Who isn't in the need of some pastels, food shaped accessories, and all-around cuteness? I'm a fan of those things at all times, but especially now. Thank goodness for makers like Faheema Chaudhury, who are contributing to a bit of brightness we all need.
Through her shop Unicorn Crafts, Faheema is producing art, accessories, and clothing that are the epitome of fun. Take one look at her site and you'll see be greeted with pink tones and Disney-related goodness. Even otherwise dark themes (like spooky or Halloween accessories) are made cute.
Faheema is a veteran of conventions and art shows, and I've had the pleasure of meeting her in person at a couple of them. I can safely say that she fully embodies her brand - bright, friendly, and incredibly sweet. These times are already incredibly tough for small businesses, and, as you'll see below, Faheema is no stranger to that. However, it's a true testament to type of shop she runs and the community she's created that her customers have stepped up to help. Unicorn Crafts is the type of shop you want to root for, and I know you'll love learning more about it and Faheema herself.
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: Whenever I get asked this question I always have to preface by saying that this is a sad story that transitions to a happy one.
In 2010, I had just given a leave of absence from my job at an art studio in the Bay Area to help take care of my Mum, who was battling cancer. She passed away a few months into me being home and I quit my art studio job and moved back to LA. Not really knowing what I wanted to do, I turned to art to help with the healing process and that’s how I found Shrinky Dinks. I started making jewelry with it and opened up an Etsy shop. After making a few months of sales, I decided to apply for my first in-person sales event, Unique LA. I did so well at that show and even got my first wholesale order. That was the moment that I knew I could turn this into a business.
Q: What was your first piece to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: Definitely my Shrinky Dink Unicorn and Narwhal earrings.
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: My dad didn’t 100% get it at first but I brought him to one of my shows and showed him my setup and he saw me getting orders and wholesale orders and felt a little better about it. I don’t think he’ll ever really understand a non-traditional creative career because he’s from another generation. My Sister and friends always supported me. They told their friends about me, recommended me to shows and even bought products from me. I wasn’t nervous but definitely excited to share my new designs and products.
Q: Is this your full-time job? If so, how long did it take you to transition into full-time?
A: Yes, this is my full-time job. I jumped in head first and have never looked back.
Q: How do you typically come up with ideas for new items?
A: I always have to work about 6 months ahead of my next show season. So for example, if I’m designing for Halloween or Christmas time, I need to have my designs into production by summer.
Q: Obviously, we’re in strange times right now so I have to ask - how has COVID-19 affected your business and what you doing to keep everything going during this time? What can people do to support you and others during all of this?
A: We are all just trying to survive right now both literally and economically. Many small businesses rely on conventions and in-person events to make a majority of their yearly income; I definitely do. With every single show being canceled or postponed, I initially went into survival mode. I reached out to my social media followers and let them know the situation I was in and they all stepped up to help me immediately by placing orders that will keep me afloat for a little while. Normally I reinvest my profits from conventions into new products, but I have to be a little more mindful of spending right now since I also need to be able to put food on my table.
Q: What advice do you have for someone looking to start a small business and sell their creations?
A: Make things that make you happy and don’t just make things based on what’s popular right now. For example, if I’m not a fan of a certain character or franchise, I won’t make designs inspired by it even though I know it will probably sell. If you’re making original art, try to have an original style as well. It’s almost like when you are being your true self, that’s when the audience responds positively.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: I really love my newest earring designs - Rainbow, Heart and Strawberry. I love tiny earrings and always keep mine around half an inch. How could you not want a tiny rainbow or strawberry on your ear? It’s so adorable!
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: Right now, I’m learing to pivot (says in Ross voice - PIVOT!). My traditional methods are being tested and dismantled because of Covid-19, so I’m looking into new avenues like Patreon and IG Live to offer new things to my current customers and potential new customers. It’s all a learning experience and I hope it’s successful.
I’m showing off other sides of my artistry too like portrait drawing which I would like to grow for when shows eventually come back and that I can offer as another product option. Things are wide open right now in terms of trying new things and as Gazelle from Zootopia says, “I wanna try everything.”
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
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Shop Unicorn Crafts