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Season 1 Ep 35: Owner of Occasionalish shares how she built her greeting card business from scratch

Updated: Mar 28, 2021




This week on the xoxo, jess Podcast, I’m talking to Candy of Occasionalish. Occasionalish is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a gorgeous product line that focuses on stationery and small accessory items such as greeting cards, note pads, enamel pins, and keychains. I absolutely love their style and designs and I am so excited to bring another chat with a carmaker to you this week. Listen to the episode above, on iTunes HERE, or read the transcription below.


Check out Candy and her gorgeous work on her website and on Instagram!


Episode Transcription:

Jessica Walker

Welcome back to xo xo Jess, where we dive deep into the world of greeting cards, the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and the mindset tools needed to start creating the business of your dreams today. I'm Jessica Walker here with another Wednesday episode. And this week, I'm talking to Kandi of occasional ish, occasional issues a brand that's based in San Francisco Bay Area, and they have a gorgeous dreamy product line full of stationery other small accessory items. They have greeting cards, notepads, enamel pens, key chains, so much awesome stuff. And I absolutely love candy style and her designs. And I'm really excited to bring another chat with the card maker to this series to you this week. So without further ado, welcome candy.


Candy

Hi, Jessica. And Hi everyone.


Jessica Walker

I'm so excited to have you I've truly admired your business from afar for so long. I'm like kind of starstruck Not gonna lie. And I have so many questions.


Candy

Thank you so much. I admire you and your business. Well, thank you, that


Jessica Walker

means a lot. So I think like just diving straight in. Have you always been into art and design? Were you always wanting to be an entrepreneur? What got you into the greeting card space?


Candy

Okay, so I'd love I'd love to talk about this, because I always always love art. And I always love to get my hands on, you know, on anything at all. I'm very crafty. And I before when I was younger, I would introduce myself as a mother of DIY. I love doing all arts, all kinds of art at all. So it's kind of like it's in me since the beginning. You know, designing, drawing, painting, crafting all of that. And when I was in high school, middle school and high school, I even made cards, like handmade cards, you know, and sell them to my friend.


Jessica Walker

Oh my god. So cool.


Candy

Yeah, you know, like,


I'm Asian, so we love money.


So,


Jessica Walker

and then just had a side hustle early on?


Candy

Yes, yes. Although I liked when I was younger, I did that a lot, you know, selling stuff to my friends. But actually, when I grew older, I never thought about doing a business of my own. I just want to found out about when I talk with other entrepreneurs is that a lot of people didn't dream of, you know, making stuff for their for themselves. Right. But to me, I liked the idea of working for other people. Like I like to do things I don't like to think


Jessica Walker

I like to. Yeah, totally.


Candy

Let's say for stationery it started about seven years ago, when I worked for minted for the first time. Oh, cool. I wasn't, you know, a designer, I was just, you know, production designer, and it's kind of sparked the joy of like, oh, wow, this is this, you know, this is so cool. All these artists create greeting card design, just like me how I did when I was younger, you know, so I felt more inspired. And then after minted, I also got an opportunity to work for other greeting cards company, right. But now I became a greeting card designer. And then I kept doing that. And there was one point, I was thinking to myself, like, I have been designing cards for other people, for other people to make money out of my design, you know, why don't I do something for myself?


Candy

Yeah. So that's kind of like, made me think about it more, but I still like the idea of like, I can travel anywhere and I don't have to think about Will I be making money or not? You know, because if you work for a company, right then you can you you don't you don't need to think you don't need to carry that with you when you are traveling


Jessica Walker

solely. And it's funny that you say that because I was actually speaking with my sister a couple days ago and she's the same way she thinks being an entrepreneur would be cool, but she's like, I like just knowing what's what I'm gonna do and like someone else does the overall thinking and I make it happen like she's very goal oriented and task oriented. And a lot of people feel that way. So like, how did you then what did that look like that jump into then becoming the business becoming your own boss? What How did that happen?


Candy

Okay, and I'm very much


Like other artists were I very crafty and artsy, but I had no idea about business at all. So, anyways, there was one point that I felt like oh, okay, I'm just gonna do it, you know? So in 2019 in February, no, in January, I'm like, I'm going to do it. And I had only one month because I'm like, oh, Valentine's Days coming up. Let's just launch it before time. So I just started right away. I didn't really it was bad, though. You should be planning ahead of time.


Jessica Walker

But nothing like a quick deadline to really get you in action.


Candy

Exactly. Because I thought about it for a year, like maybe I should do it for myself, you know, and then it never happened, right? until like, something happened. You're like, Okay,


Unknown Speaker

I'm doing.


Candy

So I started knowing nothing about this next at all. But I started with gift boxes. Because


Unknown Speaker

I love


Candy

I love the idea of small gifts, you know, and I, I give people gifts all the time with any occasions, you know, there is no occasion I will, I will make it up. And then you know, like here for you, you know, so I'm like, okay, I should start with something that I that's me. And now, so. But I carry the idea of having stationery with me the whole time, right? Even though it started with gift boxes in February, I know that stationery is coming up. Oh, I started to launch my greeting cards. In June 2019. And the first day that I launched, I launched at a craft fair, it was so much fun. You know, like, finally, I got to launch it and get to see people, you know, talk about my design, look at my cards, touch them hold them in their hand. And you know, it's it's, it's wonderful. It's lovely.


Jessica Walker

And so you started in June with the greeting cards. And at this point, are you a one woman show? Do you have a team? What


Candy

is your What does that look like? Definitely one women show everything all by myself? Yes. And I cried too many times, because nobody's telling you to do this. Why are you doing this, you know, but during the time I was in my full time just yet. I had other part time just because you know, it's by choice. I didn't want to have anything full time so so that I can have more time on my business.


Jessica Walker

So then, when did you realize like, this is going to be my full time thing like this is this is it.


Candy

I think at the end of the year, like towards the end of 2019 I felt really good about it, even though like I didn't make like a ton a ton. But I felt like wow, this is going somewhere, you know, like and, and I really want to make this a thing. I don't want it to be it's as you know, like, Okay, my side hustle, which is fine for some people, you know, it depends on everyone goals, right? Like I have come this far. Like, I don't even drive I don't know how to drive. But I would put all the things my shells, my chairs in the bingo like suitcase, which is even bigger than myself. I'm pretty sure.


Then I would carry and hop on the train and the bus and like, Oh my gosh, I'm doing all this and


Jessica Walker

so I felt like this.


Candy

This is gonna be a thing. I'm not gonna waste all my time. You know, and just making this a hobby, you know. So yeah, towards the end, I I sign up for a lot of craft fairs. And I enjoyed it. I like I yeah,


Jessica Walker

yeah. And so at that point, it's now it's a business. So how did you learn? I feel like that's something that so many people obviously just don't inherently know. I didn't inherently know like how to run a business, how to track my finances, how to market like, how did you What were your doorways into these things? Like how did you learn them just get started.


Candy

So I read a lot and I watch a lot of videos like a ton. And I read articles and that's something I would recommend everyone to do. You know, lots of research and I also watch skill chairs, videos, YouTube videos, Instagrams and see how others Other people were running. Were running their business. Right. So yeah, it's it started with that. And then actually, in 2020 20, earlier of the, you know, that's the end of 2019, right? When I felt really good that probably a thing I even sign up for, like, stationery shows, and, you know, sign up for more fairs, but then 2020 20 things change, you know, happen to everyone, right? With a pandemic. And my goal of the year was, you know, to, to expand my business to retails, right. But it didn't happen. But that's fine. So I shift my thoughts. Like, okay, if, even if retails is my goal this year, but what can I do now? So I, I thought I should invest in myself during this time. So tomorrow, yeah, like, because things change. And if we don't, if we don't change ourselves, the way we are thinking, then, you know, it's, it's gonna be over. So I actually hired a coach to, you know, to help myself, like, what can I learn? How can I be better, and that is actually the very first time that I that I have someone who has more experience and you know, actually coached me, and it was one of the best investment ever, because while I still do watch videos, lots of lots of videos, but you know, with that, coaching, I it helped me it It helped me achieve things faster. Yes. Yeah,


Jessica Walker

I cannot agree more.


Candy

Yeah, yeah. Like, I wouldn't say that you must have a coach. But I think like, it's, it's a very good investment for yourself.


Jessica Walker

Absolutely. I hired my first coach last year as well. And it just like, you're right, it just like the speed at which you can grow and, and expand and just understand things and have, you know, just have that extra set of eyes on what you're doing. to just say, like, you know what, I think putting energy in this direction might be better. And you're like, Oh, yeah, of course. But it just,


Candy

I agree with you. And like how you said that too, like, because, you know, a lot of times I know, I think like, I would think that, oh, like I watch a lot of videos, right? So I kind of know, but there was no one to actually confirm me and like candy, you're doing a good job you're doing going at the right path, you know, so having someone with more experience and then confirming me and you know, give me an affirmation. And on top of that is to guide me, it's, it's helpful. Yeah,


Jessica Walker

that's a great takeaway. I love that. You mentioned that. And I'd love to jump into your style, you have such a recognizable and consistent style. Like I know that it's your card. If I'm just scrolling through Instagram, I'm like, Oh, that's definitely horse. Like, how did you develop that style? And how do you keep it consistent?


Candy

I thank you so much. First of all,


Unknown Speaker

thank you.


Unknown Speaker

I feel like I am like,


Unknown Speaker

a lot of other artists were devious, they're not. They're not confident.


Candy

I am not sure. I


Unknown Speaker

mean, okay, I'm not gonna say it for other people.


Candy

Even when I started,


I felt like I didn't have my style. But whenever I say this to my friends, everyone, like,


Unknown Speaker

shut up.


Jessica Walker

I literally feel like you have the most consistent style.


Candy

Like, we can totally tell when it's your work, you know, and so, but I think if that my style, okay, is I would practice all the time I kept doodling. You know, like, even with the same kind of topic. If I say like, I'm gonna do a little Asian food right now, I'm just gonna keep like doing like practicing this, you know, the same thing over and over again. And then if your hand will get used to the motion, yeah, and then how? Yeah, I guess that's how I get my style. And actually, one thing I would recommend people not to look at other people work too much.


Unknown Speaker

Mm hmm.


Candy

Because why is good for you know, inspiration. But the more you look at other people work, the more you get confused of how is like what is actually your style, you know, totally Yeah, so I guess, just keep doing keep practicing with your own thing, you know, like, take a look at other people for inspiration but don't actually like look, look at them for too long.


Jessica Walker

Such a great point because you you can just like it can get cloudy like what do I like? That's mine and what do I like? That's others? I think that's a great point. So, for actually just like the behind the scenes of how you make your designs and your cards, do you draw everything digitally, like on an iPad? Do you have them printed by an outsource printer? Like what does it look like from idea in your head to card in the customers hands?


Unknown Speaker

Good question. So, I,


Jessica Walker

the first


Unknown Speaker

step when I start is to you know, think of a topic. I would pick a topic for example, you know, if I say, Okay, I'm gonna do Mother's Day card, right? So I pick my topic. And then I would sketch out my ideas on paper on a paper piece of paper with my pen, my marker, and I would be like, okay, Mother's Day, what is related to Mother's Day, flowers, Mom, or food, you know, anything that I can think of? When I think of my mom, right? associate that with the cart. So yeah, I will sketch them out and then I will pinpoint I will take a look like which ones are the good ones right then okay. Flowers, I liked them. Or like food How about you know, I think of my mom like my mom's food is the best you know, things like that. And once I got those ideas, more solid ideas, I would start sketching on the paper this very rough idea yeah, how many flowers what kind of flowers and and then once I got that idea mapped out I would use my iPad and the program that I'm using is procreate. And I love I love pro procreate. Yeah, like it's the best one of the best investment ever with the iPad and procreate. I can do so much it really helped me do a carry.


Unknown Speaker

So yeah,


Unknown Speaker

now everything is done by procreate.


Jessica Walker

And then So, do you have your cards printed by a printing company? And then or do you package them yourself? I would just love to know what what what the other behind the scenes? Yeah,


Candy

so Jessica, I really admire how you do printing your own cards and you know all of that is so cool. And I actually I bought your cards before and they're so cute. I send it to my friends and they love it.


Unknown Speaker

Yeah.


Unknown Speaker

And I think the quality is so good too. Okay,


Candy

thank you but yeah, so mine I At first I thought I was gonna do that myself but I don't have enough patience.


Jessica Walker

No, totally totally. Yeah, to like look out for Okay, what is the best printer


Candy

and the eye for the cardstock I'm very familiar with them because you know I work for a stationery companies right? So I don't have a lot of problem with that but more like okay, printing what is the best printer and what if I have the printer and then I print and like the printer running out or whatever? Like when I thought of that idea I'm like okay, this is this is so much work you know that so I actually all sorts or my my greeting cards.


Jessica Walker

Yeah, and I have people in the cardmaker mastermind that also do the same thing. There's some people that like really like the hands on autonomy of knowing exactly how it's made the all the whole process. It's like you're in charge. And then some people are like I love the design process. But the printing parts not for me. Yeah,


Candy

yeah, totally. And it's good that you brought up about like you know, having control over everything right so this part though, is very tricky, because outsourcing printing is very tricky and I tried several printers you know, to actually found the ones that I actually like, so be sure if you are going to outsource printing then you really you should try test print from a few different printers. Yeah,


Jessica Walker

that's such a good recommendation. And and I do I now about 60% of my cards are printed out source. And it did it took a minute and I thought like the first time I had them printed, I was like, I don't I just don't like this quality. And it, it just, you're right, just like workshopping it, trying a few different companies. Did you end up finding someone locally? I, at first, I


Candy

found one locally, like 10 minutes far from my house, but to them, they are too small to to produce in a lower cost that I in my budget, you know, so like, if I, let's say, if I need to print one design, I need to do at least like 500 units to get the price that I want. Right. But sometime, the we want to test out our new design, if it's gonna do well or not. Yeah, because yeah, and I'm solely selling everything through through my website. I have a few retails with me, but not not big enough. Enough. So yeah,


Jessica Walker

I'm actually glad you brought that up. Because that's a question that I get a lot from people who do outsource their printing is, what if I buy all of these cards? And then that design doesn't sell? Like, how do you figure out what works? What doesn't? what amounts to buy? Is it just like trial and error?


Candy

It's, I will say, trial and errors and also trending. We gotta be, you know, doing stationery and greeting cards, you already know, we got to be on trend at all time. So kinda join the group and also look, even just on Etsy, right? We sell on Etsy to let's see, like, how, what are the trendy card right now? And that it's kind of like, it's a major point for me to see like, Okay, this one is going to sell, because it's trendy right now. But if you are gonna go with, oh, I feel like it, you know, so you have to work harder to be sure that they're gonna sell because sometimes it's very neat. And if it's too niche, then you have to actually find the niche for your, for your product. If not, then then it's gonna be really hard.


Jessica Walker

Definitely. And I'd love to talk a little bit about your pins, because they're so cool. And now literally interactive and like do things. How did you come up with that idea? and were like, do you have a company that makes them I just know nothing about the pin world? How does How do enamel pins work? Yeah, so


Candy

this is very interesting because I, I and then after the stationery right after greeting card, and then I did, I started doing notepads and then enamel pins. I started doing that in October 2019. I also


didn't know anything about it. But my bestie


she's a big fan of the pins. And she's a collector. So she was the one who actually like, recommended me to, to try this out. Because she, she she knows me that she was like, okay, you're gonna love it. The very first time to add enamel pins, costs a lot of money to make. And I will say the minimum to create would be 50 to 100. So if you want to do if you want to create pins, keep that in mind, because good now. Yeah, it's, it's a big investment at first, and I outsource them. My manufacturer is in China. And you see, people can


Jessica Walker

actually this is this is the fact that in America,


Candy

there is no manufacturers that produce enamel pins. Wow, that's so


Jessica Walker

interesting.


Candy

Yeah. So the companies that you see those are like a third party. So at the beginning, I also use the companies of the third party company, because I wasn't sure like, you know how to go about it. I know that the manufacturers are in China, but I I was uncomfortable to to start, like you know how to reach out to them how to talk to them. Well, yeah,


Jessica Walker

it's like a whole new ballgame.


Candy

Yeah, exactly. So I use a third party, and for the very first time, and then I just kept researching more and more. Again, a lot of research, you know, until I actually found the company that I'm that I'm in love right now is the one that is doing my interactive pins and all that. Yeah, and the process of making is pretty much like breathing hard. Actually, you know, you pick up you think of a topic you sketch out and I design everything on procreate as well. And, but when I vector them out, I will do Last fader,


Jessica Walker

that's so cool. And I'm, I just like love that you said all all of this about like finding a manufacturer. Because if if someone's just entering business and they're like, I need to figure out how to find a manufacturer in China and create a product that I just am thinking of, that sounds really overwhelming and big thing and inaccessible. But you just took these small steps and just researched and researched and researched and you just made it happen. Like you just have to stick with it.


Candy

Yeah, you just have to stick with it really. And, and Google is a wonderful place. know, I


Jessica Walker

always say that I went to the University of goodwill over Business School.


Unknown Speaker

We went to the same school


Jessica Walker

alumni.


Guys, it's just like, there we there's so much information at our fingertips and and then doing not getting as far as we can with that. And then seeking support in the form of coaching like that. It's just such a great path. I think and, and I appreciate you sharing that. I just have to talk about this too. You have the dreamiest Instagram feed, like I want to live and your Instagram aesthetic. And you're always coming out with new products, like how do you manage your time between balancing creating and business and marketing? How does that work for you? Okay,


Candy

so now, this thing is my full time now. I, it became my full time since last year in September. Because you know, my earlier in 2020 20 there was a month that I made my first five finger like oh my gosh, yeah.


Jessica Walker

Like, you know, and I cried. Yes, that's incredible.


Candy

Yeah, I was. So I was so grateful. I was so happy. And on top of everything else, I was so proud of myself, like, you know, because I really believed that I could do it. And you know, and I did it. So when it happened, it's, it's a wonderful feeling. I was so it became my full time raise. So I had now I have more time to actually


Jessica Walker

work


Candy

on everything else by myself. So we talked about all sourcing before, you know, like printing, but I'm also I hired a copywriter. Because I this is the thing that I would recommend to people who would who want to do their own business, it doesn't mean to be to run a business doesn't mean you have to do everything all by yourself.


Jessica Walker

Stop and hear that everyone I literally need to have this written on my wall. And I feel like so many people needed to hear that. Okay, continue.


Candy

Yes. Yeah. So why I know like you you have to, let's let's you know, pick up pen and paper and, and write down things that you enjoy creating, doing, and things that you don't enjoy, and you are bad at it. So the things that I enjoy, I know I enjoy creating, I love to design, I like you know, things that I'd like to do. And then there are things like writing copy. English is not my first language. So I already struggled with that. And so at the very beginning, I would spend hours to just come out come up with a paragraph of something, you know, which is it took a lot of my time. So now I I hired a copywriter to help me with a copy. So this helped me so much it made me go to bed and sleep better.


Unknown Speaker

Yes,


Candy

yeah. So I know that then then my now my job is just to plan out right. Okay. This month let's see, oh, look at the what is that national calendar website? Like what are the fun national days this month and then I was this you know, write down plan out okay, there is this day or whatever. And this month what I want to be sharing with other people, I just drop everything out and wrote would write out my ideas roughly and send it to my copywriter and she would like magically make things more beautiful. You know, like the coffee. Yeah, so that's one thing but while my copywriter would work on my copy, right, I work on the photos. Mm hmm. So when I was doing having other jobs, I had a mix of photos that I do online. My own, and I paid a professional photographer. For some of them, you know, so, but right now I'm doing it all by myself. I have this small studio


Unknown Speaker

that


Candy

I got from Amazon. It's I think it's less than $100. Like 70 something. Yeah. And yeah, and then I have my, my Fuji camera. And yeah, then I do that. But a lot of time I own I use my iPhone too. Because if you think for people who are listening right now, don't think that you need a fancy camera at all because things, people people use phone all the time right now. Right? So you don't need a fancy camera to take photos with the highest quality. Because in the end, it's it's gonna be on the phone. Yeah, totally.


Jessica Walker

Ah, love you have so many great tips and takeaways, I feel like this episode, people are just gonna be scribbling notes.


Candy

I can be helpful.


Jessica Walker

Absolutely. It's been I love it. And and I'm just interested like for you, you've accomplished so much in this like, since you started your business, what are you looking forward to? What are some goals that you're reaching towards right now? Okay, so this year,


Candy

I started this year, very with the with a good spirit and good energy. And my goal for this year overall for my business overall is, is to be expanded and expanding in in many ways. I would love I am working on a project I will be offering like mentoring and coaching helping other artists who started with nothing like me with no information about business at all. I would love that because I've learned a lot, you know, with my with the experience this past two years and and yeah, I would love to do that. And hopefully I can work on wholesales and retails more, because that was my goal last year, and it didn't happen. But also this year, we don't really know yet. How is it going to be? So I'm kind of his his citied hesitated about that right now. But if it's possible, I would like to to have this time like prepare, or the wholesale in the wholesale market in the future.


Jessica Walker

I just want to pause there and say that I just love that you mentioned that you had a big goal last year. Obviously things were out of our control, things shifted in ways we couldn't do much about and instead of just being like, Oh, well, you pivoted and decided I'm going to invest in myself. I'm going to get coaches I'm going to utilize this time. And now you're entering this new year again with like, huge goals but like a loose grip of say, like, what's going to happen, this happens, but I have this intention. And that's such a great way to enter in. And so anyone who's starting a business or feels like they're just like struggling to hit that first goal, I encourage you to to listen to what candy is saying and and it's just such a good reminder. I feel like to anyone right now. All right, yes, yes.


Candy

And I


really want to say this, that when things happen to you, let's just think that things happen for you. So that you can learn from it. Not like things happened to me, you know, but it happened for you. So this way, like I try I keep this mindset with me all the time. So when things bad happens to me like okay, this thing happens for me. What can I learn from it? What can I do to prevent or what can I do to solve this problem?


Jessica Walker

So yeah, amazing. Candy. You should be a inspirational speaker. You're like maybe in another life. Okay, cool. Well, candy, this conversation was awesome. I appreciate you so much for taking the time to speak with us and share your knowledge and and what you've learned. And if you have not. If you're not familiar with Candy's work, head over to her Instagram, you're going to be obsessed with what you find. So Kandi, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Take care. Bye


Unknown Speaker

bye.



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