Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from Lily Piyathaisere of Gamma Folk. Lily began her creative career path in the graphic design world and slowly segued her passion for jewelry-making into her full-time business. She has been creating and evolving her jewelry line for the past three years and currently sells her pieces in stores around the world. Today she shares a bit about how she started down her creative path and some points of advice for those looking to launch their own businesses. Thanks for giving a glimpse into your career journey, Lily! —Stephanie
Photos by Christine Han
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Before getting into jewelry, I started my career as a graphic designer working for various design studios and a few notable clients. I loved it, but I had a hard time committing to one full time job. I stayed freelance because it meant that I had control over my career and could make the time to work on my jewelry. I saw it as empowering to be able to build a meaningful life pursuing interests outside of graphic design.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
The definition of my business has evolved over time, but what has remained consistent is my desire to learn new skills and expand my knowledge of the textile arts. Gamma Folk began with making cross stitched jewelry and has evolved into incorporating natural dyeing, coiling, weaving and other techniques. Its inevitable that it will keep transforming since this journey is still pretty new to me.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
When starting out, keep a day job to have a financial cushion while your business grows. This allows you to make decisions that are good for your business rather than out of financial desperation. Also to keep at it and be patient.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
Learning how to wear many hats, outside of the creative. The PR person, project manager, material sourcer, accountant, logistics engineer (post office runner) and life coach (to myself).
Also getting past my own self doubt. Can I really do this? Is what I’m doing worthwhile? Will my jewelry be well-received? The list goes on and on.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
My lessons so far:
1) Learning to say no–it can be liberating and makes way for things that are fulfilling.
2) Asking for help is okay–I’m in a new industry so asking for advice and/or help isn’t showing weakness, its being resourceful.
3) Don’t take things too personally–I do my best work possible and hope if the work is indeed good, people will see that. But that’s not always the case. There’s lots of things that are out of my control and the marketplace can be so unpredictable.
4) Be thorough-whether that’s double checking an invoice or following up on an email, it shows professionalism when things are on point.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
Trying to please everyone and as a result, overextending myself. It starts by agreeing to too many projects and then underestimating the time it takes. I make everything myself, but I’m no machine so the time things take make can fluctuate. I don’t intend to mislead by overpromising, but what matters is that I’ve delivered the products on time, when I said I would. But I’ve learned from this and am better at estimating my time.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
I’m so happy to be my own boss and make a living doing it. I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs and have supported myself since college so I don’t take these freedoms for granted. And that right now while my jewelry business grows, I still have freelance graphic design work to keep my head above water.
What business books/resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of your own?
Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco, and also with Rena Tom–I recently took an online course with her and she is a wealth of knowledge. I also recommend becoming part of the Freelancers Union. They help you navigate the fine print of being self employed. Also a great resource to have is the Textile Arts Center, it’s where I’ve learned a lot of my skills.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
Are you flexible and resilient enough to handle all the ups, downs and missteps that will come your way?
Are you willing to put in the time it takes? Doing what you love is hard work and long hours.
Do you have a support network? The moral support of friends, family, mentors and colleagues goes a long way.