This is the first in a series on our inspiring DCA community members who have made the leap from student to businessperson.
Today, we’re focusing on DCA student & AIGA UCLAx group president Michelle Quach and teaching assistant & recent DCA graduate Dainise Meissner, both of whom chose Etsy as the platform for their online shops.
We asked both women what inspired them to create their shops and how they like having their own businesses.
Michelle: I was inspired to start my shop, Euclid Street (tagline: Greeting Cards That Hug You Back), because I thought it would be a way to do something creative right away. At the time, I had just decided to pursue design, and I was inspired by a speech by the journalist Robert Krulwich, who said “There are some people who don’t wait.” An Etsy shop allowed me to start creating art without waiting for permission. It was also liberating to feel that I could make money (even if it wasn’t a lot) without necessarily having to rely on being employed by someone else.
So far, it’s been a really positive experience. I’ve learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of running a small business. My favorite part, though, is knowing that something I created can hold meaning for someone else. Being in the greeting card business means that I often get invited into people’s lives in small ways–I’ll sometimes be asked to write a message on behalf of a customer, or they’ll tell me that their significant other loved the card so much that they got it framed. Once, a customer told me that one of my cards perfectly expressed what he wanted to say to his first love–whom he had remained friends with for decades, though they were both happily married to other people. I never imagined, when I first started this humble shop, that I would have the privilege of helping others this way!
Dainise: I was inspired to create my shop, FourBirdDesigns, after being in the DCA program for several quarters and not really knowing in what direction I wanted to go with my career. I had taken Mixed Media and Collage for Designers with Michelle Constantine and I really enjoyed making the collages by hand after taking several computer classes. I then went on to do a mentorship with Michelle to further explore mixed media and collage because I had the seed of an idea to create custom collages based around personal photos and their history.
I recruited a beta customer and created a test collage for her just so I could understand how the process might work in terms of getting her images, communicating about her family’s history, and fulfilling her needs for the finished product. It was a huge success and in fact, she asked me to make a second one a few months later! That success gave me the confidence to start the Etsy shop. It’s still quite new, and I’ve only sold one collage so far, but I’m loving it. Even though I’ve now graduated from the DCA program, I decided to get further inspiration this summer by taking Mixed Media and Collage again but with Todd Smith this time.
Congratulations to both of you and wishing you every success!