Before we launched our first line in May, we talked with Iriz Zou, editor and founder of Comeback Magazine, about our story. The interview is below. Follow Comeback Magazine on Instagram to learn more about this inspiring publication which exists to “help creatives get going (and keep going) on their goals, big and small.”
Tell us about yourself and how you came up with the idea of the Story Shop Studio.
The Story Shop began as an Etsy store to sell my own art. In fact, I think it is still online – hah! I am a mixed media artist, and I was looking for a platform to sell prints to make a little extra income. But, as things usually go for me, the idea grew quite quickly. My husband can testify – I often let my imagination get ahead of our bank account. Over the course of my adult life, my passion for making art has blossomed into a deep desire to support other artists – both in their creative processes and their career development. So, of course, my little Etsy shop followed suit. Pretty soon I was building a business concept that was much larger than myself. I believe that the power in our own artistic development lies in telling our stories well. With this foundation in mind, the Story Shop Studio was born.
What prompted you to shift from selling prints to curated, small batch fashion?
The print idea was a holdover from my original Etsy shop – the prints were an attempt to capture the stories of others in meaningful ways – through text and image. I quickly realized, however, that this business model was not sustainable. The overhead cost for producing the prints did not provide enough margin to support the cost of creative coaching hours. As a lover of fashion, I decided to explore the industry. I wanted to keep the concept of supporting artists and entrepreneurs alive, but needed to find a more generative and interesting product line. There are so many local or unknown clothing and jewelry makers in the Pacific Northwest, so I started there! In fact, many of the pieces in our launch line are locally produced. We now have a curated collection of eleven garments to share with you all in a few weeks!
Who is on your team?
My current team is quite small – myself, my husband, and my close friend and fellow conspirator, Allyson. Allyson is trained in psychology and the creative process, and will be doing much of our artist coaching. We also have a handful of amazing friends (Makenna, Sophia, Lauren, and Katie) who are donating their time to model our launch collection.
How are you providing the coaching for female creatives?
Each time we sell a garment in the shop, a percentage of the profit will be set aside to support coaching for women. We will offer two tracks for coaching – Creative Coaching, which focuses on the artistic process, overcoming mental or spiritual roadblocks, creating disciplined habits, and more; and Career Coaching – which will help creatives build a personal brand, price and market art and other products, and overall to tell a compelling story. Each track includes eight weekly sessions. When the shop goes live, we will also launch an online coaching application for artists and creatives. Selected candidates will then have the opportunity to sign up for online coaching sessions in one or both of our tracks. Story Shop artists will also be featured on our Story Shop Blog and social media platforms. Our goal is to support 6-10 artists in our launch year, and grow from there!
What have been some challenges or successes that you didn’t foresee? How did you overcome them/how did they come about?
One of the biggest challenges was gaining credibility with slow fashion brands. Many brands want to see a live, working store carrying multiple notable brands before they will work with you. It’s a chicken and egg situation! Financing these brands upfront is also a challenge for a small shop. In fact, the funding for our launch collection came entirely from selling clothing out of my own closet and selling my own artwork! A true labor of love.
I have also been doing a ton of research on marketing viability for fashion. Instagram is such an excellent platform to showcase beautiful things, but I’ve had to be super careful to only present really high quality images and concepts to keep the brand strong. Above all, I’ve had to remind myself to have fun and not get sucked into the “what if’s” of a new business. Although this is a passion project – requiring risk and hard work – it should also be fun! I’ve already had the opportunity to meet so many amazing female artists and entrepreneurs in the process, and for that, I am thankful.
How do you plan out your days while working on the brand launch?
Great question. I actually have a day job, too! I am the director of a nonprofit called Brehm Cascadia, which runs an artist residency here in the Pacific Northwest, so the two concepts do dovetail quite nicely. This being said, most of my work for the Story Shop happens at night. I have to set paced goals for myself so that I can stay on track. My tendency is to actually go too fast – like posting nine social media posts in one day – not a great plan. I have to harness the excitement of new ideas and measure them out over time. This is not my strong suit! Practically speaking, I use spreadsheets and legal pads to keep me on track, measuring out small marketing, inventory, curriculum development, and finance management goals each day. I also have to balance this evening work with the wonderful gift of motherhood. Although my six-year-old sidekick can be helpful, I usually work after he is in bed!
When will the Story Shop Studio be launching and where can we find you when it does?
The Story Shop Studio launch date was May 7th, 2018, with early access for our newsletter subscribers. Before then, we had a photo shoot scheduled at a super-cool loft in Capitol Hill. We had a pretty good time getting this collection together for you!
Finally, I’d love to hear from any of you personally! If you have ideas or questions about The Story Shop Studio, send me a note through the form on our website. I want to hear your story!