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.
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. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.
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.