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Level 6

Bacon Earrings, Anyone? Artist Funlola Coker is Living Her American Dream Designing Funky Jewelry

 

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We're celebrating #CustomerLove by sharing our own stories of how we show our customers we care — whether we're going after repeat business, or just focusing on building a new brand.

 

Nigerian-born and Memphis-based, Funlola Coker created her Etsy shop and custom boutique once she discovered that she loved making miniature food out of polymer clay. Now, she sells a range of quirky accessories to a growing number of fun-loving fashionistas and art lovers alike.

 

We talked to Funlola about taming her detail-obsessed demons, tackling technology and why she's so focused on making her customers happy.

 

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Name: Funlola Coker

Business: Funlola’s Workshop

Started: 2010

 

Tell us more about your background. How did you come to create your business?

 

I moved to the US from Lagos, Nigeria in 2007 and I've been determined to take advantage of every opportunity since then. 

 

During my college years, I focused on metalsmithing and a bit of woodworking. I knew I wanted to spend all my time learning new techniques and working with equipment I wouldn't normally have access to, so I spent a lot of time within the walls of my school tinkering and hammering. Once the doors closed for summer, I found myself bored. I searched my art supplies for something I could do with my hands, and found some polymer clay. A couple of hours later and I had my first donut!

 

I spent every summer since 2008 working with polymer clay. When I graduated from art school, I kept working with it and improving my skills. It made sense to being marketing my work as jewelry. 

I suppose I've always wanted to control my time. After working full-time for over three years, I jumped at the first opportunity to make my business a reality. It's been over a year now and I'm still here working away, making wearable foods and miniatures!

 

 

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Who was your very first customer?

 

My mom! She bought the first cupcake earrings I listed in my Etsy shop. We go way back.

 

When did you know your business was going to work out?

 

I'm still telling myself everyday that it's going to work out. 

 

Some months are better than others, but if I weren't so determined to make time for the things I want to do, I might have given up my dream. It's a wonderful opportunity to spend my days doing what I enjoy, to be able to take the time to have fun and travel. 

 

Most importantly, it helps that I have a strong support system for the days I don't think it will work out. My friends and family set me straight when I'm in one of those frustrated moods.

 

What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?

 

I'm always surprised by fans and repeat customers. It's one thing for someone to buy my work once, but it's even more amazing to have someone come back again and to see them wearing my jewelry. Running a small business really is all about the customers.

 

 

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What has been your biggest lesson learned in pricing?

 

I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to detail and it tends to eat into my time, which in turn affects my pricing. 

Time is a big part of pricing so I've had to learn to stop myself when it comes to tiny details that no one but me will notice, otherwise the cost of the piece just isn't worth it. For me, making this shift is a good thing because I'm learning how to work quickly and more efficiently.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

 

I wake up around 6:30 in the morning and see what's happening in the world via the Internet to get my day going. I have breakfast around 7:45am, then start my day in the studio after 8am. 

 

First I do computer work, which could be touching up photos, answering emails or updating my Etsy page. Then I get into the zone of creating miniatures until lunchtime. If I'm not terribly busy, I like to take a walk and get some fresh air. 

 

After lunch, I get back into the studio and work til about 6pm. Wednesdays are my favorite days because at the end of the day I get to play bike polo, which is my main hobby these days! It's all about balancing work and play — that’s what makes a perfect day.

 

 

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If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?

 

I'm still in the early stages, so it's hard to say. I've been taking a lot of risks this year by participating in craft shows out of town. I'm sure there will be a lesson to learn there. I think one of the things I'll learn along the way is to relinquish control, go with the flow more and not try to do it all myself.

 

What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners?

 

I'd like to learn more about running a business and find out about free or low-cost software I can start using that will help me keep track of everything. 

 

There are several stages of growth within a business. If I can't keep track of things, I feel that I won't really know what direction to guide my business toward. I'd love to hear about something user-friendly for less tech-savvy folk like myself!

 

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Do *you* have the perfect, easy-to-use software or app that helps you keep track of everything that's happening in your business?

If you have tips for Funlola for how she can use software or apps to start managing all the ins and outs of her small business, share your story with us in the comments below!

 

We can't wait to hear your recommendations. :-)

1 Comment
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Level 7

Bacon Earrings, Anyone? Artist Funlola Coker is Living Her American Dream Designing Funky Jewelry

The Tiny Food products are SO cute! If you're in the Memphis area, Funlola will be at the Cooper Young Festival with her amazing products. This is a great opportunity to not only support Funlola but so many other entrepreneurs, hear some great music and eat some delicious food! 

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