Calligraphy is the art of beautiful handwriting. It’s an art form that has been around for thousands of years, providing a wonderful hobby that can be used to craft memorable gifts and beautiful cards. Some people have even turned it into a career. Dina Lu, owner of Dina Calligraphy, is one such person.
“In my business I mainly do two things. First, I’m a calligraphy workshop instructor. I teach in-person workshops to the public and for corporate team building events. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve had to transition to teaching these classes remotely.
“The second part of my business is coaching calligraphers around the world looking to start their own business. How this works is that I offer one-on-one coaching programs and group coaching programs via Zoom to (up to) five calligraphers at a time.”
So, how did Dina get started?
Finding a Distraction
Like many of us, Dina passes some of her free time browsing social media. In her case, Pinterest was the platform of choice. One fateful evening, she found herself browsing and stumbled upon calligraphy. It set the wheels in motion for a big career change.
“Back in the summer of 2018, I was randomly browsing Pinterest. I think I was looking at cake pictures because I was really into baking at the time. While looking, I randomly stumbled upon some calligraphy pictures. If you’ve ever used Pinterest, you’ll know how easy it is to fall down a rabbit hole, so I just kept clicking. That’s the story of how I discovered calligraphy.
“Unfortunately, at the time, my mom was having some mental health issues. When she was discharged from the hospital, I thought it would be a fun distraction for her if we could make some greeting cards together. She’d paint, and I’d practice my calligraphy. I wanted us to do something together to help her recover and this was perfect.
“We started a creative venture called Jennidi Creative (Jenny and Dina) and we began selling the cards we had made.”
Making a Career Change
During this time, Dina was still working her regular job. She was crafting cards in her free time but began to see the potential in calligraphy as a business. She hosted her first calligraphy workshop. Soon, one became two, and before she knew it, she was facing a career choice.
“When I started this business, I was still working full-time. I worked in Downtown Vancouver and lived in Surrey. My commute was an hour each way on the Skytrain, so that’s two hours gone from my day already. I began trying to use this time more efficiently, using it to keep an eye on the business Instagram, answer emails, or listen to podcasts about business. I only had an hour or two each evening to work on my calligraphy, but this was ok. I got into the mindset where I could be more productive because I knew I had such little time.
“I found this period to be difficult because I wanted to work on my business and also do fun things like meeting up with my friends, but I felt like I had no time. It was, however, less stressful than right now because I knew I had my full-time job to fall back on. I was slowly ramping up the calligraphy business and eventually I quit my day job. That was around a year ago and it was the single hardest thing I’ve had to do so far.
“Suddenly, you go from having this guaranteed income to making approximately a third of my old salary. I won’t lie, it was stressful. I was like ‘shoot, I don’t have any money.’ While it was a big challenge at the beginning, I’m proud that a year on, I’ve fully replaced my old salary. This makes me so happy because it’s something I’ve built myself.”
Using Instagram for Marketing
Instagram has played a huge role in the founding and continuing success of Dina Calligraphy. Alongside the selfies and fun videos, the platform is a potent digital marketing asset if used correctly. Dina approaches its use in a targeted and efficient way.
“Instagram has been amazing for me. In fact, I pretty much only use Instagram for the coaching side of my business. I have a clear target audience and all my posts and stories are targeted toward calligraphers. Every single piece of content is targeted and I do a lot of Instagram Stories via selfie videos. I want people to get to know me and trust me. I think there’s a lot of value in that when you’re selling your own expertise in something.”
Looking to the Future
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption for businesses across our province. Some have seen success by pivoting to service different customers, or adapting their product offering to account for our ‘new normal.’ Dina embraced the challenge, using this time as an opportunity to leverage technology and go global.
“Luckily, when the pandemic hit, I was able to transition my workshops to Zoom. That’s also the time I started offering coaching to people around the world. This entire aspect of my business is online, I can do it from home and I don’t need to go anywhere.
P.S. If you’re looking for a stress-relieving team-building event for your Canadian company during quarantine, check out Dina’s Zoom calligraphy workshops. She’ll mail everyone on your team the supplies.
“Looking to the future, I’m going to continue with my coaching program and it’s currently providing the bulk of my income. If quarantine is here to stay for the immediate future, I can still do Zoom workshops and corporate events. With restrictions on networking events, I’ve made an effort to use LinkedIn more and get more comfortable with networking online.
“One of my dreams has always been to travel and work remotely. So, whenever quarantine is over and borders open, I’m going to go somewhere and make that dream happen!”
Word of Advice
For anyone thinking of following in Dina’s footsteps, she offers the following advice.
“I talked to a lot of calligraphers starting out who wanted to start their own business but they just get stuck on some aspect of the planning. They feel like it’s a lot to take on and it puts them off. I’ve learned that if you just start and do it, you can always change your plans later.
“You don’t have to abandon the idea. Maybe just break it into smaller pieces, like going to networking events, registering your business, start a business Instagram page. Before you know it, you’ll have built some momentum and you’ll build self confidence. Later on, if you aren’t happy with things you can change them, but the important thing is that you’ve started.”
Here to Help
No matter what stage of business, or what problem you face, Small Business BC offers a range of seminars and one-on-one advisory sessions to suit any business.