Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Candace Lam, owner of From Yours Truly Studio, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm the creator of Kit and Dino (pronounced Deeno). Most of my customers are actually students or people who LOVE stationery. I created these two characters to represent myself and the people around me. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure that my business creates cute and affordable stationery. The name from yours truly studio was actually first created because I enjoy making everything on my own. I wanted people to receive my products as if they're receiving a gift from a good friend. Hence from yours truly. The best way for me to make sure that I continue to creating the art that I love is by making Kit and Dino doing very relatable things. Ie. sleeping in when you're exhausted, or sometimes being overwhelmed with the amount of work that they have. I'm a strong believer of art being the best way to connect with people, second to the food, of course. I want my audience to laugh, cry and feel as though Kit and Dino are their best friends too.
Tell us about yourself
I've been drawing throughout my entire life. I even took art classes when I was in elementary school. I would go to my private art classes weekly and enjoyed the different techniques of art and how to sketch. Even in elementary school, I would prioritize handwriting homework before any other assignments. I then discovered calligraphy. I started learning modern calligraphy in 2012 and started teaching calligraphy in 2019. A lot of my friends have asked me to teach them, and I considered working on becoming a calligraphy instructor. Although I was working on calligraphy, I did miss the drawing life. At the time, I was working as a full-time Financial Advisor and didn't have a lot of time to draw.
When I first created Kit and Dino, I didn't think I would turn it into my brand. Kit and Dino started getting more attention, and seeing how people reacted to my art, made me really happy. In the comments, I would read how people can relate to a sleepy deprived Kit or Dino hating being cold all the time. Unfortunately, not long after I got married in 2020, I got pretty ill and had to go on medical leave from my full-time job. To bring myself some happiness and motivation to keep going, I started drawing more and more, which resulted in me to turning Kit and Dino into my full-time job.
I left my full-time job to pursue my dream of being a full-time artist. I love drawing cats, and I have two cats of my own. I also have a Dino looking like stuffy that I cannot sleep without, so I decided to stick with Kit and Dino. This doesn't mean I have given up on calligraphy. I still make cards that feature my calligraphy and the two characters. If I were to have anyone learn one thing from me, it's to follow your passion and to do what makes you happy. If art is the way to go, then keep making yourself smile, and in return, you'll also be making other smiles with your work!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think the biggest accomplishment is actually meeting other business owners and calling myself a business owner. I used to say that I'm a business owner without actually believing it. I would often be uncomfortable with claiming that I'm a business owner. I used to think that business owners are people who wear business wear all the time and are super professional. However, after meeting all the different business owners in the craft industry, I now know that anyone can be a business owner. The whole "business" attire can actually be whatever you want your business attire to be.
I am now super comfortable with telling people that I own a business. I have fully coloured my hair and wear onesies all the time at home, and that's my business attire. If I were to hire anyone to work with me, I would also want them to wear whatever makes them comfortable. You create your best work when you are the most comfortable. I've had people say that I'm a really "cute" business owner, and that often makes me laugh because I really try to be to reflect my business. Being called a business owner makes me really happy because not only do I see myself as one, but others do too now.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Keeping up with fresh new ideas is pretty difficult when you're in a creative block. Sometimes a creative block can last for days or even months. It stresses me out when I don't know what to draw or what new products I should come up with. I usually overcome this by sitting down and thinking about what I'm struggling with, and I draw just that. For example, if I'm frustrated with my creative block, I would draw a picture of Kit looking frustrated with a pencil in her hand. After drawing that, I often think of other things to draw. If that doesn't work, I try to go for a walk and think about nothing other than listening to music. Sometimes a random idea would inspire me to draw something else. I don't want people to get bored of my work, so keeping up with people's creative thirst sometimes feels pressuring. No one pressures me to create more, I'm sure it's all in my head, but the mental voice is a really big obstacle I have yet learned how to manage.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Write it down. It may seem really obvious to some or even unnecessary, but if you're like everyone else. Ideas can get jumbled up really easily. This would result in a lot of stress. If you have an idea bubble, it can help you cross or add anything you can think of. It really helped me narrow down what I wanted to do. It's ok to change up your ideas too, but if you write it down, it's easier to mentally handle all the creative thoughts.
- You miss all the shots you don't take. Super cheesy, I know. But I'm serious, how would you know something won't work unless you don't try it. Just because someone else has done it and didn't succeed doesn't mean you won't. You are your own person. No one can think the way you do. Therefore the argument of "well it didn't work when they did it" doesn't really apply to you because you are not them.
- Have fun with it. I have said before that you create your best work when you are the most comfortable. That applies to everything, almost literally. If you're not comfortable with the way you're holding your pen, your calligraphy won't turn out as nice compared to if you were sitting comfortably. You wouldn't be able to work well in an office if you're uncomfortably stressed. So be comfortable; the best way to do that? Have fun!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Don't look at other's people work and compare it to yourself. Although that sometimes applies, oftentimes, it'll create a negative mood. You don't know their story and how much they struggled too. It also doesn't hurt to ask them how they struggled or what they learned as a business owner. If you're just starting out, and you see a successful business in the same industry, you can't expect to do as well as they can if they've worked on their business for years. They probably learned a lot via the mistakes they've made or changes they've made. You can yet to meet those obstacles, so you may not have the experience. So don't beat yourself up if things aren't turning out 100% of how you want it to. Take a step back and review what you can change to make things better. Being a business owner is not easy, but it's easier if you get the support you need from friends, fans, or even other business owners. It doesn't hurt to ask others about their experience!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.