Portraits of designers: second part
Because we have noticed that commitment often leads to beautiful stories of brand creators, we wanted to present you again a "committed" brand. Meeting with Emmanuel from "Ma Boutique Catho"A meeting about faith, graffiti, humour and love!
Ma Boutique Catho
"Ma Boutique Catho: a name that is bound to be evocative... Why did you choose this name? Can you tell us about the "genesis" of your brand?
Thank you for this question! The genesis of the brand goes back a long way... I am Emmanuel, and I used to do graffiti in the street and on trains, until this strong experience with God at the end of 2003. This one turned my life upside down and did not leave me unscathed (in the good sense of the word). It is important to know that graffiti and t-shirts are linked, both have the desire to create a quick and efficient visual impact, in the shortest possible time and with a minimum of color . It works like a logo, so to speak. There are many T-shirts circulating in the graffiti world; think of the Wrüng brand created by Parisian graffiti artists and which came out of the cellars at first.
In 2008, a few years after I stopped graffiti, I created my first silkscreen designs with messages related to my new faith. I sold these productions in gatherings all over France and from hand to hand. I always had a stock in my car boot!
But as life goes on, a wife, a child, then two, then three, then four (!), it's no longer possible to go around the country selling t-shirts and sweatshirts. I gave up on this project for a few years, until I read an article on the web in early 2019... where I discovered Print on Demand. It was a shock. A revelation.
Now I have a passion for designing T-shirts, and I can do it without limits! As an ex-engraver and graphic designer by trade, this is a foretaste of heaven for me.
I'm looking on the Internet for a printer-supplier aligned with my ethical and ecological values, which are really important to me and to my target audience, French-speaking Catholics. I found T-Pop, I called Julien and the feeling was immediate (how could it be otherwise?). For me, it is God who sends them on my way.
Who are your designs aimed at? How do you meet your (future) customers?
My creations are mainly aimed at Catholic Christians, even if evangelicals or other Christian denominations can appreciate some of my models. I say "Catholic" precisely because culturally we have a lot of "clichés" that we can play with and that are a source of inspiration. I love humour (a common point with T-Pop), so mixing humour, fun and faith on a t-shirt... It's all good.
It is quite easy for me to reach out to my target audience, being myself with them at the heart of this faith lived in the Church. As a graphic designer for Christian structures for several years, I have gradually created a fairly dense and committed community. Offering them Catholic clothing is just an extension of what I usually do, and is not perceived as a "quirk".
Afterwards, I'm looking to conquer new territories of course, I've put myself on Instagram (imagine that), developed my Facebook pro page, and created a "Humour Catho" group on Facebook which has more than 5000 people in 5 months. I frequent other Catholic groups on Facebook, which again allow me to expand my community and my audience. Finally, I take care of my e-mailing, because I love to write. People sign up on the pop-up that appears on the site, offering them a 15% discount code in exchange for an e-mail, which works very well!
Pictures of Pope Francis, sentences from psalms, sentences in English... Your visuals are quite varied. Did you create them?
As a graphic designer, I create the visuals for my shop myself. I think this is a big strength of being a graphic designer in the POD! I also find some on the Internet, in free image sites, which I retouch slightly and which work very well. This variety, it seems, in marketing can work against me. I need a unity, something more coherent, like an Insta feed. But I don't forget that I first created this shop to let myself go, and that I use POD to create diversity. If I don't have fun anymore, I don't see any point in continuing!
By the way, can you tell us about the team and the way you work?
There's my wife, who supports me through thick and thin (for better or for worse, right?), and then Kloé who looks after the shop's Pinterest account and also gives me excellent advice in general. Céline helps me with various things from time to time. A few volunteers were there at the beginning, but now it's a bit smaller. We're not at the stage of hiring yet, but we hope things will progress quickly, and we're giving ourselves the means to do so!
I also have a guy who does the SEO for the shop, paid as a service provider for a year, and he does a very good job. On some expressions the shop has beaten sites that have been around for more than a decade and are still very qualitative. We take care of our SEO, we take care of our content, we pamper our customers, in short, we give ourselves the means!
We collaborate on Slack, which is very practical for everyone. Also when we add people on an ad hoc basis, for example Instagram influencers, illustrators who are going to create collections, etc., we can create thematic discussion chains on this tool where we add the people we want, it's very practical. We can create thematic discussion channels on this tool where we add the people we want, it's very practical.
You support an association: can you tell us about it?
Indeed, after only one month of existence, we supported the AED (Aid to the Church in Need) for one of their very specific actions: offering a Christmas to the children of Syria and their families, then in the middle of a war. A percentage of the profits was given to them. Then, one month later, we decided to support another association, Anak-TNK, which takes abandoned children out of the slums of Manila. What they are doing is very impressive. The dignity of human beings and the fight against all forms of injustice is at the heart of the Christian faith. It makes sense for us to give part of what we earn to help others. We do the same thing with our personal money, so why not also with the company's money? It is also a way of remaining grateful (a term that is very dear to us), because everything we receive is first of all a "gift" that is offered to us.
Today, are you satisfied with these first months of existence?
Yes and no. "Yes" because I have fun and I love novelty and challenges. "Yes" because I love receiving messages from enthusiastic clients - and they reassure me that I am not alone in my delusion. "Yes, because I believe that what I do is meaningful, bringing the message of faith in a contemporary, relaxed and generous way.
But "no" because I would like it to take off much faster, for the whole world to know that this shop exists! But you need to be patient, and take it one step at a time.
You write on your website that "affirming one's Christian faith has become difficult": do you feel that your brand is changing the way others look at it? Have you had any feedback from your customers?
Did I write that? No, seriously, it's true that we live in paradoxical times. On the one hand, many people are attracted to spirituality, meditation, let's look at the success of yoga for example. Many people also turn to the supernatural in case of trouble: this is the success of magnetists, healers, etc. And on the other hand, Christianity is generally decried, even though it is THE religion of the spiritual and the supernatural.
But I understand it perfectly: if we take the case of France for example (but we could almost say of Europe), Christianity (and in particular the Catholic faith) had become since the middle of the 20th century a "religion" made of religious practice, prohibitions and morals, disconnected from its core substance. As a result, everyone has left, and the stories and scandals don't help to restore its image with the general public. But I think that's a good thing. All those who had no business being in the Church have left, and the generation that is rising up and for whom I am producing clothes has returned to the essence of Christianity: love.
Love God, love the other (without conditions), love yourself. The rest follows.
I don't have much feedback from customers yet, I have to go fishing for feedback these days, precisely, to make my "social proof" grow. However, this is one of their main requests (I did some surveys which received a strong response): to be able to witness their faith in all simplicity, thanks to their clothes.
What next? What are your plans? Where do you see "Ma Boutique Catho" in... say 5 years?
It's a funny question, because I just wrote this projection at the request of my coach (a coach from LiveMentor, a school I recommend to all project leaders). So in 5 years, to put it simply:
- a physical shop in Paris or Lyon
- use the POD to "test" the models
- continue the POD to create a max
- sell the best models from stock
- continue to diversify the offer, with catholic jewellery, an amazing cartery, etc.
- create new POD shops with T-Pop of course, in other niches ;-)
- and above all, to make a (good) living from my activity!
This concludes this third part...
Thanks to Emmanuel for his availability and his complete, relevant and very interesting answers!
Our collaboration with Ma Boutique Catho is a beautiful story that we hope will be long and fruitful :-)