This DIYer Uses Pom Poms to Celebrate Asian American Food + Culture
Welcome to Selfmade Stories! Brit + Co, along with sponsor Office Depot, are working together to spotlight emerging entrepreneurs and the lessons they've learned while launching their businesses. First up, Selfmade alum Justine Pon shares her story of how she took her passion for craft to build The Ponnery, pom pom goods celebrating Asian food and culture, and how she learned to value her company's worth thanks to her Selfmade coaches.
Brit + Co: How did you know The Ponnery was your business to start?
I've always loved making cute and creative things ever since I was kid. I also really love pom poms. There were so many cool designs out there but I wasn't seeing the products that I wanted to wear so I decided to try to make them. My business, The Ponnery, is all about celebrating Asian American food and culture through handmade pom pom earrings and goods.
What's the biggest challenge you've overcome as a small business owner?
Having high standards is important but once you get into perfectionist territory you are only hindering your growth and progress. I learned that it is super valuable to get input from your community. My customers will tell me if they like my designs. It can be hard not to take criticism personally but ultimately it is a reflection of my product and not me, which is something I talked to my coach about in Selfmade. Knowing you can reframe things as learning experiences has been really helpful for me.
How do you stay motivated?
I'm passionate about what I do. I love turning my ideas into reality and the whole creative design process. It just makes my heart beat. I also love hearing from happy customers and it truly makes everything worthwhile. I really believe everything is cuter in pom form and I'm determined to keep going until I run out of ideas.
How do you balance your work with other aspects of your life?
I try to treat my business as a 9-to-5 job. I also try to incorporate movement. It can be so easy to sit at your desk and work all day and you feel crappy at the end of it because you haven't moved. I try to get a walk in at least and a workout if I can and some stretching because my work is pretty hand- and wrist-intensive. I try not to work as much on the weekends too and if I am crafting, I'm doing it for fun and not for business.
What's your best organizational tip?
The Ponnery involves a lot of physical materials, so I love organizing those by color and in rainbow order. It really helps me, especially with my supplies, but even if it's a digital document — having titles in different colors helps my brain.
What was your most valuable takeaway from the Selfmade business course?
I loved my Selfmade experience. I learned so much about different aspects of business, including how to pitch something, how to look at your profit and losses, all important business concepts. I also learned that women tend to underprice their work, which I am totally guilty of. It was really eye opening to me because I realized that I was putting my business at a disadvantage. You have to be confident in your worth.
What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
I would say that everyone has their own definition of success — maybe your goal is to sell your product in a mass retailer or you just want to make enough to cover a short vacation. It's just important that you stay true to why you are starting your business and what you want to do with it. It also really helps to build friendships with other small business owners because community is so important. I've learned so much from people who I met in Selfmade who have been in business longer than I have and it's really awesome to support and learn from each other.
What's one female-owned business that you absolutely love and support?
I'm a huge fan of the brand, A Jar of Pickles. The owner makes the cutest stationery, pins, keychains. She has a ton of boba-themed products so I'm all over it. She also does a lot of behind-the-scenes of her day-to-day work as a business owner and shares a lot of that on her Instagram stories. She even has this ongoing IGTV series where she talks about business-related topics like marketing and photography. She is really open about her business, which I appreciate, and she has the cutest dog!
How did receiving the Office Depot scholarship to Selfmade help you grow your business?
As someone who had minimal business experience, I learned so much about the fundamentals of running a business, including the importance of defining your purpose, building community, and providing your customers with value. I'm grateful to have received this scholarship because Selfmade fundamentally changed the way I view myself, my business, and my goals. I can now say with confidence that I'm an entrepreneur!
How do Office Depot services & products help you accomplish more for your business?
After experiencing my first holiday season as a business owner, I realized I needed to up my shipping game. I had previously been printing shipping labels off my home printer and using packing tape to attach them to packages. I've since switched to Office Depot® Brand Shipping Labels that stick to most surfaces and it's been such a time-saver!
Knowing your worth is an important part of being a successful entrepreneur. Let Office Depot OfficeMax help you stay organized and save time with a suite of business services to help you accomplish more — from signs, posters & banners to get your business noticed to marketing materials to help bring your brand vision to life. With Office Depot OfficeMax by your side, we know you can be your best.
Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.
Getting the word out about your brand takes time, drive, and ingenuity. And it doesn't come easy for many entrepreneurs. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're chatting with Selfmade alum Taylor Morgan McPherson, founder of Sustainable Sparkle Bar, about ways in which she scored press as a solo startup brand and what she learned from Selfmade to take her brand marketing up a notch.
B + C: How did you know Sustainable Sparkle Bar was your business to start?
Glitter has always been my thing, so when I started my event company I decided to make it my niche. I started telling people I threw glitter-themed parties where people would get sparkled with glitter body art and makeup. Six months after that I applied to my first festival and to work with SUR restaurant in West Hollywood.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
I honestly can't say that I've had a specific strategy that I've followed when it comes to getting my business off the ground. I have a PR background so I was just constantly pitching new business and posting on social media.
B + C: What's the biggest challenge you face as a small business owner?
I would say creating a stable income and revenue stream. With a seasonal, event-based business it can be very up and down.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
The relationships I made and the push to start an email database.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I love what I do and I believe in myself 100%. Staying motivated isn't the hard part. Pushing myself to do the work and staying accountable is the hard part.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip? Do you use any apps that help you manage your business?
I keep multiple to-do lists, hand-written and digital. I also tell clients and partners that I will have something to them by a certain time or day so I have to stick to it.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Just do it, take the leap. And don't worry about what anyone else says to thinks.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Issa Rae, I'm so inspired by everything that she's created being a creative and a black woman. It's my dream to have my own show one day based on my life and where I give advice and talk about the world. She's doing it and making people laugh and giving people joy. And it's based in LA. Watching Insecure only further cemented my dreams of wanting to live in LA.
B + C: How did you hear about the Office Depot scholarship?
One of my friends that I met through Camp No Counselors saw an IG ad for it and nominated me.
B + C: What has receiving the scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start/grow your business?
It's completely helped me level up and take my business to another level. Selfmade helped me host my first virtual event and taught me how to set up my website to sell tickets to events and get RSVPs.
B + C: How have Office Depot services or products helped you accomplish more in your business?
I got new cards to send in all of my orders with my discount code on them. I also bought a really cool 4K camera that I now use for my social media.
Let Office Depot OfficeMax help you stand out in the crowd. From signs, posters & banners to promote your business, to marketing materials to keep your customers informed, Office Depot OfficeMax offers a full suite of business services & solutions to help you & your business get noticed.
Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.