Struggling to find planters to suit his Chicago home, Damiane Nickles began thrifting and creating his own, pairing them with plants and selling them on Instagram. Losing his job just as his following picked up, he turned a side project into something more serious.

Spring 2020

Getting laid off

‘I get laid off from my job which is a low because, well, I got laid off from my job. I sit around in a funk for a week and then I’m laying in bed and this lady DMs me asking me where her planters are. That’s when I’m like: all right, I just got laid off but here’s this thing over here. When you’re in a depressive state like that, you’re emotionally stiffening. That message felt like the release of the rubber band. The next day I get up and go and do a bunch of thrifting.’

Summer 2020

An affirming fundraiser

‘The George Floyd protests are happening and I have Covid-19, so I’m unable to leave my apartment. I’m trying to figure out what I can do to help. I connect with an artist friend and we decide to auction some of our, and other artists’, work and donate whatever we get to The National Bail Fund. We end up raising $19,750. It’s a huge moment for me – like: oh shit, look at what you can do with this digital community. It gives me a huge push to keep going.’

Late summer 2020

 Drop-off in sales

‘I’ve been selling everything on Instagram so I build out a website. What’s a huge fucking bummer is that usually when I post on IG, every planter sells out within five minutes, which is a huge dopamine boost. But when I put planters on the website, no one buys them. It’s a pretty dark week for me and I get really sad. I’m like: what the fuck? What happened? They’re the same planters, I’m confused – I was feeling so confident about my distribution.’

Late summer 2020

A lesson in consumer habits

‘I talk to a friend who sells cakes on her Instagram. She’s like, “This is just the thing that nobody tells you about moving your business from Instagram to website, you just have to redevelop that muscle memory for people.” It takes a couple of weeks of just consistently saying, “hey guys, link is in the motherfucking bio!” But slowly, sales start to grow and grow and grow. That’s a big lesson – that people have these ingrained memories and I have to remind them.’

Autumn 2020 

Shipping issues

‘The website lets me broaden the net – but learning to ship properly is an experience. The first three or four things all break – it’s fucking terrible. Not only am I losing on the cost of goods, I’m losing on the cost of shipping. And I have to replace the planter with something not exactly the same and hope the customer likes it. Thankfully, most people are accommodating. There was even one lady who said, “Don’t even send me anything new, I’m just happy to support you.”’

Winter 2020

New revenue streams

‘I’ve been thinking of my revenue streams. I love selling planters on the website, but there’s significant work I have to do per planter to get revenue going. So I’m trying to get a corporate gifting arm going. A friend who works at lululemon hits me up and is like, “Hey man, can you get me like 40 planters by next Friday?” This isn’t shit I can post about or put on my website, but it’s huge – it’s so much less work and it’s all revenue at one time. It’s really, really clutch.’

Winter 2020 

Re-entering lockdown

‘Because I’ve gotten that big 40-piece order, I exhaust a lot of my backstock. A day later, they recommend everyone locks down and I’m like, what the fuck? I don’t have as much runway as I would like, what am I going to do? I sit on my ass for a few days and think about hunkering down. But luckily the shops don’t all close. It takes me a while, but I decide to do a huge run. I look at which ones are closed and which ones aren’t, plan a route and knock it out.’

Winter 2020

Focus on business accounts

‘Most of my holiday energy is spent focusing on business accounts. I’ve found in the past that people will be like, “Oh hey, can I work with you to curate a gift for my best friend?” It’s cool because you get to make that person happy, but it ends up taking so much of my time and, generally, people are needy, picky assholes. Right now I find it’s easier to focus on working in the capacity of selling to other businesses for their holiday stuff, than to just do one-off commissions.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 39, February/March 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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