Erika Flores founder of INKSCRPT: Turning her passion and talent for art, into a business to help people tell their stories creatively.
Erika is a Toronto-based illustrator and calligrapher, who portrays a modern and minimalistic style and works with small businesses, events, and thoughtful individuals who want that unique, personal touch for art. When she is not creating art, she is a full-time policy advisor at the Ontario government.
Tell us about INKSCRPT and why you decided to turn your art into a business.
“Ever since I was younger, I have always been passionate about art. I was always adding little personalized, handmade touches to all my gifts for my loved ones. Whether that be a handwritten card, a personalized drawing, or even a silly little note. This creative tendency of mine was not lost on those close to me. In 2018, my friend asked me to help her with calligraphy for her wedding. I had about two weeks to google “how to do modern calligraphy” and maybe about two hours in her house to do it. But thanks to the trust and support of my good friend, it turned out better than expected and was well-received.
I ended up creating an Instagram to document my progress. (Fun fact: it was initially called “Calligs”, which is a play on the word “calligraphy” and the Tagalog word “kiligs” (which means goosebumps or chills, usually from the feeling of overwhelming excitement or thrill).
People started noticing my work and reached out to me for commissions. Soon I was doing watercolor portraits of people’s dogs, custom cards, and logo designs (which I don’t offer as services anymore until at one point, it felt like… a lot. I realized that I was growing and needed to figure out what I wanted to do with this “paid hobby”. Did I want to continue offering what I was currently offering? What goals did I want to achieve? And most importantly, did I even want to continue to grow?
At the beginning of 2019, my co-worker Carly, who also happens to have a side hustle as an Interior Designer, suggested Etsy as an online platform to sell my work. She even gave me the idea of the first product I ended up launching there – custom wedding vow books- and was my first customer! I’m always grateful to Carly, as she was also my mentor at the time at my full-time job, for giving me the idea to launch my Etsy business.
By that time, my Instagram and newly founded small business had changed to the name INKSCRPT; “ink and script”, to symbolize my two main services, illustration and calligraphy. And although INKSCRPT has evolved and changed over the past 2 years, I’ve been running it as a small business ever since.”
What are the goals of your business and how do you hope to achieve them?
My first love has always been writing; poetry, stories, letters. But sometimes, you just don’t know the right words to express what you mean, you know?
I have always thought art was just another form of expression, another way to say what you mean and the story you want to tell. You know that saying “a picture says a thousand words”? To me, art is the whole essence of that quote.
I started INKSCRPT because I wanted to empower people to tell their stories creatively through beautiful art. Most especially people from underrepresented, marginalized communities, such as women, BIPOC, LGTBQ+ and non-binary individuals, and individuals with disabilities. People whose stories are rarely told or represented in media. You’ll see this reflected in a lot of my work, especially my illustrations, where my designs and color palettes are inspired by diverse communities and my own experiences as a woman of color.
Creativity can be intimidating- it can be hard to express yourself uniquely. But I want to help people understand that creativity is a basic human instinct: every one of us is capable of creativity, as long as we have a story to tell.
With INKSCRPT, I help people tell their stories creatively that they otherwise didn’t have the courage or opportunity to share through beautiful and unique illustration and calligraphy. All thoughtfully and lovingly handmade.
Tell us what products and services your business offers.
You know that feeling when you receive a drawing from a young child? It’s not perfect, and they aren’t Picasso, but those scribbles are indications of those little hands; the thought and love put into it by that big little heart; each subtle imperfection is coming together to create a picture, a piece of art made entirely by hand, that is meaningful and sentimental on a whole different level.
What makes my products and services unique from others in the market is that it is handmade and (mostly) custom. There is something about work made by hand that is so much more intimate than a machine. And even more so if that work is custom and personalized to an individual. No two pieces are the same – they are unique to the individual it is meant for. It brings that good feeling when someone took the time to seek out this item just for you and thought about creating something meaningful that means something extraordinary between you and them. That’s the unique feeling of receiving something personalized and custom-made from INKSCRPT.
My most popular items and what I would say differentiated INKSCRPT from others in the market are my line art pieces, especially my acrylic line art. People can pick between different shapes of clear acrylic surfaces, like a modern hexagon or a classic rectangle, place their order and send me a reference picture they’d like to recreate as line art. And to further personalize it, they can opt to add a personalized text in minimalistic calligraphy at the bottom of the portrait. It comes with a rustic wooden stand too!
The thing about line art is that it is so minimalistic and subtle, yet the work put behind it is incredibly detailed. You have to put the right amount of detail to make sure it’s detailed enough that the individual (s) are recognizable yet simple enough to have a minimalistic style of art. For INKSCRPT, I decided to make line art more versatile and unique from others in the market by applying it on different surfaces. So it’s unique in the sense that it’s not your typical custom art printed on paper, but rather hand-painted with the utmost care and detail on acrylic glass – for a reasonable price!
Who has been your primary audience?
My primary target audience are fellow businesses, events, and thoughtful individuals who are looking for that unique, personal touch either as a gift or as home decor. Pre-pandemic, I would do many events such as weddings, fellow small business events, and community initiatives. However, in terms of events, I have strayed away from doing weddings and focusing more on small business, or community-led events.
My consumer base is largely Canadian from all over the country, with some US clients as well. A majority of my consumers are located in Ontario and British Columbia.
As mentioned earlier, I have always catered to and resonated with clients from underrepresented, marginalized communities, such as women, BIPOC, LGTBQ+ and non-binary individuals, and individuals with disabilities. I have been fortunate to have individuals from these communities reach out to me about my work and share very intimate, personal stories about their experiences that they would like to be reflected as artwork.
My consumers can either purchase my products at my Etsy shop: www.INKSCRPT.etsy.com or request custom commission work for either business or personal use through email: [email protected] or direct message @INKSCRPT on Instagram.
What is a significant challenge you faced as an entrepreneur?
One of the biggest challenges I face as a “side hustle entrepreneur”, is time management and work-life balance. Recently, I found this challenge even more prominent in my life as my business continues to grow.
Back in November 2019, while preparing for an in-person holiday market, I got really sick due to a variety of factors. But what I would say was a main factor to getting sick, was how I was not taking care of myself. I’ve always been a hard and prolific worker, but I was not eating on time and not taking breaks, essentially overworking myself to exhaustion.
This challenging experience taught me a lot about balance in life – in all aspects, including personal and business. They say that when you are passionate about something, it doesn’t feel like work. And while that can be good in some respects, if your passion also tends to be your business, in my case, this can also be damaging. You forget that what you are doing is still technically work, so you are more at risk of burning yourself out.
This is essentially what happened to me. At the same time, I was busy working away on INKSCRPT stuff, even though I absolutely loved it. So I was more prone to skipping meals, not taking breaks, working longer and harder hours, and consequently, taking a toll on my overall health.
This realization allowed me to overcome the challenge of time management and work-life balance. After that experience, I decided to be more active in prioritizing my health by partaking in setting boundaries and planning my work around my health in a variety of ways, like taking time to exercise daily, ensure I always eat lunch, and just learning to say ‘no’.
How is your business looking in 2021?
“It is only March, but it already feels like half the year has flown by! In the past couple of months, I have been very fortunate to have had many opportunities, such as two Buzzfeed features of my acrylic line art and having my work featured and published on a digital magazine called “Colouring Covid” Global Shapers Toronto.
I have been feeling incredibly blessed and grateful. I’m excited to tell you that there’s even more coming up for 2021 that I can’t tell you yet… But I’ll give you some sneak peeks: I have some inspiring collaborations with fellow small businesses and community-led initiatives for marginalized youth, as well as a few new products lined up to launch very shortly!”
Any words of wisdom or advice for young entrepreneurs?
I have a few words of advice and encouragement for young entrepreneurs, especially those looking to start a side hustle:
- Take it one day at a time. Literally, you don’t have to start writing out a business plan immediately or set out a 5-10 year plan or sign up for a business license. Just take actionable baby steps: maybe start an Instagram, experiment and make some prototypes out of a potential product or service, create a ‘mood board. They may seem like little things, but they are still something. Progress is progress!
- Even if it’s your passion, it is still technically work – especially if it’s your business. This means you should still be taking breaks from your work. Doing something you’re passionate about is often romanticized, as it’s not always going to be easy or a smooth ride. Not everything about it is fun (unless you really like bookkeeping). You will have mental blocks. You will sometimes not want to work at all. That’s completely normal and doesn’t mean you’re no longer passionate about something. It just means you need to listen to your body and take your breaks.
- Don’t feel pressured to do it full-time. If you choose to do a side hustle with a full-time job or education, you are not limited to one or the other. It’s vital to re-evaluate the language you use and the attitude you have towards your hustle. You can be BOTH your side hustle and your full-time. So don’t think or say that it’s “just” a side hustle”. Think of it this way: you are a business owner. You’re an entrepreneur. You can be both your full-time and your small business. You are boundless!
For more information on INKSCRPT kindly visit:
Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook: @INKSCRPT
Etsy Shop: www.INKSCRPT.etsy.com
Email: [email protected] for custom works
Author: Emma Mitro, Lifestyle, Content Writer for The Onside Media, Canada. If you have any stories to share, kindly email: – [email protected]