I first heard of Michelle and her Big Ass Pinata business through a course I took with Camp Tech. While I have never met her in person, I could already tell from the way she responded to my emails that she is a cool person and has a fun personality. She makes pinatas for a living! It doesn’t get more fun than this folks.
- How did you come up with the name Big Ass Pinata?
I’d love to say it was clever, but the fact is, whenever I meet someone and am asked what I do for a living, I simply say, “I make big ass piñatas”. The name has nothing to do with the size of my can and everything to do with a ‘slang’ expression used to describe the impact of what I design and produce. But there is more to the name in that it attracts fun, silly and creative individuals who have interesting ideas, events and requests in mind. There is nothing traditional about my name, my business, my clients or my work, and I like to make that clear from the get-go. It allows me the creative wriggle room I need to do what I love.
- What do you like the most about your job?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing that I like as an entrepreneur, because we ‘do it all’ by our very nature. I love that I have complete control of my business, my marketing, my design, my production, my schedule and my direction at all times.
But if I have to choose one thing, I like that people put their complete faith in me to make something amazing. It’s one thing to create for a friend or acquaintance, and a whole other to get an email from a client about to get married, with a few Pinterest pics of their ‘theme’ and then have license to put together something that ultimately blows them away. And that’s my goal every time. Wondering if they like your finished product is a gut-wrenching, sweat-inducing stress that is worth it every time you hear… “aaaa! It’s amazing!!!”
- People usually only think of children’s birthday parties when it comes to pinatas. What other occasions have you made pinatas for?
Piñatas for children’s parties only make up about 25% of my business. My target market is young adults, hence my company name, and within that demographic, my clients are corporate/event/wedding planners, party goers, party throwers and people who generally have a great sense of humor. I have made piñatas for Philips Canada, ADP, popular Canadian TV personalities, chefs, people celebrating engagements, birthdays, retirement, milestones and life in general.
I have actually phased out ‘breakable’ piñatas for children, and create trap door, trick release, custom pieces for kids. I have made ride-inside John Deere tractors, firetrucks, and a Clifford dog house that had special features to release candy treats. Kids keep their piñatas a year later and I receive photos from their parents of my work being displayed proudly in their rooms.
- What’s the craziest type of piñata you’ve made?
Ha ha! That job is in production right now. I received an email from a gentlemen in Wisconsin, USA who is a self-proclaimed Seinfeld and Family Guy guru. He requested a big ass piñata. Literally. A 36 inch, casted, flesh toned, rump. It will be shipped to Wisconsin unfilled, and stuffed with juji fruits, junior mints and Pez (Seinfeld lovers will appreciate this) and smashed at my client’s son’s birthday party. As a fan of the series myself, we have done nothing but relay ridiculous and sarcastic emails back and forth in the making of this piñata, referencing the show, and sharing a few good laughs. This one takes the cake.
- What would you consider to be the hardest part about starting your own business?
Self doubt is probably the biggest obstacle facing any budding entrepreneur. I remember having business ideas in the past that I knew would never take off despite the thought, effort and work that went into conjuring them up. We tend to see any market as completely flooded and any entry to be non-viable in the short or long run, citing examples and statistics of failures before us. But at the end of the day, I truly believe there is nothing stopping us from ‘the right idea’. I made a 36 inch wrecking ball piñata for my son’s 2nd birthday and opened my business the next day. I knew immediately that I had something, but more importantly, that I could build on what I had, that I wasn’t afraid of my business evolving and that I had an incredible niche.
- What advice would you give to people who are looking to start their own business?
I once read that the best way to start, is to start.
I can’t put it better than that. Do your due diligence but don’t ever confuse research and planning with fear of getting off the ground.
- What materials do you use to create your pinatas? Does the type of material depend on the type of piñata?
If you’ll allow me a nerd moment: I love cardboard.
If you look at some of my work, you’ll see that the structure, design and execution need strength and flexibility. Cardboard keeps shape and lasts over time, and I have to bear these qualities in mind because my clients invest in their custom pieces and often keep them for sentimental reasons.
But you are right in that material changes with design. I generally use cardboard, tissue, foam, wood, twine, glitter glue (my god, the glitter glue…), hot glue, chicken wire, paper maché and zip ties.
- Do you have a favourite piñata?
I thought I did, but it’s a toss up between two now. After doing the ReBash Toronto show in April 2015 I met some ridiculously talented artists who inspired me to run in different directions with my business and therefore, my product. I started creating piñatas for weddings and went on to develop and trademark a customized line of favors/announcements/mail-order greetings called miñatas (TM)
The two below are a product of different techniques I adopted, and inspiration I had as my business evolved and continues to.
- On average, how long does it take to make a customized piñata?
I devote the longest amount of time to concept and design. From the time I get a request, my mind starts working overtime. People think I am asked to do a specific job. This is rarely the case. And even when I am, I spend a fair amount of time flushing out the idea with my client, deciphering what is needed, what has the biggest impact and what makes sense based on every individual case.
I don’t start making a piñata for days, or sometimes weeks if I can avoid it. Which is why I ask for a good lead time. My brain is flooded with design ideas, sourcing materials, and testing things out before I’ll take a knife to my cardboard.
In my case, I don’t make a move till I have a clear picture of what I’m doing, and then it pours. I’ll spend days and hours straight on a job after I’ve put it together in my mind!
- If you could make a piñata for a celebrity/famous person, who would it be and what kind of piñata would you make for them?
I was asked this question a few months ago, and my answer was “James Franco” and some sort of piñata that I could hide inside, trojan-horse style, just so I could get into his house.
Funnily enough, my answer is still James Franco. I heard he had a bat-mitzvah after the fact and a friend of mine suggested we message Seth Rogan via twitter to somehow produce a piñata for the celebration. I was in the middle of 6 jobs at the time, and this one slipped through my fingers. My only regret in life is not making a piñata for that bat-mitzvah I tell you…