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Mowgen: The accidental entrepreneur

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Jasmine Mowgen is somewhat of an accidental entrepreneur, initially creating Japanese-inspired decoden pieces for herself, the whimsical sculptures caught the attention of friends, and soon the orders started pouring in.

It’s only been six months since Mowgen the store was launched, but it’s gained significant momentum for this first-time entrepreneur. The store features Jasmine’s art work in the form of decoden, which is a craft in Japan where artists make colourful, miniature food simulations from clay, resin and other materials.

“It’s just a weird, niche thing, and for some reason people are responding to it,” says Jasmine.

Jasmine has done painting and sculpting on the side for years, but has never put a price on her work. She started the project last December just as a creative outlet, and a break from everything else she was doing at the time.

“I just wanted to stop working and create stuff for fun,” she shares.

Her initial goal was to create a decoden phone case for herself, but after after diving into this “Kawaii” (meaning cute) world, she begun making various other pieces every single day; learning the basics primarily from Youtubers Toni Ellison, FrainyXO and Ciali from Kawaiiland, artists who do docoden and cabochon tutorials.

“I was just watching those for fun, and I did a lot of clay work based on how Toni Ellison taught me, and that’s how I really started,” says Jasmine.

As in any art world, the ownership of an artistic idea, expression, or property can become hostile territory — in the decoden world, it’s the conflict of who can be named the original creator of a specific sculpture design. Given the similarities of the products in this niche market, there seems to be a dark side to all the glitter and pastels — an unexpected side that Jasmine experienced first-hand during her initial foray. She sought advice from veteran Toni Ellison who told her “Just do what you want to do, just make it your own.”

mowgen image 7And so she pushed on, but now more motivated by the fulfillment it gave as a creative outlet for herself and by the cyber friendships she was beginning to establish.

Before launching her store Jasmine avoided social media, a self-declared introvert she never saw the value of having an Instagram account, until she begun to use it to promote her products. But, in just a few short months her store gained thousands of followers and she recently sold her most expensive piece ($100) within just hours of the product launch due to the exposure on Instagram, feats that many new and old business owners struggle to accomplish — but Jasmine seems to have a  knack for this world she’s stumbled into so unintentionally.

“It’s not about how many people are following you, it’s about how many people are connecting with you,” says Jasmine on how she built such an impressive online presence in a short time.

For anyone looking to break into a niche market or wondering how to grow your small business, Jasmine offers some sage and practical advice, “Just do what makes you happy — and take photos in natural lighting with a white background, if you actually want to get noticed, never take photos at night,” she says with a smile.

Q&A

Favourite local artist – Ginette Lapalme

Favourite artist – Chika Takei (Japanese Illustrator)

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