EDIT APRIL 2ND: XXL and Co is currently donating 50% of profits from the #StayHome collection to the Belleville General Hospital Foundation to help purchase Personal Protective Equipment.
Describe your business.
Firstly, Graphic Tina creates large-scale hand painted murals. I believe in the power of hand painted murals to spread messages, evoke emotion and transform spaces through the hand crafted process of using fine lines for a BIG impact.
Secondly XXL Scrunchie & Co creates OVERSIZED handmade hair scrunchies. I paint big murals and make big scrunchies #gobigorgohome
What brought you to the region?
I moved here with my family in 2006. I’ve always been into art, growing up I always had my sketchbook with me but I put that aside fearing I wouldn’t be able to make a career out of it, so I attended University of Ottawa in 2013 where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 2017.
After that I wanted to follow my true passion and moved to Toronto to attend George Brown College for Graphic Design and found my love for murals. While still painting murals I began XXL Scrunchie & Co (oversized, handmade hair scrunchies). The idea all started out as a Christmas gift for my cousin with a whole lotta hair.
As XXL scrunchie’s started to spread I’ve now asked for help from my mom (Lana) to sew and dad (Bang) to help ship! I’ve now expanded into local businesses and am continuing to make more XXL scrunchie patterns while now living in Belleville again.
What makes the Bay of Quinte a good fit for your business?
I’ve been visiting home a few times a year since I moved out and every time I came home I recognized a lot of new improvements, changes and so much support for local businesses. I now realize just how much of a blossoming community is growing and developing! I am happy to be here again to grow my goals with Graphic Tina and XXL scrunchie & Co.
What was the hardest thing about starting a business?
For me, the hardest thing was balancing school work and my client work. I was just starting college when I got my first graphic design client. It was a challenge trying to learn everything I needed to know as a freelance creative while attending college. I didn’t have many people to go to for advice as most of my peers were students! Looking back it was ALL worth it.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the area?
100% networking is KEY. I feel like even in college they didn’t really emphasize
networking enough, they were showing us interviews but not how to get them!
My second piece of advice is SHOW, don’t tell. (This may only apply to certain creative businesses). This is how I started my whole mural journey! I showed a client what I painted on my own walls, I showed her a complete digital-mock up and drawing of what the mural would look like and BAM, my first mural job. Words can only do so much and if you put in the extra effort of research for your clients they will really appreciate it and want to work with you!
Lastly, I would say don’t wait and just do it. If you wait until you’re fully ready you could be waiting for the rest of your life! I was never truly ready when I started my creative journey but I created my own opportunities when I saw the chances and dove in head first.
What surprised you about starting a business in a smaller community?
I’m used to working in big cities; some of my graphic design clients I would never even meet or see in person, [they] only communicated with me through email! Now being in a smaller community, the extra support, advice and friendly manner is what I missed. Word-of-mouth goes such a long way! Smaller communities also value quality over quantity and the support for local businesses is inspiring to be a part of.
Describe your perfect day off.
I am such a workaholic that my perfect day off would be spent painting a mural! It is such a productive way to meditate.
What’s your secret to surviving winter?
Business-wise to survive winter I am lucky my job involves being inside and isn’t really affected by the seasons! So I am always moving, focusing and planning ahead while maintaining a tight schedule (there are endless things to do, learn and improve on!).
If you were to have one word tattooed on you, what would it be?
I have over 30 tattoos! So if I were to get another one and it was a word, I would get YÊU which is Vietnamese for love. It would express and symbolize love for my family.