charleston sc fink toys michelle jewell

 The focus of the Starting Small series is to introduce you to some amazing individuals who have built their own businesses from scratch. They are full of passion, life, and love. Once a month, we feature a new business owner, and pick their brain regarding how they started their business, advice for those who have/wish to have a business themselves, how they making time for themselves, and most importantly, which they love most about being a small business owner. I hope these individuals will inspire you, motivate you, and fill your heart with as much love as they've filled mine.

When did you first decide you wanted to start creating handmade soft toy friends? Tell us the story!

In 2009 I was working high volume retail and ready for a change. I saved any extra cash I could for one year and stepped out on my own. I had absolutely no direction when came to what my business would be, but I knew I wanted to be creative and work for myself. For the next couple of months I made everything from jewelry to handbags to toys. The toys were the most popular with my family and friends so I spent more and more time working on them. In June of 2010 I participated in my first local market and people connected with the characters. I was so surprised that others liked them! Seven years later, we are still trying to make people smile with our bunch of animals.

Where do you look to for inspiration for new designs?

Most of the time it starts with a doodle and goes from there. That is how the llama came to be. I just started sketching llamas and over a few months of playing with the design I was ready to prototype the physical one. I've gotten better at knowing how a sketch will translate to a three dimensional toy but it can still take months to work out. After many adjustments, I'll finally land on a design that I like (and that makes me laugh) while fitting in with our family of Finks. 

What was the process like for deciding on this name for your business?

The process was pretty easy, Finkelstein is my dogs name. :) It's also a name that you don't see very often and I liked the way it looked aesthetically. As time went on, we shortened it to Fink Toys since that's what we call the characters anyway. I like the way 'The Finks' sounds. They seem like Finks for some reason, a bit mischievous. 

What has been the most difficult part of creating and managing a small business? What has been the most enjoyable part?

The most difficult part has been the adjustment from creating with my hands to running the business. I use to spend my days making and prototyping and coming up with new ideas. As time went on I realized oh, I need to see if anyone else likes these guys. I had never seen a line sheet, never made a logo, never considered cohesive language and branding. I had to Google 'what is a PO'! The business side was shock. Seven years on, I try to practice a better balance with the two sides. It is still a struggle some days when I wish I could close myself in my studio and just make. Looking back, facing the business side in real time has been so educational and rewarding. No better motivation to learn what a PO is than when someone submits a PO for the first time. 

Favorite quote:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt 

Tea or Coffee? Early Bird or Night Owl? Heels or flats? Sunshine or Snow?

Coffee, love coffee so much. 
Night owl. I have to force myself to bed like a little kid.

Snow. It goes better with the coffee. 

Want to learn more about Michelle? Check out her links below!

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