There’s something about cartoons that still appeals to all adults. Most of us may be done watching Saturday morning Nickelodeon, but ask anyone and they had at least one favorite cartoon character growing up. Retail brands are taking notice and joining the nostalgic trend, making references to Disney, anime, even video game characters in their products and collections. It’s become a prevalent fad year after year.
TomaToda is no different. Owner Emily Jang’s love for these “kawaii” (Japanese word for “cute”) characters gives her inspiration in crafting her handmade accessories. Her online shop is on the rise with this unique fashion trend. But what does make Emily different is her ability to “keep it real” as a young business owner.
It Starts With a Support System
Though her affinity for crafting came at an early age, making miniature clothes and jewelry for Happy Meal toys and action figures, there were still a couple of detours before she started TomaToda.
Emily Jang, Founder of TomaToda
Emily went through different jobs in food service throughout college, learned customer service through waitressing and managing her mother’s Etsy shop, and even lived in Korea for a few years. During all this, she kept sculpting and making accessories, while everyone she knew was trying to convince her to open an online shop.
“It has always been a dream to sell my handmade goods, and everyone’s been really encouraging and supportive. Back in college, my best friend would joke that she’s been waiting for emily.com to open.”
Even her husband, who created the brand’s endearingly deadpan tomato mascot, persuaded her to start the business while depending solely on his income.
After working as a freelance English tutor for 3 years, she decided to give her dream a shot and returned to the United States.
Rolling With the Punches
A quick scroll through TomaToda’s feed shows no room for subtle, dainty jewelry. Statement pieces that range from miniature ice cream pendants, galactical hair ties and Super Mario candy key chains evoke a futuristic yet ‘90s aesthetic.
Though her products are colorful and fun, Emily says that isn’t always the case when it comes to making them. Her biggest challenge was the learning curve with tricky mediums like resin. “I would literally break down and cry because it was so frustrating. I did keep practicing and eventually overcame it.”
Though practice does make perfect, she would still come across design complications in the middle of rendering a piece. But improvisation is part of the process.Not everything will go according to plan, so I have to adapt quickly. As a result, I end up with something completely different, but still satisfying. @EmilyJang Click To Tweet
Emily’s experience across various industries has taught her not to worry about the money. “I earned a lot in Korea, but the work just drained me. I like money, but I’d rather be happy and have free will.” Which is also why TomaToda doesn’t take custom orders.
Her business also allows her to stay true to herself. Compared to the carefully curated messages many businesses share online, she doesn’t mind talking about the good and the bad.
“I let people know when I’m having a mood. I make jokes, share meaningless content for laughs. My millennial audience understands this, and they enjoy it! Because I’m myself, I get a lot of customers who are like me and it’s easier to communicate and become friends.”
Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground
She has practical advice for anyone who wants to start a business: Budget properly, do a lot of research on the business and learn basic customer service. But most of all, be pragmatic. “Make sure not only you, but other people believe you have the skills to run your own business.”
Despite her firm grip on reality, Emily has big dreams for TomaToda. She just started attending conventions in nearby areas and her goal is to keep doing more across the US.
Business Cards They’ll Keep
UPrinting had already produced stickers for TomaToda. After an unsatisfactory experience with another company for business cards, Emily turned to us again for help.
“I designed new cards and decided to use UPrinting because of the great experience I had with them before. I was not disappointed! They came out precise, bright, and perfect!”I decided to use UPrinting because of the great experience I had with them before. I was not disappointed! They came out precise, bright, and perfect! @EmilyJang Click To Tweet
Her accessories aren’t the only ones getting noticed in trade shows. Because she chose square-shaped cards, they catch more attention than the standard business cards.
“I’ve been including cards with any orders and exchanging them with other artists and crafters. It’s helped me network a lot. They get a lot of comments about being cute. So even if people don’t buy anything, they will pick up a card. And personally, I like looking at them a lot.”
Do you have a UPrinting story to share? Email us at email@example.com
Nermae loves to travel and see the world–unless she’s in Manila working as a writer. Despite starting in non-profit, she now works in design and marketing and spends her time illustrating, reading children’s books, and looking up cat videos on the internet.