The benefits of working as a custom enamel pin manufacturer don’t stop at the stellar pin game. At AllAboutPins, we get to meet some really creative artists and designers. Introducing Thuy and Peter Le, a dynamic couple who went from selling hats from a backpack to starting Goozee Pins, a one-stop PokeStop for custom Pokémon fashion pins.
Since 2016, Goozee Pins moved from selling Pokemon Go team hats hanging from a sack to a one-stop PokeStop for uniquely designed Pokemon-themed pins and more. Peter is the main artist of their operation and Thuy handles the marketing and Goozee Pin website. As long-time Pokemon fans, the couple builds a growing collection of Pokemon-inspired pin designs that often mashup with other franchises including Marvel’s Avengers, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter. We caught up with Thuy and Peter to learn about their story and where they find inspiration for their custom pin designs.
Tell us a little about yourself and Goozee Pins! When did you start and how long have you been at this?
Thuy: We actually as Perfect League in 2016, when Pokemon Go first released. We were playing with friends at Long Beach and really wanted to rep our teams. Back then, there wasn’t really any official merchandise but our friends made these hats with the team logos on them and we loved them! And hey, we figured others would too. So we bought a bunch and wore ours while leaving a few hanging from our pack. We couldn’t believe it when we sold 30 hats in two hours!
Long Beach was the it spot back then. There were at least 500 to 1000 people on the beach daily playing Pokemon Go. There was very little regulation at first because the city had no idea how to reach and people started selling hot dogs and every night was like a little night market with people eating, shopping, and selling.
How did you become interested in custom pins as a medium for your art?
Thuy: We got started with pins from a friend who started selling plastic friends. We bought a bunch in bulk and loaded them into a little cart with the hats. Peter built everything! He was definitely the backbone of the operation there. We helped run Pokemon Go events and used the custom pins as rewards. It was a fun way to build a community.
Peter: We moved on to metal pins after hosting our first tournament. We noticed the plastic pins scratched easily and we needed metal. We checked like 10 to 15 pin sites and found the best deals and the fastest time was with AllAboutPins. Everyone loves our pins!
What inspires your artwork and business? Can you take us into some of the creative processes behind Goozee Pins?
Peter: A lot of designs starting off are basically what Thuy and I think are cool and what’s trending, but we’ve also based a ton of our designs on feedback and crowdsourcing from our customers. Sometimes at events, I’ll be sitting in the back sketching out a new design and interested people would wander over and they get so excited and start talking about what they’d like to see and get super stoked for it. Once an idea or inspiration hits, it doesn’t take much longer than a few days to design a full pin. We tend to organize a lot of ideas on a design team group chat and then I send in all the pins I drafted up every Monday to you guys.
Thuy: As big collectors ourselves, we base a lot of what we do on feedback from customers. We work a lot of it from our garage. We’ve definitely seen how some companies can really upsell their pins and we don’t want to be charging people an arm and a leg when they visit Goozee Pins. We want people to spend time and leave with at least two pins whenever they visit our booth. At Anime Expo, we sold blind bags with a chance to win exclusive gold versions of some of our favorite pins.
How have custom pins helped you build your business?
Thuy: When we started, we moved a ton of our stuff from show to show in a big rented trailer, but with how popular our pins and stickers are, it’s helped a ton with just transporting our stuff! The margins on the Pokemon plushes really weren’t that good. With mostly pins and stickers, we can stuff most of our merchandise into our own van. We moved up from five to seven different pin designs to over 200 these days. It’s a lot easier to do and way easier to travel with the pins. We’re hitting three to five shows a month including local tradeshows where we set up a big 10×20 booth.
What are your favorite design options when you order custom pins? Has this influenced Goozee’s designs?
Peter: Glitter. It has to be glitter. We’re talking 95 percent glitter. Compliments to you guys, you’re literally the best out there with the glitter. But we also love the glow-in-the-dark pins. We set up a board at our last show with a bunch of glow-in-the-dark pins on display and they looked great! For designing my pins, I usually draw out my design then send it to you guys and customize it on the spot by shooting back and forth with what I think could make a design look better.
What advice would you share for other designers out there working to brand or create custom apparel?
Peter: To do what we do, we don’t just go around selling our pins. Thuy is always plugged into social media. Back in school, she took a marketing class and a lot more goes on than what you’d see just meeting us at conventions. The quality of work from a supplier will definitely make a big difference. We could have easily gone with any website to make our pins, but we’re sticking with AllAboutPins because I know we can get the quality I expect. We’ve tried working with others early on and it’s a totally different experience.