Sometimes a small pleasure grows into a great joy when you least expect it.
Earlier this year I was perusing Etsy looking at all the amazing, cute enamel pins people across the world have designed. These pins tap into niche pop culture artefacts (The Golden Girls, Beetlejuice, Mad Monster Party) to provide a relatively cheap way to show off your pop culture knowledge. They’re also a great conversation starter with people, even if they don’t know who or what the pin is.
It was odd, though, that I couldn’t find any theatre-themed pins. Well that’s a gap I could fill. You know, with my lack of drawing ability, and no knowledge of how to make these pins. Ideal fit, really.
I worked on my first sketch, a pin of Stephen Sondheim. I pretty much fluked the first design; it was, in my opinion, unmistakably Stephen Sondheim. What a case of beginner’s luck.
I tracked down a pin manufacturer in the States. The unit cost seemed reasonable – I could make a small profit on each pin – so it seemed possible. The total cost for 100 pins was low enough that I could take a risk and even if I sold a handful I wouldn’t be losing too much money; it would have just been a fun exercise. I ordered 100 pins and about a month later a box arrived from China. I was pleasantly surprised – they turned out so cute.
In the meantime I had built an eCommerce website for the pins (finally using a skill I actually had) and was ready to tell the world. I guessed the shipping costs, took some photos of the pins, sent out a tweet and went to bed. While I slept, things were going crazy. People were talking about the pin, sharing it and offering a lot of kind words. Orders started were flooding in. In 36 hours I had completely sold out, all 100 pins. I was blown away. I had a lot of packing to do.
It took me a few evenings to pack all of the pins, a process made longer by the decision to hand write a note on each of the original orders. I took them to the post office in one batch, and spent hours filling out customs forms until my hands ached. Thankfully now I’ve streamlined the processes with a stamp and doing all the paperwork at home, and have formed close, lifelong friends and nemeses with the various postal workers.
I now have 7 different pin designs available with more in the works. I’ll be restocking Lin Manuel Miranda and Stephen Sondheim (the latter for the second time) in the new year. I’m also using a different, cheaper supplier, cutting out the middle-man. Three cheers for globalism and the Internet.
What surprised me when talking to people about it was that they seemed to be taking it a lot more seriously than I was. People described it as a “venture”, a “business” when I thought of it more like a fun little project. That’s a large part of the joy for me (I haven’t even minded going to the post office almost every second day); it was something that grew out of fun to become a tidy little business. I love seeing the photos people send of themselves wearing the pins, and it was a thrill to end up on the 2016 Playbill Holiday Gift Guide this year. Sure, it won’t last forever, but while it does I’m going to enjoy it and take the chance to give a little too. In an effort to say “thank you for your support”, I’ve donated $1000 USD to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Thank you, truly.
Amongst the smog of global disaster that clouded 2016, I was bestowed with a disproportionate number of delights and true joys. Broadway Pins has been one of those for me, and please know that I am extremely grateful for your support, attention and passing on your well-wishes. I am genuinely delighted by you. If you’d like to hear more, there’s a mailing list sign-up on the Broadway Pins website where I’ll announce new designs in the works for the new year. Lastly, I’ll be in New York myself at the end of February if you’d like to have a coffee and talk theatre. I’ll try to bring as many pins as my bag can fit!