Faheema Chaudhury Built Unicorn Crafts To Create And Inspire
Faheema Chaudhury started Unicorn Crafts to inspire people and remind them to tend their inner kid-at-heart. Her online story features a variety of products, from jewelry to watercolors and from planters and pots to stationery. All of the designs spring from Faheema's creative energy and her hope is that when customers wear her designs, they feel like their authentic self. Listen in to hear why she started up her own brand and what's next for her business.
Below is an edited transcript from our conversation with Faheema.
00:00:00 Andrew Matranga, StickerGiant: Welcome back to Stickers on the Mic. This is Andrew with you once again, very excited to be dialing in Faheema Chaudhury from the LA area and Unicorn Crafts. That’s your brand, right?
00:00:32 Faheema Chaudhury, Unicorn Crafts: Yes, it is, hello.
00:00:34 Andrew: Tell us more about Unicorn Crafts and how it all came to be.
00:00:39 Faheema: Sure. Unicorn Crafts has a sad origin story, but I promise it has a happy ending. It started in 2010. My mom had just passed away from ovarian cancer. I was working in the Bay Area at art studio that I loved. I was running a photography studio and when she got sick, I moved back home, quit my job. She ended up passing away, two months into me being back home.
I was just like, “What am I going to do with my life? I don’t want to just go out there and find another job.” Going back to the Bay Area was not an option just because my dad is older and had to be here to take care of him. I was just looking for a day to really just cope with the death. Art has always been a very pivotal character in my entire life.
I turned to art for some healing. I was just like, “What can I do that I haven’t already done?” I found jewelry making. I was researching that ended up opening an Etsy shop a few months later, did my first trapped show, got a wholesale order, had no idea what that was about. I was just like, “I think I can make a business out of this.” Here we are.,10 years later, I have grown a lot since my first days of doing craft shows, flying by the seat of my pants till today.
00:01:56 Andrew: That’s awesome. That’s not awesome, like you said, it’s a sad origin. You’re always striving for the happy ending, which is pretty obvious from your social. As we were chatting before happily ever after and all the Disney stuff you do it’s a big motif. [laughs] When you’re in Southern California, that’s home base.
You’re at Unicorn Crafts on Instagram and that’s where we connected. That’s where our story came to be. Your unicorncraftsart.com. You’ve got, of course this beautiful unicorn, talk a little bit about, we’re big fans of unicorns in our house and sticker--
00:02:40 Faheema: Oh, lovely.
00:02:41 Andrew: Oh, yes, there’s so many unicorns in our business, people who print with unicorn designs. Why Unicorn Crafts like the name and then talk a little bit about coming up with the logo.
00:02:52 Faheema: Unicorn Crafts came from just my love of obviously unicorns and all things cute and fantastical and just magical. If you were to talk to me, maybe like 10, 15, little Faheema, baby Faheema, she’d be like, “Yes, I love mermaids. I love unicorns. I love fairies. I love magic.” Unicorn across really just recreates that childhood, feeling that childhood nostalgia into people of all ages. You don’t just need to be a child to appreciate Unicorn Crafts.
I have clientele from two to 50, 60, 70-year-old and older. I always tell people, “If you’re a kid at heart and you are not taking yourself too seriously and you love color and you love fun designs, then Unicorn Crafts is for you. That’s how the name came about. The logo was inspired by the Sanrio unicorn, that little twin stars have. That was my starting point. Because I really love the Sanrio like clean design. I was just like, “I really like this.” It was all very clean vector designs at the beginning.
The logo unicorn is called Unicorn Friend. I like to keep it open-ended about unicorn friend. You could take unicorn friend and make him, or her or them, whatever character that you want to, you can put your own story into that character. It’s not just like, “Here is X, Y, and Z of this character’s backstory.” It’s like, “No, it’s a very, open-ended very free.” Just like the brand, however you want to take it, and how it represent you and your style.
00:04:35 Andrew: Nice. Speaking of style, you have all kinds of different styles of products. We met because of a sticker, a connection which was awesome. You have a pretty wide range it would seem.
00:04:51 Faheema: I do. When I first started Unicorn Crafts, it was very crafty, hence the name Unicorn Crafts. I was doing things like button jewelry, and then I started making shrink eating jewelry. If you don’t know what that is, which I didn’t at the time, it’s a bakeable, shrinkable plastic that I put my art on.
I was drawing out my designs, coloring it, cutting it out, baking it in the oven, believe it or not. It shrinks to about 50% of its original size and then creating wearable pieces from there. About maybe five to six years ago, I started manufacturing an enamel pins and an enamel earrings. Because of the pandemic, I’ve taken a step back from manufacturing and gone back to handmade items. I’ve been deep diving into the world of polymer clay, so I’ve been doing a lot of handmade jewelry, a lot of handmade trinket dishes.
Recently I’ve been starting to paint trinket dishes as well as planters and pots because everyone, of course, adopted plant babies over the pandemic. I was just like, “You know what, there needs to be more cute aesthetics into that whole world too.” I’m quietly infiltrating that space as well. [laughs]
00:06:11 Andrew: What I was going to say was, you said you pivoted your thinking a little bit and you introduced the masks that wasn’t a product to year and a half ago. Just wasn’t a thing like nobody cared about having candy corn mask chains, for instance. [crosstalk]
00:06:32 Faheema: Here we are. [laughs]
00:06:32 Andrew: With all that though, like you say, the evolution of your product line even original watercolor paintings, for instance, again, that range is wide. What’s your favorite of all the stuff you’ve been doing lately?
00:06:53 Faheema: I really love making things with my hands. Definitely the polymer play pieces that I’ve been doing have been so much fun. Because not only am I making an end product, that’s a wearable, but just to see the evolution of it from being like a piece of clay to then a wearable piece of art has been so fun. Just learning these processes and just watching endless amounts of TikTok videos, and YouTube tutorials to learn all these new techniques from this one medium it’s been really fun.
I also really just like you mentioned the original watercolor paintings, I love showing that side of my artistic side as well to people. Because they might not really connect the dots of seeing an end piece and tracing it back to be like, “You’re the artist that made this.” Because a lot of people don’t have that mentality to make that connection unless you’re in the creative entrepreneurial business.
They see, say, an enamel pin or a pair of earrings, and they just think it’s an end product without really thinking like, “Oh, you’re the artist that made the sketch that then finalize the sketch that then sent it to a manufacturer that made your product.” It’s not like I’m just buying the stuff off of Alibaba or Etsy or whatever reselling it. I’m in charge of it 100%. It’s really hard for people to make that connection.
When I do present them with original artwork and my behind the scenes sketches and things like that, I’m trying to close that gap with like, “I’m the actual artists. You might know an artist as being someone who can draw or paint or do digital art, yes, that’s me too.” I do that in addition to everything else that you see. Because my roots are definitely in animation.
I’ve always wanted to work in animation character design background design, of course, wanting to work at Disney is like always everyone’s big goal. If you want to work in animation, growing up, watching these Disney films, cartoons, Tom and Jerry and all that stuff too. I’m just like, “I want to do that. I want to create that type of happiness that I experienced.” I feel I still do want to do that. I’m working on my portfolio to get my foot in the door in the animation business. I’m also bringing that feeling into my own brand.
00:09:09 Andrew: Totally. It’s hard to grab the center of gravity when you live in Southern California, just an entertainment, but then Disney has a pretty big role in that. Folks who listen to show all the time, know that I’m a big Star Wars geek. We had a Disney artist, not a Disney artist, but someone doing Disney products like yourselves, what you’re doing there. There’s a big segment of people who do creative work around the Disney characters. You have a few of those things, how is that part of your business, I guess?
00:09:49 Faheema: I definitely do fan art, but it’s to a degree that’s not--.
00:09:52 Andrew: Fan art, there we go.
00:09:54 Faheema: Yes. [laughs] That’s the official term Fan art, but I feel like Fan art has a bad taste to it because people think like, “Oh, Fan art, you’re taking somebody else’s IP and just recreating X, Y and Z.”
Yes, that is true with me personally, when I do Fan art, I don’t take those recognizable characters like Aladdin or Jasmine or the princesses or the main characters. I like to focus on the background details, tertiary characters, secondary characters, and shine the spotlight on those things. Things that are like Easter eggs that you would maybe just gloss over when watching the film or seeing in the parks. For example, I have this whole Alice in Wonderland collection that really focuses in on the flowers, the bread and butterfly, the pencil bird. [unintelligible 00:10:48] of all these characters, I’ve got enamel pins and enamel earrings.
I don’t have Alice. I don’t have the White Rabbit. I don’t have Cheshire Cat, but I have all these little background details that I love and I like to focus on. With my brand, I’d like to make what I personally love.
You’ll never see me just cashing out and being like, “Oh, that’s a popular character. Let me go ahead and draw it in my style and resell it because I know it’s going to sell out.” It’s more like, “Oh, what do I personally love and how can I put my own spin on this?” Not just be like, “Here,” something you can find in the park and in my shop, it’s like, “You have to come to my shop to get these really subtle nods to Disney.” Even in my Disney designs, I thought a mint julep pin.
If you’re not familiar with mint juleps, you’re just going to think it’s a cocktail. There’s a very delicate, screen-printed detail like a hidden Mickey on there. It’s like if you know, you know. It’s like, if you’re in the club, you know what it’s about. [laughs]
00:11:46 Andrew: Yes, we’re going to have the mint juleps there.
00:11:49 Faheema: Oh, at the Mint Julep Cafe at the French market in New Orleans Square. Ask me all the Disney facts. [laughs] [crosstalk]
00:11:58 Andrew: No, that’s in Frontierland or whatever, right?
00:12:02 Faheema: It’s in New Orleans Square, if we’re getting technical. [laughs]
00:12:07 Andrew: We are getting technical. Like we said that Disney shows a whole another story. You mentioned TikTok though. I want to come back to that really quick, because that’s been for about three years. I was actually reading an article yesterday about Lil Nas X and how he was still considered one of the first major viral TikTok micro platform crossover success stories. That was three, four years ago now, and yet it’s still the up and coming thing.
You mentioned that and I wanted to circle back to that, because like I said a lot of businesses are using that as a tool. I was just doing some little homework on it too last night, because I was like, “When did TikTok elevate in a way.” The story about Lil Nas X and how he created a lot of content, it was one of the first micro platform crossover stars. How have you been?
You said you were learning a lot from that. Are you also trying to reach out and engage that, to sort of consumption and then the creation side? How are you juggling these platforms? Instagram and Tiktok are probably the best drivers for businesses like yourself, because it’s so visual and colorful. Again, it’s @unicorncrafts, folks.
Your Instagram is just blowing up with pink and purples, [unintelligible 00:13:51]. You know what I mean? That’s what you do. How do you both differentiate, but then also find a way to make it efficient for you to create content like that? Does that make sense?
00:14:04 Faheema: Yes, definitely. I’m definitely a student of the University of TikTok. I have learned so much from it, not just cooking and housing, things like housekeeping things, but also, you have to curate your own algorithms. I make sure to watch videos when I’m interested in learning about polymer clay, about polymer clay techniques, and things about painting pots. I consume that type of content. I also, put out content.
It wasn’t until fairly recently, that I got serious about putting out content as well as consuming it. Because I have seen that it has helped a lot of small creatives grow their business, get more eyeballs to them, grow their Instagram account. I definitely still very much use Instagram. It is my main platform of trying to get eyeballs and making my announcements about shop updates, events that I’m having.
Also, I’ve noticed that TikTok is a very fun way to just show another side of you that’s not so curated. We all know Instagram is highly curated and it’s done that way purposefully, because it is a visual platform. Because we’re moving towards this small, the short-form video content now. We have to learn how to use it.
I’m still very much learning. Like yesterday I spent all day researching TikTok’s, figuring out what type of content I want to make and put out, because yes, I have made some content already. I’d say in the last month I’ve taken it really seriously where I’m posting. At least once a week I’m going a week ahead of time, making that content, writing all the captions and hashtags and having it ready to go as opposed to just posting on the fly. Because I feel if you don’t schedule that ahead of time, it gets very overwhelming.
I’m doing that for both of my brands, my personal brand, which is Hello Faheema and then my business brand, which is Unicorn Crafts. I’m making two different kinds of contents, but also, making it so it correlates with my Instagram feeds. I’m also like doing reels. I’m basically a content manager for four brands. It’s two brands on TikTok, two brands on Instagram.
00:16:20 Andrew: I was about to say the two, the personal brand thing is really hard, just because you’re I don’t know-- I struggle with this. As someone who like has the brand for sticker giant and then my name is my name. I have a presence online and do things and you’re really trying to commodify and monetize that. That’s, I can imagine is really exhausting.
00:16:45 Faheema: It is. [crosstalk]
00:16:47 Andrew: There’s a tone. What did you say?
00:16:51 Faheema: I make sure to take two days off during the week. I don’t post on the weekends, those are my days off where I don’t need to worry about it. Also, if you’re not constantly feeding into TikTok and Instagram algorithm, they’re sort of like, “Oh, you don’t care about us? Cool, we’re going to not show your stuff to everyone.”
00:17:09 Andrew: No, it’s natural. We’re constantly monitoring that stuff ourselves, as are a lot of people who listen to the show and people who working online. I’ve already called out your websites, we’ve done a little deep dive into that. With these promotions, are you running any ads or anything like that too?
00:17:32 Faheema: No. I don’t run any ads, it’s all just my own user-generated stuff. My followers will repost things, I’m constantly reminding them week out that I have an event, which you would think it would get boring to see the same information over and over presented in different ways. You don’t realize that less than half of your followers are actually seeing yourself the first time, the second time, the third time. Maybe on the fourth or fifth time, they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know about that. Let me jot that down so I can attend that event or know about this sale.”
I had a pop-up event on Saturday, and the week I was just like, “Okay, here’s your reminder, I’m just going to constantly keep doing this.” Because it’s just how the social platforms work now. If you want people to see your stuff, you have to put yourself out there. It’s no longer a passive thing where you’re just like, “I’m just going to post this static thing and people are going to flock to my event or my site.” You have to put in a lot more work now.
00:18:33 Andrew: You’ve got in person coming back. That must be a nice lift if you’re able to get back in front of people. With the last year being what it was with a lot of quarantine, what did you see as a small business owner?
00:18:54 Faheema: Besides the initial freak-out and just panic that sets in where you’re just like, because I do a lot of in person conventions and shows and it was within one fell swoop, it was just gone. Once WonderCon decided that they’re not doing their live shows, it was just a domino effect after that. It was just like, “Okay, my entire years-worth of income has just gone. What am I going to do?”
I had to pivot within literally hours of hearing all that news and just being like, “Okay, how am I going to do this? How am I going to make this work?” Before I got on to TikTok I was just on Instagram, and I was just like, “Okay, I’m going to start having Instagram live sales.” Basically, a mini online convention before that became a thing.
I would just advertise it to my followers and just be like, “Okay, on Tuesdays, at this time, join me on my live and I’m going to have these items available.” People would claim them. There would be maybe five of this certain enamel pin and three of these certain earrings. The first five comments your handle in the comment section, you get to claim the item.
Then I would have to manually send them the invoice and then make sure to follow up if they haven’t sent their payment and then ship out their items. It was a lot more steps for me on the backend, but that’s how I had to do it, and then I found a Pop-up Shop live through a friend, which is basically like a QVC platform.
00:20:24 Andrew: Yes.
00:20:25 Faheema: I was using that as a way to do online events, where they took care of a lot of the invoicing stuff on their backend because it’s built into the platform, they do take a commission. You’re giving up something to get something, and then when shows started doing their online events, like DesignerCon and Enamel Market and WonderCon were doing they’re @Home versions of their show, that’s definitely been helpful, because they’re already have their built-in audience that’s coming to this event.
It was a lot less work on my end. I just had to show up with my product and my bright personality, and just be like, “Here, buy my stuff,” and that worked out. [laughs]
00:21:04 Andrew: Just to follow up, the one thing was Comic-Con which is huge, of course, in San Diego puts on WonderCon and then they did it @Home this past year, but I presume they’ll be back in person in 2022. Did you do the @Home event so to speak or?
00:21:25 Faheema: I did do the @Home event and that’s what I mean, because the audience has built-in and they know what to expect. You’re just there with your stuff ready to go and just let people take their time to make those purchases, it’s supportive.
00:21:39 Andrew: Did it work? [crosstalk]
00:21:41 Faheema: It did work. Anything that keeps me from schlepping, my products from show to show from city to city, I’m all about. [laughs]
00:21:54 Andrew: Interesting, because I mean, so you said like a really high touch thing and it’s good for you, so real quick we’re going to have to wrap this up. It looks like I got somebody else dialing in here. I’m going to do a pause real quick and I’ll tell this person I’m going to call back. “Hey, there, can I give you a call back real quick?” We don’t have this person live yet. I’m going to put them in a waiting room. I can do that. That’s right. We live in the year 2021.
It’s all good. I’m pretty stacked up on the sentence. This happens all the time and I like to talk and I like to run along. [crosstalk]
00:22:29 Faheema: How do you do it? [laughs]
00:22:30 Andrew: That’s a good natural stopping point from the-- you said it worked. My last question was-- here let’s pause again because I can just cut all this super easy. Last question, if you could have told, you said little Faheema, but how about early stage entrepreneur Faheema, 10 years ago, what would you say to her now that all the things you’ve learned?
00:22:58 Faheema: I would tell her that she’s an amazing artist and that everyone loves her work for what it is and she shouldn’t compare herself to the things going on around her, all the noise from the outside world. Because putting your stuff out there on social media, obviously, you’re going to compare it to other people and that is, I think, an artist’s downfall.
Also, I would tell her that she’s doing what she loves and people are responding really well to it. I know that she hates doing taxes, so if she could put a little bit aside every month to hire an accountant and hire a bookkeeper, that is something she would definitely appreciate. [laughs]
00:23:41 Andrew: Did you do that? Have you done that?
00:23:44 Faheema: I actually just applied for a grant it’s for South Asian women business owners, and that was my reasoning for them, because they’re like, “Tell us what you’re going to do with this money if you get it.” I was like, “I’m going to create more jobs for people by hiring them to be my bookkeepers and my accountant, so please give me this grant.” [laughs]
00:24:02 Andrew: Oh, man, I love that. Good luck with that. You know what I mean?
00:24:05 Faheema: Thank you.
00:24:05 Andrew: We’ll follow-up on that and see how that goes, because that could change your life. Yes, delegate to elevate as what we say at stickergiant through our business philosophy, we run called Traction.
00:24:17 Faheema: Oh, I love that.
00:24:17 Andrew: It’s from a book called Traction which is how we run our business right now along with Open-book Management. Those are both great business books as you grow your business to figure out how to manage people and all that stuff. Good luck with that, and thanks again, for engaging with us on Instagram that amazing video. Folks, Faheema tags us and does this amazing little video and we had like this, we all had this moment. We shared it through our company Slack, and everyone’s like, we’re like, “See it works.” If we put in that extra step and people see that we have delight in our jobs, they’ll have delight for the customers and that was really something.
00:24:52 Faheema: Absolutely. It made me so giddy to get that box. I was just like, “Ah, he took element from my sticker and put it on the box,” like little things like that just brighten your day.
00:25:05 Andrew: Yes, totally. Thank you for that engagement and that goes for all of you out there engage with us, send us a note. Find @unicorncrafts on Instagram, there’s a link tree there with all the other links. The TikTok is unicorncrafts_ and the website is unicorncraftsart.com. Faheema, thank you so much for joining us and good luck this year with all the things as world opens up and you’re able to keep meeting and greeting people and showing them what you’re all about.
00:25:32 Faheema: Ye-hey, thank you so much.
00:25:33 Andrew: Folks, every sticker has a story. This one, we started with a little-- a tough story that has a happy ending, at least for the end of this episode, running on a high note and the stickers are, of course, this theme that really fits in with the Unicorn Crafts brand. There’s a lot of different options out there and we happened to print a few of them for her. We encourage you all to go check that out. As always, it’s a pleasure to be here and we will see you next time.
[00:26:39] [END OF AUDIO]