big stores stealing from indie designers… again

This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart every time. The fashion industry is one of the hardest industries to fight over intellectual property (anyone see The Devil Wears Prada?). Stealing is wrong no matter the size of the business, we speak volumes with where we spend our money, and with social media we have the opportunities to make our views heard. I implore you to read Nichola’s story and take to social media to pressure them to do the right thing.

Being an indie designer is tough. It’s bad enough that hobbyists will try and copy our designs and undercut us, but when a giant retailer with a huge presence does it, they might as well just tell us to close up shop. We choose this path for the passion, most of us don’t expect to be swimming in money, we just want to do what we love, bring fun and new things to the world, and make enough money to keep on keepin’ on. By supporting Nichola, you’re helping one more person do what they love.

If you need more incentive, and you’re a derby girl, she also makes killer derby shorts. Spreading the word is what I’m asking you to do, spending some money in one of her shops will be going the extra mile. Okay friends, go forth and fight the good fight!


biz chat: the costs of doing licensing shows

the cost of doing licensing shows

I mentioned at the beginning of this year a friend asked if I was going to do roller derby rec-league (since the league I was skating with broke up in January), and I told her “I can’t afford it”, my response was met with a perplexed look. The reason I couldn’t afford it was because we were cutting back on selling spring shows, had just made our last 1K payment for Surtex, and still had to pay for a hotel in NY for a week and two plane tickets. Exhibiting at Surtex cost us 4k, that’s cheap because we were exhibiting with Cultivate Art Collective, had we done it alone, our numbers would have looked more like this.

In April we added exhibiting at Licensing Expo (meaning we were now cutting out our major summer selling shows). Licensing Expo cost us 6K, and that’s cheap because we exhibited in the Launchpad area, where the booths were only 2k. We were advised to remove the majority of our tees online, so that we can license the designs instead, lessening our online income. November 1st we have to pay for a local art show that’s almost two weeks long, and the cost for that is around 3k (not including cost of goods, and could be higher depending on how much the costs of displays will actually be). To have more time for building up our portfolio we stopped accepting web/design clients, in fact, we’re closing our web/design business next month (there goes another revenue stream!). Between now and April we will be paying for the 3k local art show, smaller holiday show fees, exhibiting fees for Printsource in January, Surtex in May, a full booth at Licensing Expo in June which will cost around 10k, and BLE in October. We’re looking at a minimum of 20k in booth fees a year, over double what we normally spend on booth fees.

Robo Roku Licensing Expo Launchpad Booth
Robo Roku Licensing Expo Launchpad Booth

I now tell people “I’m broke”. The reason I’m “broke” is because we made the leap from “selling shows” to “licensing shows” without having a big enough cushion. With licensing it can take up to a year and a half to start getting paid. The licensee (company licensing our work) needs time to produce the products, sell the products, then we start getting paid (normally quarterly). I’m not living off instant noodles or anything, I just have a strict budget; my budgets always includes a “fun money” category, I just don’t have as much fun money as I’d like. I cut back on that category to reallocate the funds toward booth fees. When I was adding up the expenses for Licensing Expo, I had a moment when I thought “there are so many other cool things I could do with this money!”, but to make money, you gotta spend money, so that’s what we’re doing. I don’t regret making the transition to focus more on licensing, maybe just wish I’d planned it out better. I just didn’t want to wait another year to “do it right” I wanted to dive in and get started.

Soon enough (and I mean soon) we’ll have new stuff online for sale which will get us closer to our normal income level. I’m excited to share with you the things we’ve been working on this summer. We normally do big launches for a year, and then sprinkle in smaller batches of new stuff here and there. In order to be structured better for all the licensing shows, we’ll be switching to releasing collections, like the fashion industry does. Very soon we’ll release our A/W (autumn/winter) collection and then our holiday collections, which will be released at least a month before the holiday. I’m excited to get on this schedule, I am such a lover of routines.

I wanted to share all this info with you so you can have an idea of what doing trade shows can do to your bank account (and maybe your lifestyle). I love what I do, and maybe this year I don’t have as much money to spend on fun stuff, but in a few months things will start leveling out. Ah, the things we do for what we love. If you’re interested in going the same way, I highly recommend looking into Make Art That Sells by Lilla Rogers for getting your art prepared, and learning from Tara Reed to make sure you understand the business side. If you have any questions about shows, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.


you can’t always get what you want…

…but if you try sometimes, well you just might find, you get what you need.
We recently entered the Global Talent Search (GTS) by Lilla Rogers. This is the second year she’s held a contest to choose a new artist to sign. Last year we didn’t enter because we were traveling for shows. I felt so out of the loop with everyone posting their work. I wanted to enter this year, even though I knew it would be a long shot for us to get picked. The creative brief was to draw/paint a Terrarium. Finding that out I knew immediately we wouldn’t pass the first round. I don’t gravitate to terrariums. It’s not something I collect, or have a passion for, and Josh is the same way. Knowing people “buy your joy” (meaning respond well when you draw/paint from the heart), I knew this was not the challenge for us. We still tried our best. I liked what we did, but as soon as I saw sneak peeks of other people’s work, I knew we didn’t push the limits on the challenge. I’m a very literal person (weird for a creative, I know), so when I read the words “draw a terrarium” I got stuck. Again, probably because my heart was not in it. Add in still working on our character style guide, completing 5 new designs for a new licensee (we signed a deal with a company to create Robo Roku tablet/cell phone cases -eep!), and daily life, and that makes for a spread thin team Robo Roku.

999 people entered the Global Talent Search, only 50 could make it to the next round, and it keeps narrowing down to 1. We didn’t pass the first round. The second round is an animal illustration for a kid’s tee, man, I wish that was the first round.

Some people were really sad about not passing, I honestly was sadder about one particular person not making it to the next round over us not making it. It would have been awesome to make it to round two, but since I didn’t expect to, it wasn’t such a huge disappointment. We don’t get individual feedback, so Lilla did a video with a bit of overall feedback for everyone. She said there were many artists she wanted to enter next year, and many that she thought would do better with another agency. I believe our piece wasn’t very strong, but that we are also not a good fit for Lilla’s agency (as much as I wish we were).

Lilla has some amazing artists that work with really cool companies. However, only one of her artists is barely close to our style, and the jobs that person gets is not really the kind of jobs we want. They’re not bad jobs, just not what we want, at least not right now. I love how Lilla’s agency works, but that’s not the place for us. That doesn’t mean we’re not good enough, it’s just all about finding the right people for your style. There are four big licensing tradeshows: Printsource, Surtex, Licensing Expo, and BLE. We fit in best with BLE and Licensing Expo, Lilla’s people fit in better at Surtex. I feel like doing Licensing Expo really led to us finding our people, and I’m excited to keep going on that path. Next year we’ll be showing our work at all the tradeshows we mentioned, and hopefully we’ll have found an agency for the US and UK that works for us. Life can be pretty great when you know what you want, and know how to get it. More than anything getting the most out of life means never giving up.


motivational monday: how we rise

how we rise
Someone recently told me “I’m not lucky like you, things don’t always go my way” which was surprising to hear. My mom can be considered “lucky” when gambling, nine times out of ten she’ll at least break even, but most of the time, she comes out ahead. However, her health is not the best, so I wouldn’t consider her a “lucky” person. I feel like social media trends are working so hard to paint these perfect lives, and some people are falling for it to the point of thinking their lives “suck”.

Yes, I am pretty happy with my life, but it’s all about perspective. Let’s start with the cons in my life right now:
Unruly eyebrows
Recently received the WORST bang trim of my life, only thing I can do is wait for them to grow out, I can’t even just pin them back. Sigh.
Very little sleep all month.
House is a complete wreck.
Gained lots of weight this year (I seriously need to return to derby, I haven’t even been off skates a year.)
Super busy and overwhelmed.
Need a tooth implant (thanks to an almond breaking 1/2 a tooth).
On a tight budget.

How I view the cons in my life:
Eyebrows and hair are cosmetic issues, who cares if I look like crap for a month? I’m too busy to let it depress me.
I’m trying to catch up on sleep, all I can do right now is try, and know that this is a temporary thing.
The house can be cleaned, it won’t be this way forever.
I got a treadmill to help me get active until I can skate again. Starting tomorrow I have a set workout time everyday.
I’m super busy and overwhelmed thanks to needing to submit new works to our agent and some licensees, that’s a good thing.
Tooth is another cosmetic issue right now, and will be fixed when I have time/money.
Tight budget is due to needing to have funds for multiple trade/art shows a year that are not less than 2k (upcoming post about that!).

Nobody’s life is perfect, let’s get that straight. We all have our problems, some are just better at hiding it, some completely focus on hiding it. People don’t want to read blogs or social media feeds of people that are constantly complaining, and always focusing on the negatives in life. How we rise after falling is the same as how we view the cons in our life. It’s all about perspective. I think I’m happy not because I’m “lucky”, but because I don’t let the cons in my life drag me down. There will always be good days and bad days, the trick is to find gratitude for the many good things in your life that are easy to overlook on a crummy day. Here’s to silver linings!


the haps: friends get the news first!

WHOA! I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since we last blogged. Jen is in the process of moving, team Robo Roku has been super busy, and I’ve been sick through it all. So much to share, let’s get into it!
I buried the lede on my personal Facebook page about this, but I’m just going to kick things off with the news, that you, our sweet blog readers are getting before we publicize on our Robo Roku social media pages. We got an agent!!
We went to Licensing Expo in hopes of getting deals, but our biggest hope was to get an agent. The very first person to our booth was an agent, and we had a few other agents interested, but this particular agent (we’ll announce the company 8/1, when our contract goes into effect) was on it. He was very professional, got right into the meat of things at the booth, and corresponded after the show right away. His company strictly deals with the Asian market, so we’re still looking for representation for the states and Europe, but being in the Asian market has been a dream of ours forever. We’re pretty over the moon, sadly, the day we got the deal I was super sick, and haven’t been able to do a happy dance, yet. As soon as I’m feeling better I will totally do a happy dance!

The breakdown…

Our new agent (squee!) asked for a character style guide, so we’ve been working hard on that, along with working on our licensing portfolio gallery for him to be able to pitch companies. Also, doing the taxes. We always file for an extension, because we can be lazy, but next year we’ll do it on time!

What holiday shows we’re going to apply to, what to do for my birthday (8/15), how to reorganize the studio.

Taking down our tees. In the licensing world the apparel industry is toughest on not wanting designs to have been seen before, so we’re taking down 90% of our tees before our agency contract kicks in. Check out the site, if you want to grab a tee before they’re gone.
Robo Roku Tees Going Away

My Donavon Frankenreiter Pandora station and the Nativiy 2: Danger in the Manger soundtrack. I’ve been singing Christmas tunes for weeks! I love Christmas music, and usually can be caught singing Christmas carols year round. Since I’ve been working on our holiday collection, Christmas movies and music seemed fitting atmosphere.

Veggie tacos, fudgesicles (sp?), gummy worms, and ginger ale from Starbucks.
ginger ale

My new pal Jupey from Jupey Krusho. I met him at Licensing Expo, and the two of us have been exchanging emails like whoa, helping each other out and giving each other advice on our follow ups.

A new way of doing business. The licensing world is pretty different than what I’m used to, and I need to work on making sure my multiple revenue streams don’t clash with one another.

Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger on repeat, no joke. I’ve also peppered in continuing on my second time through House on Netflix.

Things have been pretty swirly again, but I’m happy about everything. This week is pretty exciting because Face Off and Project Runway start, too! I love that creative reality shows exist, they are so much more interesting to watch. Anything new on Netflix you’ve been into? I’d love some fresh suggestions. I’ll do a Licensing Expo recap post soon, I promise.


motivational monday: do one thing…

Do One Thing
I love this quote, and think it is so important to live by it. Recently a friend of mine chuckled at a big goal I have, Josh thought it was rude until I reminded him that even last year he would have done the same thing. My goals and aspirations often bring about laughter or lead to people calling me crazy, and sadly, I’m used to that reaction. I used to get confused by people giggling at my goals, Josh used to do it a lot, so I started asking him why he was laughing. It took him awhile to really understand why he was laughing, and then he explained to me he just found my goals surprising, and hard to wrap his head around, so he’d laugh. That’s when it clicked!

People weren’t really laughing at me, they were just taken aback. If you talk to me long enough, you’ll see that I live out loud, and don’t let my fears or insecurities get in my way (for very long, at least). Everyone is afraid of something, we all have insecurities we have to deal with every single day. Our lives are just way too short for us to let our doubts keep us from trying to live a free life. A “free life” to me means a life free from fear of failing, fear of trying, fear of taking control of our lives. We all have responsibilities, but we can’t forget that our greatest responsibility is to take care of ourselves. If we sacrifice our happiness out of fear, then we are shells of ourselves. The best thing we can do is be ourselves, out loud, and inspire others to do the same. We all have something to offer, something the world needs, we just cant let fear keep us from sharing our best selves. Life should be about trying anything and everything you want.

I have met so many amazing people in my life, and it always saddens me when I see them hiding their light. I think there would be more happiness in the world if more people would stand tall and say “this is me, take it or leave it” and just be who they are. Sometimes when I tell people this they respond with “you’re lucky”, or “you have it easy”, or “things just always work out for you”, but the thing is, I’m not lucky, I certainly don’t have it easy, and things absolutely don’t always work out for me. It can seem like things always work out me, only because when things don’t go the way I planned, I adapt. I don’t focus on what went wrong, I focus on what I can do better for next time, because as long as I’m still breathing, there will be a next time, and I will be ready for it. I have no deadline on my big dreams because I know they take time, so I just keep working toward them every day. As long as I don’t give up, there’s always hope. Just remember that and don’t give up. Keep trying every day and you’ll make it happen.


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