Sep 08, 2020

Startup diary: Lalese Stamps

Lalese Stamps started her Ohio-based side business Lolly Lolly Ceramics after she sold ceramics at flea markets to help fund art school. The Black Lives Matter movement put the spotlight on Black-owned businesses and her following exploded.
1. Late May 2020
Growing slow

‘My brand Lolly Lolly Ceramics is growing and has been slowly getting more attention. I’m tracking it and visualising where I’ll be within the next year or two. On 31st May this year I reach 10,000 followers. When I first kicked off my 100 Day Project in September I’d had about 2,000 followers, so it has taken me eight months to get from there to 10,000. That’s the kind of slow growth that I have been really enjoying over the months.’

2. Early June 2020
Protests and followers

‘The Black Lives Matter [BLM] movement starts taking off and things begin to skyrocket. I’m out protesting a lot – I want to be out there using my body to support what’s happening. At the same time, people are starting to follow me because they want to support Black businesses. I gain 10,000 new followers a day, for four days straight. It’s bizarre, because I’m going through a lot of things emotionally and physically, feeling very tired. I can’t fathom thinking about ceramics.’

3. Mid-June 2020
A new platform

‘People are asking if they can buy stuff from me, and some big names in the arts industry post my work. It feels really weird to be followed by a lot of people because I’m a Black business. I know my work is the bomb, it’s just in this realm the interest doesn’t always feel very genuine. Ultimately, I take it as a win. If I have this new platform of 70,000- something people, I can use my voice – and casually be like “racism is still happening.”’

4. Mid-June 2020
Leaning on friends

‘My friends are stepping up in such a big way during this time of change to help me. I had to close my online store in May to focus on a rebrand so there is currently nothing on my website for all of these new followers to buy. But a friend makes changes to my website and changes things so people can subscribe to emails for the time being while I don’t have a web shop open. That’s the kind of thing I’m really grateful for.’

5. Late June 2020
Considering full-time

‘I really like working full-time as a designer and I was enjoying balancing that with making ceramics. But as of the last few weeks I’m starting to consider whether I can quit my job and make ceramics full-time. We’re still experiencing the effects of Covid-19 here in Ohio and the unemployment rate has risen so high, so for me to think about going full-time on ceramics seems insane when so many people don’t even have jobs.

6. Late June 2020
Getting advice

‘Now that my business’ growth has been expedited, I figure I could use some advice – general, legal and financial. I reach out to a local minority business association and they’re very helpful. I get a business counsellor who takes me a few steps back and helps me with my business plan, something I’ve considered doing in the past but never felt too strongly about. I haven’t changed my plans for the business, but I’m thinking things through more thoroughly.’

7. Early July 2020
Back at the wheel

‘I’m doing a collaboration with a local print shop here in Columbus called Chain Studios. We’re working on a limited release of 100 mugs and 100 T-shirts. I’m making the 100 mugs myself and the handles on them will look like a chain – I’m excited because this will be the first thing that I’ve made in a while. I kept running into this issue where the chain links would move, but after a lot of ideating and concepting, I’ve finally figured out the best solution.’

8. July 2020
Grieving

‘I’ve been grieving a lot lately – the change has been hard. So much has happened between the pandemic, the BLM movement, my new fame, moving into a new studio and apartment and maybe quitting my job. Every part of my life is changing – I’m really excited but it would be remiss to not identify the overwhelming parts. One of the beautiful things is that I have friends, my partner and family. That’s been the one constant and it’s a relief to know I have their support.’

Find out more from Lalese on Instagram at @lollylollyceramics

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