In the spotlight: IMAKIN
How did you come up with the idea of launching IMAKIN?
In early 2012 my girlfriends and I went to a trade fair for hobby materials. We had taken a shopping list to find materials to create cool Pinterest finds, but amid all the flowers and glitter we hardly found anything! So I thought, “Why not make my own kit of materials to create beautiful things?”. To be honest, at first I wasn’t really thinking of setting up my own company, but then I felt it wouldn’t be a bad idea, even for my own sake.
A while ago I attended an event called Startup Weekend to share my experiences as a Project Manager and help others, but when everyone started pitching ideas, I explained mine too. Eventually I ended up in the top 10 of ideas that garnered the most votes! We then had to form teams with the remaining entrepreneurs. We came up with several DIY boxes and headed out, selling all of our prototypes at once! In March 2013, IMAKIN was launched. The name is a combination of ‘imagine’ and ‘making’.
Early this month you gave up your job to work on IMAKIN full-time. Tell us all about it!
By profession I’m a food technologist. I dreamed of becoming a Research & Development Manager, but when I caught the entrepreneurship bug, my ambitions changed. I found a job as a Product Manager, focusing on marketing and communication, which really fuelled my creativity. I worked only three days a week and the other four I focused on IMAKIN. That was really ideal! But when IMAKIN started growing and growing, it became difficult to combine the two, so on 1 July I resigned and I’m now a creative entrepreneur full-time. Fun, but challenging too!
How do you go from an idea to an actual DIY kit?
I am always checking the latest trends in fashion and interior design, mostly online via Pinterest and blogs, but also via magazines. I don’t really read DIY blogs, but rather blogs focusing on fashion and interior design. Sometimes a specific trend will stand out, like right now, with marble and cork being really popular materials.
When I have an idea, I assess how I can use this trend to create a product that is really useful (not just some frilly bits and pieces). I check what exactly I should put in the DIY kit, what people generally have at home, like a pair of scissors, what the final kit would cost and which suppliers I can work with. Once I’m happy with the result, I order the materials and I create show models. I then take product and inspirational photos, I work on tutorials/instructions and I write two newsletters: one for (online) merchants buying my DIY kits and one for consumers.
Your kits are sold in more than 65 (online) stores. How did they find IMAKIN?
They found me themselves initially. Then last August I first attended showUP and some people who discovered IMAKIN there keep coming back. I love it! Store owners often also see my products at other stores. I even sell my kits in Japan, where they found me via Instagram. In August this year I am once again attending showUP and I will be launching four new kits at the event.
Which DIY kit is the most popular?
The Handlettering DIY kit, without a doubt! I created it in collaboration with the Dutch brand Dreamkey and it was featured in many Dutch magazines, from Flow to Libelle. This kit is also bought by loads of shops. Nienke (from Dreamkey) and I had bought 25 kits. She sold them all in one day and mine were sold out in one week! Meanwhile, I’ve already sold over 1,500 and I now buy them in batches of 500.
Several creations made with the Handlettering DIY kit.
You work from home. Isn’t it hard to resist the temptation to do something else?
Yes and no. I try to be flexible when planning my day, but I think I tend to work more at home than I would elsewhere. I feel it’s easier for me to process an order or answer an email here and there when I’m home. Every morning I make a list of all the tasks I need to finish that day. So if by 4 pm the weather is great and I’ve gone through my list, I head outside and enjoy the sunshine instead of working. I’m quite proud of that, haha!
What do you like the most about running IMAKIN?
The reactions of my customers, without a doubt. IMAKIN wants to show that DIY can be fun, easy and accessible. I hope my kits also give people a chance to take a moment for themselves. When I receive a photo of my customers’ creations they’re really proud of their work, I think to myself, “Yes, mission accomplished!”. More than 260 people have meanwhile shared their creation with the hashtag #deeljeDIY (#shareyourDIY).
“When I receive a photo of my customers’ creations and they’re really proud of their work, I think to myself, “Yes, mission accomplished!”.”
What do you dislike the most about running an online store?
When I launched my own company, I wasn’t really prepared and I hadn’t expected it to be this time-consuming. I didn’t realize the effort it takes to find customers and keep your social media and blog updated. I thought to myself, “Let’s just wait and see”. But in all honestly, I love it! No two days are the same. IMAKIN is really all about developing products and I don’t really see it as an online store. I create products and sell them, and the online store is my sales channel.
What does the future hold for IMAKIN?
Resigning from my job was a big dream I had been working toward. In the future I would love to open my own physical store and sell beautiful materials and kits. It would have a large table for my customers to use the materials they’re buying straight away. It would be a place for them to share experiences, help one another and make wonderful creations.
A DIY kit to print pillowcases: the result!
Any golden tips for other (future) online merchants?
That’s a tough one, because to me, many things have become obvious. I think my number-one tip would be to hit the social-media scene even before your online store goes live! Use social media to advertise not only your existing range, but also your upcoming products. I didn’t do that and it’s a pity really, because people love to find out about your products!