Ever been to Pony Plushies? They’re a large portion of the movers and shakers responsible for making stuffed versions of our adorable equines affordable for the common brony. To those who have been in the fandom for a while, it’s a well-known fact that good plushies are usually a commodity for the wealthier crowd. However, thanks to people like Aulewicious and Spiky Liger, the two individuals we interviewed, the $60 plushie is a reality. Want to know what it takes to start up a plushie business? How about some fun facts on a new website in the making that could potentially become the brony supermarket? Or maybe you’d rather just know the favorite characters of some successful businessponies? Head below the break to read the entire interview with Pony Plushies!
Scoota: All right, first question: How did you get started, and how long ago did you begin selling your wares?
Spiky: We got started in January around 2012, I think.
Aulewicious: Yeah, it was either January or February. There was a couple months until we were able to have anything ready. The reason we got started is, at the time, there were only artist commissions available to people and buying a good commission was really expensive, and most bronies didn’t really have access to them, so we really wanted to make a quality plushie that was available to more people.
Aulewicious: Yes, that was the plan. We actually started selling them in July; they were actually at BronyCon 2012. It’s where we first had them. People went nuts over them at the BronyCon. We didn’t really have that many…
Spiky: Yeah, we sold out literally within, like, minutes. We were taking orders at the convention for more of the Fluttershy plushie.
Scoota: So it sounds like you guys have been pretty successful.
Spiky: Yeah, it’s pretty great. It’s a fun job, it pays well, and it’s just really awesome getting to attend conventions, everything.
Scoota: You actually get to work with bronies.
Spiky: Yeah, that just kind of comes with it, getting to connect with people and everything.
Scoota: So, how exactly did you guys get started? Did you just make a site one day and start getting orders?
Aulewicious: We had a couple of meetups and posts online kind of talking about our website before the plushies actually went up for sale, just letting people know what we had planned and what was coming up on the horizon, starting up our Facebook group and that kinda stuff.
So, our debut at BronyCon was the first time we actually sold any plushies, but we had been telling bronies about us beforehand and spreading the word a little bit, and the store was in the making.
Spiky: Yeah, we did a little comic strip and looked at polls, we started making mailing lists and informing people about the plushies, and our goal starting up between, I guess the inception of the IB and BronyCon, was what we were trying to do. Our mission statement was to bring out show-accurate plushies to as many bronies as we could at an affordable price. We’d basically seen on eBay, just insane plushies selling for thousands of dollars, and it was a message to us, we’d seen something we needed to fulfill.
Scoota: So your ultimate goal was to make great plushies at an affordable price?
Spiky: Yeah, that was it.
Scoota: All right, you did a pretty good job explaining that. Next question: What kinds of items do you carry, apart from (obviously) plushies? What are you looking to carry in the future?
Spiky: Aside from plushies, we carry flash drives (or USB thumb drives)—those are really popular; they were a big hit at BronyCon and other conventions. People would come up to our table and say, “Oh, I’ve seen those on the Internet! Those are so cool!” They’re a hot seller of ours, I guess.
We’re also starting a new website—bronymerch.com—where we’re trying to collaborate with a bunch of artists then showcase their works, basically everyone (or everypony) can just buy off the website—
Aulewicious: We have the plushies and the flash drives on Pony Plushies, and we actually have car decals there as well, but for future stuff we’re really looking to develop a marketplace on Brony Merch where there can be a huge variety of anything pony-related that you might want from artists that do customs to hats and scarves and art prints and all that kind of stuff. Just a one-stop marketplace to look around at pony stuff and shop to your heart’s content.
Scoota: So, can we expect this site sometime in the near future?
Aulewicious: Yes, definitely in the near future. We’re trying to sort out some last-minute complications on getting it up and running.
Scoota: So, you’ve been planning on making Brony Merch for a while now?
Aulewicious: Yeah, it’s kinda been a plan of ours for a while now. We’re at the point where we can try to make that a reality and start getting the website going.
Scoota: All right, next question: How versatile are you? Do you attend many conventions or stretch out to the community in any way?
Spiky: Absolutely. Right now, as far as stretching out to the community, I guess one of the charitable things we do, we actually are in contact now with Bronies for Good, and we’re working out some kind of donation with them with our plushies, maybe to auction them off, who knows? We also did a photo contest where the community could win plushies for free by simply just submitting some kind of artwork or some kind of photograph with anything brony merch-related, basically. Also, for Brony Merch, we plan on doing a quilt—Aulewicious, do you wanna talk about the conventions that we attend?
Aulewicious: Sure! We actually did quite a few conventions. Our first one was BronyCon. Since then, we’ve done a bunch of MLP conventions, let’s see… Equestria LA, Canterlot Gardens, we were at Las Pegasus, and we even attended an anime convention—we’ve been looking to explore that a little bit, so we did attend quite a few conventions and try to make as many of those as we can.
Scoota: Will you be at Everfree Northwest?
Spiky: No, Everfree Northwest? I thought so… I think they were actually booked on tables really early. As soon as EQLA opens their site for registration… they all ran out [at Everfree]. But basically, Pon3Con in Nebraska, and also potentially at Sweet Apple Acres, also in May we have Comicpalooza—that’s located in Houston—I believe two of the voice actors are going to be there, I think Cathy… I’m not sure if the other one was Tara Strong. We’re also planning on—I’m from Houston, personally, the base of operations and headquarters of Pony Plushies, and so is Fiesta Equestria!, we’re going to be going there. Cutie Mark Con, Brony Fan Fair probably, and BronyCon.
Scoota: I was asking about Everfree Northwest specifically because that’s the first convention I’ll ever be attending. I was hoping to meet you guys there.
Spiky: Unfortunately, unless registration re-opens and they contact us, I don’t think we’ll be there—at least not selling our wares.
Scoota: All right, next question: Do you take commissions or requests for special orders?
Aulewicious: We don’t. We’re actually focusing on keeping up with the Mane 6 and putting them out, because there’s quite a demand for Pinkie Pie at the moment, and we’re a little overdue on getting her out to the bronies, so on Pony Plushies we don’t, but on Brony Merch, we do plan on making a commission connection available where artists can offer commissions to people and bronies can make requests for things they want crafted, for plushies as well as other items and customs.
Spiky: If someone contacts us on the live site—wanting an OC, I mean—we can definitely point them to an artist who’ll work something out.
Scoota: So, it’s a possibility in the future, but it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon? I mean, focus on making the Mane 6 and making them available, then possibly going to fan favorites, like, say, Derpy?
Aulewicious: We want to—we don’t really make any promises at the moment for that—but certainly a possibility.
Spiky: Part of it is, we have a machine press, and we can actually press out the fabric and the patterns in bulk. I don’t know if we’re going to be focused on any OCs, but definitely side characters and stuff like that after we come out with the Mane 6.
Scoota: So, if we want anything other than the Mane 6, we’re in for quite a wait.
Spiky: Yeah, it takes quite a while for us to design that pattern perfectly, and make sure everyone on the team—they’re all handmade, so to make them with ease, I guess. Not having any difficulty in the pattern while being show-accurate, and that sorta thing. It always takes us a while to do that, and we wanna make sure we have a lot of stuff available for both the convention and our website—our two streams, I guess, of sale points.
Scoota: So it’s quality, not quantity?
Spiky: Yeah, exactly. Quality over quantity for sure, but we wanna get as many out to as many bronies as who wants one.
Scoota: All right, on to the next question: Where in the world do you ship your merchandise to?
Aulewicious: We ship to over a dozen countries. I don’t even know how many now, but we ship worldwide, so we got a lot of orders up from Europe and obscure countries as well. It’s really cool. A lot of them don’t have the opportunity to get any official merchandise just because it’s only offered in the states right now, they’ll run into issues if they want something shipped outside the states. It’s a huge selling point of ours that we try to cater to everybody worldwide. We don’t want any bronies left out.
Scoota: I heard it’s actually been a pretty big issue getting plushies over in Europe.
Aulewicious: Basically, they have to find somebody in the states who can order it and ship it to them privately, do it as a favor. That’s really their only option a lot of times.
Spiky: Where there are conventions coming up, there seems to be almost three in a row. It would be insane and awesome if we could go to them, but the market really hasn’t been tested. We really don’t know what’s going on, but a substantial amount of our Internet sales are definitely international. It’s pretty crazy that people in Australia, Singapore, Russia, Finland—everwhere. It’s pretty awesome seeing all these addresses from different bronies that have managed to hear about us from overseas.
Scoota: All right, that’s actually pretty awesome. Next question: Have you ever done any related non-pony work prior to or since making Pony Plushies? Your professions prior to this or after you started, have they contributed to Pony Plushies in any way?
Aulewicious: Personally, no. Some of the artists have done plushies before. They have a bit of background in sewing and have done related stuff, but I hadn’t had a background in any MLP plushie stuff, kinda more involved in the site direction and talking to our customers and organizing stuff like that. I have a bit of background in that from working in advertising and customer relations before, but not with the plushies specifically.
Spiky: I think the plushies was something we really were passionate about, and we kinda saw it as a business opportunity and latched onto the plushie idea like that. We’re still bronies with the show and everything, we watch all the episodes… it was just a cool little avenue we could join and make our skills and abilities useful for that.
Scoota: So, you found something that you were good at and pursued that? Did anything you picked up prior to starting this help you?
Spiky: Yeah, Aulewicious and I met on a game called Heroes of Newerth. We were working in e-commerce and marketing projects before that. We definitely did have some know-how before going into this. It was a lazy idea, we wanted it to materialize, and put all our work into it.
Scoota: It sounds like you guys are really enjoying getting plushies to all the bronies of the world.
Spiky: Yeah, without a doubt, it’s the most fun company I’ve ever been a part of.
Aulewicious: Who doesn’t wanna work with ponies, right? As I’m sure you could agree on.
Scoota: Yeah, I wish. Next question: What issues did you encounter initially starting your website?
Aulewicious: One of the biggest issues early on, I guess, was developing trust and credibility as a website. I guess a lot of bronies have been scammed before when they tried to place orders or try to have some commissions done. There were a lot of people skeptical of us back before BronyCon when we were talking about the upcoming website and showing a couple prototypes, and discussing the ideas more than anything. A lot of people were wary of it being a scam or there being something fishy going on. We had to fight through that a little bit and make sure people knew that we were the real deal. BronyCon really helped that, and our first sales—word of mouth spread from there, we got reviews on the site, and people started realizing that we weren’t just a scam.
Spiky: Word of mouth was a huge part of what became our marketing strategy. Our fans really just put the word out there. On Facebook, we got a huge amount of likes and messages all the time of people telling us they love our plushies, they posted videos of their plushies, and just awesome stuff.
Aulewicious: Yeah, exactly.
Scoota: So, for people trying their hand in this market, do you feel this is still a barrier they need to overcome? Do you think it’s still a struggle to garner trust in the fandom?
Aulewicious: I think it is still a problem for other people trying to sell merch, and we’re hoping to get rid of that in making Brony Merch an official hub for artists to work through, so that if somebody wants to sell some of their work privately, they don’t have to convince somebody that they’re trustworthy. They can do it through an official source. We can develop trust through there.
Spiky: We did establish ourselves, and it would be really easy for us to work with these artists to get a lot of lesser-known artist names out there, just people we meet at conventions that we made friends with. They don’t all have the time or a certain amount of programming knowledge to set up e-commerce websites and that kind of thing, so it’s just a great way for an in-brony project, if you know what I’m saying, rather than just out there and the whole mess of eBay and all that. We try to work with and be fair with our artists, and make sure everyone succeeds basically.
Scoota: So you’re really trying to make sure that everyone has a central place to go to so they can be sure they’re getting their brony merch from a trustworthy artist.
Aulewicious: Yeah. There’s enough talent in the community, tons and tons of amazing artists and craftworks.
Spiky: Absolutely. A lot of talent. We’re really proud of the brony community. They’ve done music, art, there’s just tons of media and content that’s out there, and another way we’re trying to work on spreading that—we haven’t said anything about this, I guess, until now publicly—but we’re trying to do a huge quilt project with brony merch, like an online quilt where we have different artists submit their artwork and it’s gonna be pretty big. We hope to spend a lot of our time reaching out to the community on that.
Scoota: So you’re trying to make the community a big part of this?
Spiky: Yeah, it’s fun projects like this that we did in the past, like in the photo contest, the winner got the whole Mane 6 plushie set, and we sent a bunch of stickers and flash drives. It was really cool to get everyone involved and see what we can do.
Scoota: All right, next question: Are all of your plushies handmade?
Aulewicious: The plushies are all embroidered and cut out in bulk, then put together by hand, so we’re able to do a lot of legwork by machine before actually putting them together, so they’re handmade and machine-made… a little bit of both.
Spiky: We did a lot of investment with the fabric and machinery, the materials for it. What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s machine-stitched and everything, but everything’s all handmade. Some of it is even hand-stitched, like the ears, parts of the wings, depending on the pony…
Scoota: Sounds like hard work.
Spiky: Yeah, it’s a lot of hard work. We’re really professional about the production and supply of the plushies, because the bronies really want them, so we have to get them out there.
Scoota: Are your plushies or flash drives outsourced? Do you order them from a third party and customize them?
Aulewicious: Our flash drives are all ordered in bulk from a company; the molds for them are actually done separately. It’s the casing for them, so they’re just a plastic mold that’s done with specific dyes that we design and do separately. We get our materials in bulk, but a lot of the actual handiwork we do ourselves.
Scoota: So you order the flash drives from someone else and make the casings yourselves?
Spiky: The USB drive components themselves we order out, so that’s an outsource.
Spiky: We have a connection with the other component—they’re actually made from PVC vinyls, almost like rubber—a lot of people actually try to erase pencil marks with them, but it doesn’t work. It’s custom-designed in a warehouse, more or less.
Scoota: How about the components for the plushies? Do you outsource for those?
Spiky: We have a connection that’s kind of a Pony Plushies top secret that’s our supplier, yeah. We do get everything in bulk.
Scoota: Well, yeah, I wasn’t asking for a company secret!
Spiky: Yeah, we work with everything in mass quantities, so it’s mass quantities of all our products.
Scoota: So you don’t, like, grow the materials yourselves? You’re not going out and picking the stuff that you use to make your plushies?
Spiky: No, no, that would be crazy, no.
Aulewicious: No, we obviously get them from somewhere else, because we do do bulk orders with the fabric, and that’s another reason we want to kind of stick to making the Mane 6 and the popular background characters, is that a lot of what we’ve built in this business is getting ahold of the specific colors of fabric in bulk, getting it cut out and embroidered in bulk to ease out a lot of the cost, so we can get quality plushies but still keep the prices down, so bronies can actually afford them and get themselves a plushie.
Scoota: All right, on to the final question: Who’s your favorite pony?
Aulewicious: My favorite pony is Vinyl Scratch.
Spiky: I’m a huge fan of Fluttershy.
Scoota: I think this is just going to become a question we ask everybody that we interview.
Aulewicious: Well, it’s a good one. Everyone’s got a favorite.
Scoota: Well, I mean we watch the show, I sure hope everybody’s at least got a favorite!
Aulewicious: Well, either it’s a favorite, or they just love them all so much that they couldn’t possibly choose.
Spiky: Every pony is best pony.
Scoota: All right, that about does it for the interview!