We had the good fortune of connecting with Teena Ho and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Teena, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
During the pandemic, it was hard to meet up with my best friend in person so we started exchanging gifts with each other and this soon became something we’d do every other month. We have similar interests in art and Asian-inspired goods, so I’d usually get my gifts from small businesses on Etsy or stores like Daiso. When our packages arrived, we’d do an unboxing together and it always made my heart feel warm to see that my friend loved her gifts.

From then, I realized that my love language is gift-giving and this gave me the idea of starting a gifting company so that my customers and their recipients could experience the same happiness that my friend and I have shared. Customers are able to build a custom gift box filled with cute, Asian-inspired items and have it delivered to their friend, loved one, or even a co-worker. My branding and the items I carry are heavily inspired by Japan’s kawaii culture. The word “kawaii” translates to “cute” and usually describes things as adorable, childish, and tiny.

My mission is to provide convenience, affordability, and availability. I support other small businesses by retailing their items in my gifting service along with my own handmade items. I also handmake all the greeting cards that come with each gift box! With my gifting service, customers are able to do all their shopping in one, they don’t have to worry about packaging their gifts, and they can avoid the long lines at the post office!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Ever since I was 5 years old, I’ve always had an interest in art. I grew up surrounded by Japanese culture and a lot of my inspiration came from anime. I’d always be drawing in my sketchbook when I’m at home and when I was at school, I would get so excited when we’d have a painting activity. I never really took any art classes growing up, and a lot of the techniques I know were self-taught. Even after so many years of drawing, I’m not tired of it. I feel like I can always be in my happy place as long as I have my iPad and my pen with me to draw.

In 2015, I started experimenting with polymer clay and I would make anime-inspired charms and keychains. I was getting a lot of praise on Instagram so I decided to open my very first Etsy shop. Some of my most popular items were anime figurines made into keychains, and it got to a point where I was doing custom orders. From 2016 to 2018, I was making polymer clay charms full-time and it made me realize how much I love art and how I want to continue making a career out of it.

One of the challenges I faced was that although I was making a decent living off of my art, it wasn’t a lot and some months would be really slow. I ended up getting a separate full-time job and then came another challenge of not having the time to make polymer clay charms as often as I used to. I still loved art, and I didn’t want my new job to stop me from what I love doing, so I began making digital illustrations. It was less time consuming and still allowed me to be creative.

Now I make stationery items like stickers, washi tapes, and accessories which I include in my gifting service so customers can add my handmade items into their custom gift box.

Another challenge I faced was comparing my art style to others. There were days where I felt like my art wasn’t good enough because there were so many artists on Instagram who are so much more talented. The way to overcome this challenge is to find your own art style that you’re comfortable with because there will always be people who will appreciate your artwork. Practice makes perfect, and I believe anyone’s artwork can evolve as long as you keep putting in the effort to learn new techniques.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my friend visited me in Sacramento, the first thing we’d do is spend the entire day in Downtown. There’s so many cute small businesses and coffee shops there! What I love about Downtown is that everything is walking distance and the abundance of trees is so beautiful to look at. First we’d go to one of my favorite coffee shops in the Downtown area is called the Naked Lounge. They have this chamomile drink called the “Bowl of Soul” and it’s so yummy!

Then we would go to Old Sacramento to do some shopping and look at the views of the old western buildings and the river. Whenever I go there, it feels like I went back in time to the wild west days. There is a confectionery shop called Rocky Mountain Candy Factory that sells candied apples that are a must have! For lunch, I’d take my friend to Nash and Proper for some really juicy spicy chicken sandwiches. I always recommend this place to everyone!

If it’s springtime, we would definitely go to the Capitol Park in Downtown to look at all the flowers in bloom. They have a rose garden there which is absolutely beautiful and a great spot to take some pics for Instagram. At night, I love bar hopping in Downtown and some of my favorite places to get a drink and mingle are Dive Bar, Coin-op and The Park Ultra Lounge. Then I would end the night with a hearty meal at Burgers and Brew. You have to get their onion rings!

For the rest of the week, I’d probably take her out wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill, go shopping at the Arden Fair Mall, and eat some Gunther’s Ice Cream. I’m a big foodie so my itinerary would consist of eating lots of good food!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Since the start of my entrepreneurship journey in 2016, I met my virtual friend, Lina who is also a small business owner and founder of Lulu Sweet Kawaii Shop. We both started out as artists selling polymer clay creations, and she has always been such a huge support of my artwork. We would always exchange small business tips with each other and purchase from each other’s Etsy shop.

Whenever I look at Lina’s Instagram page and see how much she’s grown and how hard she’s working, it always motivates me to keep going and to keep doing my best. I really look up to her because she’s a mom who also works a full-time job while running her small business, and still she continues to give it her 101%.

Website: https://kawaiiflavor.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kawaiiflavor/

Other: Tiktok! https://www.tiktok.com/@kawaiiflavor?lang=en

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