How I Turned My Passion For
Embroidery Into A Side-Hustle
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Elizabeth Yuksel. I am an architecture student, embroidery artist, and designer currently living in Los Angeles. I was born in Silicon Valley, about an hour south of San Francisco. My business name, ‘lilibetstudio’, is derived from a nickname my family used to call me growing up – Lilibet. I started out with abstract paintings but slowly realized that I had more of a passion for embroidery. Currently, there is only one person steering the ship – me!
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
My professional background is in architecture. Ever since I was young, I wanted to be an architect like my grandfather. Fast forward to now, and I am only a couple of months away from graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from California State Polytechnic Pomona.
I’ve always loved producing art, and really started honing in my craft when I went to college. I saw embroidery as a stress reliever from architecture, which is an extremely demanding major!
Lilibetstudio really started as a way to showcase my artwork to friends and family. My style is heavily influenced by my background education in architecture, and is driven by colour and form. My artwork consists of sharp lines and clear forms, with contrasting colours. I take my surroundings and observations of the environment around me and translate them into a simplified narrative.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
I would say the biggest challenge wasn’t necessarily in creating my products, but in marketing myself. I’ve realised that you really need to have a passion for what it is that you are making or doing.
When I started Lilibetstudio, I was making abstract paintings. I loved it, but I did not have the same passion for it as I do with embroidery. Passion and drive for my craft is what helps me keep posting on Instagram and getting my brand out there.
Competition is also a huge challenge when first starting out. But creating something unique AND doing it well will help you stand out from the crowd. For me, I have tried to redefine embroidery through a more modern lens. Another challenge I have faced (and still face!) is trying to increase my sales. Selling artwork in general can be a challenge, as many do not have the disposable finances to invest in artwork. This, I would say, is my biggest current challenge.
Who is your target market?
My target market is predominantly 18-40 year old women. I’ve noticed that the majority of my followers come from the USA, although my numbers from the UK, Canada, France and Australia seem to be increasing all of the time.
I think that a lot of those who follow me on Instagram are also within the embroidery community, however most of my target market seems to appreciate hand crafted work in general. In the future, I am considering selling my work at local craft fairs or coffee shops, as I feel I could connect with my target demographic there.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
The main way that I market my business is through Instagram and word of mouth. Instagram, as a visual platform, is imperative for creatives. I’ve been able to connect with other people who have the same interests and vision, which can be inspiring when you are feeling uninspired yourself! Hosting giveaways on Instagram has proven to be very successful because it can help to get your name out further.
I also try to get the word out about my business through friends and family, who hopefully then spread the word themselves. I have yet to use paid advertising, as I do not have the funds for that quite yet.
But I think one of the most meaningful ways to market yourself is to connect with any relevant communities – they are more than often willing to give meaningful advice and support that could help you out a lot!
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Establishing yourself within any relevant community is huge. Since connecting with the embroidery community on Instagram, I’ve been able to market myself to a larger group of people – many of whom have become customers of mine! In terms of retaining customers, I would say that you should be the friendliest and most authentic you can be. I’ve noticed that a lot of the time, people will come to you because they like the person that stands behind the business as much as the products themselves.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Since it’s just me, I don’t necessarily have a culture that exists within Lilibetstudio. In maintaining the best me I can possibly be, I like to prioritise self-care. Without that, I am stretched too thin between the business, my academics, and my personal life.
If in the future Lilibetstudio grows to become more than just one person, I would like to establish a collaborative business culture. I’ve learned through my experience in working in architecture that collaborating and communicating with others as a priority is huge. You are able to do more than what one person or a group of non-collaborative people are able to do – and often in a better way.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I often find myself using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to help create my patterns. These patterns are then transferred to my artwork. Other than that, I do not use other software. For my professional website, I have found that using Wix has been a huge help. It’s very easy to use and update whenever you want, and using the shop feature is a breeze. I highly recommend using Wix for all artists and creatives out there!
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I think that the most important lesson I have learned since launching Lilibetstudio is to be yourself and believe in your product. Without that, you will not have the same passion and drive to keep moving forward. Authenticity is something that the world sometimes lacks. When people see that you are authentic, it can be a breath of fresh air and be a motivator for people to invest in your products.
One mistake I have made is underselling my artwork. It is tempting when you get that first customer to reduce your price in hopes that they will buy your product. But I have found this to be counterproductive, as it can make your work look like it isn’t worth as much. I would say when starting, price your work fairly and stand by that price. The right customer will come along!
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being my own boss! I love being a ‘one-woman show’ in a sense. Deciding when to release new collections, experimenting with different ideas or just about any aspect of Lilibetstudio is up to me. It is very refreshing being able to do something without having to run it by someone else!
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I think that being my own boss can also be a downside! There is nobody to tell you when to have a product completed, or when to launch part of your website. It’s very easy to get lazy and not do anything at all. Being self-motivated and driven is a huge part of your own success.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I would say that the embroidery community on Instagram has been a huge inspiration and influence on my own business. Everyone is so caring and supportive, and they really motivate me to keep going even when I feel so overwhelmed! I think finding a group that is invested in your success can be a huge motivator. I have also listened to some podcasts that talk about the business side of art. Art Juice, Smart Art Business, and NPR podcasts speak a lot about small businesses and how they got started. I particular love listening to NPR’s Life Kit for general life advice!
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 2-3 years, I still see Lilibetstudio staying small in terms of a team. My fiancee has offered to help me manage my business, so I definitely see him becoming an integral part of Lilibetstudio as well. I hope to grow my customer base and find different ways of marketing myself to the wider community. Hopefully, with that enlarged customer base, I will see higher revenue from lilibetstudio, and I will be able to do this as a full-time profession!