Allie + Katie + Clare of Pretty Useful Co.

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by Savannah Bearden | photos courtesy of Pretty Useful Co.

Pretty Useful Co., founded by Allie Mounce and Clare Freeman in 2016, started as a nights-and-weekends venture making “clever goods for fun people” — think nerd-chic enamel pins and sweetly illustrated stickers encouraging you to “send noods.” It has since grown into a full-time creative studio with clients ranging from Facebook to their favorite local bartender. With the recent addition of Katie Mars — the studio’s self-ascribed “Mom- ager” — Pretty Useful Co. has found a way to turn “glowing joy balls” (their words, not mine) into tangible creative success in Memphis.

Since this is the Creatives issue of Focus and you are all creatives, tell me: why do you do what you do?

ALLIE: There’s nothing cooler than making a product that people love and buy and wear. It never gets old for me. I also really enjoy the process of branding. I love getting on a mind meld level with clients who are passionate about what they do and love what they make in the same way I love what I make.

CLARE: I love connection. Whether it’s through our products or making illustrations and animations, it’s a way of connecting and creating community within that audience. The other thing is joy. Even when I’m under a tight deadline and stressed, I still have this, like, little glowing joy…ball. Wait, let me rephrase that.

Nope, you’re on the record and that may be quoted in the article: “glowing joy ball.”

KATIE: Just don’t add an “s” to the end of it and make it “glowing joy balls.”

You’re still on the record and now “glowing joy balls” is definitely going in. Anyway, next question: which Pretty Useful project makes y’all the most proud?

CLARE: That’s so hard. I love all of them. Right now, I’m really proud of our new portfolio site. We cranked it out really fast — like in four days — and it’s fun and has all of the personality that we wanted to put into it. And bonus: it also works well!

ALLIE: The series of editorial illustrations that we did for bit. it was a really fun challenge. I love any illustration heavy project where Clare and I work together to come up with really concise, clear ideas from really vague concepts and make them readable as an illustration.

What’s your best advice for folks that currently have a side hustle and want to turn it into their full time gig?

KATIE: Take care of yourself first. You’ll do better work and you’ll do it more efficiently.

CLARE: Create connections in your community. Whatever you’re working on, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask other people questions, even if it makes you a little nervous. We wouldn’t be where we are today if other people who had taken a version of our journey hadn’t shared some of their knowledge with us.

ALLIE: Don’t wait for someone to give you permission. The biggest detriment to the development of my career was not giving myself permission, not feeling ready. You’re never gonna feel like you’re ready, so just go ahead and do it! Also, starting a business can look like such a daunting task that you’re too scared to even start. But just break it down and take a few steps a week. Give yourself wins that are concrete progress every day and be reasonable with your timeline, so you don’t set yourself up for failure or start to doubt you can do it.

KATIE: Don’t be afraid of failure either. The worst that can happen is you go back to where you were before or you try again.

Final, very serious question: what are the top five emojis on your phone that are NOT faces? TikTok says these emojis represent your entire ethos. Mine are talky head, wine, fire, poop, and the SMH lady, so it checks out.

CLARE: Mine are prayer hands, sparkles, martini glass, raccoon, and the big looking eyes.

ALLIE: Mine are stabby knife, sparkles, eyes looking, monkey covering its eyes, and double hearts.

KATIE: Mine are fire and dancing disco man…then unfortunately it’s an eggplant and a hot dog.

Contrary to what they say, Pretty Useful Co. is a lot more than just hot dogs, stabby knives, and joy balls.
These patches and pin are just a sampling of their unique products. Check out all their work at studio.pretty-useful.co