Do you remember my gorgeous friend Kim? (She drops by with Make Merry inspiration boards every once in awhile!) She’s just launched her Etsy shop, Bubsy Ink, and it is fabulous (read more about it here!). If for some reason you still don’t know Kim, read on! She spills on the inspiration behind Bubsy and dishes on the creative journey she’s been on since we last featured her–>
I’d describe you as a super genius engineer who also happens to be a Martha-level hostess and creative– what kinds of projects and crafts are you creatively attracted to and how did that spark the beginnings of Bubsy Ink?
Kim: I’ve spent so many years focused on engineering and my career– I’m just getting to know the right side of my brain and I’m still figuring out what my creative interests and talents are. In the past few years, I’ve dabbled in photography, shibori dying, cooking, painting, drawing, knitting, and writing. I’m still exploring.
Earlier this year, I decided to check out sewing. My mom is a very talented seamstress– she’s made so many beautiful things for me and my sister– skirts, dresses, hand stitched quilts. But somehow, I never learned how to do it myself. So I signed up for a sewing at Les Fabrique. I was hooked. Within weeks, I made pajama pants, a skirt, zipper pouches, tote bags. I absolutely loved it. The totes needed a little something more to add interest. I used a bear painting I’d done earlier in the winter for inspiration, added “el oso,” the spanish word for bear, and with the help from the massive online world of diy tutorials, I learned how to take that drawing and make a wax paper stencil. And voila! I actually still use daily one of my original totes with “la tienda” stenciled on it (I screen print everything now).
And so sparked the beginning of Bubsy Ink.
Tell us about Bubsy Ink; what elements in your life came together to make this collection and shop happen?
Kim: A lot of things came together at the right time to make this collection and shop happen. At first glance, all of the events seemed horrible, awful and like no good could ever possibly come out of them. Knee surgery in September, another knee surgery in November, a friend who quickly succumbed to pancreatic cancer, the end of a 6 year relationship in December, and around the same time, the realization that several different promotional opportunities I’d been striving for at my day job were not going to materialize.
Wow, sad, right? And that was just the end of 2012– the entire year was a pretty rough one.
So, pile of lemons? Time to roll up your sleeves and start making the lemonade. And maybe throw on some good tunes, add in some ice and a splash of blueberry vodka while you’re at it!
Without soccer, skiing & hiking, I had free time on my hands. After listening to letters and notes read aloud at my friend’s funeral, I put more thought into what kind of difference I wanted to make during my time here on this planet. I lived with my boyfriend and thus had to move, but I found an awesome house with space for an office & workshop. Realizing my career path had dead ended or at least was detouring on a much longer scenic route, opened me to the idea of re-thinking my career path and changing the picture in my head of what success was going to look like for me.
Willingly or not, I was launched out of the safety of the rut I hadn’t even fully realized I was living in.I suddenly had freedom to imagine a new future and pick a new path.
I started analyzing my interests, my skill sets, my core values. There are so many fantastic entrepreneurs in Charlottesville. I think they’d rubbed off on me during my years here. I’d been intrigued by the idea of starting my own business. I like making simple drawings. I’ve been on what feels like a life long mission to learn Spanish. (Estoy aprendiendo a hablarlo, pero, no puedo hablarlo muy bien.) I was getting compliments on my new “la tienda” tote. That little creative spark was being fanned and flamed into a full fledged business plan.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of making this creative dream come to life? What’s been the most fun? How have you stayed motivated throughout the process?
Kim: The most challenging part of starting Bubsy Ink has been self doubt. Has been and continues to be.
I think sometimes you look at something you’ve been working on for awhile and you’re so involved… so invested… that it’s hard to take a step back and know if your product is really good or not. The doubt creeps in. The to-do list looms large. And you think “What the hell was I thinking getting involved in this? This is the worst idea of my life.” … Then I usually realize I am hungry and tired and after something to eat and a little rest I come back with fresh eyes and remember, yeah, this is good stuff and I’m excited about it.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great support from amazing friends and enthusiastic family to keep me motivated. I have especially relied on a few friends who are also getting businesses started. We try to meet once a week or so. We affectionately refer to it as “The Meeting of the Minds” and we each get a block of the meeting time to work on/discuss our own business. They are really smart, talented women. Their input is invaluable. We bounce ideas off each other. Help each other out with information about getting a business license or who to contact to build a website. Edit each others website text. We make to do lists and check up on each others progress on getting those things done. And, most importantly, cheer each other on.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? What would you tell someone toying with the idea of turning their passions into a business?
Kim: I’ve gotten a lot of great advice but one thing I think is so true and really helps me pace myself when I get overwhelmed or compare myself to others who’ve already achieved success– give yourself room to grow. It’s in line with the whole overly used “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” But I think it says a little more than that.
Grow has a positive connotation. It takes a little pressure off of me. Things don’t have to be perfect. I don’t need to have 20 designs and the most amazing online shop and all of that. What fun is a business that starts at it’s peak? What is interesting about being perfect?? Where do you go from there?? Be ok with starting small. Being little. Leave room to grow and learn. The growing is the crazy part, the hard work part but also the fun part. If this adventure works out, the growing part will be the good part of the story.
I know the shop’s just opened– but what’s next for Bubsy? What’s next for you?
Kim: In the very near future, Bubsy Ink will be expanding its line of designs and size offerings. I’ll be setting up the screens for some new graphics next week– a fruits & veggies graphic, one that is camping themed, possibly a music festival theme, as well simple text designs– all in Spanish, of course. They will be available by the end of the month. Longer term, there are some different products in the works that I hope to debut later this fall. Meanwhile, I’ll also be working on expanding retail opportunities– via getting my own online shop set up, local boutiques, and various festivals.
As for me, beyond work & Bubsy Ink, my plate is already pretty full. I have a day job. I’m lucky to spend time with great friends and family and a darling black lab.I also currently tutor English through the Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle. For the past few months, I’ve been working with a woman from Iraq. We meet once a week for two hours. She has recently decided to apply for citizenship next year so we’ve added preparing for her civics test to our usual English practice. Side note– having off and on studied Spanish the past 5 years, I am truly in awe of the students at LVCA who are working so hard to learn to read and write or to speak English. Their determination and motivation is really admirable. Many of them have full time day jobs, families to take care of, and other obligations. But they’ve made the time and commitment to learn.
I’m not really worrying too much about what’s next. I’m in more of a living in the moment phase right now.
Hooray Kim! Follow along with Bubsy on Facebook!