Meet Ashley, the artist behind Tootyfruitymonkeyluv

It’s Friday evening and I am excited to share with you my most recent interview with Tootyfruitymonkeyluv on Etsy. This shop has some of the most adorable hair accessories that I have ever seen! My daughters LOVE her hair accessories, and so do I!

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Tell us your personal name, business name, website and location?

Hi, my name is Ashley Kolodzek and I own tootyfruitymonkeyluv. My company is named after my two little divas (Zoe aka “Tooty Fruity” and London aka “Monkey”). I am due with my third girl on June 23rd so I guess she will have to be “Luv”(nickname, of course)? I am located near Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota and I run my business solely online through Etsy, Facebook and Twitter. I am in the process of adding a website (but I am way too picky!) which will also list my products! My Etsy web address is tootyfruitymonkeyluv.etsy.com and Facebook is facebook.com/tfmluvhair

What is your studio or workspace like, and how do you work in your studio?

We live in a fairly small two bedroom home right now. My workspace is also my kitchen – however, the only thing I create in the kitchen is hair accessories (haha). This is why I married a Chef (yes, it was planned jk!). I haul all of my materials from the basement up and usually have a “creating session” twice a week where I go to town and create like a crazy woman. Then the rest of the week I pretty much photograph, update, renew and post new items. Currently, I am trying to stock up before baby girl #3 arrives 🙂 My goal is to have a bigger home with a studio type room that I can set up as my work station and my photography area (with props, lighting, etc.).

How would you describe and think of your style, what kind of hair accessories do you make and what type of materials do you prefer?

I believe my tagline answers this question perfectly. “Inspired by all Things Vintage, Retro and Shabby Chic.” I try to have all my products follow this tagline/guideline and also research new and upcoming trends so I am able to recreate at a more affordable price. If you see something you like – contact me for a custom order – I love tackling new projects or techniques! I prefer silk flowers, all types of different fabrics, bold, bright, soft and sweet colors. And again, vintage anything is right up my alley! A lot of my bridal pieces, bib necklaces and headbands have vintage buttons or vintage centers from local antique stores.

What new directions do you hope to move in the future?

I have so many exciting things I want to do in the future. I am very busy with my small children right now, so I am taking the time to finish my Graphic/Web Design degree (graduate next year!!). In addition, I started this company in October 2010 so I am still in the trial and error stage. I really feel by the time I graduate I will have a killer product line, solid organization and processes and an amazing website (that I created)! My all time love is photography so I am currently rounding up all my friends children (yes, at 9 months pregnant – I am hardcore :)) and building up a portfolio. Photoshop Elements 9 is an amazing software program for aspiring photographers, but it takes a LONG time to learn (especially when you have a Monkey running around) 🙂

Do you have big plans, new ideas or designs you will be exploring soon?

My long-term goal is to have a shop that offers hair accessories (everyday and bridal), canvas art, photography (nature) and offers my photography, graphic design and web design services. I would eventually like to be a full-service store where you can come in, purchase a beautiful big lace flower headband for your newborn, book a photography shoot for your new addition and pick out a birth announcement design (one example, I would also do graduation pics with grad announcements or bridal with wedding invites or wedding slideshows). I would be able to bundle these services and in the long-run save people money and time!

What is your typical day like?

Pure chaos! 🙂 My 2 year old daughter stays home with me (and soon to be newborn), so we hang out in the morning and when it is nap time (like right now) I hop on the computer and start working on the never ending “to do” list. We pick up Tooty Fruity from school around 3pm – hang out (or soccer practice, or doctors appointments, or…) until 7/8pmish and then I am back on the computer or in my kitchen creating new items. Oh yeah, and completing my homework…

How do you work during the day in your studio, and what keeps you inspired and motivated?

My children obviously inspired me every day – I want to create a magical childhood for them. I don’t feel that means they need to live in a mansion or have closets full of clothes, but I want it to be carefree and fun! They obviously love the fact that mommy makes hair accessories, being major fashionista’s, but the extra money helps us do some fun family activities and take small trips together (and pay our bills… sometimes JK).

Who are and are your mentors and inspirations?

My parents are my mentors, hands down. They have guided me through life teaching me that I CAN do anything I put my heart to (and I truly believe that!). They have been very supportive even when I haven’t made the right choices which, in the long run, taught me forgiveness and understanding. They would give their shirts off their backs to almost anyone and introduced me to God at a very young age! They have helped us tremendously and by starting this business and finishing my degree I hope to make them even more proud…

I noticed you work with many medias, do you create one piece from start to finish, or do you create various components and then the piece grows to completion separately?

Lately, I have been so busy with custom orders and with school finals that I have been just creating items that are popular or I find beautiful. I try and come up with mini-lines (like “Blue Cosmos on a Sunday Morning”) when I have time because they keep me sane and on top of my game and showcase my range. I usually create about 6 to 10 items that are similar in colors/textures and list them together or create a Facebook album to showcase the new creations. My “hippie” headband and brooches are very popular right now; therefore that is what I am primarily working on. It really changes with the seasons as well.

Are there things that you enjoy and do often without putting it off, and other things that aren’t your favorite and you delay doing them?

I gravitate towards Marketing/Advertising and love coming up with Sales Promotions. I love to create items, but I have to literally tear myself away from the computer (my husband loves this – NOT!) and walk away haha. In addition, I thoroughly enjoy photography so I usually love booking and taking photos of nature, people or my products. Then I get overwhelmed by the large amount of images that need to be sorted through and edited. You know the saying, “you bit off more than you could chew”? Yep, that is me, in a nutshell. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, it is a wonder I can sleep at all. I really want to showcase a primarily fabric flower hair accessory line and expand on my bib necklaces, but my ideas or “favorites” typically take the back burner.

What sort of things do you prefer making and creating, what comes easily to you?

Well, actually making the flower hair accessories take time. I am very quality control focused; therefore I pay special attention to my products being securely attached and durable. I take a lot of time in securing each layer, hand beading with double thread and ensuring each embellishment is going to stay (for good!). I know this isn’t possible 100% of the time and things happen, but I would rather it would be someone else’s product it happens to:). I really enjoy coming up with new ideas and enjoy creating all my products! Bridal for me is very special because they trust me to create a custom piece to go along with their carefully planned out (ad expensive) dress and hairdo. I typically have them send me pictures of their hairdo (or attend their hairstyle trial) and wedding dress. I try and match color, style, beading, etc. And typically, this will be in their hair for photographs and with them for life!

What are the things you consider most important to do for your business and your creativity?

I think that the most important thing to do for your business is enjoy what you are doing. When you start to dread things such as creating your products or marketing/advertising you need to switch things up and find motivation in something (whatever gets YOU going). I find that when I am in the middle of a “creating session” I start to get worn down by the end (usually hours later). I am ALWAYS happy, motivated and inspired again after I see the final product, so I keep reminding myself about this during the process (I tend to talk to myself too). If you feel overwhelmed – get out of the house, log off for a day or two (if you can – you will probably come home to sales- that is what happens to me!) and get re-inspired by nature, music or just life!

What would you recommend for others who may just be getting started?

I was extremely disappointed when I first started. I had people telling me, “oh, you are going to sell a ton” or “yeah, I would definitely buy that”, but the beginning is not that pretty. You spend hours on creating enough items to fill your “store”, you come up with banners/logos/avatars/taglines/shop announcements, you take hundreds of photos and take time editing them. Then what happens? Nothing. You wait and wait until you get that first sale (which can take weeks or even months). But trust me, it will happen, once you get a sale and start building up a customer base you will feel great! It does take time to get “discovered, but by creating a Facebook page, posting on free ad sites (Craigslist, Kijiji), joining wonderful teams (such as Statteam ) you will succeed and your hard work will start to pay off. And remember, customer service is the most important aspect of any successful business… word of mouth is crucial! 🙂

You can LIKE tootyfruitymonkeyluv on Facebook: facebook.com/tfmluvhair

What a wonderful interview Ashley, thank you so much for this delightful chance to take an in depth look into your artwork and your shop!

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