The saying goes that, “necessity is the mother of invention.” If you didn’t believe it before, you will after reading about designer and “professional doodler”, Anna Santaguida. Initially she built her one woman business out of a creative and financial need, however it’s turned into something so much bigger over time. While Anna clearly knows the ins and outs of running a smaller operation, she has also designed work for larger clients like, American Eagle Outfitters, Gypsy Warrior, Whole Foods Market, and Pacsun. Here she delivers insights on both worlds for Babes looking to break into the business.
Give us a brief description of your business
Bananna Bones is an accessory and apparel brand inspired by vintage, rock & roll, and girl power. It’s a one lady biz specializing in pins, patches, custom jackets, tees, and inspirational illustrations. It’s for the bold, weird, outspoken, quirky and badasses of the world.
How did you get started?
A couple years ago I was looking for a creative outlet outside of my 9-5. I was working at Gypsy Warrior at the time as a product designer and it was so rad, but money was tight. Bills weren’t stopping so, I had to figure something out. I wanted to find a way to turn my doodles into something more tangible – something people could buy.
I started making little charms out of clay in my best friends’ kitchen. I walked into Michael’s, got some clay and spent my nights baking my little “bones” for friends and coworkers. I started taking commissions and opened up an Etsy shop. Mind you – I had no idea what I was doing.
It was really time consuming and I wanted to create my stuff in a quicker, more efficient way. I did some research and found some factories that I could work with to create enamel pins and patches for me and it was all history from there! Now, I’m making everything from tote bags, to Instagram artwork for larger brands and hand painted leather jackets. I couldn’t be happier.
What inspires you?
Absolutely everything! I get inspired from my coffee cup to the tiles on the floor.
I’m really into vintage tee designs and lettering, mostly from the 60s and 70s. Drop me in a flea market and I am one happy girl. Vintage is always so quirky and weird and slightly off, kind of like me – ha! There’s a certain nuance to vintage designs that I find myself gravitating towards and creating in my own work. .
We’re so glad you’re excited to be a part of the upcoming Babes in Business event! What is fueling that excitement about our community?
What I find so awesome about the community is being able to share the stuff no one likes to talk about. There isn’t a guide book for half of what you’ve got to deal with. I’d love to give some insight on how this craziness goes. It’s such a good opportunity for women who want to start their own businesses to come and listen and feel so inspired. There’s enough room for ALL of us. We gotta keep each other motivated to take over this damn world – move aside, dudes!
What were some obstacles you had to overcome in your career?
There’s a million and 1 things I could list. It hasn’t been easy, but it wouldn’t be worth it if I didn’t go through the hard times and learn from it. Time management has always been an obstacle for me. Balancing my 9-5 and my side hustle isn’t easy. I work all week and I want to go home, eat ice cream, and go to bed. However, there are orders to be packed, new designs to create, and events to be planned.
Another obstacle I face is copyright issues. I’ve had my artwork stolen more times than I can count and it is really disheartening. You get angry and then you want to cry because people are making money off of your hard work. I’ve learned the legal side of owning a business and it’s helped me grow. Taxes were also a huge obstacle I dealt with back in 2015. Some advice I can give everyone – stash some cash away. The IRS ain’t playin.
(Image created by Anna Sanguida - Bananna Bones)
What is it like working for larger corporations?
You know it’s really awesome, but it’s also really difficult. Some days I feel really fortunate and some days I’m like, “Wow. Can I move to an island really far away and never look back?” I work with many teams inside the company and it’s a lot of collaboration, which is totally different than working by yourself. It has its pros and cons.
Additionally, you have to keep in mind that you’re working for someone else. It’s not about you, it’s about the customer. It’s about keeping on brand while having a voice and a vision at the same time. It’s a hard balance to figure out. Sometimes you’re going to make artwork that isn’t your style or vibe but, it’s such a great lesson to create designs out of your comfort zone. It has really helped shape me as a designer.
I’m learning about managing/mentoring new designers which is really important to me because I can apply that to my own business one day. You know, when Bananna Bones goes worldwide! Also, benefits of corporate are sweet – health insurance and paid time off are great. Oh, did I mention we have our own personal Starbucks in the building? The perks rule.
What advice do you have for artists trying to approach their work from a business sense?
Figure out your customer. What do they like? What do they want? Engage with them. Ask them questions. Put them first. On the other hand, create what you love and put every ounce of your soul into that sh*t. Put your hours in, stay up all night. Get. It. Done. You can’t half-ass starting a business as an artist.
How can we value art and artists in our community?
Attend that art opening. Buy tickets to your friends concerts and bring your other friends along.
Hire a local artist. Tell your friends about your artist friends. It’s really all about support.
If there’s something I could say a million times:
Pay. For. Their. Work.
I’ve run into this issue so often. This is how we pay our electric bill, how we feed our kids, how we pay off that looming student debt. Don’t short change your artists when you want to hire them.
Who’s your favorite artist, contemporary or historical?
This is SUCH a hard question, so I’m going to pick two. Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley. I’m such a sucker for the Art Nouveau era and it was what I was most influenced by from high school – college. I was an illustration major at SVA (The School of Visual Arts) and I pulled so much inspiration from both of them. Their attention to detail is mind blowing.
What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts that you follow?
Some of my favorites are Hattie Stewart, Ornamental Conifer, Good Type, The Holy Mountainism, Ban.do, Cheatin’ Snakes, Bulletin.co, Hellcats Inc, Vans Girls, Adam JK, Big Bud Press, Dazey LA, Stay at Home Club, Boss Dog, Oliver Hibert, Lillipore, Godsteeth, Laura Callaghan, Rookie Mag, Bad Revival – Ahhhh! The list could keep going!!
Your “about” page said you were from New Jersey, but now you’re out in Brooklyn. What do you miss about The Garden State?
Pork roll egg and cheese. All day. Everyday. Haha! Just kidding. Well, kind of.
I have friends and family that are still in NJ so I’m there most weekends. I do miss the slower pace of NJ, fresh air, having a driveway and going to target all the time.