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Designer Interviews Premiere!

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Most of you who read my blog are creative types, whether professionally or not...you love design, fashion, and crafty things. A lot of you have hopes and future plans to start your own business....whether as a side gig or a full-time business. So, here we have the first of (hopefully, many) designer interviews in which I'll post interviews with various designers who have made their mark on the business and design world. I'll ask about their inspirations, how they got to where they are, and what they do on Saturday afternoons. All of them will be somewhat new...businesses that have started in the past few years. I'm not looking to interview the booming Kate Spades of the world, but those who manage to be successful on a smaller level. Hope these inspire you all to spend your days doing the things you love.

Designer Interview 01
Who: Jackie Shapiro of French Bull

I happen to have met Jackie from working with her on a project a few years back. I remember when we met, her French Bull line was out in stores and consisted of the original set of melamine plates. It's been amazing to see her collection grow so incredibly over the past few years...she now also designs paper products, sleepwear, travel accessories, and more. I am delighted to have her as my first Designer Interview.

1 ~ What is your role in your company?
Owner & Designer

2 ~ What inspired you to start your line?
I have a print collection that is sold to mostly apparel manufacturers. When I sell a pattern that is pretty much the end of my involvement. I really wanted to get a product out into the market where I could see the process through from beginning to end. We moved to a mid-century modern house about 4 years ago, that had a bunch of formica surfaces throughout. I found that I could make the formica in any pattern I liked, almost at the same cost as if I went to Home Depot and ordered it. Once I started making formica surfaces for our house, I discovered melamine dishes sort of use a similar production process. That is how I started French Bull.

3 ~ What's the significance of the name "French Bull"?
I like that French Bull can mean many things & is pretty open to interpretation. Some see it as a high contrast combo name {French being soft - Bull being hard}. Others see the two words as having the same meaning ie French & Bull. Others really think the the French Bull dog is an incredible looking dog & the word is just fun to say.

4 ~ Did you find it hard to get started?
Not really hard, but there are so many things to learn, and you can't possibly know everything until you just start. I am amazed everyday by what I don't know.

5 ~ Did you start the business cold turkey full-time or did it start as a side project while at another job?
I still work on many projects while designing and managing French Bull. I design all the assets for both The Power Puff Girls and Puffy Ami Yumi licensing programs for Cartoon Network. I also have a line called Tepper Jackson of pajamas & bags. I have a partner with this line so it helps manage the time needed.

6 ~ What is your favorite product or series of products in your collection?
My favorite product in the French Bull collection is the 8" side plate. I know that sounds crazy (there is nothing ground breaking about it), but its the item I use all the time. It's little & big enough to accommodate all sorts of foods. The coolest product in the line is what we call a salad server, but I use it for everything. Stir frying, dishing out rice, and of course serving salad.

7 ~ Where are your items made? Are they made in factories/mills or in your own studio?
All French Bull products are manufactured in Asia.

8 ~ How did you go about finding a manufacturer?
I was referred to a factory by a friend that I asked with a lot of experience producing overseas.

9 ~ What inspires you in general?
~ Fantasy scenes like a set in Alice in Wonderland or Boohbah.
~ Really Rockin' Rock & Roll like the Foo Fighters, Black Sabath, ACDC, and Audio Slave.
~ Anything Jet Set high end luxury from the seventies - jewelry, furniture, stationery, luggage, textile patterns, shoes. The Italians being the greatest in my mind at this style.

10 ~ What is one piece of advice to other designers and creative types who are looking to start their own business?
Just start. Start really safely though. Keep it small and manageable - try and start a business that doesn't require a lot of capitol. Do as much as you can from home and by yourself till you work out all the kinks.

Also, get sales reps. They are your sales force and really important to get your product out there. Ask a store that you like what sales reps they like working with, then call them to see if they want to represent your product.

11 ~ What's your favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon?
Hang with my kids. They are the funniest people I know - they crack me up.

12 ~ What is your favorite flower, pet/animal, and magazine?
~ Coral Charm & Eventide peonies
~ Dogs - any (sorry I know you love cats), polar bears, penguins & monkeys
~ Any teen girl pop magazine like Pink World

Thanks to Jackie for giving us such great advice!

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