Q: What is Birdy27 Designs? Can you briefly describe your business for us?
A: The actual name of my company is ALA International and it is the home of Birdy27 Designs. Birdy27 Designs: Handmade & Graphics is one division of ALA INT. (Birdy27 Music will be the next division, I believe. I am also a vocalist and a songwriter.) I split Birdy27 Designs into two categories because my handmade items and my graphic designs for imprinting on tees, other apparel, mugs, stationery, etc. are so different. Birdy27 Designs began with slogans and graphics. About 8 years ago I started offering my designs on several large print-on-demand online marketplaces. Spreadshirt.com was the first. It focuses on t-shirts, hoodies, and other apparel. Zazzle.com gave me the opportunity to offer stationery as well as tees, so I started designing invitations, save-the-date cards, greeting and note cards, etc. Those sites are still money makers for me. I then created a line of super cute tees and one pieces for babies and began selling at a market on the upper west side. The tees were printed in India using my custom color combos and my designs and slogans. However, due to the high minimums required, that line ended. I continued selling kids' tees, but changed the model to blanks and silk screening.
Then something interesting happened. I started hearing about Etsy and, at that time, the focus on was handmade items and vintage. I had some experience with crafting. My grandmother knitted and crocheted and my mother is an extraordinary knitter and seamstress. She taught my older sister and I how to sew, knit, and crochet a bit. I continued sewing and used to make all of my own clothes. After relocating to NYC, I stopped all handmade activity and concentrated on performing and writing. So it was a huge surprise to me that I wanted to knit again. I debuted my hats and scarves in fall 2010, I think, and they sold well. After that, it was on! I soon added crocheted items to the mix and started creating my own designs.
The cornerstone of Birdy27 Designs Handmade is my line of chunky, funky, and fabulous yarn-based fashion accessories. I design, knit, and crochet chunky and uber chunky hats, ear warmers, cowls, neck warmers, and scarves. The response to these warm and cozy statement pieces has been a revelation! I search all over for quality yarn and am drawn to neutrals like charcoal gray, a light warm brown, and oatmeal. I also include pops of color like cranberry, purple, and heather green. Some pieces are unisex like my Sasha chunky skullies and some are utterly feminine like my biggest seller, the Tasha chunky slouch with a big coconut button and maxi flower. My designs are easy to wear--you can put them in your bag, grab them, put them on and be toasty while looking stylish and fab! They won't snag on every little thing and will last several seasons. I stand by my work and have had many satisfied customers.
Q: Some artisans develop their products to meet consumer needs, while others craft products based on things and/or experiences that inspire them. What is the inspiration behind your business?
A: Creativity is at the heart of everything I do! I know in my heart I was born to create. It doesn't matter if I'm acting, writing, singing, songwriting, playwriting, graphic designing, writing slogans, writing a comic strip, dancing, creating easy choreography for my music classes, knitting, crocheting or building my business. When I'm creating, I'm happy! Although I can't attribute my love of performing to anyone in my family, I credit my craftiness to my grandmother and especially my mother. Seeing my mom create such beautiful clothes and accessories for herself and her family really inspired me. I spent countless hours in fabric stores with her--when I wasn't at the tennis courts with my dad--and, well, I learned a lot. Even though I took a long break from sewing and knitting, I now realize that they were always with me. It's like nothing ever leaves you. It's always there, lurking, waiting to come out and bring you closer to who you truly are.
Q: Oftentimes, each artisan has a different strategy and objective for their business. What are the next steps for you and your business?
A: My business has changed so much since its inception and it continues to evolve. In addition to creating more fabric-based apparel and accessories, I'm designing clutches and bags that I'll debut this fall. I'm designing fabric and will begin offering it online at Spoonflower.com soon as well as adding it to my fabric pieces. Jewelry is next! I'm designing a line which I hope will be ready for the public in 2016.
Although the handmade arm took over and has been growing every year since, I still have love for the t-shirt and stationery biz and hope to offer more of those items in the near future. Eventually I plan to start a music, video, TV, and film production company. I'm working really hard and sacrificing a lot. I'm also realizing that fulfilling my dreams isn't always easy, but there's nothing more rewarding!
I want to build something for myself and my family, something that is uniquely me. I want it to support me, help me help others, and be a conduit for anything that I want to explore. My dream is to do everything I'm capable of doing and become financially independent in the process.
Q: Can you tell us some of the partners you have made? Retail stores where we can find your product?
A: Textures by Nfertiti in my hometown of Detroit has been carrying a selection of my hats and cowls during the colder months. A limited selection will be at Holly's Heart by Hand in Greenpoint, Brooklyn starting next month and I may be teaching some knit and crochet classes there. I'll also be on the local NYC craft market scene soon. Look for my schedule on Instagram (@birdy27designs), Facebook (@birdy27designs), and Twitter (@birdy27). By the way, the Birdy27 Designs newsletter is finally ready to go! It'll keep my old and new fans informed regarding where I'll be and where they can get their fabulous B27 gear!
Q: As many artisans look to grow and further develop their businesses, do you have some advice that you can share with fellow artisans?
A: Yes! Don't do what I did! LOL! Don't fool yourself into thinking anything other than following what's in your heart will do. Don't delay. When you identify what you love, start doing it as quickly as possible! Well, until the internet took off, it wasn't possible for the majority of indie artisans to build businesses on their own. But now that it IS possible and you know you have the passion and the talent, starting doing what you love and see where it takes you. During this journey, I've continued performing, I've done things I never dreamed of doing, and I've gone back to doing what my mama taught me. LOL! Although it's a lot of work, it's been pretty amazing. So get YOUR party started!
Special thanks to Alicia for sharing with us. You can find her products showcased on her Etsy shop at www.birdy27designs.etsy.com. And, details of her special product GIVEAWAY are below, as well as directions on how to enter!
Alicia is generously giving away her signature Lorey Chunky Ear Warmer with Coconut Button and Maxi Flower in charcoal gray and white. (Valued at $45!) This is one giveaway you do not want to miss, especially if you are looking for holiday presents...winning one of these might help you check off a friend or loved one!
Entry period ends at 11:59pm on Thursday, October 15th!