Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean zombies and monsters aren’t roaming the deepest caverns of an imaginative North York soul.
For Steph Guo, such spectacles loom large in her creative repertoire. The 21-year old University of Toronto student makes vinyl monster pouches and “Office Zombie” buttons through her home-based business, Zomb (pronounced zom-bee).
Selling her wares on Etsy, a commerce website for handmade items, Guo has a jaunty tagline — “Fight the Masses!” — that seems at odds with her 9 to 5 life as a business student at U of T’s Rotman Commerce Program.
She admits her creative and business lives are somewhat at odds.
“I still feel really out of place in my business program,” she says. “It’s the most boring part of my life.”
She wanted to go into design when she started university, she says, but both her mom and her brother graduated from the exact same business program so she applied for it too.
“My parents are corporate zombies and my brother’s a corporate zombie.”
There’s always a struggle between the corporate zombie and the artsy fartsy in her, she says — hence the “I Am a Corporate Zombie” series of buttons with green ghouls on them and the “Artsy Fartsy Supplies Button” with images of hand-drawn pencils on it.
“Originally it took a while for my Mom to get used to the fact that I may be a starving artist one day,” she says.
But her parents and her brother are supportive of her endeavor, she says. They even chipped in and bought her a button-making machine for Christmas that, at $300-$400, she says she couldn’t afford herself.
The idea for her business came to life a few years ago after she made fleece stuffed animal monsters for her best friends for Christmas. They loved them, but when she saw that shipping the furry creatures would be too expensive she revamped her plans.
Then she came up with the idea of creating a vinyl monster pouch — basically a zippered pouch that can be used as a pencil case or a makeup bag — and started selling them on Etsy.
“It seems no one else is doing this.”
Mentions in the Spanish Vogue magazine for kids and Parents Magazine have boosted her sales.
In October Guo was approached by the Design Exchange in Toronto and is now selling her monster pouches in the shop located in the downtown building.
The whole idea for the Zomb name and Fight the Masses tagline came out of her love for horror movies, she says, but also her personal battle to fight boring.
A defining moment in the fight against the mundane came a few years ago when Guo found herself at a holiday party wearing practically the same grey sweater as three of her cousins.
“We looked exactly the same,” she says.
Though the fear of becoming a corporate zombie may linger, Guo says she sees the value in business degree as it relates to her business.
Once she graduates this year she says she should have more time to work on the biz. Though she plans on getting on full-time at her current part-time advertising job, her goal is to be accepted into the One of a Kind artisan craft show held bi-annually in Toronto in the next year or so.
“It’ll push me to make a lot and then see how it goes,” she says.
It’s a definite possibility that she may one day focus on the business full-time.
“If only it can be that successful.”
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