ALL THEY NEEDED WAS A LASER AND INSTAGRAM TO SELL THEIR GOODS
When the founders of ETCH met in architecture school, little did they know that they would be at the helm of a jewelry/homewares line in just a few short years later. It was during their 4th year in school that Zoe Ganch and Mallory Estopinal found themselves in Washington, D.C. attending a design consortium and inspired by none other than: a laser cutter. What started as a fun hobby making geometric jewelry for family and friends soon evolved into a full-fledged business. Inspired by the success of other Instagram boutiques, they decided to put the social media platform to the test, using the network to sell their goods directly to customers. And sell they have!
Read on to see why Zoe and Mallory of ETCH are Daring Creatives.
When did you decide to pursue your current career path?
We have always been more interested in product design and smaller scale design, even though we were studying traditional architecture. It kind of came as a natural expectation that we would end up pursuing an alternative design path, while still using the skills and experience from our architectural education.
How did you go from idea to execution?
The idea to execution actually happened just by a series of opportunities that we jumped on! The idea just dawned on us as we were both sitting in our living room scrolling through our instagram feeds and thinking “people are selling thrifted clothing on here, why can’t we sell original designs?” From there we just used the resources available to us to prototype designs, jewelry engineering, and test our products on the social media audience available to us! Still, at this point, it was just a hobby that we pursued while juggling classes and projects. It wasn’t until our good friend forwarded us an email from our university (that we had already sent to spam haha) about a business competition for start-ups at our university. We decided to go for it and apply as the first design company to compete in the competition. We ended up qualifying as finalists, flew to Louisiana to compete, and went home with second place and the audience choice award. This opportunity propelled us forward into pursuing it as more than just an Instagram hobby, but as a design brand with a fabrication studio, e-commerce website, and four design collections to date! During our first year, we took part in every opportunity that came to us. It was definitely a balancing act of managing the brand along with being full-time architecture students, but the work put in was worth every second.
By no means do we see ourselves as reached the point where we have a “success” story, as this roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship is ever-evolving! There’s always more to learn, and we’re constantly seeking the guidance of mentors and peers to help us improve our products, as well as our business model.
How does the city you live in influence your creativity?
Our first year as a legitimate company was spent in Louisiana, which was an valuable asset to us as we began to venture into the world of design, fashion, and entrepreneurship. There was a strong community of makers, designers, and visionaries which welcomed us into a network that supported and inspired us to keep creating. While in Louisiana, we participated in a number of local collaborations, markets, as well as New Orleans Fashion Week.
Upon graduation, we relocated to both Austin and New York City, both of which have already begun to push our brand and designs past our comfort zone. Being dual-based has been a challenge (but in a good way) allowing us to multiply our efforts in two time zones! Austin and New York each have distinct creative communities that have influenced our design thinking and strategy.
In your words, what does it mean to be a “creative”?
Being a creative moves beyond the notion of “designing” or “creating” things. It’s a thought process of continually critiquing your own work and discovering solutions to everyday problems. The creative process is the most powerful tool that designers, artists, and makers can have.
What is a misconception about the work that you do?
A lot of people don’t realize the process that goes into each of our collections. People are also taken back when they realize that we have our hands on every product that ships out. From design, to prototyping, to laser cutting, sanding and assembling each product, we do it all!
What is the most rewarding part of being a creative?
By far, the most rewarding part of being a creative would be the connections we’ve made with other designers and creatives who are pursuing their own ideas. It’s allowed us to network, make some of our best friends, and collaborate on creative projects while pushing each other along the way.
What is a tip/trick/habit that do you do to get through your day?
COFFEE. Enough said.
Also Google Calendar/Drive rules our lives. Organization is key for us, especially with the two of us running different aspects of the business. Strong communication is vital and the internet allows us to do that while operating our brand from two different time zones!
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue the same career as you?
Don’t stress about the calculated things in your life: GPA, degree, etc. Those have definitely played integral parts in our careers, but the true preparation is to network like crazy and jump onto opportunities as they come! Pursue ideas, don’t just dwell on them. Engage with like-minded individuals who share similar dreams, visions, and creative goals. Surround yourself with the people you’d like to become.
What has been the pit and peak of your week so far? (a low and a high moment)
The peak has definitely been the surprise release of our new mini-winter collection! It was a fast and furious goal of ours to design, prototype, and fabricate new pieces, all while preparing for the madness of Black Friday.
The pit of our week has probably been the loss of our social life! Haha. Skipping out on happy hour or brunch is a sacrifice we have to make as small-business owners especially during the holiday season, but come December 31st, you can bet that we will be celebrating the closing of another tough, but rewarding year!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Always accept criticism as a means of improving your work. Design is a process that should always evolve and never remain stagnant.
Finish this sentence:
In 25 years we see ourselves: designing products in a fun, modern studio amongst a team of rad makers and happy souls.
If we knew then what I know now, we would have: triggered our entrepreneurial curiosity during our freshman year when we first met! Had we known we’d make a strong design duo, we would have ditched our fears of failure and jumped into creative opportunities sooner.
We couldn’t live without our: our killer team who work so hard to help us with marketing, social, and production! Oh, and we couldn’t live without our computers. Technology rules us.
For more on ETCH, visit their website: www.shopetch.com