For our giveaway and blog this month, we had the opportunity to team up with our friends Allie Mounce and Clare Freeman of Pretty Useful Co., a dynamic duo of clever, creative, branding-and-design-wiz gals. Pretty Useful Co. is based out of Memphis, TN where Allie and Clare dream up products that are, well - pretty useful, first, and always fun, too. Where else could you go looking for Nessie pins with moving parts, UFO stickers, Sasquatch earrings, AND customized branding for your small business all at the same time?? Our Instagram and newsletter giveaways this month feature some Cold Gold goodies as always, paired with some RAD prizes from Pretty Useful Co. If you haven’t entered that yet, there’s a little time left!
Art student Alaina met graphic design student Allie during their college days at the University of Tennessee, and they’ve been pals ever since. One of our most favorite things about Pretty Useful Co. is their “burn steady, not out,” mantra, and how they spread the good word of working hard, but not to death. Allie and Clare work HARD, and it shows - but they also know the value of rest, that our work does not reflect our worth, and that “hustle culture” tends to cause more harm than good. Oh, and Cold Gold’s deliciously coordinated branding? That would also be the work of the gals at Pretty Useful Co. - we’re big fans of that, too. We love their whimsical-but-cool, funny-but-useful, creepy-but-cute, approach to product design, and we’ve never met anyone better at high fives. Read on to learn more about the Pretty Useful Co. team - they’re more than pretty useful, they’re also pretty awesome.
Cold Gold: How was Pretty Useful Co. born?
Pretty Useful Co: We worked together for a few years at a small creative agency, and when we both moved on from that job we wanted to find a way to continue working together. We're both very passionate about creating physical products and geek out over printing processes and cool finishes, so instead of making a handful of things just for ourselves we decided to make enough to sell to continue funding our outlandish product ideas, and Pretty Useful Co. was born! This year we left our full-time jobs (yep, in the middle of a pandemic) and officially jumped into running it full time as a creative studio in addition to the retail side of things. We have really complementary skill sets and were already freelancing together, so the evolution was a no-brainer for us.
CG: What’s the best part about having your own creative small business?
PU: Definitely the independence and freedom that comes with being in control of your own time and schedule. We know what we're doing, when it needs to get done, and as long as we're accountable to our clients and each other we can do whatever we feel like doing on any particular day without hassle. We're free to prioritize whatever projects we're excited about and take risks with whatever wild idea we have momentum for. It's also incredibly gratifying to see the direct results of our work for other small businesses immediately.
CG: What’s the hardest part about having your own creative small business?
PU: With unlimited freedom comes unlimited responsibility! We have to manage everything from proposals to taxes and wholesale to fulfillment to marketing to client communication, and sometimes it gets downright overwhelming. We're both good at rolling with the punches and thrive under pressure which helps, but we have to work hard at goal setting and creating structure so we don't dissolve into total chaos sometimes. Making enough money to pay the bills is usually a good enough motivator to keep us moving in the right direction though.
CG: Can you share a little bit about who/what inspires your process and your products?
PU: The secret recipe for getting a great product idea out of us is pretty simple: Take both of us, put us in a nice cozy spot like a patio, give us wine and snacks, and check back in about 3 hours. We rarely have dedicated brainstorms because our real problem is that we generate too many ideas to reasonably execute, so we have to limit ourselves so we don't get overwhelmed with the follow-through. All of our best products have come from us asking each other "What if...", joking around, and bouncing ideas off each other.
CG: What Pretty Useful Co. product or project are you most proud of?
PU: We each have our favorites, but the Pin Keeper banner is one of our very first and still favorite ideas. It's simple, it's funny, and it actually lives up to the pretty useful name, which is a high bar! We also love all of our moving pins like the spinning D20 and sliding Nessie and Sasquatch pins - they're a labor of love to produce and we put a lot of thought into both the products and their letterpress foil packaging. Project wise, anything we do for a client that helps them take their business to the next level is something we're really proud of.
CG: What does Burn Steady, Not Out mean?
PU: It means that steady and sustainable work is the key to long term success and that killing yourself working all the time is only setting yourself up for failure and burn out. A solid work ethic is a good thing, but busyness for the sake of being busy is not. Creative industries are especially susceptible to hustle culture - this idea that if you truly love your work you'd sacrifice everything for it. To that we say, nah bro! Creativity doesn't thrive in that environment. Set reasonable hours, put in the work, and then go read a book or take a walk. Cook a meal. Take a nap. The time you take for yourself is just as important as the time you take for your craft.
CG: How do you find & maintain the balance between work and everything else?
PU: With difficulty! It's not easy, and it's something we're both constantly figuring out. Saying no to projects that aren't the right fit, building in the time to focus on internal work we're excited about, and setting long term goals that help us grow toward where we need to be are the main ways we stay on track without burning out.
CG: What’s next for Pretty Useful Co.?
PU: Our big goals for the next year are finding a physical space we can use for retail and office space (this would have been a focus for this year but finding a physical space right now seems kind of silly!) and bringing on a third person so we can have more flexibility to pursue the type of client work we want while still focusing on our retail and fulfillment goals. When markets and conferences are a thing again we can't wait to get back to traveling to sell and speak, meeting new people is one of our absolute favorite parts of what we do.
We also have two products we're debuting in November - a murder mystery game called Curtains that's designed to be played on Zoom just as easily as in person, so people can get dressed up, drink fancy drinks, and accuse each other of murder safely from home! The other thing is a line of candles called Abyss with scents like Mariana Trench, Black Hole, and Depression Nap, - this is one of those drinking wine on the back patio ideas that we just couldn't let go of and had to make real as soon as possible, so we did!
Not sure about you, but we can’t wait to get our hands on that murder mystery game. If you want to know more about Pretty Useful Co. (and we know you do!) please check them out on Instagram @PrettyUseful or at their website, https://pretty-useful.co/. Thank you to Allie + Clare for being awesome at what they do, for keeping Cold Gold lookin’ fresh to death, and for generously partnering with us for our monthly giveaway! If you’d like to subscribe to our newsletter and be auto-entered for this and future giveaways, pop on over to https://www.shopcoldgold.com/giveaways.