Sisters Tiffany Handshoe Bachman and Leslie Handshoe Suter created 2010love as a way to encourage others to spread the love … this year and beyond. Read how their sideline gig generated some online buzz that’s helped their design studio, Handshoe Design Collaborative. See the Sidelines column featuring 2010love in HOW’s September/October issue.
Bachman: Handshoe Design Collaborative has been in the making for about five years now (at least in our heads)… but technically opened for business in November, 2009. We are located in two different offices, Morristown, NJ (Tiffany) and Greenville, OH (Leslie) and our expertise is in comprehensive brand development.
Suter: Our work truly is comprehensive, offering a wide range of capabilities that serve a broad variety of client types, so targeting a “work type” is pretty hard to do, and quite honestly, we like it that way. I think our varied work experience brings a lot of value to our clients in our approach to developing fresh solutions, no matter what industry we serve. We’ve been in the business of creating brands for almost 20 years now, which has given us the opportunity to create solutions for clients in nearly every industry. We’ve worked for large health care, financial, real estate, hospitality and resort clients, and we’ve helped smaller non-profits, industry associations, main street organizations and food-based businesses. We’ve created large, comprehensive brand strategies and developed smaller approaches that work for a small-business budget. No matter the size or scope, our goal is to always create not only strong, beautiful design, but a truly marketable brand that has the potential to become a business asset for our clients.
When we decided to join forces with Handshoe, a fundamental element of our business plan was pretty simple: Always enjoy our work. Part of making sure that happens is to work with clients and projects that are rooted in things we are passionate about and that support our beliefs. That’s really what the 2010love project is about as well. We’re dedicated to a conscious, sustainable way of life and business. The principles behind 2010love reflect what we’re all about.
What’s it like to work with your sister?
Bachman: Really, its just like growing up together. There are wonderful, fun sisterly moments where we fill in each other’s thoughts and sentences, and then there are insanely, ridiculous sisterly disagreements. However, we always end up where we need to be: supporting and inspiring each other. We have a near-coexistent brain when it comes to design aesthetic and our view on the world, but we approach tasks differently which takes some getting used to. Honestly though, I’ve always dreamed of working together and its an amazing privilege to be able to do so.
Suter: Having a sister who has the same career path as a designer is pretty rare in itself, but the fact that we share the same passions that drive our work is truly a unique gift. Even when we see things differently, it keeps everything channeled in the right direction. As individual designers, we bring different ideas and vision to the work. As sisters, our connection adds an element that is hard to match. When you’re “from the same stock,” there is an element there that is pretty difficult to reproduce in your typical creative team.
We see the power in the collaboration. I’m really excited to see what the future brings.
What sparked the 2010love idea in the first place? When did the project come to life?
Bachman: In all our dreaming and discussion of working together over the years, we have always expressed mutual interest in doing something good with our business, giving back in some way. So, in January 2010, soon after we launched Handshoe Design Collaborative, I began a small promotional project for a close friend. While sketching out ideas, I developed the 2010love mark and immediately felt like I had something bigger, with potential for growth. I quickly sent it to Leslie asking her, “Hey, do you think people would wear this on a T-shirt?” Her response was, “Yes!” We saw an immediate campaign that could inspire people to do what we had just decided to do: make a positive change starting in 2010. So we printed some shirts, did a photoshoot, launched a blog, set up an Etsy shop, twitter account and facebook page all within two weeks, and began talking about 2010love … a lot.
Suter: Yes, we had been talking for years about how to create a working environment as designers that would allow us to create work that really mattered — to us, and to the world. We’d tossed around ideas for a long time, then when Tiff came up with the mark, it was as if everything magically coalesced. All of our ideas suddenly had a face, and the potential for growth started to identify itself. Sometimes the best ideas happen organically. Serendipity is a good thing.
How did you source the T-shirts and get them printed? Did you do this on your own (as opposed to, say, going through Café Press)?
Bachman: We sourced and printed the shirts from a local business we’ve used before for small events. If we can work with small, local businesses, that is our preference. Our shirts are Anvil Organic. They are a socially and environmentally-conscious company who also offers a more affordable product.
Suter: Tiff and I grew up in a small town in rural Ohio. We know the importance of buying locally, and supporting small businesses. It is important to us in every part of our business.
When did you set up the Etsy shop, and how did you spread the word about it?
Bachman: Literally everything happened within two weeks, from the time the concept was developed. We wanted to launch by Feb. 1. As soon as we had the photoshoot complete (thanks to Leslie), we opened the Etsy shop. Along with social marketing efforts… the t-shirts themselves spread the word about 2010love… spurring conversation and inquiries.
Suter: The bulk of our visibility for our Etsy sales has been through fast and fierce social media marketing. We utilized Facebook and Twitter to get the word out and drive traffic.
What percentage (roughly) of your business income comes from the T-shirt sales?
Bachman: Honestly, very, very little if any. We’ll have to see what happens at the end of the year but most of our sales from the shirts pay back expenses for the shirts themselves and any additional advertising or start-up fees we’ve incurred. We also donate 10% of all sales to charity.
Suter: Even though our sales are not a huge source of revenue for us right now, the initial response from the sale of 2010love shirts has shown us the potential for an expanded product line. One simple idea has identified additional possibilities.
What kind of publicity or promotion has the 2010love project generated for Handshoe Design Collaborative? Have you seen new business come in through the 2010love blog, your Etsy shop or other word-of-mouth?
Bachman: 2010love has definitely gotten us noticed—more than we ever dreamed of. We have made personal connections with individuals around the world as well as with some more well-known people who have the power to really make a difference. We’ve had potential business opportunities pop up both in brand work and partnership with future products.
Suter: The visibility we’ve received from this project has been mind-blowing. In three months, we’ve had almost 700 people from 17 countries around the world start to follow us via Facebook. Individuals, companies, designers all seem to love the idea of spreading some love. We’ve been featured on several blogs, and will be featured in a magazine in Australia in June. The project has also started to attract interest from the kind of potential clients we wanted to work with. It’s helping us get a foot in some doors very quickly.
Why did you choose Slow Food USA as the project’s beneficiary?
Bachman: If you know Leslie and I, you know that food is a true passion of ours, whether its eating, cooking or growing it. We adore the process of creating a meal from scratch and even more, sharing it with friends and family. However, we are completely aware that the growth, production and consumption of our food today affects every facet of our existence on earth. Food needs help. People need food. If we can make some changes here, we can make some changes everywhere.
Suter: Sustainable, whole food matters to us. It was about the foundation of our business: Always enjoying our work, and working toward our passions.
What role has Etsy played, do you think, in opening opportunities for designers like you to make and sell their own goods?
Bachman: Let’s face it: Most creative folks: designers, artists, etc., want to create stuff way more than dealing with the logistics of starting up and running a business. Etsy provides and immediate storefront to sell and manage products with little hassle. In addition, it hosts an entire community of creative entrepreneurs to learn from and collaborate with. It allows designers/artists to get their work to the public fast and tweak their business along the way. This opens immediate opportunities that could normally take years.
Suter: I think Etsy is a great way for designers to offer a product without a large capital investment. It is an invaluable tool for test marketing a new product as well.
Any advice for another designer who wants to create their own product line, regardless of what kind of product it is?
Bachman: Keep it simple, be smart in your financial investment, and get the word out utilizing social media and technology. Before spending too much money on an extended line of product, we started with one idea we believed in and took the time to see what people thought about it. With social media outlets you can receive feedback much quicker than in the past. This is an invaluable tool to help indicate what steps to take next in your business. It also allows you to make fast connections with people that can help expand your business both visibly and financially.
Suter: There are so many ways to connect with potential consumers online right now to test market, gauge interest, and plan the launch of your brand accordingly. Take advantage of them—there’s no need to invest a big chunk of upfront capital if you have direct access to consumer desires. Start slowly and listen to your response. And, hinge your product line to your passions.
Do you have plans—either for the 2010love brand or for another project—beyond this year?
Bachman: Oh yes, lots of ideas and plans are in the works, the first extension to happen before the year is over.
Suter: This concept has opened so many doors of potential that we’re having a hard time keeping up with all of the possibilities. 2010love will definitely grow. And it has sparked ideas for new products and ventures as well, all hinged on the foundation of the way we like to live and work: By loving what matters.
Interested in pursuing your own sideline gig? Crafty Superstar, authored by former HOW intern Grace Dobush, offers advice to help you, as the subtitle says, make crafts on the side, earn extra cash and basically have it all.
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