Founder & Designer Dani Diarbakerly of KingPro Shares Insights on Latest Influencer Trends and Branding Strategies
Founder and CEO Dani Diarbakerly educates audiences with her entrepreneurial wisdom derived from her childhood, real time business decisions and growing business partnerships.
Dani, Welcome to Kreative Circle! Congratulations on being featured as the only woman selected by Screenprinting Magazine as a rising star for 2022 in the specialty graphics industry. Can you take us through memory lane when and how you were introduced to the graphic arts and screenprinting?
Of course! My first memory of being in a print shop was when I was a little kid. My birthday is at the end of January, and for one of my parties, I got all the kids a t-shirt that said “Happy Valentine’s Day” because it was the closet holiday. I remember going with my mom to the lady’s print shop down the street to pick out the shirts. I thought it was cool that her shop was in her garage, and she could make all these from her house.
You’re a self-taught artist in this niche space. What are the pros and cons of being a self-taught graphics professional?
A lot of people who teach themselves a trade and jump into an industry get imposter syndrome, and I’m no exception. When I first started designing, I was so insecure that I would never refer to myself as a designer or an artist. I wasn't sure if there was a whole bunch of information I didn't have or tools I wasn't using that everyone else was.
When I started printing, I was managing a shop. A consultant told me that because I was a small female in a male-dominated industry, I needed to learn to print on the “auto” or automatic machine if I wanted anyone to listen to me. So, I would go in every morning at 4 AM and just start practicing. Pretty quickly, I became one bad-ass printer.
Learning is a sacred journey for business professionals and entrepreneurs. Is there anything that you’ve discovered about yourself since the inception of KingPro that surprised you?
I used to think that I had to do everything and take every job that came my way. I took the small, $25 jobs; I’d work all day and all night, thinking the more time put in, the bigger the output. This is entirely NOT true.
You have to have a strategy and a plan, say yes to some things and no to others, have really good people on your team and cultivate your relationship with your staff.
Dani, as a rising entrepreneur you’ve partnered with the higher echelon of Nike, Instagram, and celebrities with Epic Records (to name a few), what insights can you share about branding and how companies align their artistic vision with consumer expectations?
They spend money on design and creative. A lot of small brands think they can skip this step. You have to invest in this part to have the most impact.
As the founder and owner of King Production, the entity takes pride in finding the best materials and designs to serve its audience. What performance or logistical challenges does KingPro address by participating in the specialty graphics space?
Since Covid, there have been a lot of challenges: shortages, blanks being available one day and gone the next, shipping delays, huge price increases, etc.
Back in 2020, I had a massive order of black masks that I had produced in China, but suddenly there were bans from FedEx and other shipping companies preventing black masks from going out. I had deadlines and orders to fulfill, and my factory kept telling me not to worry. I soon got a tracking number from California. Afterward, they told me they had someone fly from China to LA to get my order shipped to me.
What guidance do you have for any prospective graphics design professionals seeking employment in the industry, or aspiring to become a vendor in the industry?
Keep learning and keep working hard. My dad had a saying in his email signature, which I thought was so stupid at the time. It said, "Don't become a dinosaur." He said that because technology advances so fast, you will be outdated if you don't keep up with the changes. As an adult, I learned the importance of that message and why it’s critical to keep learning and stay on top of the latest trends, pricing, and software.
You’re enjoying exciting milestones to date! How does it feel to be recognized in Hypebeast printing alongside the legendary Virgil Abloh?
Meeting Virgil was the highlight of my career. I was so nervous I could barely talk. I don't think anything can top that. Virgil brought together this juxtaposition of streetwear and high fashion that I just loved.
Art is celebrated through many lenses which ignites all sorts of emotions. What moments have made you feel you’re floating on cloud nine?
One of my clients, Livin Cool, was huge on getting his products to models and influencers. Suddenly I saw Delia Belle, daughter of Lisa Rinna in one of his suits, and I commented on the photo, "I just wet my pants." Lisa Rinna liked the comment! Even telling this story feels surreal.
Printing for Instagram was insane. I was so shocked. The only way I could describe it was being high on life.
What moments have challenged your devotion to your art and business philosophy?
I produced some hats for one of my loyal clients. He ordered some cut-and-sew products, and my factory in China mistakenly delivered the items with logos only on one side. I felt the right thing to do was to give my client a full credit for the product since "items weren't delivered as approved." I offered him a choice of reproducing the items or using the credit towards any other items. He selected the latter, which was thousands of dollars of cost to me.
At the time, my business funds were tight, so by the time he selected the items and designs, I had to use my own money to buy the blanks and produce them. I'm happy I was able to honor my word and keep a life-long client.
KingPro has become successful due to referrals. How important are referrals in managing a business?
You’ve proven yourself by speaking up when you were interested in securing jobs. This sets the tone of more clients organically seeking you out.
Referrals are key. Good word spreads fast, but if you f* up, that word spreads even faster. It’s important to hold yourself to a high standard and stay on top of your business.
The consumer market is saturated with influencers selling products and services on social media. How can KingPro help these influencers market their messages more artistically on these visual online and offline distribution channels?
Customization is vital. Making things that are custom and specific to your brand are key.
Dani, what do the following words mean to you?
Design - Life
Competition - Me v Me
Quality - Most Important Thing
Joy - Printing
KingPro offers several services including: Screen Printing, Cut & Sew, Embroidery, Design, and Signage. What are the top services that are popular among businesses and individual clients?
T-shirts, t-shirts, t-shirts.
Merch is forever and having wearable art of advertisements is invaluable for brands.
What service do you anticipate growing more popular in the next 2-3 years and why?
I have seen a huge increase in website services and e-commerce. I fell back into marketing this recently, because four years ago, I was charging five figures for a website. After Covid, I dropped my prices, but now I am realizing people are willing to pay for your services rather than doing the project themselves.
What items are challenging to design and print?
I focus on apparel, but hardwoods are more challenging.
What guidance do you have for business owners on a budget seeking specialty graphics services?
Design: we work with people to make their design have the most impact without having a ton of colors. I like making recommendations to people and helping them do what will reduce their cost but still have the most impact.
Enough about the arts and business! Dani, who and what are the sources that keep you grounded while there’s a whirlwind of opportunities competing for your attention and business?
Trying my best to get back to everyone and waking up really early.
Is there a book you recommend others to read that left a great impact on you?
Yes - my dear friend Squidell (the older brother of music artist Popcaan) recommended a book called The Four Agreements. He told me to read it and it will change your life. The overall message I took from it is, don't let people affect you and realize that you affect others.
I used to get offended, take things personally, and lose a lot of sleep, but now I try to let go of things out of my control.
This reminds me of something that happened recently. Two years ago, my team and I were in a group chat with one of my clients, who got upset about something she felt was irrational. One of my employees asked me why I let someone talk to me like that. I explained that she was a client but then realized the conversation was out of line. I never responded to her after that.
Two years later, I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, the first words I heard were, "Dani, don't hang up." It was the client calling to apologize and tell me she felt so bad for what she said two years earlier and thought of me so many times since. She was going through a lot at the time and made a mistake.
I was happy to hear that because I genuinely liked her and liked working with her. Sometimes you just have let people deal with what they are going through and come back to you because it might not even be about you.
Are there any KingPro events or activities that audiences can keep an eye out for?
We are working on opening a new print shop! Follow my IG for details and updates. Hopefully, we'll have a launch event this summer.
Please share with audiences how they can support your work.
My personal IG is @kingprodani
Business IG is @King Pro
To place an order kingproja.com
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