Queer Ivy Art: a Journey to Self-Acceptance and Business Success
Danny’s a strong, independent ecommerce business owner. That word “independent” is an important one, because for members of the cult Danny was raised in, “independence” was a bad word.
Danny (they/them and fae/faer pronouns) was assigned female at birth, and in their community, females do not work outside the home.
“Girls weren’t allowed to have jobs, cut their hair, or wear pants,” Danny explains. “Daughters weren’t allowed to leave home until fathers found someone for them to marry. I became the default second mother to my many siblings.”
Danny never felt as if they belonged, but they weren’t able to move out of their parents’ house until 22 years old. Two years after moving out, they were finally able to break ties from the cult completely. Their freedom came with a price, however, as Danny realized they didn’t have many marketable skills.
“No one taught me how to survive in the real world,” Danny says. “So I was couch surfing and nannying for survival, usually only getting paid $7 per hour. I almost ended up on the street, but I kept trying to survive somehow without going back.”
Throughout these struggles, Danny’s physical and mental health began to decline. They suffered from adrenal fatigue (a collection of nonspecific symptoms that can include body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, and more) brought on by stress and trauma. This made it difficult to work and even difficult to get out of bed.
As a child, Danny didn’t know much about queer culture. Their cult preached against homosexuality, and their parents gave dirty looks to lesbian couples while on trips to the grocery store.
“I didn’t know being trans or nonbinary was a thing until about a year and a half ago,” Danny explains.
Once Danny stepped into their true identity, things moved quickly. Danny met their partner Perry, and the couple moved in together. Perry gave Danny an iPad for their birthday in November 2020, and that turned out to be a gamechanger for Danny’s art.
“I loved to draw and paint with watercolors as a kid,” Danny explains. “I even got some commissions, but because I’m sick and in bed most of the time, those activities are difficult.”
The iPad allows Danny to start creating digital art from their bed.
“The iPad opened up so many doors for Danny,” Perry says. “Creating art is in their soul. It’s how they show emotion and tell stories. It’s all through art, and now they’re able to do that.”
Danny began posting art and talking about their experience on Instagram. There was a quick response, with many others messaging Danny sharing their similar experiences.
Perry works in marketing, so when she saw the response from Danny’s Instagram followers, she encouraged her partner to start an online store with Printful.
Starting a store
Queer Ivy Art was born in December 2020.
Perry took care of the technical setup and connecting the Queer Ivy Art Shopify store to Printful.
“We found Printful on the Shopify App Store,” Perry remembers. “Printful had the best reviews, so I set up an account by clicking a few buttons. Overall, it was really simple and easy to do.”
Danny and Perry were also impressed with Printful’s inclusive sizing. Many of Danny’s designs are focused on inclusiveness within the queer community. Some designs even address fatphobia and queerness.
Danny was able to list their first shirt for sale within 10 minutes of setup. The Rainbow Flag Penguin is still one of their favorites and bestsellers.
“None of this would be possible without Printful,” says Perry. “With Printful, we’re not dealing with multiple vendors, figuring out logistics, or what it would take to make leggings. We just go online and design a product. Danny can lay in bed, designing and seeing what works.”
After creating illustrations, Danny uses the Printful Design Maker to add their art to Printful products, sync the items to the Queer Ivy Art store, and sell their unique products.
“Seeing people’s eyes glow at the artwork as they put on their shirts has been so meaningful,” Danny says.
Thanks to Danny’s online store, they can afford food and contribute to rent and other household bills, which wasn’t possible before.
During Pride Month 2021, Queer Ivy Art saw 1711% growth, and Perry expects the success to continue.
“You have to be patient and consistent,” Perry says. “That’s the only way you’ll succeed.”
Danny agrees, “It took six months of hard work to get here, and it feels really good to watch my follower count skyrocket.”
Most people find Queer Ivy Art through social media like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Danny says they don’t focus on marketing or push products on their followers. Instead, their main priority is building community.
“I tell my followers on social media, ‘Hey, if you’ve benefitted from my art and if you want to support me, check out my store’,” Danny says. “My focus is putting value into the community and encouraging people. I think if they feel seen, they’ll be more likely to buy something.”
Perry says the Queer Ivy Art website is where customers are encouraged to make purchases. A banner on the site promotes free shipping.
“We don’t run a lot of sales because we don’t want people to fall into the cycle of waiting for 15% off,” Perry says. “We want to be a high-quality brand.”
Perry and Danny use Shopify to host their online store. Along with the Printful app, they use Fara.AI for collecting reviews and automation, Shopify Ping for live chat, and Klarna to offer customers the option to pay for their orders in installments instead of all at once.
Danny says their biggest advice for new store owners is “Be authentic.”
They say, “People can tell when you’re BS-ing through things. If you stand behind a cause and actually mean it, you have to deliver on that.”
Queer Ivy Art does that by donating proceeds from sales to disabled people in the queer community, or to trans people for gender-affirming surgeries.
To those going through hard times, Danny says, “Love yourself!”
Danny didn’t get the love they needed from their family. Instead, they found it in their chosen community, their partner, and most importantly, in themself.
“I’ve never heard my parents say words like, ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m proud of you,’ or ‘I accept you.’” Danny says. “So I say those words to myself, and know that if everybody else leaves me I’m still here with me—that’s huge.”