Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am Monika, 26 old artisan living in Skopje. Some of the things I like the most are crafting, taking photographs, making videos, illustrating, learning new skills, visiting inspiring places, playing my ukulele (although I’m not really an ukulele virtuoso) and spending time with the people I love.
Why are you in business?
I’m in business simply because I want to make a living from my talents, dedication and dreams. I’m thankful that I can share my art with the world and beyond grateful that people are supporting it. We make each other happy, it’s a two-way street, and I think that’s one of the purest types of businesses there is.
What is your background? (education, work experience etc.)
I am an Italian language and literature graduate and a self-taught Crafty 😊. I started my first small creative business in the year 2013 with my friend Mihaela. Our little online shop was called Doppio M, and It lasted for two wonderful years. I started my second online shop Pocket Gallery with the help of my friend Viktor in the year 2015, but now I am the only owner and artist there. I was a moderator of a creative workshop for kids that took a part of the Giffoni Film Festival in Skopje. I was also a temporary arts and crafts teacher in an educational center for kids. I am a freelance photographer and at the moment I’m exploring the field of digital illustrating.
Can you provide me with a description of your business?
The name of my brand is Pocket Gallery. For now, Pocket Gallery is an online platform where I publish my handmade jewelry. I work with polymer clay as my main material. My jewelry is simple yet modern, I use pastel and calm tones and I am often experimenting with different shapes. Every item from my shop is unique, slowly crafted and delicately packed. At the moment I create and sell my products locally, but I would love to expand the business further in the near future.
How long have you been in business? In this business? In other businesses?
I am in this/similar type of business for 7 years now.
What type of business form do you have, sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation?
At the moment I am an individual artist and owner of my small local business.
What are the advantages of this form of business ownership?
I would say the (almost) complete freedom which I truly enjoy. However, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. As an individual owner I have different tasks: I am the designer, the maker, the photographer, I pack every order, I run to the post office, most of the time I am the postman, I manage the e-mails, update my Facebook and Instagram account, I try to keep in touch with organizations of art events or pop-up shops and bazaars where I can show my work, etc.
How did you get started in this business?
I started this particular shop with Viktor. Our first creations were tiny illustrations painted on really small canvasses. That’s why this shop is called Pocket Gallery (art that you can fit in your little pocket). After exploring different techniques and products, we started making and illustrating jewelry. Now I am the only member of Pocket Gallery and I make (and sometimes illustrate) only jewelry and that is my main focus for this shop.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I have always adored drawing, making small objects, designing, playing with paper, exploring different types of art, but I’ve never been formally taught any art skills. I was only 19/20 years old when I started publishing and selling my work. I entered this world without any strategy or “real” background as an artist. Along the way I learned so much, with a LOT of practice, dedication, exploring, experimenting and of course, mistakes.
How do the social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments impact your business?
Since starting my business I was aware that not everyone around me is going to be capable of seeing the importance of a handmade product, so when I publish my work I often try to bring the value of the handmade culture closer to the people. Living in a world of mass-production that lacks integrity, individuality and authenticity, it is often really difficult to explain to the society we live in why is important to invest their money in handcrafted products, because at the same time everyone can invest in a cheaper purchase. I sometimes kind of understand that, living here where I live, in a place where unfortunately not everyone can allow themselves to invest in a high-quality handcrafted item. Here, in my country, there is a lack of financial (or even moral) support for the culture and the arts, so I can say that this is not the perfect environment for me or for the other creative people (and there are many of them!) to make art or start a creative business. That’s why I am always sincerely grateful to the individuals or small organizations that in some way are supporting this very important branch. As for the technology, I am really grateful about it, because right now it’s the only way of connecting my products with the potential buyers.
Do you know who your competitors are?
I wouldn’t call them competitors because every one of us is putting their own heart, soul and imagination into the creations we make, and those are things that you cannot compare or compete with. I have enormous respect for our local makers and I always support them and recommend them to other people. For example, when I need to buy a present for someone, the first thing I do is check the products that our local creatives have to offer. I believe that supporting this community is very important and this is just one small way to contribute to its continuous growth and further development.
How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?
For now, I only have my Facebook and Instagram accounts where I am very active and I post every update, event, sale, etc.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
My dream is to open my own little store where I can sell my work (not only my jewelry, but also the new projects I’m working on) and the work of other local artists.
Do you plan to compete in the global market place? If yes, how? If no, why not?
Yes, definitely. I would love to sell my work worldwide. My plan is to create an online store where I can publish my work for the global market. It’s challenging and I know that it’s not going to be easy, but I have to try it.
How has technology, such as computers and the internet, impacted on how you conduct business?
As I said earlier, I am truly grateful for the easy access to technology and social media in particular nowadays. If it wasn’t for Facebook or Instagram it would be really difficult for me to share my work, especially now, when I don’t have a “real” store. It also helps me to boost my creativity and motivation since I can follow different artists and their work. It helps me to learn new and modern ways for maintaining a small business.
Whom do you seek advice from for your business?
When I need some help or advice I know that I can count on other craftsman that I know personally here where I live. Also, I “follow” a lot of artists from different countries that very often share their experiences, that is really helpful. It is a wonderful community.
What do you do with your profits?
I invest them in things/experiences that I enjoy.
Do you have a business plan to operate your business?
For now, not really. But for the bigger projects my plan is to consult with people who know how to develop business plans.
Does your business have a stated mission statement, the reason that this business exists?
My mission is to create, to leave something behind me that other people will enjoy and appreciate.
Do you have employees? How many?
No, I don’t have any employees beside myself for now.
Do you do marketing for your business?
I always try different and creative ways of marketing through videos, illustration, photographs and sometimes I “boost” my posts or my social media pages.
Can you describe your customers?
There is a whole spectrum of customers, and that is one of the most challenging things about this kind of work. I need to have the right approach to every individual. There are people that admire craftmanship, lovers of art, but there are also people who don’t know much or don’t have any interest about this profession, but they are always very curious and have different questions about the process of making the piece, the material, or something else. I always enjoy those questions!
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
I think that they can sense my passion and my will to make them happy thanks to the things that I post daily, and of course, thanks to the online communication that we have.
Are there any ethical concerns that your type of business must deal with?
I think that maintaining and supporting this type of business is the true rebellion against the non-ethical and socially un-responsible giant companies. When buying a product, we rarely see the background of that product: How was that product made? In which conditions? Are the workers going to be paid fairly for their labor? We have to think of these things. That’s why I LOVE supporting small/family/individual businesses. Because it’s the right thing to do. The other concern is the environment. Are these products in our shopping cart harmful for the environment? Personally, in the future I would love to explore different kinds of materials and replace the plastic bags for my products, or even the basic material of my jewelry. I would love to own a business with positive impact on the world.
What is your management style?
I try to take it easy, to enjoy it. “Joy over perfection”. I take my time and I don’t pressure myself . I’m very attentive with the needs of my customers, but I also pay attention to my own well-being and try not to be unnecessarily overwhelmed by the work load.
What are the biggest issues for running this business?
People not taking it seriously enough.
If something happens to you, what will happen to your business?
I’m just going to be satisfied with the things that I managed to create and share out there.
What did you learn from this interview?
Every once in a while, something or someone reminds me how much I love what I do, and this interview was one of those reminders. So, thank you, Belkis, for reminding me once again that I have so much passion for what I do!