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Meet Connie Simon of Noshkins, Inc. and Facekins in Tustin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Connie Simon.

Connie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I worked as a graphic designer for over 30 years. Art has always been my passion. In kindergarten, I remember being so proud when my tempera paintings were exhibited! Graphic design allowed me to express myself in a myriad of directions. I started before computers were a design tool so my hand skills are many.

Throughout my career, I freelanced in small design studios and in ad agencies in Orange County and Los Angeles. From time to time I’d be offered a position. Having freelanced at these places I’d seen the politics in action and stayed my own boss. Awards were had and fun was had. But as the graphic design business lost its gloss for me I discovered that creating in almost any area is what feeds my spirit.

I love problem-solving! What would fill a need? What’s the best route to the final objective? Will this evoke an emotional response? Will that be something you’d give or do for a friend? Adding creativity to the process almost takes me to a meditative state. I’m at a stage in my life where it’s about the joy.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Oh—life is not smooth! And owning a business has all kinds of surprises.

Manufacturing can be a challenge. In my case, I’m the manufacturer (maker) so growth always presents some limitations. I love what I create and strive for quality over ease. Initially, my goal was to find individuals with sewing skills who might need to work from home—to create a community of people who could make some money while working at a pace that fits their needs. Maintaining consistency in quality proved a challenge. So I considered a cut and sew shop only to realize it would increase the price of both Noshkins and Facekins beyond my targeted audience.

Wholesaling is another area that threw me. I didn’t wholesale my toys for years. I wanted the quality of my products to be available to as many as possible and a 50% wholesale point would put them at a premium. I am able to wholesale Facekins reusable face pads as long as I’m the maker.

Though I’m 20 on the inside, I’m 67 on the outside. I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with technology. And yet, online marketing presents a whole new area of knowledge to explore. Having spent decades in the graphic design world has been a benefit. But it’s very time-consuming!

Noshkins, Inc. and Facekins – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
When my grandson was three years old we bought a play kitchen. I decided to make him some play food for his new kitchen and thought that it should be soft and not hard like wood or hard plastic. I wanted him to have something fun yet beautiful that was made with loving attention to detail. His reaction was immediate delight. He loved them and I thought of how much joy I could add to play and learning for children. Noshkins™ felt play food was born! My grandson is about to turn 12 and he and his sister still play with those original pieces.

Noshkins offers handmade (by me) and designed (by me) play food. I use a felt manufactured from BPA free post-consumer plastic bottles. The material makes Noshkins easy to wash, colorfast, and shrink-proof. I combine available colors to produce beautifully made, semi-realistic food items. I’m very conscious of safety so everything is sewn on very securely, avoiding small pieces. Originally, with the popularity of play kitchens for kids, the pieces were meant to be toys. I soon found that they were also purchased as collectibles (adults), teaching aids, therapy tools and toys used for sensory sensitive kids.

My first adventure with selling was at a local craft fair, Patchwork Show, in 2011. We were thrilled with the response. Each year since I’ve been inspired by watching young kids as they engage with other kids, older children put down their electronics to play, adults break into huge grins as they access their inner child and the knowledge that what I make inspires, teaches, and connects people. I’m constantly delighted when a serious and puzzled face looks at my toys and, upon realizing what they are, breaks into a twinkling smile or laugh. I once had a food inspector stop at my display looking a bit confused until I explained that the food wasn’t real!

In 2013 I added a completely different product to my line. Eco-friendly products have always been at the top of my list. I noticed that others were starting to make fabric face pads to wean themselves of disposable cotton pads. Most used cotton. I decided to make myself a set of washable pads for removing makeup and applying products. I fell in love with how soft minky fabric is. Unlike cotton or bamboo, the polyester cloth washed clean of makeup stains, dried quickly and was incredibly gentle. I called my new product Facekins®. The pads are double-sided with soft edges that are perfect for under the eyes. I sew each piece and we package everything here in Tustin and have shipped all over the world.

I’m very proud of the quality of my products. They’re made to last for years. We’re such a consumer-driven society that I’m happy to provide long-lasting items in the toy and beauty areas.

I have other products in mind and often have to reign in my creativity!

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I’ve always followed the mantra “do what you love” and do it with passion. Money, though a necessity, has never been a driving force for me. What has kept me pursuing my businesses is more about the joy of creating and how I might contribute to others than how much I’m making. That in itself doesn’t exactly jive with running a business!

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Photos by Connie Simon

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