Hey everybody and welcome back to this week’s episode of Brand Your Passion. I am super excited today to be joined by Roxy and Phoebe of Pandr Design Co. Thank you both for joining me! I’m stoked to have you here.
Phoebe: Thanks for having us!
Of course. Before we dive into the questions, I would love for both of you to introduce yourselves individually and then Pandr as a collective and tell us what you do.
Roxy: Sure, I’m Roxy.
Phoebe: And I’m Phoebe.
Roxy: We run Pandr Design Co. which is a business that specialises in painting murals. We’ve been doing it for 7 years. We also are really big on educating artists on how to make money doing what they love and encouraging people to charge more.
We do a lot of things - we also have a book, we ran a nonprofit for a while, we had a podcast for a while, we do it all.
Phoebe: We’re busy.
I’m a fellow multi-hyphen-creative person doing all the things, so I love that. Thank you for that awesome introduction.
You mentioned that you’ve been doing this for 7 years. I’m super curious about how you got into murals in the first place, and then how Pandr Design Co. came together for you to start working together on that.
Phoebe: We met in 2015. I found Roxy on Instagram, she was a celebrity lettering artist at the time - or, I guess still is! I was fangirling over her work, so I emailed her and proposed that we meet up for drinks and talk about lettering because, duh, why not? To my surprise, she said yes.
Then it just grew from there. We met up and talked about starting a lettering club for other lettering enthusiasts in San Diego, which is where we’re based, and it was really successful. We hosted monthly meetups for like-minded individuals and did all sorts of things, like lettering on poster boards that we brought to the baseball game to try to grow on the Jumbotron, and we did food lettering for Thanksgiving one year. It was fun.
Through that, we realised we worked really well together. We were constantly talking about our hopes and dreams because both of us at the time were working full-time design jobs. The lettering club was just on the side, on the weekends.
Roxy: For fun.
Phoebe: It was a fun thing. But we had these goals of making little products, so we started making pins, stickers and prints, and then selling those in local boutiques and online. Then we talked about having a goal of painting one mural. We did that one mural and after we painted that, we posted it to Instagram where someone saw it and wanted us to do a mural at their coffee shop.
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, it just kind of happened.
It grew from there. It was really organic, there was no master gameplan of becoming a mural business and doing it for 7 years. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, it just kind of happened.
That’s amazing. I love that you just saw Roxy on Instagram and were like, “I want to meet that person, I want to work with her.” I feel like a lot of creatives want to collaborate with somebody but aren’t really sure how to do that or how to know that somebody is the right fit to do that with. Because if you’re running a business together, like you said, you want to make sure that you have the same dreams and values. How did you know that you were the perfect match?
Roxy: We really didn’t know and we got very lucky. I had always known that I wanted to work for myself and was really gearing up to do that when Phoebe and I met. That actually wasn’t on her radar at all. She was planning on working at an agency, working her way up and becoming Creative Director or Art Director. So I brainwashed her into working for herself.
But even when we quit our jobs, we just thought of it as collaborating on freelance projects together. We didn't decide to start a business together. But quickly, we realised we didn’t know how to run a business, how to get clients or what to charge, so we actually started working with a business coach fairly on, I think within the first 6 months of quitting our jobs.
That really kicked everything into high gear. Even just thinking about it as a business was different than thinking of ourselves as freelancers, and that really changed our brains into the entrepreneurs that we are today.
Even just thinking about it as a business was different than thinking of ourselves as freelancers, and that really changed our brains into the entrepreneurs that we are today.
Did we know we were a good fit to work together business-wise? No, but I think the huge benefit was that we work really well together creatively. Our styles blend together, we collaborate seamlessly. And because we had no idea how to run a business, we learned everything together, so our business minds are very much the same. We both know how to do everything, we both do the creative and the business side. For the most part, we always think the same. We’re always like, yep, that makes sense. Let’s do it.
We work really well together creatively. Our styles blend together, we collaborate seamlessly. And because we had no idea how to run a business, we learned everything together, so our business minds are very much the same.
Phoebe: Not many people know this - exclusive content for your podcast. There were actually 3 of us to start out. We had a third partner, my friend Eden from college, and Eden wasn’t in alignment with our goals. She had this really killer full-time design job that she loved and it was a lot of work, her hours were crazy, so she had no intention of ever leaving and going full-time freelance. I think that also really pushed Roxy and I together knowing that we were very much in alignment. We had to constantly say our goals out loud to make sure that we were on the same page, because Eden clearly wasn’t, so that probably helped as well.
Brilliant. I love that you got a business coach quite early on. I feel like maybe a lot of creatives don’t even know that’s an option that they could or should do.
When you started working with the business coach and treating your business as a business, is that when you started Pandr? Or had you already picked a name and started working under that before?
Phoebe: It was kind of confusing. The name of our lettering club was San Diego Letters, so we just went with that and cut it off as being a meetup group.
Roxy: Like, not even thinking about it.
Phoebe: Yeah, we already had the Instagram account, whatever. So we just ran with that, stopped doing the meetup stuff and turned San Diego Letters into the business name. Then 2 years later in 2017, we decided we couldn’t keep going with this name because it’s very limiting. We needed to be something else, although we didn’t know what that was.
It took us a long time to figure out Pandr. It was just because we didn’t want to only be doing work in San Diego and we didn’t want to only do lettering, so we knew we wanted a made-up name that could be anything. We’re murals today, but who knows what we’ll be in 5 years.
We’re murals today, but who knows what we’ll be in 5 years.
I can totally relate to that. I just changed my business name last year from Black & White Studios, because I used to do black and white lettering, but now my business has completely changed.
Phoebe: It’s so stressful!
It’s so, so hard, firstly leaving that name, but then also choosing the right one going forward. Can you tell everyone what your name means?
Roxy: It’s Pandr, which stands for Phoebe and Roxy, P and R. Pander also means to gratify and that’s what we do with our art.
Pander also means to gratify and that’s what we do with our art.
I love that, so beautiful. You did a great job of choosing the right name. I know that now you have a logo and the swirly patterns behind it - was that from when you chose the name and were setting up the brand, or has it developed since then? Tell me about the visual branding of things.
Roxy: We knew that if we were going to rebrand and change our name, then we had to go all the way and pick our signature colour palette, our fonts and our logo, and that’s what made it take so long. With Pandr, our brand is very much centred around Phoebe and I, our personalities and our authenticity. Our work is very bright and colourful, so our brand is that way too. It was fun and I’m glad we did that early on and haven’t had to touch the branding at all. I think it still really works for us. No matter what industry we’re working in, I feel like our branding definitely suits us.
No matter what industry we’re working in, I feel like our branding definitely suits us.
Yeah, definitely. I assume you did that yourselves, because you have graphic design and branding backgrounds, right?
Roxy: Phoebe designed the logo, yeah.
Well done, it’s amazing. As well as your visual brand, your overall brand has developed a lot over the years, right? You started doing lettering, then got into murals, and now you’ve expanded into doing those classes and resources and teaching about building a business. How has that developed over time and how did those transitions happen?
Phoebe: It started with a lettering workshop, honestly. At the time, we had imposter syndrome and were like, why should we be the people that teach this? But there was a need and we kept getting asked to do it, so we just took the plunge. From there, we started teaching other kinds of workshops from the questions people were constantly DMing us on Instagram. We thought, if we’re getting this question enough times, there obviously aren’t enough resources out there for that.
Roxy: When you’re hosting a lettering workshop and you ask, “Are there any questions?” and people are asking how to set up their business properly and nothing related to lettering, then there’s definitely information that needs to be spread. When it came to using contracts, there were no resources when we started. It made it really difficult to know if we were even doing it right. We just saw such a need for education in our industry.
There is enough work out there for everybody.
We’re very transparent about numbers and exactly how we do outreach and get clients, because there is enough work out there for everybody. If more people are charging more or if more murals are going up, it’s beneficial for all of us. It’ll become a norm, like every business needs a mural. So we’re very much about spreading information.
I love that so much. One of the things I love that you mentioned is how much you get paid to do the murals. I feel like in the creative industry as a whole, a lot of people don’t talk about how much money they make or don’t make.
You’ve shared that you’ve made 5-figures designing and painting murals, which I think is incredible. Why do you think it’s important that we do talk about how much we get paid and the fact that artists can make 5-figures from the projects? You make 6-figures in your business every year now. Why do you think that’s important to talk about and share with other creatives?
Phoebe: You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s hard to form any sort of baseline for anything, you need a standard. Plenty of other industries have unions, but we don’t really have that.
Roxy: I think artists are working against a really horrible mindset of the starving artist stereotype. There’s this ingrained thing that if you really love your art, you don’t need to get paid for it because you’re just happy to make art. If you do get paid for it, you’re a sellout. There’s so much we’re working against to even be making enough money to survive.
There’s so much we’re working against to even be making enough money to survive.
Us posting that our business made $750k last year sometimes really rubs people the wrong way. They tell us we’re bragging and discouraging people, but really, we just want to open people’s eyes that this is possible.
We continue to want to surpass that. We want our business to make over a million dollars this year. We want artists to strive for not just not-struggling, we want artists to be successful.
We want artists to strive for not just not-struggling, we want artists to be successful.
Phoebe: Right? Thriving artists.
Not just surviving, but thriving. I'm so on the same wavelength. I’m the same as you - I want my business to make over a million dollars because that means we can thrive and survive, but we can also put it back into other creatives.
It’s definitely possible and a great thing, so I’m thankful that you are both teaching that. How have you gotten to the point of making 5-figures for your murals? What do you think has helped you to be able to charge that?
Phoebe: It was a struggle in the beginning. We didn’t know what we were doing. We charged $700 for our first mural.
Roxy: But we didn’t do it for free!
Phoebe: But it’s incredible that in our 6-year business, we had a 6-figure job. It’s really cool.
What has gotten us there? Obviously, having a system in place of what we charge, so if anyone needs it, we have a free mural pricing guide on our website. We charge by the square foot, whereas in the beginning, we were just guessing when we had a wall, we had no formula. Now when someone contacts us, it’s really easy to quickly calculate what it would be.
We’ve also upped our prices over the years and not stayed stagnant. We’ve gotten faster and better, so we deserve to be paid more. Like everything, you raise your prices as you get better.
We’ve gotten faster and better, so we deserve to be paid more. Like everything, you raise your prices as you get better.
Social media and referrals have been amazing for us, and we’ve done a lot of outreach. That’s something that we talk about a ton - introducing yourself to people, cold-emailing people and really putting yourself out there. We have a goal of painting in all 50 states. We’ll hit 30 states next month, and we’ve been able to conquer that mostly because of cold-emailing people.
That’s so cool. People don’t think to do that, and that Instagram is the only way to market themselves. But reaching out like that probably takes those people by surprise and gets you in front of them.
I’d love to talk to you a bit about TikTok because you’ve both started posting on there and have talked about social media being a huge part of what you do. You have separate personal accounts as opposed to a Pandr account - how have you both found posting and growing on TikTok as a semi-new platform to do that?
Roxy: So like a lot of people our age, we were very hesitant and really not wanting to go on TikTok. We were Team Instagram all the way. But sorry, we all know it, Instagram is…
Phoebe: Not what it used to be.
Roxy: It’s on the decline. So while TikTok was super confusing at first, we quickly realised it was actually kind of nice because at that time, Instagram felt very focused on quality. Your feed has to look perfect and you have to write these paragraphs in your caption, blah blah blah. Whereas TikTok is very quantity over quality. You can put garbage on TikTok and weirdly go viral.
Posting on different platforms is reaching different audiences.
People ask us if we get work being on TikTok. We literally don’t do anything unless it will benefit our business. So yes, we do get work through TikTok. If anything, just having a following on any platform helps, even if it’s a small following. Posting on different platforms is reaching different audiences, and TikTok has a lot more ability to reach people than Instagram does.
I would recommend anyone to get on TikTok. It is fun, but also does have such a reach and your videos continue to get views even if they’re old. It’s not like it’s done and gone in 24 hours, everything stays up there. So I feel like it’s easier to grow a following.
TikTok does pay creators more than Instagram does. Instagram pretends like they’re going to, but…you know. You get a small amount for views, but it’s at least something and we have had mural gigs through it.
Did it take a while before your videos picked up or did it happen pretty quickly? You had an existing audience on Instagram that maybe came over - how did it start and grow from there?
Phoebe: It’s funny, the audience is really different from Instagram. Some people have followed over, but not a ton. We started getting really into it during the beginning of the pandemic, so May or April of 2020. I would say that first year was when we saw a lot of growth and in 2021 it unfortunately slowed down. Now it’s feeling a lot harder to go viral. I used to feel like every 10 videos, one video would go off. That’s not really the case anymore, but we’re still seeing more growth than ever on Instagram.
Roxy: I’ve been running a business account on Instagram for over 10 years now. I’ve only been on TikTok for 2 years and I have at least double the amount of followers there. It just gives you a little bit of credibility to have a larger following.
Phoebe: It’s just interesting why it’s been so much faster and why Instagram has worked out the way it has.
Definitely. That’s a conversation a lot of people are having right now - should I keep going on Instagram or give up? Where’s it gonna go? I love that you decided to give TikTok a try and it’s obviously worked, so that’s awesome.
What was your thinking behind having separate personal TikTok accounts as opposed to just one for Pandr like you have on Instagram? What was the decision behind that?
Phoebe: I don’t think there really was one. Looking back, like anything, it probably would have saved us some headache if we just had one account, because then we could both be posting on there simultaneously and just really beef that one up. But it’s also good that we can both attract people from our different accounts.
Roxy: I can attract people that like glasses-wearers. But I think having separate accounts is nice because it’s less tied to our business. On our Pandr Instagram, we have to think a little more of what we would or wouldn’t do on that. Whereas on mine or Phoebe’s, we don’t really care even though it’s still tied to our business. It’s essentially a business account, but slightly less tied to the brand.
Phoebe: Pandr’s usually more PG.
I’m curious about how you balance your “personal brands” vs the Pandr brand in general. Do you have things that you want to do separately or is it just all in on Pandr?
Roxy: It’s all in on Pandr. The idea of doing any kind of side hustle on my own makes me sick to my stomach. We’ve kind of just really committed full force to Pandr and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful. It’s not just a side hustle, it’s our livelihood.
We’ve kind of just really committed full force to Pandr and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful. It’s not just a side hustle, it’s our livelihood.
Phoebe: Yeah, we had a nonprofit for a couple of years, that sucked a lot of time and energy away from Pandr and we saw that effect in our business.
Roxy: And our mental health.
Phoebe: And our mental health. And that directly affects both of our personal lives, so it’s like a trickle down.
Roxy: If Pandr's doing well, everybody's happy.
Now that we’re talking about going all in on Pandr, you’ve got a new book, right? I would love to hear all about it and where the idea came from.
Phoebe: It was always one of those bucket list things, we wanted to write a book and be authors. Maybe we wouldn’t have had it on our bucket list if we’d known how much work goes into it. Of course, we’re proud of the outcome and it turned out beautiful.
Roxy: It’s great seeing people finally have it in their hands, but like…
Phoebe: It was a really, really tough process. If anyone listening is looking into being an author, just really think about it!
Roxy: So much work, and to never be able to share about it until it comes out is really hard.
Phoebe: Delayed, delayed gratification. Like, 3 years delayed for us.
Roxy: Yeah. Like everything, we just put out our goals. We actually got approached by a book agent. We had no idea how to get into the book industry but she saw something in us. We told her we wanted to make a book about mural painting and there were no books like that out there.
Like everything, we just put out our goals.
She said that was going to be a little tricky because the book world is different. For entrepreneurs, we see that there’s no muraling books and that means there’s a hole in the market, whereas the publishing industry sees that there’s no muraling books, which means that nobody wants a book about muraling. If they did, it would already exist. Which is stupid, frankly.
She helped us to tweak our ideas, which is why we ended up doing something residential so it could be in the interior design world. It’s called Wonder Walls. It’s a book teaching people how to paint murals in their homes. We did 26 different projects that people could do step by step. It had to be under the interior design world.
Phoebe: So that it could be something that people could grasp, they could understand.
Roxy: Then of course, we put it out and people are like, how come there’s no exterior murals?
Phoebe: We weren’t allowed to! So yeah, it’s interesting. I’ll be curious if this paves the way for more and maybe there’ll be a new section of the bookstore in future years. But I highly recommend everyone go buy it! It’s a nice coffee table book and it’s available at all places where you can buy books.
Perfect. Yeah, I was wondering if you were keen to do another one where you could hopefully talk about external murals.
Phoebe: Like anything, it would probably be easier the second time around, especially knowing what to expect.
Roxy: We would definitely negotiate for a bigger advance. We did get a very good advance for first time authors, but with all the work we would definitely want more.
Phoebe: That’s something we could do a whole podcast about. I think authors are severely underpaid. It’s a screwy system, with advances and royalties and stuff.
Roxy: At the end of the day, you’re almost paying to make a book.
You’re right, that could be a whole workshop or podcast episode on that. That’s exciting though! Congratulations on doing the work. Now, like you say, you can see it in people’s hands. That must be a pretty special feeling.
I want to wrap things up with a couple of the questions that I ask everybody. What is the biggest lesson that you have learned about branding your passion?
Roxy: I think authenticity is the most important thing. You have to really love your brand, you have to be your biggest supporter of your brand. If it’s not authentic, your clients or customers are going to see that this is not true, this is not real, this person doesn’t believe in this. So I think you really have to look deep into your soul to figure out who you are and make sure your brand is in alignment with that.
Authenticity is the most important thing. You have to really love your brand, you have to be your biggest supporter of your brand.
That’s beautiful. The last question, which you might have just answered with that, is what advice would you give to somebody who’s just getting started branding their passion and doing what they love?
Phoebe: Personally, I am all about word vomit. Like, word vomiting your goals and aspirations to everyone and their mum, because you just never ever know who’s in the room and who’s listening. That’s seriously how we’ve gotten so many things. It really is all about who you know, whether it’s a brand new introduction or an actual connection.
You just never ever know who’s in the room and who’s listening. That’s seriously how we’ve gotten so many things.
Roxy: I would say, and we see this a lot with people starting businesses or quitting their jobs to go freelance full-time, is that they won’t start really doing anything until their branding is perfect, their website is done, or their Instagram has enough content. No. You cannot afford to wait until everything’s perfect. You need to just start doing and start making money, then you can work on that stuff.
You cannot afford to wait until everything’s perfect.
You could wait until your business is up and running, then you do one project and it’s out of date. I’m sure all our websites are out of date. I think it’s just an excuse. The faster you can get going, the easier it’s going to be to build your business. Years go by very fast in the business world, so the sooner you can get moving, the sooner you can get paid. You can always edit, you can always update as you go. You did a rebrand, we did a rebrand. It doesn’t have to be perfect from the start. Just get going.
It doesn’t have to be perfect from the start. Just get going.
That’s brilliant advice from both of you. I’m sure everybody listening will really value that, so thank you for sharing that.
Phoebe: And believe us! We’re not just saying it.
Yeah, they have the evidence! You can go and follow them, see all the work they’ve done and see that this stuff works.
Thank you so much for joining me and for sharing your story and all the things you’ve learned over the last 7 years. It’s so exciting and inspiring to hear what creatives can do and how big you can go.
Roxy: Thank you, we really appreciate it.
Phoebe: Yeah, thanks for having us on!
March 16, 2022
Brand Your Passion