Many creative people sit on their talents in fear that “there’s already somebody out there doing the same thing.” Kyla from BAECK + ANN, with her artistic roots as her guide, rose above those hesitations and asked the bold question, “why not me?” In this interview, we learn that hard work and partnering with the right people is the perfect combination for quickly growing a creative business. Read on to find out how Kyla and her team went from sharing printable designs to selling in stores, in under a year.
What is your background in art + design? Are you formally educated or self-taught?
I’m self-taught for the most part! I actually just completed a Commerce Degree at The University of Victoria (not exactly the most design-focused degree) but I have an insanely creative family and whether through nature or nurture, I seemed to have acquired a passion for it as well. My design side was definitely passed down from my mom, who is an artist herself. She let us (my sister and me), play around in Photoshop starting at a very young age and I guess design/ illustration developed naturally from that.
What made you want to want to start sharing your talents in an online setting?
I was always loved creating but never really had a reason to do so regularly. I kept seeing products and businesses that were wildly successful and thinking, “wait, I could make that,” which eventually turned into “why am I NOT doing that?” I always tend to lean towards digital media—maybe because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and am scared of irreversible mistakes (g-bless command-z).
Did you have any hesitations or setbacks after you started your business? How did you find solutions and overcome them?
I think a huge cause for hesitation is the thought that someone else is out there not only doing what you want to do but doing it better. Nowadays it’s so easy to feel like a little fish in the massive ocean that is the internet. As far as overcoming this feeling; I’m honestly not sure I have just yet, but I’m working on it!
I’ve certainly gained confidence from the past year of working on BAECK + ANN, learning from experience, and taking each challenge as they come, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit of imposter complex every once in a while.
Can you identify a moment on your journey that felt like a turning point in your business? How did it come to be?
I mean, BAECK + ANN is still so young (we’ll be a year old this January), but I do think we’ve had a couple pretty essential turning points already. Our main pivot was within the first two months after our launch. We actually had started off with the plan of making printable posters, drawing a lot of inspiration from businesses like Elegance & Enchantment ;).
I don’t even remember why, but for some reason, we decided to launch a couple printable Valentine’s cards. They did so well that we turned our focus entirely onto cards after that point!
If there’s one thing I took away from my degree, it’s that it’s completely okay, (and normal), to change or adjust what you’re doing along the way. I definitely live with the mindset (in business and life) of “do what makes sense at the time and if it stops making sense stop doing it.”
Illustration, getting in stores + working with a team
Your style is so unique! What is the inspiration behind your designs?
Haha, well thanks! A lot of our inspiration comes from people in our lives. Our dads are notorious for dropping groan-worthy puns whenever they get the chance, our moms were 100% the inspiration behind our “Smother’s Day” card last year, and even everyday conversations can lead to us jotting down a note in our phone for inspiration later.
I hear we can now find BAECK + ANN products in stores! How did you make that happen? What was the process like?
We’re still in the very early stages of entering retail, so our process is still… in progress, haha. We put almost a whole year into building our online presence and getting our products and style to a place where we were proud of them, then when it came time to start moving into printed inventory we did a lot of cost comparing and number crunching to get our printing and pricing right. After that, the actual final “enter into retail” part is basically just a combination of personal connections and just plain old reaching out!
You have attributed the success of BAECK + ANN to the team you’ve built. How did your group come to be, and what are your roles?
Our team is made up of me, Katie, one of my oldest high school friends and roommate for three years and Karly, who I met during university and instantly clicked with. While we’re all very involved in most aspects of the business, I would say I’m primarily in charge of product design and “customer relations” (answering messages, sending printed cards, etc.) Katie takes the reins on most things having to do with our marketing and online presence, and Karly is in charge of finances and logistics, AKA making sure what we’re doing is making sense.
Behind the scenes
How did you manage to work a full-time job, while starting up your business?
Oh man, that’s a good question. When we first started I was actually working two jobs: serving nights and interning full-time at a digital marketing agency during the day. I had exactly zero days off each week and was pulling double shifts about four days a week. I wish I had a better answer for how I managed to do it. I think the main reason is that I’m insane. Just kidding!
Honestly, I think it’s because we started off so small. With printable cards, our transactions were automated (the files were sent via Etsy to the customer), which helped a lot. Any spare moment I had, I would be working on designs, managing listings, or doing research on other similar companies. I genuinely love it, and it doesn’t feel like work to me, at all.
Can you name a book, podcast, conference, or individual who has had a lasting positive impact on you and your business?
Oh, this is a hard one. I follow countless people who are huge inspirations to me both artistically and in a girl-boss sense: Tuesday Bassen, JulieAnn Art, and Laura Callaghan are all great, to name a few. Having an insta-feed full of amazing, driven guys and gals is always perfect for a little mid-day inspiration.
Hopes + dreams
What areas are you still working on becoming better at, as a business owner and a creative individual?
I’m working on seeing my time, and work, as valuable in the actual monetary sense of the word. A pretty consistent struggle I’ve had as a designer, whether in BAECK + ANN or work outside of it, is that people sometimes think that creative trades are easy or fun and don’t realize the actual time and energy that goes into it. I have a hard time saying “hey, I spent X amount of time on this and my time is worth Y amount.”
What do you envision for the future of your business? Do you have any personal dreams that you still have your sights set on?
My dream is to have a cute little shop with our cute little cards and a cute little dog that hangs out with me there. Ultimately I would love to be able to support myself with this business alone.
What’s next for BAECK + ANN? Tell us about what you’ve been up to lately and what we can look forward to:
We’re slowly transitioning towards having a primarily printed inventory available online and in stores, working on entering more retail locations, and hitting up as many craft shows and markets as we can over the next little while! You can catch us in person on December 1st, 8th, and 25th at The Hills Night Market in Kelowna, BC.