Q&A WITH NICK & CANDY ROBERTSON
When did the first Pecanpal appear?
The first Pecanpal appeared in “I miss you already” notes left on Candy’s pillow whilst I (Nick) went off to work. This was back in 2005, when Candy was studying Visual Communication and Design, and Nick was rushing around Bayside suburbs pulling out weeds and mowing lawns. At that stage there were no names, no unique personalities, or anything, really, other than a not-too-flattering overbite. We didn’t realise it yet, but that small act of pillow-warming was to pave the way to a beautiful future of collaborative art, design, love, and story telling.
Which Pecanpals are your personal favourites?
This would be a really good opportunity to describe all the characters, but as there are currently over 40 Pecanpals in the comics (and growing), we’d better pick only two. Pecan and Pandacake are our favourites, not just because they are the very original Pecanpals, but because they are us. That’s how it all started, really. Pecanpals are just us trying to find our place in the world, and meaning in our own selves.
Tell us the story of your business - was there a particular moment, person, or need that inspired it?
Before Funko Pops made collecting vinyl figures mainstream, there was a trickle of innovative artists creating independent design pieces that blurred the line between art, design, and toys. We were fascinated by these “designer toys" because it meant that you didn’t need to be a huge company to make things. The only problem was vinyl. We wanted to be part of this scene, but we didn’t want to use toxic vinyl to make our designs. Then a curious thought struck. What if we made things from wood? And not just any wood. What about a sustainable wood?
How did you come up with your business name?
Noferin was our artist name. Exhibiting together in the USA, we wanted a name that represented the both of us. As our family and business grows, it’s handy having a name that includes us all and reminds us where it all started.
What first steps did you take to turn your business idea into a reality? Was it scary / difficult, or did everything come easily / naturally?
Pecanpals, as wooden design products, were created in reaction to the prevalence of toxic vinyl art toys exploding from the California collector scene in the early 2000s. I don’t know whether it was our use of sustainably-harvested hevea wood, or the characters and art that did it, but with a marketing budget of $0 and a very basic website, our first wooden release sold out in less than 24 hours. This was a great surprise to us as we had no idea what we were doing business-wise. We just enjoyed making things together and were fortunate enough to find an encouraging audience that pushed us to explore our creativity more.
Tell us three things that make your product stand out.
Simple. Timeless. Fun.
Describe how you felt when you started to get your first customers. How has your relationship with your customers grown / changed since then?
Getting our first customers was both a thrill and a surprise. We didn’t expect anyone to like our stuff, let alone exchange money for it. We’ve always made an effort to be very personal; it’s lovely that we can still contact our first customers, many of whom have since become friends.
Tell us three things that excite you about doing what you do.
We love creating things together as a family. It really is the best thing! We work very closely together on all aspects of our design, art and stories. Seeing it all come together is such a thrill.
How do you keep your business fresh and exciting? Do you have any new, upcoming products in the works that you can tell us about?
It’s very important to keep looking ahead, to create goals that challenge and excite. We’re approaching everything anew as we relaunch with a clarified view of where we want to be as artists, designers, and brand owners. With a veritable cornucopia of upcoming products in the works, we’re really excited to be launching the Give With Roobee program, where a percentage of all sales will be donated to give meals via our giving partner, Foodbank Australia. Establishing this giving program is a great motivator for us to create better design that connects with a broader audience.
What energises and inspires you, generally?
Design is all about answering questions. We are most energised and inspired when answering questions. Or asking them.
Who is your biggest inspiration, and why?
Noferin started from love. It brought us together as creators and gave meaning and purpose to our day. Fourteen years later and that spark is as strong as ever. It’s nice making things with one’s greatest inspiration.
Where do you think your area of design is headed in 2019/2020? Are there any subtle or big design / business trends that you’ve identified? Have they affected the direction of your business?
Staying abreast of trends and following what others are doing can work for some very fluid business models, but for us, worrying about these things only leads to self-doubt and uncertainty.
What advice would you give to someone who has a creative business idea?
Don’t be afraid to share.