Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ask Alicia: Blocks and all

Email from 'Said':

Hi Alicia,
Thanks for the mail. I would like to know your opinion/suggestion on two more things (Won't take more time of yours .. promise)

1) Do you get something like a writer's block? How do you overcome?
2) As a kid, I had a huge desire to 'live' out of drawing. Now when I see, I feel maybe that was the reason why I stopped .. as I found it difficult to monetise on the skill. Did you have a similar phase/doubts? Or the 'living' part 'just' happened? How do you keep the 'need for money' separate from your art?


So let me get straight to it!

1) Do you get something like a writer's block? How do you overcome?
I used to before I drew for a living. I remember when I was at university, there were sometimes 4-5 weeks that would pass by where I just didn’t feel like picking up a pencil and then suddenly I couldn’t stop drawing the week after. But I think now I can’t even imagine not drawing daily. I believe it comes from making it habitual. Habit to draw but also sometimes practical when it comes to what to draw. There are days when I can sit infant of a blank paper and stare without a thought and that’s when I refer to notes I make about ‘what I need to draw’. I make these notes at random times when I am in the middle of other activities and don't have access to a pencil. I feel like it’s almost like cooking sometimes. You can sometimes whip up something just by looking at the ingredients but sometimes you need to flip through your recipe book. 

2) As a kid, I had a huge desire to 'live' out of drawing. Now when I see, I feel maybe that was the reason why I stopped .. as I found it difficult to monetise on the skill. Did you have a similar phase/doubts? Or the 'living' part 'just' happened? How do you keep the 'need for money' separate from your art?
That’s a great question! That’s one of the reasons I said I WOULDN'T be an artist as a kid too! And well, life has a funny way of making your wouldn’ts come true :)
I kind of fell into freelancing and that meant I had to come out of my comfort zone and talk about money to clients and put a figure to my work. When it comes to client work, it’s a job and not a piece of art because art is about feelings and messages whereas client work is about fulfilling a brief, even though you have to/want to put in feelings and a message. That’s something I make clear to students as well. Realise that when you illustrate commercially, you’re never given a blank canvas. Having said that, it’s sooo much more fun that it sounds. It’s challenging in a nice way where you work within the constraints but in the most creative way. It's also personally challenging because you have to do things that you don't always prefer, like talking about money (which is a big worry when starting out) but you get used to it over time. Be open in thought and accept challenges. 

But at the end of the day, you should also always draw for you! And that’s when you can call it ‘art’. And that's when you can have a blank canvas and the separation that one may desire. 

Hope this helps!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ask Alicia: Making stuff

Email from Jaai V:

Good morning Alicia

Thank you so much for the reply. I went through your blog and all the questions. Yet I have a few more questions and I think only you can answer them. 
1. How did you get your first order for designer merchandise? I am very much interested in starting my own online store business and selling designer merchandise and accessories but I don't know how to start and whom to approach. I make Illustrations but I don't know how to earn a living out of it.
2. How do you collaborate with big brands like Lenovo, Tinder, etc. I have no idea about how to approach well known companies. Do they get in touch with you or you contact them?
3. Do you manufacture the cute illustrated products or do you get them printed? Whom to contact and how to collaborate with manufacturers of products? 
4. Where do you store all your products before shipping? What is the process when you get an order? For example, you get an order for a designer bag then is it ready to be shipped before hand or you get your artwork printed on the bag later? Can you please guide on how to approach manufacturers and collaborate with them?

Your inputs will be of great help as I am very much interested in designer merchandise.

Thank you so much for your guidance and help. You are an inspiration.
Jaai Vernekar. 

Hello Jaai
Thank you soooo much for your mail!
So let me reply in order of your questions, so I don't miss anything out:)

1) I think I was a bit lucky on that front. I had a few people ask for merchandise before I even considered it. But I took a risk, thanks to the help of a friend, of making a few products for a flea market event (the Sunday Soul Sante) and we ended up selling out and having people mail with queries for months after. That was when I realised there was a need; though it was a long time later that I started the online store, stopped and started again!
When it comes to merchandise, I think the thing to realise is that it’s an entire different ballgame. Handling the manufacturing, stocking, logistics and then sales is a full time job (depending on how profitable you want it to be). But getting your products manufactured is as simple as going to the nearest/ biggest print shop around and getting your work printed on the merchandise that’s easily available to be customised. This could include t-shirts, mugs, badges, prints etc. Basically things you can make small quantities without worrying that you’ll be stuck with a whole lot of stock. I would say look at it as a testing project first and then go guns banging after doing the math of the business. It’s a little less risky and grey-hair-starting.

2) I think I’ve been lucky enough to be contacted by every client who I’ve ever worked with. It’s also because I’m rather public with my work (though I rarely actually showcase client work). I would recommend getting a portfolio of your work online first, because when you approach a potential client, you want to show them your capabilities. Then, go ahead and approach them! We live in such a beautiful age wherein most people are just an email away! And that too, an email address that can be scouted with just a bit of research! Mail and mail some more. Showcase your work. Also pitch some ideas! The sky is the limit!

3) Yes, we manufacture each product. We work with manufacturers (sometimes two and even three on a single product). I started off, as I mentioned, at the local print shop. That worked for a while, and then I took a break because running a product business meant that I had to be doing it full time. Which also meant that if I was single-handedly doing the packaging and shipping, I had to be in town almost all the time, which is not possible with my schedule. It wasn’t until I met Saurabh, my current partner, that we started the online store on full swing.
Finding manufacturers is a task in itself, and to be honest, I don’t have a knack for it, nor do I enjoy it. Figuring out cost prices along with follow ups for timelines and MOQs (minimum order quantities) is something that can take more time than I have to offer. So my partner handles that side of the business while I do what I love, i.e., the drawing bit!
Back to my beginnings, I think the local print shop should do just fine initially and if it’s something you want to pursue after the first few lots, then I would suggest getting someone to help with the business side of things, including finding manufacturers (this is sometimes asking current manufacturers and just plain ol’ google searches!).

4) When I started, I only stocked smaller products under my bed in boxes. Also under my housemates bed. It was a mess. Every time there was an order, I’d had to pull them out, pack them and call the courier guy who would send it across. It took a LOT of time in my day even if the number of orders weren’t too many. At this point, we have a little office with a store room for all our products. I still recommend going through the hassle of the home storage before investing in a storage room because the number of orders will dictate if the business is worth growing and investing your time and money. Almost every order is pre-manufactured, which means we have stock of products. But we do have a few products (like our custom stamps) that we manufacture on demand. That’s only something we’ve been able to do with a team and process in place, because it takes longer and also involves working with a manufacturer every time an order comes in. Custom orders tend to be a lot more expensive (depending on the product) because you manufacture single units, which means it’s a lot more effort from the manufacturers side and a lot of time from yours too! So unless it’s a high value product, like say a bag as opposed to a badge, I wouldn’t think it would be worth getting into.

A shirt I mocked when I was in university. I used to draw more skulls back then haha!

Lastly, you should also start mocking your illustrations onto products. I did this from my university days, which was when I knew I would love to see my work on merchandise. Mocking is still something we do because I cannot get everything I envision manufactured, so I mock it instead!

Hope this helps! All the best and don’t be afraid to take a risk!

PS: Take everything I say with a pinch of salt! I took one direction and got to where I was, but walking in a completely different path may get you ahead of me! So don’t be afraid to do what you think works. I don’t take the most riskiest paths but maybe you would like to! Go ahead! Your life, your path :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I have news!

There are very few ways to announce this, rather biggish deal, but I guess two words should suffice: I’m married!
I’ve mean meaning to mention it for a few months now but I’m embarrassed to say that not having time to do a decent announcement was one of my reasons for a delay and the second one is plain old shyness. A few months ago, I legally got married to the loveliest, kindest, sweetest man I’ve ever met and he fills my life with more happiness than I ever could imagine! George Seemon is my fellow and I thought I should just let the world know.
George, I refused to wear a white gown and walk down an aisle but it would be a pleasure to make up for it in every way possible for the rest of our lives by being a corny wife.

For more corniness, please visit:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Das Din- a hindi kids book

So this book happened! Das Din, my first Hindi interactive book! Pridhee was a joy to work with and hopefully there will be more in the future too!
Available here:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A thank you.

If you told me a year back that I would be juggling a company, freelancing and still (kinda) leading a rather otherwise productive & normally social life, I would have told you to keep quiet and get me some chips. If you told me two years ago that I would love Instagram, enjoy posting and have a family of 60K people, I would have told you to go away but get me some more chips. And if you told me this little company would, in just over a year, hit it’s 5000th order, have an employee, a few contracts and steal hearts, I would have kicked you out to start a chips shop for me. And here I am, chip-less, with all of the above, drenched with love and happiness with the goodness that has passed my way. I don’t even know how to be more grateful so I can only do it with a gigantic big hug to the universe and love to every single one of you. For your kind words daily, the loving mails that truly bring a tear to my eyes, my team who support me through my stubbornness, and for making this possible! I never dreamt of any of this, so I'm kind of floored that I am this blest. I love you guys to the stars and back!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Saurabh Says: How I ended up starting a company with Alicia Souza

( I figured that my mini team has a lot of great stories so I asked them to pen down things they'd like to add to the blog. Saurabh, my business partner, is first on the job! His story is below...)

My name is Saurabh Sharma and this is my story.

It was a regular day at the ex-office. I was aimlessly facebooking and happened to stumble upon Alicia Souza’s interview on yourstory. (Looking back – facebooking that day turned out to be life changing!)

Something about her, made me think. Instinctively, I felt like reaching out to her. I also thought – why would she even respond? I still wanted to try my luck and wrote to her on facebook. I mentioned that I work with a candle manufacturing company and wanted to discuss if she’d be interested to work on a range of doodled packaging.

She responded and gave me her email ID, asking me to share a detailed brief. I was truly elated!

I sent an email out to her and we’ve kept in touch ever since. Funnily enough, a line from my first email to her said: “Hopefully, we’ll be able to make this connection meaningful.

She got back saying she was excited about the possible outcomes of the project and suggested that it would be good to have a meeting. We met few months later in Bangalore.

One day, very randomly I sent her a list of ideas, of how she can make the most out of her talents.

Some ideas for Alicia – I wrote this email back in 2014:

  1. Start expanding into various product categories. Example: pillows, phone cases, t shirts, accessories.
  2. Get someone to handle the business side of things so you can focus on creating content. ( I had no idea this person was going to be me! )
  3. Get your products selling at major retailers.
  4. Develop a beautiful website for all your merchandise, find a company to whom you can outsource day to day operations and build a model where they report to you on the key performance indicators of the website/business.
  5. Find a link between doodled interiors and workplace happiness. Wall art, office space interior designing are some areas your illustrations can do wonders.

Looking back, the email sounds almost creepy! Most of what I wrote to her, has actually transpired into reality. In fact, just last week we launched our wall art collection and we are coming out with a range of decals for offices soon!

Just so you know – there were couple of other points in the list that I’d sent to her – one was about distributing products globally and the other about someday having her own retail store! Watch out! 😃

Coming back to the story, sometime in mid 2015, I had invited her to Tuticorin to see the factory. A small town in Tamil Nadu, where I used to work. She somehow made it!

The factory visit went well. We were out for lunch and I told her about my plans of quitting. I wasn’t enjoying the work and was feeling a bit too safe. Risking a safe secure job to pursue something I loved doing, seemed like the right thing to do.

She told me about how her career panned out after quitting a job. And how her life has been nothing less than rewarding. I was awe- inspired by this super human! She just said – “if you happen to be in Bangalore, do meet me and we will figure out something together.”

That’s me having the ultimate fanboy moment!

Far away from the safe sea shores of Tuticorin, I met her again sometime in July 2015. By then, we knew there was some scope of us working together. We agreed to risk our time and re-start her online store. No paperwork, no agreement and no plans for the future. Things just felt right. She thought we could close the online store post valentines day and just run it for few months a year. The response was overwhelming. And I knew this could be turned into something more bigger and more meaningful.

So after a year of running the store on an experimental mode, a ton of emails and multiple discussions, – we started Alicia Souza Studio Pvt. Ltd.

From just two of us, a year back, we are currently a team of 6 humans and two fur balls working towards spreading smiles and happiness all around.

If there’s one thing you would like to take back from this post, It is this – Life is all about the people we meet.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ask Alicia: A happy state of affairs

Email from ‘Awedowl’

‘warning : The following content is not from a cheese factory, so if you feel inclined to dismiss it as unreal, you can not. because you have to believe every word that I say :p

I have ordered from a lot of places, and always I have purchased objects. But from your beautiful store I ordered smiles and happiness, and Whoa! I got so much more than I ever wanted. You are an inspiration Alicia, and I admire you so much. 

Can I ask you something? I am stretching my limits as you have been so gregarious and warm. How do you deal with sadness? I really want to know. I am sure that there must have been moments when you just want to shut the World out and scream maybe. How do you come out of that zone? 

If I could I would've borrowed all the blessings the Planet has to offer and showered them on you :D'

Your email is the cutest ever! 

I loved your question because it’s so real. Like any human, I have a wealth of emotions. I don’t feel sadness as much as I get angry. I sometimes think my brain wires are a bit mixed up. Something bad happens in the world, someone passes away, horror stricken event, whatever the calamity, I tend to feel rage rather than melancholy. 

Having said that, I do have sad streaks. And unlike some artists and writers who can create beautiful works from those emotions, I don’t even remotely feel like drawing then. 

There are a few things I do when I get in this state: 

1) Do whatever I feel like doing- I would rarely feel like drawing but I truly enjoy just inking pencil sketches and would scout out drawings that are yet to be inked. This is my sort of ‘peace’ and ‘meditation’ that gets my brain almost still without thought. 

2) Play my favourite music- I ADORE country music and I sometimes listen to (wait for it…) old sappy country music when I feel crappy. I do admit that I also listen to country music when I’m happy but I think I don’t listen to upbeat ones when I’m sad because I just get annoyed. (I heard, or hope, this is normal. Almost like misery loves company, of sad songs) 

3) Confront the sadness- I don’t like leaving things in the air. If I had a tiff with the man, I would go back in there (in about five minutes) and clear it up. I also force-hug and force-kiss because that just makes things awkward and better. With people it’s easy to just take a deep breathe and confront the source of the sadness.

4) Time- And then there are things you don’t have control over that just need time to get better. Understand that things DO get better with time. (I have to throw in here that one of the most devastating moments in my life was when Cookie-brown, my dog, passed away suddenly. I thought I would never be able to get over her heart-wrenching loss, but time really did help. Nothing else, besides her being back here, would. Not even Richard Gere and I like to think he would make everything better.) 

5) A box of you- Another thing is knowing what you like and makes you happy. One of my dear friends watches horrid reality tv shows to make herself feel better. I sometimes like cleaning or baking. Maybe a box of fun photographs or mailing an old friend. Sometimes ‘Love Actually’ or just getting away for a while. Go for a pedicure.

5) Let yourself be- I think it’s ok to be sad sometimes. It’s even normal. Whether you need to shed a tear or two. Also, some situations call for it. It would be odd to NOT be sad at a funeral or when your friend moves away. Be nice to yourself and I think the worst thing would be to beat yourself up about being a little down. When you know it’s ok to be sad, you can let yourself be happy. 

PS: please note that sadness is very different from depression. I’m talking about general sadness that sneaks in every now and then. And that sometimes dutifully creeps in a few days before our periods. Thanks menstruation!

I forgot to mention, sometimes happiness is a sleep away. Literally, some days can just be a drag and understand that when you go to bed at night; so when you wake up the next day, the sun is shining brighter just for you!