We went head over heels for these cats innocently hanging on earlobes and just about anything you allow them to.
Unicorn cat, ninja cat, Bowie cat, green-eyed cats! How many cat ideas can you have? Living with three cats, Rita’s inspiration never seems to run dry.
Working out of Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia, she is eager to share how she molds her love for cats into a business, with already 100 attention-grabbing cat earrings in her shop and counting.
1. Catmade was an immediate hit! Why is Catmade so successful?
In truth, I do not think that my brand is successful. When my hobby became my business, order number became the main measurement of success. I do have up and downs. I have implemented ten percent of the ideas in my creative plans and I prefer not to think that my brand is successful. This moves me forward.
Compared to 2010, when I started making earrings, now in 2018, I have succeeded somehow. But eight years is a long time to reach success. A couple of years ago, the supermodel Liu Wen was seen at a press conference with my earrings. I do not know whether it’s a success or not. Another time, a picture of my earrings scored more than 500,000 hearts in one very popular blog. Perhaps this is part of “success.”
2. Have you made other cat things before making these hand-painted earrings?
Creativity has always been a big part of my life. I certainly have made many different works, but they were not cats. These cat earrings are the first and only cat earrings that I came up with and kept making. Therefore I think the answer would be no.
3. Do you ever have too many cat ideas? If so, how do you limit yourself to making only some of them?
This question contains the answer. Yes, of course, I have many ideas and the biggest problem is to choose which idea to do. I think that the main criterion is the relevance of the idea in the modern world. Sometimes, I do only what I want for myself, such as a “sweet cats” collection and a “Chinese cats” collection specially made for Chinese New Year. I have been to China several times and I like how new year is celebrated in China.
4. How do you learn to perfect your brand?
I do not have a teacher; I have only a computer and the Internet. I take all my information and inspirations from the Internet. I experiment with materials and techniques a lot. The most important thing for me is to keep working with my hands and the main goal is to satisfy my customers. I want to make beautiful, good-quality things and try to bring them to perfection.
5. Was it hard to leave your economist and German translator career?
No, it was easy. Learning German and getting an education in economics was not my choice, but my parents’ choice. They wanted me to get a good education and I’m grateful for them. But my soul belongs to the world of creativity. I cannot be an economist or an interpreter—I want to create beautiful things for people.
6. We want to meet your cats! Are they your muses?
I’ll tell you about my cats. I found the first cat at the entrance of my house—I do not know how to explain this, but the cat was trapped between two window frames. It was awful, so I helped him, and gave him the name Ryzhun, which means “orange cat”. Ryzhun was about 4 years old at that time and now he has lived with me for more than 10 years. He’s already a grandfather, but plays like a kitten.
A year ago, he was diagnosed with jaw cancer, a common disease in aging cats. We found a clinic and he had an operation. Everything went well and it’s been more than a year now. It was a great test for me, my husband, and Ryzhun. We love him very much. He is my muse and my defender.
Our second cat was thrown at our door. It was a kitten that could sit in the palm of your hand—very small. But now, it’s big and fat, and very sweet and kind.
The third cat was from our relatives. My husband’s brother started becoming allergic to cat hair, and took the cat to us.
In total we have three cats: Ryzhun is the “main” cat, Busya is a cute fat cat and Wolf is a big cat.
7. What are the biggest challenges of turning your hobby into a business?
Perhaps the most difficult thing is to prove that my products are just as good as factory productions, sometimes even better.
Once again, I do not think that I have a popular brand, so I cannot say about specific problems or obstacles. But handmade and hand-painting are the most important things in my business. Perhaps the most difficult thing is to prove that my products are just as good as factory productions, sometimes even better.
Another big problem is getting support from family and friends. Not all of them support me in my business. It’s very important when people you love support you.
8. What words of advice would you give to aspiring designers who want to start a brand?
Experiment. Do more experiments with materials and ideas. Do not be afraid that someone will not like your work. Do the work for yourself and be happy with your work, and then people will appreciate it.
We live in a big world. There will always be people who are ready to support you. Do not be afraid and go for your goal and ideas.
These might sound trivial and typical, but these are the obvious things that people do not do. Many are afraid to start because they are afraid that they will not be appreciated.
9. What’s coming next for Catmade?
I have a million ideas! But I already have a new collection. Since I already have many unusual cat designs, I decided to make a “classic” cats collection, such as cats that live at home and on the street. Also, ordinary cats in different colors. I think that will be interesting.
Rita jokes that she loves cats so much she’s a crazy cat lady, but if being crazy means perfecting your craft, sharing experiences and giving the support you didn’t have, we want to be on that journey too!
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