Thanks to online platforms like Etsy and Instagram, Floriane Touitou was able to ditch her PhD in order to pursue her real passion: Making paper folded art called Origami.
Touitou started Florigami—which is a play off of Touitou's first name Floriane and Origami—in 2014 after realizing a career in academics wasn't for her. The intricate pieces, which sell on Etsy (NASDAQ: ETSY), range from $90 to $167 a creation.
The artist received her doctorate in geophysics in 2012, but already knew when she was a student she didn't want to pursue research.
"I was passionate about science and what I was doing, but I was missing contact with people, communication and the fact that I could not see the impact of what I was doing," she said. "It was too theoretical."
After defending her thesis, she traveled the world and spent six months in Germany with students studying entrepreneurship. Touitou realized starting her own business was what she wanted to do. She made a list of things she loved, and origami was at the top.
Origami reflects minimalism and purity, she said, and it can simply things without losing meaning.
"I think people like origami so much because of that, and also because there is something magical in the transformation of a 2-D square paper into a 3-D shape," Touitou explained. "And you don't even need tools for that — just your ten fingers!"
Touitou decided to pursue Florigami full time and launched her Etsy store in 2014. While she could have started her online shop on her own platform, she didn't have the skills or money to start something from scratch. She used other Etsy shops for inspiration to help her select keywords, organize her shop, and photograph and describe her creations.
"What is good with Etsy is that it is known by art and handcraft lovers all over the world," she explained. "I sell a lot outside France, and I'm always amazed by the idea of my creations traveling that much and finding a place in so many different environments."
To promote her work, Touitou relies on social media channels and is active on Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Instagram and Twitter (NYSE: TWTR). The posts help keep her communicate with potential customers and get feedback.
"When you are a maker, people are curious about how you actually make," she said. "So I think is it important to tell the story of your creations on social networks. I have more than 9000 followers on Instagram and many of them are not French. By posting, I keep them updated about my work."
While she didn't disclose how much she makes annually, she said she has enough to live a "simple [and] lovely life, and I don't need another job." Touitou also noted the French government has a program to help businesses starting out, so it helped her focus on Florigami.
"When I decided not to work in research and to start my own creative venture, I was advised to do it as a full time job," she said. "It paradoxically reduces the risk of failure because you have time to design, make and communicate on your project."
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