What did you want to be when you were a child?
My childhood aspirations ranged from wanting to be a chef (I watched a lot of Emeril Lagasse), a paleontologist, a fashion designer and a movie director.
How did you get started (in your current business)? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
Everything started in 8th grade. I was deeply involved in the local community dedicated to wearing Lolita fashion from Japan. At the time, the trend in the fashion was wearing jewelry that looked like food. I had purchased some from other vendors, but I had wanted to make some of my own. My mother helped me out to get the necessary materials and we both started making rings shaped like cupcakes. Once they were finished, I took some to school and I sold them to my classmates for $5. That day, I came home with $50 in my pocket (and when you're 12, that is winning the lottery).... the rest is history!
I think the first difficulty I faced was being taken seriously. It was difficult branching outside of our target demographic (people familiar with Japanese street fashion/anime/comic conventions). I was worried how people outside of those communities would react to my products. There was a lot of explaining at first.... no, we are not a bakery... no, these are not kids toys... we make jewelry for young adults.
In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure, how do you build yourself back up?
I am very fortunate to have a strong support system behind me to help lift me up in times of doubt. My mom and my dad have been so supportive to me throughout this whole journey, the shop would not exist without their help. When I'm feeling low, I think about all the things they have done to help me, and I realize I can't afford to be down, I need to make them proud.
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Like the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. Your business will not be profitable right away. It takes a lot of patience before you start to see a turn around.
What inspires you?
My biggest inspirations are East Asian street fashion, primarily Korean and Japanese street fashion. I take a lot of inspiration from Lolita fashion, from Gyaru fashion, and from K-Pop and J-Pop music. I also take a lot of inspiration from 90,s and 80,s fashion. Basically anything that is over the top and very colorful.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
I love it when I meet a customer who is totally unfamiliar with the influences of my store, but their face just lights up when they walk in. I love being able to spread alternative fashion to a place like Rochester. When I got into this, there were no stores locally offering anything like this and I had to buy my clothes from overseas. I was lucky that I had a mother who was no stranger to online shopping. I love getting people to explore their wild side and be more daring with their fashion choices.
What do you find most challenging?
Self motivation. When you are self-employed there are no days off. I'm the only employee, so I am the one that has to be at my shop everyday. I am my shop and my shop is me. It is hard when I see my friends all having fun on Friday and Saturday and I'm at the shop. But that is what I signed up for. Sometimes I have those days where I'm like, "Ugh no, I want to be in bed". I think we all have those days, but its important to have the discipline to fight that part of your brain and get up no matter what and get to work.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
Tanvi Asher, the owner of Shop Peppermint is someone I really admire. Her brand is so well known within Rochester -- when you say "Peppermint" to someone, they know exactly what you're talking about. She's a talented seamstress and on top of that she's kind and creative. She created the Sewn Seeds fashion show and her new venture with the Peppermint mobile boutique. She is incredibly dedicated to her brand and it shows.