After years of planning, what illustrator Alicia Souza has in store with kid’s brand Auntie Alie
Fun, quirky and colourful, Alicia Souza’s illustrations take inspiration from her day-to-day activities. The Bengaluru-based illustrator has a book full of ideas but says she “never has enough time to execute them all.”
Earlier last month, Alicia launched children’s brand Auntie Alie. In a conversation with YS Weekender, she says “There were too many reasons to start the brand.”
Auntie Alie features bedding and nursery essentials for children. The brand makes swaddles, bibs, blankets, sleeping bags, decals, and posters — all of them featuring Alicia’s illustrations. Priced between Rs 199 and Rs 7296, it also has a section dedicated to gifts for newborns and their parents — including car stickers, baby and mama oil, bedding bundles, and greeting cards.
Having launched her first product in 2013, Alicia had ever since been keen on launching a product line exclusively for children. She even had some drawings made for it and readied some samples years ago. “But I never had the time to initiate a brand,” she says. However, upon becoming pregnant, Alicia knew that if she did not start the brand now, then “I will be just pushing it.”
With the pandemic slowing down the manufacturing process, Alicia did a soft launch in December 2020. “Hopefully, I will double the collection before everything that I had envisioned becomes available,” she adds.
Where it all started
Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, Alicia never planned to make a living out of Arts. A nine-to-five scheduled is what she envisioned for herself. However, she started considering illustration as a possible option when her Class XII teacher said, “That I would ruin my life if I had not picked up Arts,” Alicia recalls.
She went on to study Graphic Designing from RMIT University, Melbourne. “In my final year (of college), I realised that I liked illustrating a lot more,” she adds.
On her final portfolio review day, Alicia landed herself with a contract illustrator’s job in the newspaper The Age. A year later, she co-founded a lifestyle startup. In 2010, Alicia quit her job and moved to Bengaluru to focus more on the startup. However, she soon parted ways with the lifestyle brand and started freelancing as an illustrator. “I wanted to start up separately,” she adds.
In 2013, when a friend got her to set up a stall in Bengaluru’s flea market Sunday Soul Sante, Alicia realised “It was a viable option to work on.”
She soon started receiving requests for her illustrations on the products. In December of the same year, Alicia went live with her first calendar for 2014. “It did so well that I could not close shop after that,” she adds.
Making a career out of illustrating initially seemed like a gamble for Alicia. However, she recalls that a year-and-a-half of starting out, and “Getting work rather frequently, being able to pay my bills and have some savings, made a big difference,” Alicia says.
More popularly known for her ‘Ultimate Planner’ and calendar collection, Alicia’s website also features merchandise including t-shirts, accessories, home and decor products, stationery, and more recently, face masks.
Alicia is the sole illustrator for both her brands. “I do not let anyone work on the drawing at all, specifically because my name is attached to the brands,” she says.
All of her products and merchandise are locally manufactured.
Alicia uses social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to reach her target audience. For someone who is not too fond of analytics, Alicia’s only advice to personal brands is “To make it (making social media posts) a part of your daily routine,” she adds.
Alicia makes a post every morning and says that it has become a habit for her now.
Besides her website, Alicia has been leveraging Shopify’s platform to retail her products. “Shopify as a platform has always been really easy to use, the backend is really fluid, the templates are really neat, and this is a platform I recommend to all who wish to start their business online,” she says.
With the pandemic impacting businesses small and large alike, Alicia was prepared that her business metrics would be impacted as well. However, the illustrator was surprised with the response and has been able to sell around 10,000 units each of her planner and calendar.
“To be one’s own boss is the best thing in the world. You can never go on a holiday and be turned off from work completely. Having said that, it is a big game, and I have the best job in the world,” she adds.
Plans for Auntie Alie
“For Auntie Alie, I have to be extra-careful with checks like choking hazard, quality of the material, the extra softness, and making the products out of 100 percent organic cotton,” Alicia says.
Auntie Alie has been getting a lot of enquiries from abroad and the illustrator is working on making the process of ordering for customers abroad, seamless. Her only focus now is to grow the collection quicker before thinking about the ‘where’ and ‘when’ part of it. Alicia plans to take the brand in the same direction as her other brand.
Confident about the quality of the products, Alicia envisions to put Auntie Alie on the retail market. “I think for kid’s products, people like to touch and feel,” she says. While a retail store is definitely not in her pipeline, Alicia does have plans for another boutique store.
Going ahead, Alicia plans on adding more products to both the brands, working with new manufacturers, and making the customer experience more fluid.
Edited by Kanishk Singh