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Meet Stephy So of Petiteoki in Redondo Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephy So.

Stephy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in Hong Kong. When I was a kid, I began designing and sewing for my 60 Barbie dolls, yes I had 60 barbie dolls in my little hong kong house. I would also spend days and nights drawing and painting during summer break. However, growing up, my parents never want me to be working in fashion or art industry; instead, they expect me to be a doctor or nurse… the stereotypes were real.

At age 12, I emigrated to US by myself and stay at my cousin’s house. Everything was new to me. New languages, new friends, new food (In-N-Out, Taco Bell, Chipotle… that changed my life). The first two years weren’t easy. Coming from a place with great public transportation and transitioning to US suburban lifestyle was rough. I remember my friends and I would walk 30 minutes to school on a rainy day and bike home in a baking hot summer evening… DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE BEING 4’11” AND NOT BEING ABLE TO REACH THE PEDALS ON A BIKE?! WHILE BAKING IN THE SUN?! YEAH I HAD TO GET KID BIKES… YOU KNOW HOW SILLY THAT IS?! Anyways… being away from my parents, I learned cooking and being independent more quickly than any other teenagers I knew. In Junior year, I took a photography class and that made a big impact in my life.

After high school, I attended CSULB to achieve my BFA in Graphic Design degree. However, I was still pondering on what I wanted to do when I graduated. I started to dive into different types of work and pick up different skills. I picked up many internships such as interactive design intern, graphic design intern at fashion brand St. John, and worked as an IT technician, caregiver, and an art instructor. Yeah… I was all over the place. After graduation, I worked as a designer under Column Five, a marketing agency with accounts such as LinkedIn, Visa, Dropbox, Microsoft, and Zendesk. While working at Column Five, I learned more about myself, navigating me more toward photography and illustration related work.

After a long time of internal battles, I decided to leave my full-time designer job to pursue photography. Due to my petite size people tended to treat me “more special” than others. It’s fun here and there but imagine being a princess; stuck in a castle all the time… it’s boring! After leaving my job I started Petiteoki studio with my boyfriend and friends. With a name that draws much curiosity, Petiteoki (Peh-Tee-Oh-Kee) joins together the French word for small (“petite”) and the Japanese word for big (“ookii”). This means little people making big dreams happen.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Pursuing your own business is definitely a challenge. My very first struggle was to branding my own studio (YEAH….I AM GOOD AT BRANDING FOR CLIENTS BUT HORRIBLE ON BRANDING MY OWN BUSINESS. VERY IRONIC LOL). It was the time I truly started focus on myself and learning who I am: shapes, colors, and smile (Hey, smile is very important not only to clients but to any ups and downs!)

Being my own boss and learning to delegate was also difficult; from dealing with clients, sourcing materials, set design, photography, marketing, social media, accounting, managing multiple projects and people… it was rough! It wasn’t just hard work but mental strength to deal with lows. However, I love all these experiences. Throughout time, I was taught to problem-solve on the spot and deal with different scenarios. Learning how to manage different personalities was also a great asset for me. I’m more introverted than extroverted, so when it came to me taking lead it was scary at first. Over time I became more confident in the work I did. I’ve learned Still to this day I’m still learning and growing. I feel like I’m my own intern forever because there are things for me to learn and appreciate every single day.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Petiteoki – what should we know?
We are a creative studio that specializes in photo retouching, photography, set design, art direction, and video production. At the same time, we carry merchandise from different creators to share with our community. When we have pop-up shops to showcase merch and art we have a slogan “We see what you like. We like what you see.”

What sets us apart from others? We’re artists of life pursuing mastery in our craft. At Petiteoki, everyone has a specialty to cover this “ookii” world and bring it into your pocket. Everywhere you go we’re a hand-reach away from bringing you fun epic size of joy.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Everyone that I have encountered, good or bad has made me who I am today. My friends and family know I love them to death but for the ones I don’t mention, they have made an impact small or big to shape me. Each drop of knowledge helped me grow to become a better person.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Tommy Trinh, Stephy So

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