Pintrill’s cofounder proves it’s possible to quit your day job and start your own company
For many of us, dropping out of school or quitting our day job to start our own business seems like a far-fetched fantasy. But, PINTRILL co-founder Doni Gitlin actually gives us faith that it’s not as impossible as it seems.
The Brooklyn-based pin company got its start after Doni’s boyfriend, Jordan Roschwalb, quit his corporate job at Mercedes-Benz to pursue the line of trendy accessories. Together, they threw caution to the wind with fellow co-founder and friend Andrew Yung to go full-force with their Williamsburg store. Now, the lifestyle brand has grown to be rapidly popular with a notable social media following and dozens of super cool collaborations, including their latest partnership with eBay for Charity, a giving platform that’s raised over $725 million for charity to date. This holiday collection features three limited-edition food-themed pins with all proceeds going back to Feeding America.
I recently chatted with Doni to talk about successfully starting a business with friends, their latest charity line with eBay and how they got Glee star Lea Michele to even design her own pin for the cause. Check out the charitable collection here.
Tell us a little bit about where the idea for PINTRILL came from and how it all started.
The idea for PINTRILL came from Jordan’s head — he is the brains behind PINTRILL and is a founder of the company. Jordan was always a collector growing up, and after leaving a stressful job he decided that he wanted to start a pin accessory and lifestyle company.
A lot of people run into conflicts when starting a company with other people. What would you say is the key to successfully co-founding a business? What’s your advice on how to not let business interfere with friendships?
The key to successfully co-founding a business would definitely be patience and understanding. It can be hard because everyone can have a difference of opinions, but at the end of the day you have to do what is right and best for the company. Jordan and I were dating long before PINTRILL started, and we are now engaged, so it is really important to be able to keep the personal and business relationships separate. In the beginning it was hard for me to do that, but over the years I’ve learned to not bring any office frustrations home. Our third co-founder, Andrew Yung is a friend of ours so the three of us are always navigating our personal and business relationships as best as we can. There isn’t really a trick to keeping them separate, but just know that if you have a disagreement in the office or something in regard to business, it isn’t with your friend, it’s with your business partner.
What would you say is the best and worst parts about being your own boss?
I’m not sure if there is necessarily a worst part about it, there are definitely parts that can be tough and challenging. When you’re your own boss there isn’t anyone who is going to fight for you, so you really have to stand up for yourself. The best part about it is just knowing that you’re waking up everyday and doing something that you love and are also working toward your personal goals.
You guys have a pretty wide variety of options ranging from political memes to emojis. What’s the design process like? What makes something “pin-worthy?”
A lot of our designs are inspired by pop culture moments — either something that is in the news, or making its way across the internet. For us, something is “pin-worthy” if it can be relatable or easily digested — you shouldn’t have to look at a pin for too long and not understand what it is portraying or depicting.
You’ve got a pretty large following and have done some really cool collaborations. What’s been your favorite so far and why?
There are so many good ones that I’ve really enjoyed working on! I think that one of my favorite collaborations would have to be one we recently did with Robert Geller. We created an IMMIGRANT pin that was inspired by a tee that he wore to his fashion show. We donated proceeds to the ACLU and it was so wonderful working with Robert and his team. My runners up would have to be our ongoing partnership with Levi’s, and the pins we did for Louis Vuitton’s Volez, Voguez, Voyagez exhibit — the admission to the exhibit, and the pins are both free. We love being able to make pins that are accessible.
Are there any celebrities or brands that you’d love to work with?
There’s so many incredible brands that we have already had the opportunity to work with, but some of my dream brands and celebrities would have to be Disney (since pin trading is so huge at the parks and a part of Disney’s culture), Kanye West, and Haribo gummy bears.
You’re currently working with eBay for Charity on three charitable pins for Feeding America. Where did this idea come from? Why did this cause speak to you?
We have always wanted to be able to create pins for good causes, as pins have always been worn to signify something that you stand for or support. We had worked with eBay For Charity on another campaign back in October, so when we were able to work on another project with them we were really looking forward to it. To have the opportunity to work on this project with Feeding America around the holiday season and Giving Tuesday was special and important to us as we always want to find ways to give back. Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, and it was important to be able to create pins with them to help bring awareness to the hunger issues in the U.S.
Lea Michele also designed a pin for the cause. How did that come about?
Lea Michele is one of Feeding America’s ambassadors and when we learned we were able to work with her on this campaign we were very excited! I personally was a huge fan of Glee when it was on the air, so it was awesome to have Lea be part of this campaign with us.
Tell us a little bit about the process of creating her pin.
When we teamed up with eBay For Charity for the Feeding America and Giving Tuesday campaign we knew that we wanted to create a pin that almost quite literally translated to “Feeding America.” Lea’s pin came out to be a food map of the United States which represents the food banks in the U.S., and how Feeding America is working to solve the hunger issue in our country.
Where do you see PINTRILL going next? Do you have plans to expand?
Our goal for PINTRILL is to become a global brand. We have a flagship store in Williamsburg (231 Grand Street) and are of course available online where we do ship worldwide. We have a presence in a bunch of retailers all over the world, so we are constantly growing and expanding.
What’s your advice for kids who may want to start their own business? Is there something you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you were first starting out?
The most important thing is to of course believe in yourself, your idea, and keep clear goals in mind. There will always be people who may try to get you off your track, but if you believe in something so strongly, anything is possible. When we started PINTRILL we had no idea where it would go — as Jordan would say, he was just trying to pay his rent. It really is incredible to see where we are now and what the future has in store. I can tell you that it is important to have a plan, but things rarely go according to plan, so stay organized!