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How to Create an Empire From Your Condo

For Global Entrepreneurship Week, FLARE is profiling Canadian bosses from diverse backgrounds who have one thing in common: they're running their own shows. It’s estimated that female-run small- and medium-sized businesses have contributed $148 billion annually to the Canadian economy. That number is set to climb to $198 billion over the next decade, according to a report by RBC Economics. This is Biying Miao's story

Biying Miao

Biying Miao (Photo: Naomi Finlay)

THE PITCH: Former architect Biying Miao, 29, realized she could create super chic structural jewellery using her love of geometry and the skills she honed while drawing up plans for buildings in Toronto. She wanted her designs to really stand out, so she started playing with a 3D printer on her dining room table, not knowing yet that it would literally print her a new business model.

THE PROCESS: Miao and her partner, Matt Compeau, discovered they could design and print one-of-a-kind glam hardware—geometric pendants, reversible textured necklaces and custom cuffs—in as little as half an hour. Since the only 3D-printed jewellery available on the market at that time was prohibitively expensive, Miao kept her production costs as low as possible so she could sell her statement pieces at affordable prices. That meant promoting her creations on her own using wallet-friendly platforms like Etsy and Shopify and spreading the word with some DIY PR: sharing photos on Instagram and Twitter and directly reaching out to journalists, bloggers and hosts of maker workshops.

Hot Pop Factory (Photo: Courtesy Hot Pop Factory)

Hot Pop Factory (Photo: Courtesy Hot Pop Factory)

THE FINAL PRODUCT: The duo founded Hot Pop Factory in their 500-square-foot downtown Toronto apartment, and it quickly transformed into a production space filled with stock, packing slips and shipping boxes. Having entered into an untapped market, Hot Pop quickly expanded beyond costume jewellery and began developing custom 3D-printed pieces for various clients and gift shop items for the Royal Ontario Museum, Textile Museum of Canada and Art Gallery of Ontario. As their operation outgrew its space, Miao and Compeau moved into a legit office. Hot Pop has continued to evolve, expanding its manufacturing capabilities well beyond its initial concept. The creative studio is now home to architects, industrial designers and fabrication experts. Together they provide 3D-printinglaser-cutting and laser-engraving services that buzzy new jewellery and fashion designers and other innovative businesses seek out to prototype and manufacture their own products. Beautiful.

All homepage illustrations by Assa Ariyoshi

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