I've been thinking about the best way to describe today's featured brand, and the word I kept coming back to was 'cool.' I kept trying to think of some other way to say what I was thinking, but then I noticed that it's right there on the site. - "We just want to make cool things for cool people." And you know what? That really is the best way to describe Made Au Gold.
Started by Léa, who moved to the U.S. from France 5 years ago, Made Au Gold is an aesthetic dream come true. Smiley faces, flowers, pink tones, and relatable phrases adorn everything from stickers to tote bags and more. Like many of Léa's customers, I first became aware of her brand around 2016 when her Nasty Women and Resist items became popular (is there anything more American than making a living off items that celebrate the movement against a certain president who shall not be named?). It's no surprise that her shop has only gotten better from there. I found Léa's story really inspiring, especially learning about how she created her business all while learning how to do so in a new country. I know you will too. 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: I am French and moved to the US in early 2015 to get married to my sweetheart with ZERO money to my name and I was not allowed to work for a few months until I get my work visa. Not being able to drive or do anything was making me crazy so I opened an Etsy to sell printable art prints and printable wedding goods - literally selling pdfs. When I made enough money from those pdfs, I bought really nice art paper and packaging supplies to sell physical prints and cards. By the time I was allowed to work, a brick and mortar just opened in the city I lived in at the time and reached out to me to carry my prints in their stores. After seeing that this could possibly work, I start reaching out to a few more stores for consignments. I just kept investing all my money back to my business for a few months and made my first enamel pin, then more products and it just snowballed from there. Made Au Gold is 100% self-funded! With two degrees in Graphic Design and Fashion Marketing, I was “ready” to operate and build a small business. However, I was ready to do it in French, which is my native language. Understanding how a business works in America, the different laws, the accounting, etc. SO MANY NEW WORDS AND TERMS!!! It was not easy at first.
Gaining fluency in English, and building an entire business in a foreign country as a non-native speaker has been really trying. Making sure to be clearly understood and
translating my ideas from my native language to English has been a challenge!
I occasionally face palm myself when I make a mistake on a social post or description!
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: There were a few moments sprinkled through my first two years. The first one was when my Nasty Woman pin and Resist pin became viral during the election of 2016. I sold out within 4 hours of the pins being put on pre-orders and remember crying while packing because I was so overwhelmed with happiness. Another huge moment was when in the beginning of 2017 http://bulletin.co ( that used to be retail stores but are now a wholesale market place for small businesses ) approached me to sell my products in their stores in NYC.
Bulletin seriously has shaped my business and I don’t think it would be that scale if I wouldn’t start selling there 3 years ago. They helped me validate my brand and message and helped me grow exponentially by touching a wider and perfect audience in their physical spaces in New York. They were a huge help getting Made Au Gold name out there, between helping me with in stores collaborations with for example Broad City and Smilf, and securing tons of press where they would mention my products. Seeing my brand name in magazines like Time Out, Cosmopolitan, Vogue Spain, Glamour or anytime people / celebrities share my work/posts or wear my products like Stacy London, Sophia Amoruso, Arielle Vandenberg, Hayley Williams, Hilary Duff my mind was blown.
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: I was SOOOO nervous to share it and still am sometimes, mostly my friends! But my parents have always been supportive, they always knew since I was a kid that I will end up doing something creative so they were not surprised. They also know that I am strong-willed, and that when I am passionate about something and have an idea I will go for it and make it work.
Q: Is this your full-time job? If so, how long did it take you to transition into full-time?
A: Yes! Seeing the quick grow after a few months I decided to not try to find another job after getting my paperwork.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the decision to rebrand lately and what that process was like?
A: I decided to rebrand my website at the beginning of the quarantine when one of my retailers - Edge Of Urge - made a call on instagram to connect small businesses with a branding agency named Brand Engine to help them re-do their websites. It was the perfect timing as almost all my retailers were forced to close so I had to focus on my online presence and my online sales. The process went really smooth, I was nervous at first because I am so used to do / create / brand and operate everything by myself, but they went beyond and understood my vision. It was one of the best investments I’ve made, and I wish I would have done it sooner and not wait until a pandemic haha!
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: The first couple months of quarantine were a blur and I was a little panicked with all my retailers closing and nobody knew really what was going on. But tons of them start switching to online, and I focused on having my website redone and finding a way to drive more online sales.
Fortunately, people have been really supportive of small businesses the last few months!!
Q: What do you wish more people knew about running a small business?
A: It can be lonely at a time, so make sure to build a strong community and connect with other small businesses / creatives! Also, It is okay to take a break!! Taking care of yourself = taking care of your business. Take the bubble bath, go on a walk, talk to your friends! Take time to recognize what is going well and celebrate the little victories.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: My face mask cases! I had so much fun designing them.
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: Expand my product range. Pre covid, I got really passionate with pottery and I will be releasing my first pieces on my shop the first week of December! It gives me an extra outlet to express myself.
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
She has the coolest clothes that are hand-sewn and high quality. I already own the cow print shorts, top and wear the scrunchie every day!!
Anything Schitt’s Creek related from the queen of pop culture Jenn / The Silver Spider
Give me mugs from Lolly Lolly all the pieces are so unique and beautiful
This ornament from my friend Leah / Love & Lion because ISSA MOOD!!!
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