Interview with someone who started their own quarantine project

By: Karl Patrick Go

A custom home embroidery service that began in July 2020, Tiny Leaf Embroidery is the brainchild of UP Diliman Architecture student Danielle “Dan” Huang, and the fulfillment of a lifelong hobby and love of embroidery. What began as a personal project soon became an entrepreneurial venture, and Tiny Leaf was Dan’s way of keeping busy during the lock down. Custom hand-made stitches mean that customers are getting an artisan’s unique and one of a kind work, with personalized designs.

Currently a graduating fifth year student at one of the country’s most difficult undergraduate courses, we caught up with Dan a while back to discuss where her love for embroidery began, as well as the difficulties with managing a successful entrepreneurial venture along with her heavy course requirements for university.

What pushed you to start Tiny Leaf?

The lockdown gave me so much time and anxiety with everything going on in the Philippines so I needed an outlet to relax and feel productive. I realized I could finally use the time to do my hobbies since my academics would always get in the way before. I started sewing on a few shirts, shorts, and bags, and was just posting them on my personal Instagram account. A lot of friends were interested in them and were asking if I can do some embroidery for them, and that’s how I got inspired to start Tiny Leaf!

Where did your love for embroidery begin?

I was never really good at embroidery back in grade school when we had projects for school. But for some reason while on Christmas break last year, I decided to try it out again. I was inspired by the embroidered shirts Ashley from Bestdressed was selling and decided to make my own! From there, I really wanted to try out embroidery on different mediums and styles 🙂

What was the hardest point of the venture thus far?

So far, the hardest point was when school came back and I had to manage Tiny Leaf with the shift to online classes (thesis plus four other majors and a language elective). I had to scale back to make it more manageable with my academic load and it’s something I’m still working through now, but I’m proud that I am sustaining things!

How has your day evolved to balance this project?

I used to be able to do around 3-4 orders every week because each piece can take up to 5-6 hours or more sometimes. My new goal is to do 2 shirts a week. It’s pretty flexible when I can get working on the shirts. Mondays are usually for when I coordinate with customers on their designs so that in any point of the week, I can start the production of the shirt. Most of the time though, I end up doing Tiny Leaf work on weekends because of my academics.

What’s something new you learned about yourself, since you started this project?

I learned that other than wanting to be an architect one day, I would love to have a small business on the side! Doing commissions (especially custom ones) and sharing my work publicly really pushes me out of my comfort zone and motivates me to continue my hobby. I also learned a lot more about when I’m most productive and in what environment I work best! I used to be unable to work at home because I couldn’t focus but with this pandemic, I’ve learned how to work given the circumstances.

Do you have any tips to anyone looking to start their own passion project?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Share your work on your personal Instagram/Facebook or make a separate account! This will help you document your growth, attract potential customers (if you plan on selling), meet fellow creators, and be more confident with yourself. At the start, I would also compare my work with a lot more experienced artists and felt a lot of pressure to keep up. But it’s important to remember that progress really takes time! You won’t have a huge following overnight and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be at the same level as someone who has been practicing for years already. Also when it comes to art, there are so many styles out there. Learn what style you like to do and make it your own. Try out other styles every now and then, but don’t feel the pressure to do all. You’ll just get overwhelmed haha.

What’s next for Tiny Leaf?

Hopefully I get to branch out to new products next year! I do mostly shirts right now which I love, but I would really like to do totes, hoops, accessories, and embroidery kits one day! I’m also hoping that I just get to be consistent with Tiny Leaf operations while finishing school and then expand it more once I graduate.

Don’t forget to check them out on Instagram for your own custom prints! @tinyleaf.embroidery

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