Jane Ragasa and Sergio Jauregui of plush toy company Janie XY create kids' plush toys in unusual shapes — from monkeys to turkey legs to bandaged hearts. Jane recently talked with IndieMade about why it's important for indie business owners to really love their craft, and shared tips on keeping her indie business organized.
What made you decide to launch a plush toy company? How did you get your start?
My dad is a patternmaker in the fashion industry, so I've always been surrounded by bolts of fabric and industrial sewing machines. I always wanted to sew, but never really shared the passion for clothing that my dad has. One year, my boyfriend/partner in crime, Sergio, and I were shopping for a classic toy that his newborn niece could grow up with, but all we found were licensed toys in stores, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and teach myself to sew by making toys.
What piece of advice would you give someone just starting a plush toy company?
Make sure you really enjoy the craft. It's easy to romanticize the idea of going into your perfectly designed studio and playing with toys all day, but we forget that if your business becomes a success, you'll be making hundreds of the same toy over and over again. It can get tedious and repetitive, so make sure that you're making a product that you don't mind producing every day, all day long.
And on that note, always keep production time in mind. Unless you're making one-of-a-kind toys, then you will (hopefully) be making tons of the same toy, so streamlining the process should always be kept in mind.
Besides your website, where do you sell your stuff?
I love to do shows like Renegade and Unique LA. It's a great way to reach a new market and get real-time feedback on what customers think of your product. Shows are always a gamble, though, because you never know what the crowd is going to be into that day—if they're even in the mood to buy. On the bright side, you're meeting so many people that you may be talking to a retail buyer or shop owner that will want to carry your line. That's how I got into the brick and mortar stores I'm in now.
Why did you decide to expand your indie business beyond Etsy?
Etsy is great because it comes with its own built-in community of people that stay loyal to buying handmade. But I really like knowing that when I refer my customers to my website, they'll only see my products. It just feels like having your own sit-down restaurant instead of selling in a food court with all the noise and distractions.
How are you promoting your business online?
I enjoy using Facebook to keep in touch with my "fans." It's a great way for customers to see pictures of my current projects, and it's so easy for them to contact me either on the timeline or through private messages. I also love Instagram. I'm a visual person, so I always pay more attention to images than just print. It's a faster way to get news across to my audience.
Why did you decide to try IndieMade? Do you have any tips for new users?
IndieMade has the most affordable pricing. For a super-small business like ours, every dollar counts and based on the features (including the extensive coupon options, IndieMade was definitely the best value and quality. I like how easy it is to customize the website and how clean it looks just as a template. I was also excited about the electronic file sale feature. I'm just imagining the possibilities!
I'm not really the person that reads directions before putting something together, but reading IndieMade's resource guide is a huge help! It's so easy to read and it gives great tips on things I would have overlooked.
What's on the horizon for you and your plush toy company?
One of my goals is to write my own DIY plush toy book. With the ability to sell electronic files, I can practice making more patterns that will be easy for readers to understand, and it's a great way to get more designs out that I can't produce at reasonable retail prices.
What question should I have asked, but didn’t?
What was the most difficult thing you had to deal with when starting your business? Getting organized. And I don't mean just paperwork, although that was a big part of it too. Learning to plan ahead with ordering supplies, figuring out production time, and prioritizing were big lessons for me. I'm still learning it, but now that I'm trying to be more organized, I'm finding that I stress much less than when I started producing toys for my first craft show.