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Ryemarkabla Erica Dickman-Wilkes!

Name: Erica Dickman-Wilkes, Founder of Punderella Designs and Mom of 3 kids

What is Punderella Designs?

My company is a pop-culture gift shop. I create and sell pop-culture-inspired greeting cards, coloring books and mugs. Most of my products are littered with puns, hence the name Punderella.

How did you get started?

It started as an accident three years ago. I was stuck in bed trying to recover from pneumonia. While resting, I became mentally bored so I decided to pick up a stylus and start drawing. My friends and I all had the guilty pleasure of watching The Bachelor TV show so being the goofball that I am, for fun, I created a parody coloring book of the show as a gag holiday gift for each of them. I remember them calling me laughing so much. They kept suggesting that I put the books on Etsy so I started the shop as a bit of a joke, of course thinking nothing would become of it. Very much to my surprise, some popular online magazines found the book and named it a top pop-culture gift for the Christmas season. I had a lot of encouraging results. From there, I realized that there was a niche market for my ridiculous products so I have continued to run with it.

What's been the hardest part about starting your own business?

The hardest part of my business is that it’s very competitive. I am constantly trying to keep my eye on what is trending so that I can be on beat with what to create next. As one gets older, it’s tougher to know what is trending especially with the youth market. As a side note, the last year in particular has been the most difficult as I was trying to deal with the hybrid schooling schedule for my 3 boys while managing the Punderella shop at the same time. Over the holiday season, my busiest time, I was too scared to hire help due to Covid, and I didn’t prepare enough inventory ahead of time because I just thought no one would want to buy it. As a result, I was up until 2am for two months straight scrambling trying to create and deliver everything on time. I was pretty much living in my pajamas, high on 5 cups of coffee, and looked like a character out of Tales From the Crypt but I was, and still am, so grateful for the attention and interest. This year I will plan more effectively!

Can you offer any tips for fellow entrepreneurs?

My tips for other entrepreneurs - take advantage of social media. Because of Instagram, I have been able to organically form friendships with other entrepreneurs from different parts of the USA. A few of us who have complimentary businesses work together to bounce ideas off of each other and try to share feedback on what is and is not working for us. Social media has also helped me connect with my customer base, form friendships with customers and get a feel for what they are looking for next. Working as a one-woman-show can be lonely at times, but the social media community, Instagram in particular, has been very beneficial! It has also helped me get noticed by several popular online zines and even the Ellen Show which has led to free promotion. Funny enough, the producers from The Bachelor reached out to me on Instagram and promoted my art to their entire online audience last summer. Can’t complain about that! Lastly, I think if you are in a position where you are trying to reinvent yourself and you have some flexibility, take some time to listen to yourself and ask yourself what your strengths are even if you think they aren’t worth much. This self-reflection might somehow lead you on a path to discover where you want to be next. No word of a lie, when I was in high school, I remember telling my friends, “One day I want to be one of those quirky people who run a booth at a craft show selling something they made”. When they asked me what I would make, I said, “Beats me, I’m not good at anything other than making puns, talking about MTV videos and drawing cartoons. Nobody cares about that stuff”. 😊

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