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Success Stories ~ Dear Colleen

Colleen of Dear Colleen

Nothing makes me happier than sharing a very cool maker and this week it’s the New Zealander, Colleen of Dear Colleen.  Her graphic design work is sweet and a little cheeky.  She answered our interview questions so honestly, I know you’re going to fall head over heels for her and her Ryan Gosling tea towels.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I’ve always been a ‘creative’ so it started a long time ago when I was a kid. I used to sit in the back of my classes in school and doodle, instead of focusing on anything and everything else. I chose to study graphic design at college and then I worked in the design industry for a number of years before taking some time out and going travelling. When I was travelling in 2009 is really when I started putting a lot of the ideas together for what became ‘Dear Colleen’

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

I think having your own business, that is your living, is a daily challenge but often in a good way, as long as you keep learning and finding ways around the problems. I find the hardest thing to deal with is copyright infringement, when someone basically steals your whole idea, layout, colours. The ‘Lemons’ design I did back in 2009 has been copied so many times by so many people now it’s getting to the point where people aren’t even copying my original anymore. I’ve fought and won a number of cases but it’s so joyless and time consuming. I wish it wasn’t something I have to deal with.

Large Lemons Print Signed

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

I guess I should say the whole Ryan Gosling holding my tea towel on YouTube thing but really having one of my tea towels bought by the National Museum of New Zealand (where I live) was just a huge honour and something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Oh goodness, yes and yes. What I do is my rent, food, bills and there are a lot of lean weeks/months. I’m constantly frustrated that I can’t fill wholesale orders very often as I rarely have the spare cash flow to put into enough goodies to meet the demand. Cash flow is an ongoing sleepless nights head ache. I also have a number of new designs waiting to be produced but again it’s a slow process saving the money to put them into production.

Hey Girl – Dishes I’d Rather Be Doing Tea Towel

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

Sometimes I get creative block, I never find myself short of ideas but I can’t always get those ideas out of my head into a reasonable looking design. If I’m really stuck on a piece I’ll usually put it a side and just focus on another design or admin. For me, at least, there’s no point forcing it. Usually just leaving it for a day or two fixes the problem.

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

I have no typical day and that’s one of the things I love most about working for myself. If you’re a one person business you do it all; meetings, packaging, designing, accounts, admin. Everyday is pretty different.

Skills to Pay the Bills Tee

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

It’s hard to explain but really it’s down to doing work that captures peoples imagination in some way. I don’t really do any marketing as such, on the whole I just put things online and then people somehow find them and share them. I love word of mouth advertising and only market this way.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Work hard, be nice.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I don’t know, I’m not a goal setter, I’m more of a ‘let’s see where this crazy ride will take me’ kind of a girl.

You can find more of Colleen’s work online:

In her online shop: Dear Colleen

In her Etsy shop: Dear Colleen

On her blog: Dear Colleen

On Facebook: Dear Colleen

Megan Eckman

Megan Eckman has written 146 posts in this blog.

Megan Eckman is a quirky pen and ink illustrator who never outgrew her overactive imagination. Her work merges the style of old fairy tale illustrations with modern fantasies. When she’s not drawing (and giggling all the while), she can be found pacing her apartment writing more stories to go with her artwork.

What say you?