In this episode of James’s podcast, he welcomes guest and community member Mim Jenkinson to tackle an unexpected topic: stickers.
Both are somewhat surprised to be addressing this theme. James’s memories of stickers date back to childhood, with more recent experiences revolving around his surf brand and with his kids. Mim, on the other hand, runs a sticker maker business, teaching others how to do so, but never expected to discuss it on a business show.
In their chat, James and Mim will look at the growth of Mim’s sticker business, from a simple diversion to a six-figure livelihood.
They’ll touch on the practicalities of such a venture – supplies needed to start a sticker business, time investment, and how Mim balances the various offers of her business.
And we’ll hear about the value Mim delivers, and the mindset and traits that are keys to success in business.
Table of contents:
1. Mim’s entry into sticker world
2. Does making it a business take away the joy?
3. The practicalities of space and tools
4. James’s failed sticker endeavor
5. Bringing the value of stickers to society
6. What makes Mim stand out
7. Married to a hero
8. Mim’s stance on AI
9. Betting on the humans
10. Can you actually make money with stickers?
11. The time it takes per week
12. Balancing the elements
12. Where the traffic and leads come from
13. Not always a straightforward thing…
14. The biggest insight our guest can share
Mim’s entry into sticker world
Mim’s journey into the world of stickers began during a challenging phase. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she had to leave her well-paying consulting job to undergo chemo and radiation.
During this time, while grappling with the demands of motherhood and the trauma of her diagnosis, she sought a creative outlet to distract her. Stickers in her planner became that solace. This led to a newfound passion, prompting her to teach herself the art of sticker-making.
Mim started selling her creations on Etsy and, as their popularity grew, ventured into coaching others in the art and business of stickers, eventually building quite a decent livelihood.
James is relieved to know Mim’s health has improved, and notes that life-changing experiences often make individuals reassess their priorities. He relates this to the joy of childhood and the memories that stickers recall from those times.
James’s own daughter loves stickers, underlining the happiness that simple things can bring.
Does making it a business take away the joy?
Mim acknowledges that turning a passion into a business can sometimes dilute the initial joy and enthusiasm, especially if one becomes too focused on results and metrics. She stresses the importance of maintaining a connection with the core reasons behind starting the business.
For Mim, it’s not just about the stickers but how they make one feel. Whether it’s sparking creativity, evoking pride, inducing calm, or simply bringing joy, the core of her venture lies in the emotional response. This sentiment serves as a constant reminder for her to stay connected to her original purpose, ensuring both she and her customers experience that inner joy.
The practicalities of space and tools
Mim explains that starting a sticker business doesn’t require a vast printing shop, as many might assume. With just a cutting machine like a cricket or silhouette, a computer, decent sticker paper, and a reasonable printer, anyone can venture into the sticker-making business from the comfort of their home. Platforms like Etsy have become especially popular for selling such stickers.
Over time, Mim transitioned from selling physical stickers to offering digital products. She designs the sticker files, which customers can then easily print and cut at home, making the business model increasingly passive and adaptable.
James highlights the shift in the sticker industry with this approach. The accessibility of tools and platforms means that individuals can easily transition from running a traditional e-commerce business with physical inventory to an information product-based model. This change has potentially challenged larger operations, as many home-based entrepreneurs have entered the market.
James’s failed sticker endeavor
James recounts an unsuccessful business venture of his involving stickers.
In Australia, cigarette packets come with health warning labels featuring graphic images. And at one point, there was a trend where people would cover these images with funny or entertaining stickers.
Young James and some friends designed, printed, and packaged these kind of playful stickers, but were able to sell very few of them. He wishes, he says, he had known Mim and her expertise back then, to possibly achieve more success.
Bringing the value of stickers to society
Stickers actually bring significant value to society, says Mim. Beyond their use in settings like kindergartens and preschools, stickers can address specific needs or problems, serving as both functional tools and creative expressions.
For Mim, the possibilities for sticker application are endless – she is often looking at situations and thinking, there should be a sticker for that…
In coaching her students, she underscores the importance of identifying a problem or need the sticker might address. This could be, for instance, assisting someone to start, maintain, or break a habit.
With a saturated market like Etsy, says Mim, the distinctiveness of a sticker lies in its genuine ability to help individuals, making it essential to consider this aspect when designing.
What makes Mim stand out
James has witnessed Mim’s dedication and capability over their time working together. He particularly appreciates her reliability, as shown when he entrusted her to lead his mastermind in his absence, a responsibility he hadn’t delegated in over a decade.
Mim’s consistent presence and willingness to learn and adapt stand out, making her a valued collaborator in James’s eyes.
Another aspect of Mim’s success, as James points out, is her openness to diverse sources of information. Rather than strictly adhering to one mentor or method, Mim integrates insights from various channels, ensuring she gains a well-rounded perspective.
Furthermore, Mim’s proactive nature, which James playfully refers to as “mimplementing,” ensures that she doesn’t just gather knowledge but actively applies it, leading to tangible results in whatever she does.
Married to a hero
When Mim faced health challenges, her husband Miles had to step up and manage both the household and their children, marking a shift in their traditional roles.
Mim, who was typically the primary breadwinner and managed many aspects of their household, deeply appreciated Miles’s unwavering support and the sacrifices he made during their difficult times. In spite of severe financial setbacks, the couple, with the assistance of Mim’s parents, managed to rebuild their lives together.
In the wake of her recovery, Mim’s business began to flourish. With her newfound success, one of her driving motivations was to find a way to give back to Miles for his support. Behind the scenes, she began making payments for a new car Miles had bought, aiming to surprise him by paying it off as a birthday gift. The moment of reveal was emotional, with even her tough “brown belt” husband breaking down in tears.
Mim also integrated Miles into her business, allowing him to utilize his artistic skills more effectively than in his previous carpentry job. Miles, a gifted artist with an impressive résumé, including a stint at Disney, started working part-time for Mim. This transition allowed Miles to spend more quality time with his family while also contributing his exceptional artistic skills to the business.
James, who has been privy to these developments, expresses admiration for the couple’s journey and resilience. He highlights the value of achieving a work-life balance, noting how he too enjoys a flexible schedule that allows him to spend ample time with his family.
Mim’s stance on AI
On the topic of AI, while Mim is not wholly against the technology, she has reservations about its use in graphic design. Her concerns primarily revolve around the originality and authenticity of AI-generated graphics.
Given her close ties to the art community, including her husband Miles, Mim is hesitant to fully embrace AI-generated artwork. While she acknowledges the potential and advancement of AI, she’s seen many flaws in AI-generated designs, and believes it’s crucial to support actual artists and their craft.
James shares a somewhat critical view on the use of AI, especially as pertains to marketing. He’s observed that while marketers are quick to adopt AI-driven tools, the final products often lack authenticity. For James, the content feels less than compelling, especially when every aspect of a project, from the script to voice and imagery, is generated by AI.
Betting on the humans
James emphasizes the value of genuine human connections, drawing a parallel between people pushing cryptocurrencies and those who might exploit AI. Real conversations filled with emotions and life stories, says James, are irreplaceable, much like organic produce that hasn’t been tampered with.
Mim agrees, stressing the richness of deep, personal relationships over superficial interactions, such as those with an AI chatbot. While she appreciates the conveniences that AI brings to specific tasks, she feels that nothing equals the genuine interest another human can show in one’s life, both professionally and personally.
Can you actually make money with stickers?
Might some people not take the sticker business seriously, asks James? Do people, for instance, feel sorry for Mim when she shares the nature of her livelihood?
Mim gets that, she admits. And while she was never embarrassed about what she did, she did use to underestimate the impact and significance of her sticker business, thinking there must be something bigger for her. She has since recognized its transformative power, not only for her and her family but for countless others worldwide.
The core of Mim’s success lies in her genuine love for designing and making stickers. She emphasizes the importance, too, of staying current in one’s craft, pointing out the pitfalls of teaching outdated strategies. By selling stickers and maintaining her role in the industry, Mim ensures that her advice remains relevant and authentic, rather than relying on past successes.
James resonates with Mim’s sentiments, underscoring the authenticity of turning a passion into a sustainable business model. Whether it’s stickers or surfing, the idea of monetizing one’s hobbies to support or enhance that same hobby showcases true joy and integrity in the entrepreneurial journey.
The time it takes per week
What is the time investment of a sticker business, James wants to know?
Mim says she dedicates between 15 to 25 hours per week to her business, based on a recent time audit. Her work hours typically fall between 9 am and 3 pm on weekdays, and while she used to work longer hours, including evenings and weekends, in the early stages of her business, she has since reduced those hours, focusing on efficiency and work-life balance. Now, any additional time she spends is likely on her passion for designing and making stickers.
Balancing the elements
In discussing the balance between courses and community engagement, Mim highlights the intentionality behind her limited live delivery. She prefers not to have a packed calendar of calls and Zoom sessions, but still values connecting with her community via other channels.
Mim uses a membership model that recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and boasts over 500 members. She regularly updates this membership by posing questions to her community, ensuring she delivers content that addresses their challenges and interests. While she doesn’t often update her courses, any live content she offers is presented as a bonus to her community.
Mim deeply values the relationships she’s cultivated, emphasizing the importance of going beyond surface-level connections even without constant live interactions. Her approach aims to maximize contributions while respecting her personal boundaries and lifestyle preferences.
Where the traffic and leads come from
James is interested in Mim’s favorite traffic sources. This is something Mim says she could talk about all day. It’s really the missing piece, she says, that people tend to overlook.
But first James wants Mim’s website. Mimjenkinson.com is where she can be found.
On the topic of generating traffic, Mim is adaptable in trying various methods to attract visitors. Her strategies include organic growth through her email list, collaborations with others, public speaking engagements, and utilizing paid advertising on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube.
Persistence is important, says Mim. She believes that with the right targeting, messaging, and a willingness to experiment, one can successfully attract leads.
Not always a straightforward thing…
In the realm of any business, challenges are inevitable. Mim discusses how her own enthusiasm and rapid implementation abilities can sometimes be a double-edged sword. While she can develop and roll out products or campaigns quickly, this can occasionally be a detriment to her mental health and the overall success of her business.
James agrees that Mim’s innate creativity and swift execution can be both an asset and a liability. He likens her energetic approach to someone excitedly setting off fireworks everywhere. Drawing from Peter Drucker, James emphasizes the importance of doing the right things over merely doing things right. Mim’s ability to churn out multiple ideas can dilute her focus, especially when trying to balance personal life and business.
Mim does believe, too, that constantly introducing new content or products might confuse or overwhelm her followers. It’s essential for her to provide value and enhance their lives without making them feel pressured to keep up with a barrage of new offerings.
James supports this perspective, sharing his own experience with his membership program. When he used to deliver weekly training, he noticed members felt overwhelmed. Switching to monthly allowed his audience to better digest the content. He concludes that understanding and respecting an audience’s consumption pace is crucial for effective engagement and retention.
The biggest insight our guest can share
To wrap up, Mim shares a crucial insight from her business journey: the importance of testing without fear and with a focus beyond just sales. Her primary objective, she says, is often just to gather data. This approach has shifted her mindset, allowing her to implement rapidly without the fear of failure since the primary goal is data collection, not necessarily immediate sales success.
James appreciates this point of view, noting that many people view missed goals as failures. In contrast, a testing mindset reframes these moments as learning opportunities. By gathering data through these tests, business owners are better positioned to make informed decisions, enhancing their strategies and approaches for the future.
James praises Mim’s work and the authenticity of her business outside the typical “make money online” niche. Mim in turn expresses her appreciation for James’s mentorship and the supportive community he has cultivated.
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