Women in Art Spotlight
Getting to know Jasmine Habart of My Cat is People
My Cat is People features cat-themed, hyper-relatable stationery, lapel pins, and garments that Jasmine describes as an ode to "basically everything we tried to hide about ourselves in high school.
"I’m never entirely sure what my followers will like, but they do tend to enjoy a few subjects: cats, coffee, books, wine, a little sci-fi, feeling awkward, staying in to watch movies, and fart jokes," Jasmine says. "Maybe that last one is just me."
Starting an Etsy Shop in Vancouver
Jasmine opened her first Etsy shop in 2011 when she was studying graphic design. She sold a handful of prints and greeting cards based off of her school projects. "And by 'a few' I mean I had a handful of sales, some of which were to my husband and mother-in-law," Jasmine admits with a 'lol.'
After graduation, she and a school friend started Follie, a small business which focused on logo design and print work. For Jasmine, graphic design was equal parts gratifying and draining. As a side hustle, she started a blog called The Second Breakfast where she posted silly projects. One February, she challenged herself herself to post one illustration to her blog and Instagram a day for the whole month. "I called these illustrations Purrfect Doodles as they mostly involved cats, my preferred subject matter! They didn’t have to be perfect, they just had to get done."
After realizing that their design aspirations had grown in different directions, Frame & Follie parted ways on good terms. "I mean, not everyone wants to draw cats all day! Wait, what?" A few months later, she and her husband were casually brainstorming ideas when she mentioned the words, "my cat is people."
"It was something I’d written down when I was trying to learn brush lettering a month earlier," she said. "We started laughing and joked that that would be a great business name. And then we thought, 'Wait.'" Her husband ran to the computer and registered the domain name, and that evening she stayed up all night creating social media accounts for My Cat Is People, and changed the name of her Etsy shop.
Discovering Your Niche in a Small Business
Jasmine intended to focus on garments, but her first screen printed shirts weren't very successful. "I still have some of them." At the time, she was also doing custom portraits and baby infographics. "At that point, I really wasn’t sure how much of the business would be client work and how much would be retail based."
Then she noticed on Instagram that pinback buttons were making a comeback. "I had a local business press a few batches of buttons and magnets for me. And, well... none of these were very successful either. On Instagram or in sales."
"It wasn’t until I released my first enamel pin that things started to (slowly) change for my shop."
Her first success story? This But Furrst…Coffee
"It will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only because it incorporates two of my favourite things, cats and coffee, but because the enamel pin set my business on a different path," she says. "I had a high of SIX sales in one month and that number doubled the next month!"
She also became friends online with other pin designers. As her Instagram followers climbed, so did her sales. This emboldened her to enter her first market, one she'd visited a year before. She got rejected. "I was feeling pretty blue, but then…a spot opened up!"
And so, Etsy Vancouver 2016: Made In Canada Market was another turning point for My Cat Is People. "I got to meet so many people, which was nerve wracking but also a lot of fun. Not everyone knew what an enamel pin was, or what to do with them. But the shoppers were all so cheerful and meeting other vendors was super cool!"
She applied to more markets, which allowed her to meet more people, including Bird on a Wire Creation's previous manager Laura. "Which has allowed me to be a part of a shop I’d visited and thought, 'I wish my products were in here,' even before I really had any products!"
Finding Design Inspiration
With her business now on its feet, one of Jasmine's talents is continually creating new designs.
"I find inspiration in pop culture and in the seasons. I’m constantly inspired by what I’m watching on TV, as well as the simple day-to-day things that we may not always talk about but are good to laugh about. I.e. farts," says Jasmine.
Her latest design is Easter Kitty, based on a quick doodle she made before heading to brunch. She decided to trim the 1” x 1” drawing and brought it to the restaurant to photograph alongside her morning coffee. "That’s a normal thing to do, right? Maybe that’s a social media tip: photograph things with coffee!"
The design lingered around her work space until this spring, and now it's her first enamel pin that incorporates screen printing, which allows for finer details as the enamel doesn’t have to be constrained within a metal outline.
Social Media and Being an Introvert in Business
Another strength of her business is that her own introvertedness changed from being a problem to being on-brand. She calls herself "an introvert by day, an introvert by night."
Growing up, 'introvert' was almost a bad word; no one wanted to be one of those. Being called a cat lady wasn't much of a compliment either," she adds. But now, "as an introvert, running a business from home is…THE BEST. And social media has really helped."
Social media has allowed introverts to communicate, connect and share with people they wouldn’t normally meet in public settings. And that’s an incredible thing. Cat ladies are incredibly cool meow, too!"
Despite her online success, Jasmine wouldn't call herself an absolute pro. "There’s so much room to grow! Good photos obviously help and we can thank smartphones for making that so easy," she says.
She says she's happiest when her Instagram varies in colour but keeps a similar look and feel, something she considers when editing or adding a filter.
Expanding the Business into Apparel
Now that Jasmine has nailed down her social media game, her next step is returning to her first product, garments. There's a lot to consider. She wants to focus on ethically made t-shirts, which cost more than 'fast fashion' tees. She also has to decide whether or not to print herself, which is time consuming, or print locally but have to make much bigger orders.
"But the internet is also teaching me that done is better than perfect, so I’ll have to just try something and see what happens! Purrfect is better than perfect, right?"
Purrfect IS better than perfect is great advice, and she has a few more words of wisdom for artists who want to start marketing their work.
Advice on Running a Successful Business
"Running a successful business is about hard work but there’s definitely a luck and a timing component to it," she says. "You might have the wrong audience, or the Instagram gods might not be in your favour. Try to be patient. Whether they show it or not, people may already love your artwork."
When she began My Cat is People on Etsy, Jasmine found that the more items she had in her shop, the more traffic she received. So she is a big fan of small batches, creating more variety, but in smaller quantities.
"I still print my greeting cards and press my pinback buttons to-order. It takes A LOT longer, but it allows me to test the waters with new designs and see what people not only like, but are willing to spend their hard earned money on."
Finally, Jasmine said if you're nervous, you're not alone. Getting out and talking to other small business owners is the cure for that stress. "A lot of them aren’t always entirely sure about what they’re doing either. But no matter what, we’re all still learning and we’re all eager to learn. And... we all love cats."
Thank-you Jasmine, for a good conversation, great business tips, and for partnering with Bird On A Wire Creations, to help more cat-loving, introverted, sci-fi watching coffee drinkers find your work!
My Cat is People pins on our, or visit us in store for our full selection of pins, greeting cards, and more!
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