the designer and creator behind Holly Oddly and Hidden Hand Society. At Holly Oddly, she sells colorful art, witty pins, pop culture embroidery kits, and more. At Hidden Hand Society, she produces more serious (though just as cute) items that deal more with mental health and the macabre. Between the two stores, she has a little something for everyone.
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: I have Bipoloar I Disorder, and it was increasingly hard for me to hold down a “normal” job. I loved doodling and knew I wanted to be an illustrator, so I decided to think of a way I could make a living drawing. I have an obsession with stationery, so that was the route I took.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: My “ask me about my pussy” pin was my first product to take off very quickly. It was a great indicator that enamel pins were going to be a part of my future.
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: I still have family members that think Holly Oddly is a mere hobby. It wasn’t until I told my mom that I am making more than my university professor husband that she realized that I’ve built a solid career. I never felt nervous to share it because I was born with a huge amount of completely unearned confidence.
Q: Did you work another job while you were starting? How long did it take you to turn this into a full-time venture?
A:Yes. I freelanced as a graphic designer for over a year before Holly Oddly was created. Before that, I worked in customer service.
Q: It seems to be pretty common for entrepreneurs to start their shops because they have a specific talent and then have to learn the business side of things (marketing, finance, eCommerce, etc.) as they go. Was this case for you or did you go into it having that knowledge? What was the most challenging part for you?
A: This was very true for me. I had to tell myself that these other skills could be learned, just like a new art skill. It was super intimidating at first, but now I have either figured or have reached out to the right professionals for assistance.
Q: What has been the biggest marketing tool in your experience and how have you utilized it?
A: My email list and Instagram are my biggest marketing tools because they help me reach my community. With my email list, I work hard not to spam people so they know if they’re getting an email that it’s something worth reading. With Instagram I try to be myself and have a lot of fun. I want to find the people that relate to my work and interact with them. It’s fun to show people my art and feel less alone at the same time.
Q: When did you decide to split your business into two stores and how has that process been generally?
A: I’ve been lucky enough to cultivate a really honest community. A lot of my Instagram followers told me that some of my darker items were simply not their vibe. I listened to that and created The Hidden Hand Society to carry my occult-inspired mental health pins and accessories. Since then I’ve been able to attract the right people for those items. Since I’m bipolar, I have both a manic and depressive side. Though unintended, Holly Oddly represents my manic half, and The Hidden Hand Society represents the depressive half. I’m so glad that there is a place for all of me, both light and dark, out there.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: My embroidery kits! I’ve been having such a great time designing them and putting them into the world.
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: My goal for this year is to have my items in 100 stores. (I’m at 73 now!)
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
Follow along with Holly:
Shop Holly Oddly
Shop Hidden Hand Society