How did you end up living in the desert making guitar picks?
Like all adventures, the most epic journeys are never conceived through some master plan rather they just happen as chain of coincidences falling into place. The irony of course is at the time the greatest adventures are actually misadventures marred by disasters and yet someday you look back with nostalgic pangs and perhaps a voice crackle to say, wow that was truly amazing.
Following the need for medical personnel in rural areas, we ended up in Las Cruces, NM and eventually Cave Creek, Arizona. One cold November day back in 2011, we attended Glendale Glitter Christmas Market as a handmade jewelry vendor with the high hopes of becoming famous and saying goodbye to those pesky day jobs. The prospects hit an all time low when we discovered our lucky table was so far off the beaten path that we were practically sandwiched between the recycling and the trash. Leaving the market with shattered dreams and bruised ego was almost a guarantee, until a few kids showed up and asked us if we could make metal guitar picks and engrave name. Havisng a fret saw in our toolbox and metal stamps, we cut a metal pick out of bronze, filed the edges, and stamped the names as well as an I pick you guitar pick as yet another fun idea. Once you sell a guitar pick to a teen, word of mouth brings friends of friends and eventually the sales start adding up. We ended up leaving the market not only breaking even, but having enough profit to split a Starbucks Latte.
The very next day, we decided to photograph the bronze I Pick You guitar pick and list it in our Etsy Shop. By the end of the day we had our first on-line sale and had to renew the sold listing. Our shop went from 10 sales to 50 sales and eventually 500 sales at year's end.
Then things became Plucking Insane
Heading into 2012, the sales continued albeit much slower than around the holidays which gave us some time to list a few new ideas:
Little did we realize at the time, but that quiet first week of January was just the halcyon days before the coming tsunami of orders for Valentine's Day. Being one of the first shops on Etsy to offer personalized metal guitar picks combined with frequent sharing on Wanelo and social media proved to be that magic spark at the right time to catch serious attention on par with a high school chemistry teacher throwing the magnesium unannounced in to a beaker of water to demonstrate exothermic reactions.
Without production equipment and 50+ daily orders rolling in, we were absolutely plucked. I grabbed a bearing press, made pancake dies, and started pressing as fast as humanly possible. Stuck in a small one bedroom garden apartment required some serious creativity such as pressing in the kitchen, tumbling in the bathroom, and cutting in the dinning area, but we pulled off a miracle and managed to ship guitar picks from our apartment to Australia, Israel, New Zealand, and across the entire globe.
Then tragedy struck our little shop at the close of 2012, when the holidays orders for Christmas 2012 crossed the 100 order barrier for the day and pushed NiciLaskin into Craftcount's top 10 list for December 1st.
The rest of the holiday rush was just one blurry Mind-pluck with guitar picks heading out the door by the bucket load.
The Art of making guitar picks
At the time, working in the apartment was a miserable misadventure, however there's that odd nostalgia for the excitement, the whirl of papers, and ringing telephones creating one beautifully chaotic mess and even more beautiful as we actually managed to even take on a part-time employee whom we relegated to a corner nook as a polishing assistant. Of course, moving to our first space and eventually a real studio was the realization of a dream that had once seemed impossible. By 2013, we had our production process down to an Art.
8:00 am Morning Coffee, Emails, and Phone Calls
9:00 am Shearing
10:00 am Pressing
11:00 am Stamping, Cutting, Tumbling, and Polishing
And finally recycling
Parallel to our metal guitar pick explosion, our jewelry, men's accessories, and jewelry supply collections were expanding to carve out their own niche on our NiciArt website and Etsy. By 2015, our shop was turning into a hodgepodge of guitar picks, bracelets, tie bars, money clips, necklaces, earrings, and cuff links all swirled together in a metallic stew of utter chaos, so we decided to spin the guitar picks off into their own website called Nici's Picks.
How do we summarize Nici's Picks?
Nici's Picks is a website dedicated to just custom and personalized metal guitar picks brought to you by the wife hubby team who took Etsy by storm in 2012 with their pick collection and sold over 10,000 picks in their first year. Our guitar picks were designed for both aesthetics as well as actually playing your guitar. The stamping is always carried out by striking steel lettering and number kits one steel rod a time with a heavy hammer. Each and every pick can be custom ordered with any personalized options, custom stamping, acid etching, and special engraving.
Nici's Picks Goes to NAMM in 2016
In June 2016, Nici's Picks attended the NAMM Music Trade Show in Nashville, TN.
In the game of "one of these things is not like the other," Nici's Picks was definitely catching some admirable glances as a confident small business willing to crawl out of cyberspace into the real world. Strolling the floor, there was Fender, Gibson, Marshall, Taylor, and then suddenly Nici's Picks. Our goal was primarily networking, but also to define a new direction for Nici's Picks that would bring the guitar picks and our love of music in a unique direction separate from NiciArt and NiciLaskin on Etsy. At the show, we also had the opportunity to meet Zither Guitar Stands and PickBandz.
The Zither Stand was a product with absolutely stunning handmade workmanship and rated Best in Show two years in a row.
The PickBandz product line includes surgical grade silicon guitar pick holder necklaces, bracelets, and keychains in bright colours such as green, pink, and yellow or simply classic black.
Rounding out our own product lines to include even more music related accessories, the ZitherUSA Guitar Stands and PickBandz are now part of the Nici's Picks collection. We are planing on attending the summer NAMM in 2017 and will be on the lookout for small businesses with unique products that compliment our guitar picks.
Our Future Plans for Nici's Picks
So far, the Nici's Pick Project has far exceeded expectations as a custom metal guitar pick site which will continue to drive our direction to focus even more on providing "custom" options. We have also begun to develop an app that will allow our customers to build their guitar pick using simple drag and drop movements with textbox inputs to visualize a mock up of the final piece. There is another line-up of teardrop guitar picks in the works along with mixed collections in the form of a multi-pack that features mixed collections of guitar pick styles in various metals to invite and encourage pick experimentation.