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Week Of May 17th-May 31st

Maybe this post will be a little bit TMI, but I’m frustrated, and those that read these posts, might be able to get something out of this.

On July 2021, our company will turn 9 years old! Sales are stronger than ever thanks to customers like you, but our brand name recognition is still nearly non-existent.

I’ve grown up being content with the idea that I create things behind the scenes, behind the curtain. I was in the grade school play of Annie, and played Daddy Warbucks. With the mean director, I was completely turned off by acting (outside of wanting to do voice acting, and getting no reply to a voice actor teacher when I sent a demo reel, but that’s a deep dive into my life), and felt fine with the idea of being part of the crew behind the curtain after that.

With Zen Monkey Studios, I’ve been happy just designing with my time, creating merchandise, but for other brands. I’m not a public figure, but our sales do well. People like Marc, and James, are able to work on making the customers happy and feel involved, while Greg talks to the factories, Vicki, his wife, does logistics, and Jeremy and I focus on the art and design. That’s what I’ve been focusing on for 9 years.

My point is, after 9 years, we still get suspicious people wondering if we’re scams, or bootlegs, or pirating licensed products. “Is this REALLY an official Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure pin?” “I emailed Viacom for piracy control and they know about you now, so you better hope you’re official.” We’ve had legal teams for Cartoon Network turn off our Facebook ads. Then they had our shirts removed from amazon, just to spend a month to get them turned back on, for example.

But the fact that it still happens, so frequently, gets incredibly disheartening. First of all, I’m not saying we’re like Funko. But they have so many licenses, I just like to point to them as an example. Do you think bigger brands ever get such call outs like this? I feel like they only have quality control problems, or payment problems, or distribution problems—All which we ALSO have. But to constantly be threatened or called out by people who never heard of us, as if we’re going to get shut down because they think we’re not legitimate?

We’ve been doing this for almost a decade, why would I upset all my clients by making bootlegs of a license I don’t have? It really goes to show how much work I still have in boosting our brand, and how important brand recognition is over things you don’t initially think of. A few weeks ago, we had a handful of very vocal fans of Rare come after us on social media, and while most are like, “Okay they’re legit,” there’s still some that message us hate, two weeks later. And now Shopify has withheld payments with our wholesale accounts, until we provide proof that we can sell what we make. Which I sent them within 30 minutes, and now it’s been a day, and it’s currently not resolved, with them emailing asking for more. It’s infuriating, and it feels like there actually isn’t much support for small businesses.

A price to be paid, I suppose, when working within such industries. I still remember when I was a freelance artist, and the stress of just trying to get by and pay rent. One client didn’t pay me for a year, despite me asking for payment monthly (or more). But hey, when big companies give you the keys to their characters… I guess, I just gotta learn how to roll with the punches better.

Have a wonderful weekend, thank you for joining my therapy session! :P