Saturday, March 2, 2013

Meet Koni and Windi of GAWK Apparel

GAWK Apparel is the dream of two sisters, Windi and Koni, who live together in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Specializing in screen printed t-shirts, GAWK stands for Grand Adventures of Windi & Koni, and is symbolic of their unusual journey in life, from growing up apart to getting to know each other and now starting a business together. Windi and Koni grew up without really knowing each other at all, each being raised by their father, Koni in Oklahoma and Windi in California. It wasn't until their mother passed away on February 17, 2007 that they began to get to know one another.

They plan to start out by selling screen printed t-shirts and other apparel through their Etsy shop, as well as through selling products in person at arts events. They hope to expand into custom and wholesale orders. For now, they are funding the start of their dream through a campaign to raise $2000 on Indiegogo; as of March 2, they had reached 10% of their goal.

Keep up with their latest grand adventures on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. The interview below is with Koni.

1. What made you decide to start a screen printing business?

Windi and I have both always been really interested in art. Myself digital art and graphic design. Windi is more of a pencil and paper sort of girl. We've done a lot of things where she draws something on paper, and I scan it, clean it up in Photoshop, add backgrounds, etc. We've also both always been interested in clothing design. We both altered our clothes when we were in high school. Put on patches, restructured t-shirts, etc. It just makes sense to put the art we make together on clothes. What better way to do that than screen printing? We can put just about anything on pretty much anything. It gives us a lot of creative liberty.

It's just time to do our own thing and build something that is ours. We have the space to do it. Where we live is the perfect location. Everything in life is pushing us in this direction.

2. How do you get the ideas for your designs--would you say you have certain subjects you especially like to include in your designs?

We're very random and anything could inspire us. The cat with a mustache design was inspired by our cat, Phoebe. She has a mustache, so next thing you know we have a mustached cat design. I also have three kids and they spout off random nonsense things, like kids do, and it makes me think of ideas. Most of our designs will most likely be animals doing human things or having human features. It's just silly and fun to see animals acting all people-like.

3. What are the challenges and what are the fun parts of starting up this new business?

The biggest challenge would have to be figuring out the financial aspect of everything. I've been going cross-eyed with tax laws, comparing wholesale supplier costs, and researching what other screen printing companies charge for custom orders, etc. We have to make sure we are going to cover costs, make a profit, but be within the industry average pricing.

The fun part is the excitement of doing something that is ours! We are starting this business. As long as we stay within legal guidelines, we can make and do whatever we want. That's exciting. Seeing all our friends being so supportive and excited, too, is really fun. I didn't expect people to believe in us to the extent they do.

4. Do you envision most of your sales coming from online customers or from customers you meet in person, or both?

At first they will mostly come from online. It will probably take us a little bit of time to get the hang of everything, as far as packaging, seeing what designs are most popular, etc. Once we have those things mastered, we'll start making more sales in person. We want to work booths at trade shows and art shows and eventually set up a small store front. We also want to do custom orders and bulk orders. Most of those type of orders would probably come from local sports teams, schools, and groups. So, as the business grows, more business will start to be offline sales.

5. How did your relationship as sisters evolve into a business partnership, too?

Windi has lived with me for two years now. We didn't know each other growing up, so we don't have the typical sister relationship that other sisters have. I don't have a typical relationship with any family, so I don't really have a personal understanding of those relationships. Because of this I never know how to answer these types of questions.

A majority of the time she has lived with me it's been very financially stressful around here, and everyone is just doing what we can do to keep the bills paid. We have all that space in the garage that isn't being used. Both of us have been out of work for months now. It's been rough. It just made sense to start doing something together to turn our financial situation around. If no one wants to hire us, fine. We'll make our own work. Sitting around and waiting for things to get better won't help anything. We have the skills to make it better, so we are.

Thanks, Koni!

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