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Cricut & Business: My Passion Project, Melanin OP

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cricut. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have I ever shared the story of my passion project, Melanin OP? Well, it’s a story I couldn’t shorten and I apologize for the word vomit. Grab a snack and sit back. Melanin OP started from a shop that I created which was supposed to be an extension of my old blog name (Sophistishe). I was tired of blogging and I wanted a break. I wanted to get back to doing something I really enjoyed. Before blogging and mom-ing full-time, I had a children’s clothing store on eBay that I absolutely loved. I wanted to get back into e-commerce and I also wanted to be able to spend more time with my family because blogging was so intense and draining. At that point, I needed an out because I just wasn’t happy.

So back to this e-commerce shop of mine that I created to somehow save me. Listen. It just wasn’t working. I was doing all the wrong things and trying to follow all the trends. I DO NOT FOLLOW TRENDS, so what was I doing? I was drinking the entire entrepreneur-hustle-culture-kool-aid cocktail. I was part of an e-commerce group that I am SO grateful for, but the hype and euphoria that ignited from everyone else’s experiments and accomplishments were certainly contagious. I’ll speak for myself here and say that I wasn’t thinking clearly during this time and made lots of poor decisions in that year of 2017. I was pretty much throwing eggs at the wall to see what stuck. My store was full of drop-ship items and random t-shirt designs I had thrown together. That year many of us learned that everything does NOT belong on a shirt, but there I was aimlessly in Photoshop trying to create THE ONE.

I remember sitting at my laptop LATE one night frustrated with the inactivity of my store and my overall finances. Something had to give. I decided to make a shirt. I believe I made two, but this one I was excited about… even though I thought it was pretty silly. I wanted to make a cute and clever shirt that at the very least my kids would wear. And that’s the thing, I created a lot of shirts just for my kids and never put them out. That right there was my passion, creating shirts for my kids. So I uploaded this one particular shirt to my shop. This Affirmation Alphabet tee for my children, that would then be worn by hundreds of other black children; adults too. I posted on Instagram…

I don’t know who got ahold of it first, but there were reposts, comments, and sales, DM’s, and sales, questions, and sales, requests, and more sales! I realized what I had on my hands and immediately started the rebrand of my store. I knew in the back of my mind, I wanted to not only be a black-owned business, but one that specifically solved a problem for black people. I got rid of all the products that were irrelevant and added the design to more merch. Because I wanted to be “official”, I moved away from using a Print on Demand service for the shirts and hired someone to screenprint for me. This move complicated things because order fulfillment was no longer automated for me. The owner of the screenprint shop brought life to my vision, but unfortunately, experienced a loss and needed a break to regroup.

A friend then offered to help me using the heat transfer vinyl method all while growing her wildly successful business. She so selflessly kept me afloat at times when she was drowning and going through heavy times. With that said, it was time to find more help. This next party was great until the person in charge had an emergency and things got handed over to someone else unbeknownst to me. It wasn’t until I started receiving complaints. Up until then, I was able to do quality control because I was doing the shipping for all screen printed and vinyl orders. Onward. I don’t like talking about it, but I’m trying to make it all make sense as to why I’m particularly OCD about Melanin OP. So last but not least, I called out for help one last time. Another busy brand owner added my lil’ brand to her plate until it became overwhelming with the growth of her business.

I knew that my time was running out and the universe was saying “Girl, you’re about to be on your own.” I had already purchased a heat press that had been sitting in the box for about 2 years and I had a Cricut machine in my Amazon cart. I also thought that it would be nice to work with Cricut as an influencer, but I wasn’t confident in that being a possibility. I added them to a list of brands that I wanted to work with anyway. Do you know I manifested most of that list without even approaching or speaking of those brands, starting with Cricut? Fall of 2019, I was invited to be a Cricut ambassador! This was incredible because that meant one less thing I had to purchase for my business and also a partnership that I was enthusiastic about.

One thing about me is that I am very intentional in everything that I do. I feel empty when I don’t particularly feel connected to or in control of whatever it is that I’m doing. So this explains why I’ve had the need to be hands-on with Melanin OP. This project isn’t a get rich quick side-hustle. I’ve been THROUGH IT with this business. I do it because I enjoy it. I do it because of the community that has become something like family; there every time I reemerge from life’s challenges. There are things that could take some of the weight off of my shoulders, but I want the merchandise to look and feel a certain way. You can’t get that using a Print On Demand service and from experience, things can also go awry having your product in the hands of others.

I’ve learned so many lessons and have a great appreciation for those who’ve helped me with the business while my life was a proverbial rollercoaster. Most importantly I’ve learned grace. I’ve learned to give grace to others and to myself. Us entrepreneurs all go through rough patches at different times all while trying to run successful businesses. We mustn’t be so hard on ourselves and each other.

So it’s me and my Cricut machine now. Some people would say that I’m limiting my sales and that they don’t have time for all of that… Well, that’s my business. Will it be like this forever? No, but I’m all about doing the best with what you have. That is why I still blog. Cricut will always play a role in my business because I love being able to create custom products and add personal touches. I am a hands-on person and I enjoy what I do. I am proud of the brand that I’m growing. The support from friends and family, messages, beautiful photos, the knock-offs (we not gon’ talk bout that though), and encouragement from the Cricut team are what keep me from giving up on the brand that started from a shirt… for my kids because I surely didn’t think anyone would buy it.

My Cricut Explore Air 2 has allowed me to have full creativity over my brand. The choice of shirts and materials I want to use are endless because I’m no longer limited to what a printing company may have available and I no longer feel like a burden asking others for help. If I want gold lettering on a black shirt, I can do that. If I want to release red holographic lettering on a white shirt? I can do that too. These are some shirts I created with Cricut vinyls. I do tend to use the same 2 brands of vinyl for my customers, but today I am giving Cricut their props! I also want to share for those who are curious about creating their own products using Cricut.

Products Used:
Cricut Design App
Cricut Air Explore 2
StrongGrip Machine Mat, 12″ x 12″
Youth T-Shirt Blank
Holographic Sparkle Iron-on
SportFlex Iron-on
Weeding Tool Set

Last year, after deciding to do things 100% on my own, I put my Cricut to use and turned one of my holiday designs into a limited quantity of holiday pajamas. I used Cricut’s SportFlex Iron-on vinyl on my children’s pjs. I had lots of plans going into 2020, but things just would not let up. I was going to let 2020 stop me from reopening, but I feel like it’s even more important to be open so I can serve my people and contribute to the circulation of black dollars. And let’s face it, I’d have a WHOLE attitude if I sat here and watched the busiest time of year pass me by.

So… we’re opening this weekend!

If you would like to be notified when we open, please subscribe to our newsletter.

If you want to start selling Cricut projects, the time is now. I think we can all use an additional source of income to fall back on. Do not overthink it. There’s money to be made if you get creative and stay committed.

Special thanks to Cricut for partnering with me and for encouraging me to share my story.

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How I Use Cricut to Create Products for My E-Commerce Store

To support my blogging efforts and site expenses, I do share relevant affiliate links in my posts. Thank you for your support.

Sheena Tatum

Hey, I'm Sheena! I married my jr. high sweetheart and together, we raise three tiny humans in NW Indiana. I'm an introverted free-spirit and serial dreamer obsessed with all things tropical and carefree. I love inspiring others to live wholly and find beauty in the mundane. I don't always get it right, but I'll keep trying anyway. :) Email: [email protected]

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1 Comment

  • Latonya November 14, 2020 at 6:23 AM

    Sheena, I really enjoyed reading your story. It’s an important story. People don’t always realize the work that happens behind the scene with entrepreneurs.

    Well, I am off to order our shirts! Thank you!

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    Sheena

    I'm an island girl at heart, unbothered old soul, and minimalist with extra tendencies. At my best, I love what I do... I want to encourage you to do the same, too. Live your best lives amidst trials and triumphs by crafting a life you love and deserve. Happiness is Iriemade❣ Read more...

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