Joe Kim’s full-time job is teaching graphic design in a Catholic private school.
His passion? Designing for and directing his clothing line, PAL Campaign.
It’s been a journey that’s bought Joe together with influencers that he always dreamed of working with, and connected him to adoring customers in every corner of the world.
Joe’s tapped into a market that was pretty much unexplored.
But how did he get to this point?
“This is going to be the beginning of something really cool!”
Joe tells us that he learned the ropes of Photoshop back in high-school. That’s when he discovered his devotion to design.
“When you can do something where you’re not even thinking about anything else, that’s how you know you’re passionate about it.”
Joe was hooked on all things design. He dove into artistic workplaces straight out of college, finessing his skills over the years.
However, when Joe combined his talent, his passion, and his faith, he created a product with real demand. He found his business niche, or “tribe”.
Find a problem, and solve it
Joe found his market niche by identifying a problem and fixing it.
As a member of the Church, he saw that church conference shirts were poorly designed; usually with Microsoft Word Clip-Art. In fact, the shirts reputation were so bad that he hesitated when he was asked to design one for an upcoming church conference.
Joe decided it was time to add a splash of style to the stale designs already out there. Ignoring the not-so-current trends in his Church group, he took reference from modern streetwear design.
He didn’t quite expect what came after the conference; everyone loved his design and wanted to buy their own.
“Where did you get that t-shirt? How can I order one?”
Soon, other church groups were reaching out to get their own piece of Joe’s art. Word had spread. Joe then knew he’d discovered a demand in his community, not just his Church.
This demand soon spread across 41 countries.
Discover the demand
Joe knew instantly that there was, and still is, a demand for on-trend, Christian clothing. So begins PAL Campaign; or in full, Peace and Love Campaign.
“It’s a great feeling when things click into place like that.”
As his first orders starting flooding in, Joe started printing out his own inventory for the business. Hundreds and hundreds of t-shirts in different sizes and colors began to fill his apartment.
Orders picked up through hard work, word-of-mouth & Instagram marketing. Things were going great, but he didn’t have any time left to run the business. Evening runs to the post office, and screen-printing his own shirts became far too much to handle.
Not to mention, between working full time and running a clothing company, creative juices can start to run low. Not good news for a graphic designer. However, the final straw came when space became an issue; half of Joe’s apartment was now filled with t-shirts, forcing him to sleep on the sofa.
Right there, he decided he needed to simplify the whole process. He found us, and our platform took some of the weight off of his shoulders.
This allowed him the time and energy to focus on his passion:
The Design Process
A constant flow of inspiration permeates every day for Joe.
Joe is lucky that his niche, Christianity, has thousands of years of writings and resources to draw inspiration from. His creativity is also fueled by the music he listens to, street-culture, urban fashion, and sites like Pinterest.
This unique coupling of ancient wisdom with modern design provides the underpinnings for the PAL campaign design philosophy and process.
Joe’s design process is a pastime that he keeps as simple and organic as possible. He takes pictures of everything that inspires him, from restaurant menus to neon street signs.
Joe keeps a google doc called “design ideas” where he jots down all his thoughts, stemming from things he sees or hears in his day-to-day life. These ideas mingle in the back of his mind until he gets his lightbulb moment.
Then he sketches the rough, but complete design idea out on paper. When it’s ready, after a few drafts, he’ll get into Photoshop to add the finishing touches. The end result is something polished to drop into our mockup generator.
Sometimes, he’ll post the final mockup to the @palcampaign Instagram to gauge the reaction of followers. He starts a conversation.
This is a great idea if your Instagram followers are your core customer base, like Joe’s. After all, his first ever sale came from Instagram, and the platform continues to be his main method of marketing.
Through authentic engagement with his followers, Joe learns from his followers and they learn from him. In this sense, Joe’s design process is also an integral part of his marketing strategy.
Lesson: “Find a tribe, a loyal tribe”
The main lesson from PAL Campaign is the importance of finding a market segment that people identify with and form around; a tribe. In the age of the internet, these passionate communities gather around pretty much every topic, no matter how niche.
With the right products and marketing, you can tap into a profitable niche market. However, with authentic community engagement, you can form a loyal tribe around your brand who can’t wait for your next release. This is really powerful.
But what if you introduce two “tribes”?
Joe introduced the streetwear tribe to the Christian tribe, creating a new niche segment between two groups. This segment is where the concentrated demand arises. Of course, it helps that streetwear is now the most popular design style in young people, predicted to rise to global ascension.
However, that isn’t to say that you should just find a random community and call it your tribe. Joe emphasizes the importance of caring about the product you create and knowing, in depth, about what kind of people will buy it. He says if you have no soul or passion for the product, you have little chance of making it.
Tribes can sense inauthenticity.
The future of PAL Campaign
Joe’s next goal is to continue living his passion full time; to transition PAL campaign from a side-hustle to a full-time job.
Projects on the horizon include working on a kids clothing line and expanding his inventory, curating a collection of accessories such as phone cases.
One thing is for sure; Joe will always value quality design, and continue to follow his heart towards an authentic life and brand vision for himself and PAL Campaign.
Joe’s final piece of advice, though, is to just get started:
“I think too often we get stuck in analysis paralysis, and we want it to be perfect or we want to be fully ready before we start. But if that’s the case we would never really start.”
Check out Joe’s brand on Instagram: @Palcampaign
Or, for more of the story, watch our video interview with Joe here!
Have you found your tribe? Is your brand your passion?
Tell us in the comments!