Advice for Pursuing Your Passion Project from Liz Bertorelli of Passionfruit
A version of this conversation took place live on Printful’s Instagram account. Follow us so you can join next time we go live with a customer.
Liz Bertorelli keeps it real while running her online store, Passionfruit.
The store’s mission is “to create inclusive clothing and accessories that enable you to show your pride all year round while giving back to our [LGBTQ+] community.”
Even though Passionfruit has never been her full-time job—she works in marketing for TikTok Canada in Toronto—Bertorelli brings a level of relaxed professionalism to her store that’s made her a huge hit with her customers.
In this post, we’ll share Bertorelli’s tips for staying inspired to work toward your ecommerce goals, even if running your store isn’t your main focus.
1. Put your community first
Bertorelli was part of the marketing team at Shopify when started her store. She wanted to learn more about ecommerce so she could be more successful at her job.
She chose to partner with Printful for print-on-demand services because she had limited time to run her side hustle outside her 9–5 job. She didn’t have the funds to order in bulk, or the time to manage inventory and ship out orders.
When Bertorelli started her store, her main goal was to have fun creating cool, wearable designs for her community.
“I wanted to create shirts for the Pride festival for me and my friends,” she says. “We were sick of shopping for shirts at huge retailers.”
The Pride festival is an important time for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate who they are, but Bertorelli hoped her customers would wear Passionfruit merch and celebrate their identity all year round.
“I think it’s important for folks to see themselves in messages and know that something exists for them, all year round, not just at Pride,” Bertorelli says. “We’ve had folks email us saying they’ve come out to their families wearing our shirts, and that in itself is the most rewarding part of all of this. It’s not just a product or shirt, it’s all about validation.”
Bertorelli ran the first version of her store with her partner for four years before she branched out on her own and rebranded.
“It took me some time to figure everything out,” she explains. “I also learned how to create my own designs and do my own product photography.”
After that, it didn’t take long for her audience to expand from her close circle of friends to a much wider circle of devoted customers.
Visibility is important for young queer and questioning people who may not see themselves represented in the media or in their daily lives. Seeing people sport a shirt that reads “love is love,” or “kiss whoever you want,” could mean a lot to someone in a vulnerable position.
Bertorelli also donates a portion of her proceeds to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization working to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. This organization is near to her heart because she also struggled as a young queer person.
“These days, young people face cyberbullying on social media, political division in the US, and other issues, all amplified by Covid-19. It’s even harder for young people to figure out who they are and how they’re going to share that with the world,” Bertorelli says.
That’s why it’s important for her to prioritize the LGBTQ+ community in all aspects of running her store.
“All of Passionfruit’s apparel and accessories are curated, produced, and designed by queers for queers,” reads Passionfruit’s About page. “Each design starts with a pencil and paper, then gets digitized and ready for printing. We put our community first, and we think through every single item we sell online and in-person.”
2. Lower barriers for buying
Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Bertorelli hasn’t been selling products in person very much. She used to meet her customers and make sales in real life at pride festivals. The pandemic, and the loss of opportunities like this, caused her to make adjustments and to take advantage of platforms like TikTok to share her store with the world.
“I love TikTok, and I’m not just staying that because I work there,” jokes Bertorelli.
Bertorelli says TikTok makes it easy to find new customers. She shares information about her store on her personal account in a casual, entertaining way.
“One of my first videos was just me talking about my store and showing off some of my products,” Bertorelli says. “I created lots of content about it, and it’s helped quite a bit with product promotion. I’ve also met some amazing people on the platform.”
Staying social online and connecting with her customers during the pandemic is important to Bertorelli who classifies herself as an extreme extrovert.
Instagram is another place Bertorelli connects with customers and shares her products with the world. She also uses her Instagram profile to promote her store’s free worldwide shipping.
“Free shipping is everywhere nowadays and offering it is just one less barrier to a customer checking out,” she says. “I incorporate shipping costs into my products, even if it does skew my profit margins. I rather offer free shipping and get more sales at lower margins than not get sales at all.”
You can choose to offer free shipping for your store as well, but there’s a lot to consider, so like Bertorelli, make sure to do your research and decide what will work best for your store.
3. Give yourself grace
When the pandemic hit, Bertorelli felt thankful for the ability to work from home at her day job and at her side-hustle, Passionfruit. She wears a smile and does her best to stay positive.
“I feel like if I don’t, I’ll just cry,” she admits.”It’s honestly been very hard this past year.”
Due to the mental load of the pandemic, Bertorelli took a small step back and wasn’t as active in promoting her store as usual, and she says that’s completely fine when it comes to side hustling.
“I haven’t pushed as hard this past year,” she says. “I’m still online, still thinking about what my next collection will look like, but I take breaks when I know I just don’t have the capacity to give my store the attention it deserves.”
If you’re dealing with stress related to running your store, or something else going on in your life, you can make a few lifestyle changes like limiting screen time, being mindful, sharing your feelings with someone you trust, exercising, or just taking a break in a way that feels relaxing to you.
Bertorelli implements a few of these practices and often reminds herself that Passionfruit is a passion project and should be something she enjoys doing.
“It’s not about selling a shirt. It’s about the community that comes out of it,” she says.
4. Get started
Bertorelli says the best piece of advice she can give store owners is to, “just do it!”
“I know it’s super cheesy,” she continues. “But that’s the great thing about using print-on-demand. When you have an idea you can put it on a shirt and see if it works.”
Another reason Bertorelli loves print-on-demand is because she doesn’t have to invest in inventory. She says she often swaps designs in and out of her store based on what’s selling well.
“I love experimenting,” she says. “I can change things seasonally, and do it so quickly and easily. Everyone should test their designs, iterate, and go with what works for them!”