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(From left) Kanika Seth, Manish Sharma and Harsh Khaneja say wearing pins is akin to making a personal statement (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
(From left) Kanika Seth, Manish Sharma and Harsh Khaneja say wearing pins is akin to making a personal statement (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

To enter a market, your idea has to be unique

  • From popular logos to motivational icons, pins can be more than a fashion statement, say the people behind Delhi-based brand Say it with a Pin
  • A pin is a small but powerful tool for self expression, as well as a great ice-breaker, says Kanika Seth, co-founder, Say it with a Pin

Most millennials like the idea of accessories to stand out—and customized pins are hot favourite among them. From popular logos to motivational icons, pins can be more than a fashion statement, say the people behind Delhi-based brand Say it with a Pin. “Last year, we were looking for pins for ourselves but didn’t find any, which stood out. Pins are probably the only thing which, being in the fashion genre, remains very personal. We were almost on the verge of trying samples from Italy, when Harsh, one of our co-founders pointed out that we could probably make it ourselves," says Kanika Seth, co-founder, Say it with a Pin.

Just like that, sitting in the South Delhi office of 2626 Creative Studio—a marketing agency that Seth and Harsh Khaneja set up three years ago, the trio made a few samples. In May 2018, Say it with a Pin, a startup that specializes in wooden lapel pins, was born. What started off initially, as a part of the creative studio business, slowly grew as a separate unit, with its own set of designers and office space in South Delhi’s Dhan Mill compound. Both say they could think of setting it up only because they were financially stable with 2626 bringing in money at first. “For the first few months, it took time for work to pick up for the pin design business," says Khaneja.

Why a pin?

A pin, according to Khaneja, is a small but powerful tool for self expression, as well as a great ice-breaker. “We obviously had to do a lot of research and development, tried various methods to find out what works and what doesn’t, before finally getting the results we wanted. Manish Sharma, who was designing these pins, had brilliant ideas, and we knew he had what it takes to be a partner," he adds. The three now work as co-founders of the company, with Seth and Khaneja looking at business development, and Sharma at operations.

Hand painting hundreds of pins every day, requires a lot of skill and motivation. But that is what sets them apart. And while the cost goes up because of that (pins start at 350- 450), these three know that they have been able to bring out a lot more designs because they are not bulk made. They are now tying up with brands for collaborations and events.

Learning curve

The time spent on research was not the only worry for the trio. To find the right kind of wood and the amount of detailing required to bring the designs to life, took them several months. To keep the designs fresh and as less repetitive as possible, they have also started collaborating with freelance artists. “The artists pitch their ideas, and we see if they match our ideologies," says Seth.

The idea now is to figure out how to scale it up. Should they venture into cufflinks and other accessories? How to come up with new designs daily? Do they need more people?

“All the learning we had in 2626, we can implement here. For example, we had hired too many people there just because a client’s contract demanded it. We had to later let them go. These are mistakes that cost us, but we have grown from those," puts in Seth, who has made sure that the team at Say it with a Pin remains small.

Just like everything that gets talked about, creative work also gets imitated. Recently, Say it with a Pin posted about their designs being copied by a well-known online retailer. However, the retailer, upon confrontation decided to give due credit to the designers at Say it with a Pin. Knowing that there is no foolproof method right now to stop plagiarism in the creative field, Khaneja remains unperturbed. He believes no mass producer will be able to copy their quality, even if they copy the design.

The trio remains confident of the growing market, and more competition only means a bigger canvas for them—even if the canvas here is quite literally an inch-wide wooden pin.

Style Wise is a series that looks at how accessory startups are finding a niche and overcoming challenges. 

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