Well before we met Sam and Libby, we were familiar with the pair’s brand and products.
Their pins are some of the most creative, unique and wear-able beer-related accessories we’ve seen. Katie wears her hop pin regularly, swapping it from her jean jacket to purse and back again.
Eager to hear more about how the graphic designer and photographer turned their pins into a business, we recently sat down with the two over drinks.
How did you take the idea (of pins) and actually turn it into a product?
Sam: Libby’s a graphic designer, so…conceptualizing designs and making that happen was pretty easy.
Libby: And deciding on what two things we wanted to start with, too, was a way of figuring it out. I started drawing it on my iPad…we probably went through a few [drafts]…I remember the first draft I drew, looking back on it, was so ugly! It didn’t have any detail […] and then it was just like, “yeah, that’s it!” You just kind of know.
Which pin was the first, and how did they build after?
Libby: [The hop] was the first one…batch one […] It was the one to start it all. That and the growler.
Sam: [The growler] was the second one we ever made […] We don’t make the growler one anymore; now that crowlers are so much more popular, it seemed to kind of taper off. Three years ago when we started, the growlers were the way to go.
Libby: The hop always sells number one. And so when we were out of the growler, we were like “ok, do we re-order more of the growler or do we try something new?” And that’s kind of what sparked the idea [of]…batches and limited releases. So [the pint glass] was our third. That was our trio for a long time.
Sam: We want to treat it like beer, so the hop is like our flagship beer that’s always available. And then [the growler and pint] were like our first couple seasonal ones, one-off things that we kept around for six to eight months. Now we’re finally going to work our way into truly more seasonal things. So, we’re working on a couple Oktoberfest designs for the fall…we just did the slow-pour pils…
Libby: We think slow pours are really cool, and we felt like “why not get ahead of that on a pin?” It’s a very old-school style pour, too, which is fun.
How did your collaboration pins come about?
Sam: [The idea] stemmed from us wanting to operate our business like a brewery. All these breweries were doing collaborations with other breweries […] we reached out to Bent Paddle maybe a year and a half, two years ago…
Libby: Yeah, a long time ago […] we just reached out on a whim…explained what the idea was…
Sam: They have the most unique merchandise of any brewery. They put a lot of time and care into the stuff they make…
Libby: It seemed like a good fit, in our opinion, to get our first collaboration. [But] it just kind of fell flat for a few months […] we thought it would be cool for them to do it when their anniversary was…that’s how we brought it up to them — “How cool would it be if you had pins?” […] and then it happened, and it was really cool!
Tell us how the Portage Brewing Co. collaboration come about.
Sam: We had a trip planned up to Portage…the week of the fire. We had a hotel room booked and everything…
Libby: I didn’t believe it. [Sam’s] like “Portage is burning down.” And I’m like “that’s a silly thing to say!” […] and then he showed me the pictures…
Sam: It was really unfortunate, but we reached out to [head brewer and owner] Jeff probably two months ago now […] Obviously, they had this IndieGogo campaign going and all these fun rewards you can buy into to support. We’re like, hey, what if we reach out to Jeff and see if he wants to make a pin as one of the rewards that you can get for supporting the campaign.
Libby: They have a really cool array, and we thought we’d fit in well, too, because everything was kind of artistic and unique […] and we thought it was a great cause and someplace we, obviously, wanted to get to and get to know.
Sam: We met Jeff over at [Fairstate Brewing Co-op] for a few hours and kind of went over conceptualizing the design of what he wanted to show with this pin…
Libby: Their slogan right now…is “On Ahead” to keep pushing forward after the fire. So we tried really to create some content based on that and a few ideas that we had… [it] was really fun to get ideas out there and see where [Jeff’s] mind was at, kind of combine the two ideas.
Sam: What we learned from sitting down and talking with [Jeff] for a while was that the last crowler they released before the fire was Camp Vibes — an IPA. And the can design was the one that we ended up with […] It was really fun!
Once you had your first batch of pins, what was the next step? How did you begin to sell them?
Sam: It’s so funny to think, “We know people are going to want these.” And then you put them on Etsy and build this beautiful website, and then you just sit there, and you’re like “Oh, no one knows they exist!”
Libby: Yeah, how do we talk about it?
Sam: So we were like, we better just start taking them around to breweries and photographing them. That’s kind of what’s helped — getting in breweries and showing them off to people. Instagram has been really helpful in that sense; it’s a really Instagram-able product.
Libby: Etsy’s been great though. Etsy is where we make most of our sales. Our website doesn’t get as much sales-wise. But Etsy, amongst all the other beer pins on there, we probably have the most unique. We paid to have it promoted…it’s hit or miss. But if people are searching for beer pins, we’re gonna come up. And oddly, we really had no idea how pins were becoming such a thing [at that time]; we just thought it was an idea. And now they’re everywhere! So in a way, it’s kind of great that we decided to do it. It’s kind of a funny thing […] kind of forget that we have this whole business, or think of it as a business. [Sam] is at the Post Office all the time…
Sam: I’m reminded more of the business [aspect]…I’m mailing them out every other day. But it’s still that hands-on. We get an order online, and I drive to the Post Office the next day…that first order…our parents ordered them and our siblings ordered them. And then a couple weeks later, some guy in San Jose, California ordered one, and we’re like “What?!” We’ve sent a couple to Ireland…Canada…Texas…
Libby: It’s a lot of coasts. A lot of Florida, too. It’s almost more exciting when we get one that’s local; it’s very rare that we’ll get a local order. Maybe once among a handful. A lot of them are “out there.”
We enjoy doing our beer blog as a way to be creative together and put our energy towards something. Would you say that’s true for you and the pins?
Both: Yeah, definitely!
Sam: It’s kind of taken both of our backgrounds and combining them into one company – photography and design. And the love for beer. We spent four days in Austin [Texas] and we probably went to 12 different breweries, taking photos and giving pins away to the…taproom person or whatever […] we’re putting our names out there and working with breweries and kind of backing our way into the [craft beer] industry, if you will. We feel just as much a part of the industry as anyone.
Libby: It’s a good creative way to work together and figure out what the next thing is. It’s very together and us.