Sometimes, the most random, bizarre ideas can be the ones that change your life. Take Craig Anthony-Kelly, for example. When and his mate Tom Clark were out of work they decided to try their hand at printing T-shirts for fun. Purchasing a screen-printing kit, the early stages proved a bit hit-and-miss. But before long they had mastered the techniques launched their label Tommy Popcorn in 2012. Cut to 2016, they’ve just teamed up with ASOS! Here, Craig explains how he and Tom made a success of their crazy out-of-the-blue idea.
Craig, so what exactly is it you do?
I am the co-owner, co-creator and designer of Tommy Popcorn, which I set up with my mate Tom.
How did you both meet?
We actually met at dance college and we have been best friends ever since.
What does your normal day entail?
As well as running Tommy Popcorn I am also assistant dance captain at Mamma Mia! West End, so my day can actually get quite busy. I mostly sort out orders for TP in the day to make sure they are shipped. And at night I work my magic on stage.
It kind of came from a crazy brainstorm with Tom. We were both out of work and decided to get our own screen-printing kit. We had many failed attempts but we soon mastered it and got more confident. We came up with some simple designs and people really got to like them. We then upgraded to more professional equipment and our ‘Pug’ T-shirt seemed to go down a storm and there was a lot of demand for it. As we grew, the brand started to feel bit more established. We have always said to ourselves that we must only do things that are true to us. Tommy Popcorn is fun fresh and not taking life too seriously. We are all here to enjoy life and we just want to throw a bit of fun in to it.
Were you an overnight success or were there a lot of obstacles?
It was definitely not an overnight success. We are an independent business and like all independent businesses it’s a struggle to survive. But we have managed to continue from the love and support of the fans we gain. It’s because of our following that we are able to fund new and exciting projects and designs. The more we reach out to people the more support we gain, and this is so rewarding. We are not in it for the money, we do it because we love doing it. Even now its so overwhelming when you see someone on the street wearing the sweater you designed. That’s the best payment. That someone believed in you are your product.
What kind of people do you get to work with?
With Tommy Popcorn it is really just me and Tom so its great to be working with your best friend and come up with these crazy ideas. But we tend to work with the printers who do a great job in getting our clothes looking great.
What did you before this job?
As I say Tom and I are still performers so we run Tommy Popcorn along side our performing careers.
What had you studied at school?
I actually went to university to study business and then left because it wasn’t for me and gained a scholarship into drama school (where I met Tom)
Was there support at school for your dream job?
Yes of course. We all dreamed to be top notch performers. Our goals were very clear. But once you’ve reached a dream, your dreams get bigger and bigger. Our dream now is to make Tommy Popcorn an established brand. Our own little empire.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
As an independent business it’s hard to gain finance to fund all your crazy cool ideas. Although we have bucketfuls of ideas we can’t always execute them, so we have to limit ourselves… for now!
What makes it so fulfilling?
In the performing industry you face rejection a lot. Although its part and parcel you learn to deal with it. In what we are doing with Tommy Popcorn. You are rewarded every time someone buys and wears your garment. Its so fulfilling that some gets you and believes in your product and your design makes them smile. It’s a great feeling.
ASOS Marketplace approached us as they saw our Instagram feed and loved what we were doing. We were thrilled they asked us to sell our range on their website. We had planned to approach them when our collection had grown a little so it was amazing when they said ‘come join us’. To be associated with such a brand is so exciting and we get to touch base with the right people. Our boutique can be found at asos.mp/tommypopcorn
What advice would you give to others?
I would wholly say to anyone that has a dream, to go chase it and grab and make new ones. Life is about living it on your terms. Chase your goals and fulfil your dreams, because its possible. It might not happen over night but if you want it that badly, you will somehow get it.
For more info head to Tommy Popcorn’s official website
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