We at Gaysi like to learn from and support innovative new ideas and ventures in the queer community – be it by anyone, Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Questioning or an ally! And one of the best ways to do that is to ask questions of the people doing exciting things in our worlds – How did they get started? Where did they learn their skills? What makes them tick? Will they give us a job? etc.etc.
To kickoff a new year of discovery, we begin with the founders of Loopty Loop Originals. Launched in 2012 by Mari Eva & Queen, Loopty Loop Originals (LLO) is a homegrown, homespun, exciting new business venture that brings us colorful crocheted accessories, clothing and decor. Mari & Queen took time out to answer a few burning questions I had and I’m excited to share their Loopty Loop Story with you on Gaysi –
QC: Loopty Loop Originals ! How did you both come up with that name for your business ? What were you drinking / thinking? Were you in a bathtub when it struck ?
Mari: LOL – it was more of an accident really. When I was teaching Queen how to crochet, she kept calling the chain stitches, which is the foundation row in crochet, “Loops” – This made me crazy and I thought of the American expression Loopty Loop, meaning crazy. It also refers to, the loops that of a roller coaster and that sums up pretty much on how we found our funny career path, lots of ups and downs and all arounds.
QC: On your website, you mention learning the art from your great Grandmas and passing the tradition onto your daughters. Tell us a bit about how you translated your learning and skills to making products for a colorful business venture ?
Queen: When Mari learned crochet as a little girl from her great grandmother, she didn’t really think of it as ever being a business venture. It was more like something she did for her kids and for gifts for friends. But I really thought she had a special skill. The baby clothes, blankets, and shawls for her mom she’d made years ago looked like they’d come from an upscale boutique. I’d told her she should sell it, but she laughed it off, and said “who’d buy all this?”
The journey began when her oldest daughter, who also crochets, decided to make a beret for herself, and we suggested that she make some to sell at an event Mari was reading tarot at. She made about 30 hats in a week’s time, and sold almost all of them. That was the unexpected launch of Loopty Loop Originals, and we’ve just run with it since then. As for me, I’m still shocked and I keep shocking myself when I see the finished products that I create. It’s so fulfilling. Being a national footballer and motorbike rider I never thought I’d be sitting home crocheting, but it’s been so much fun and I’m eager to keep learning new stitches and techniques. Mari and I like to keep things fresh and vibrant and that’s what we incorporate in our designs. So we combined our crochet talent with our marketing and business skills, venturing into the land of flea markets and custom made products of love. I think the secret is in our designs and the colors we use.
Mari: Haha. She does NOT. I’m kinda camera shy is all. Queenie loves the camera. So far, we just divvy it up between us. Some stitches are pretty complex, like in the shawls, so I handle those, and I generally like making the bigger things like tunics and blankets. Queenie seems to really like making little things, like the baby hats we have, her “Queenies Beanies”, which are her own design as well. It’s been just few months since she took up crocheting and she’s amazed me by her work already. It’s just the two of us doing all the crocheting, so we work really hard to keep our stock up, and we sell out often at events. She is really good at coming up with her own patterns and figuring out new ways to put old stitches together. I do a lot of the color selections, and she does a lot of color combinations.
On the business side, Queenie is the Queen. She did the graphics for our business card (launching another side interest in the process), she does a lot of work updating our facebook site, and I try to answer our online orders and keep us on track with what events we’re doing and where. So yeah, division of labor alllll the way! We divide and rule J in our li’l Queendom of happiness.
QC: Colour! What inspires the colour choices in your products?
Mari: Omg, I love color and Queen has loved her rasta colors ( red, yellow and green ) from the beginning of time …lol. We wanted to make crochet something new and flamboyantly different, and not just use “baby blue” and “baby pink”. We’d noticed that it’s the color that pulls our customers over to our stall, and it’s the bright pinks, the deep purples, the brilliant blues, that keep them coming back. I have so much fun sourcing the colors for Loopty Loop Originals and Queenie always has to pull me back from buying every color I see!
Also, different products need different colors. Sometimes a design just begs to be in cool mod neutrals, and another design seems to do best in crazy rainbow shades. It’s also a lot of trial and error; seeing what sells, what doesn’t, what people pick up on the table. We spend a lot of time watching peoples’ reactions to the colors as they come to shop, and planning accordingly for our following events.
QC: How has your experience been hitting up the markets, interacting with customers and churning out products simultaneously? Are there any peculiar challenges you have faced?
Queen: We’ve been really surprised at how great the response has been to Loopty Loop Originals. Sometimes, the world conspires to make things easy for you, and though we definitely are putting a lot into it, we are getting out a lot as well. I handle most of our client interactions, for some reason Mari gets kind of shy with them (though this might sound weird if you know her). We usually sit making things while we’re doing our events, and that draws customers, because they can see it’s truly all handmade.
Challenges: We love challenges, we get all kinds of requests from customers to make designs we haven’t made yet, right from sari blouses ( which are HOT btw ) to Uggs ( boots ) or teenagers asking us to make booties ( baby boots ) for ‘em and kids asking us to make clothes for their dolls, sari borders and it goes on. Also, we thought a lot about how to make this a year-round business. That meant coming up with products that were not dependant on season or weather, for example, creating cool bags, hair accessories, beachwear, etc. Additionally, we use a variety of materials like jute and thread instead of just yarn. On sourcing the material front, it’s hard to find certain kinds of yarn here, and Mari finds that tricky. She misses her big yarn stores back in the States. And of course, there are all the normal teething problems of any new business venture, and it’s all normal and expected. I think having a background in marketing and a lot of determination has helped us both to be able to focus on our business plan.
QC: What are your future plans for Loopty Loop Originals ? How BIG are you dreaming ?
Queen: Mari only dreams big, lol. After we had had a few events, and she was convinced that it had potential, she really pushed us to see how far we could go with it. We get approached by stores to showcase our designs and designers who are keen on incorporating crochet work in their designs. It just gets better. We both feel we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg and that we have a long adventurous road in front of us! There are a lot of technical and managerial issues that we’re working out now, like having a dedicated website, and forming a business concept to incorporate all our different freelancing activities ( Mari reads tarot professionally and is a professional hair and make up artist, I help her with hair). It’s only been 6 full months since our official launch, so we have quite a way to go yet. LLO is like our baby. We’d like to see it continue to grow. As it does, we hope to bring in other crocheters to build up our manpower in order for our designs to reach a much larger market.
QC: What advice would you give any budding entrepreneur or potential small business owner with an idea or secret skills?
Mari: I’d say if you really want it, you’ll find a way to make it happen. See how you can combine your business knowledge with whatever special idea / talent you have, and if you have no business knowledge, then find someone that does! Two heads really are better than one. It takes dedication and cooperation to build a strong business. Don’t kill the dream, work towards it and live it !
QC: If I wanted a Queenie Beanie and I didn’t live in Bangalore – How would I go about getting one ?
Queen: We have customers from all over the place, within India and customers from abroad as well. You can place an order through facebook or by dropping us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call directly, details of which can be found on our facebook page, which you should all go to and LIKE. http://www.facebook.com/looptylooporiginals or our website: www.marievamendes.com We do all kinds of customized orders, so do reach out to us and we will keep you warm, looking colorful and stylish as ever.
PS – Loopty Loop Originals will be at St. Josephs school grounds on Saturday, 2nd March, 2013. Catch them there ! else just keep an eye out on their Facebook page for future appearances and for more of their collection!