After months of lockdown in 2020, Erin Tucci had had enough of Netflix and just playing around on her computer after the workday was over. She decided to start drawing, and she hasn’t looked back since. Today Tucci runs Erin Tucci Designs, where she sells hand drawn stickers, keychains, posters and tee shirts of sports players and teams. Since she celebrated her one year anniversary in business this past September she has created over one hundred products for her store and received over five hundred orders from across the US and Canada. Today the Los Gatos, California entrepreneur is balancing her day job, learning how to grow her small business on the side and focused on continuing to hone her creative and entrepreneurial skills.
Ferrie’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
While I was fortunate enough to still be working during the Pandemic, I had a lot of free time after work. At first, I spent my time watching tv and on my computer, but after month four of lockdown, I picked up my Apple Pencil and began exploring Procreate.
As a San Jose Sharks fan, I wanted to find a Joe Thornton sticker for my water bottle but couldn’t find any stickers so I decided to design my own! I began selling my designs on Etsy in September 2020 and my first order went to someone I didn’t know! Ecstatic about this, I began doodling players more and even participated in #Inktober successfully releasing a new design daily. Inktober was absolutely exhausting, but worth it to help me grow my product offerings quickly.
How do you define success?
Success is being able to work whenever, wherever. No nine to five at a set location, but instead the flexibility to work, enjoy life, and be happy.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
I celebrated my one year anniversary on September 1, 2021 and am very proud to say that I have over 100 items in my shop, have shipped 500+ items to 40 states and Canada, and have my stickers in two stores!
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My biggest challenge has been dealing with finances and legal issues. Between learning how to file for my business license, setting up a Quickbooks account and managing my finances, and making sure I pay my taxes quarterly, I learned a lot in my first year. As someone who never took a finance class in undergraduate or graduate school, it was a new and scary process. I read a lot of things that made no sense and ended up in countless rabbit holes on government sites trying to find the correct answers to my questions. I am grateful that I took on these responsibilities because now that I have survived my first year of business, I have a better understanding of how this all works and it will make my life easier this year!
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I have two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design and a Masters in Entrepreneurship. These degrees have given me the skills to start this business and have caused me to think about every decision I make. They also gave me lots of student debt. Because of this, I operate Erin Tucci Designs while working full-time. I am also continuing to educate myself so I can keep advancing my career to pay off my debt while building my small business. I began creating long and short term goals with deadlines rather than an open-ended timeline which really helps me focus on what’s important and allows me to prioritize. I have also been carving out blocks of time for me to focus on my business and my education so that I can continue to grow.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Just start! I know, it sounds so simple, but this step took me months to do. I was worried about people judging my work, that I would fail, and even struggled with the business name. I spent so much time worrying when I could’ve used all of that energy to get my business up and running. Don’t worry about others, focus on yourself, why you are doing this and go crush being the owner of a small business!
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Sometimes it’s stepping away from anything and everything and going outside. Other days it’s making my favorite food and enjoying a night to myself. The best thing is to know what works for you and build it into your schedule along with some personal days to recharge.
Who is your most important role model?
Other small business owners, especially the ones who are balancing college, a job, or both while trying to have life and are successfully running their business. If I feel stuck or unsure what to do, I go to Instagram and look at a few of my favorite businesses and see what they are up to for inspiration. A lot of them provide tips on how they got to where they are today and insights into their lives. They show a lot of the really awesome moments of being a successful business owner, but they also show that it is okay to be tired and take time for themselves.