Q&A with Sheri Ching: A labor of aloha

Tiny Hearts, headed by University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa alumni and husband and wife team Sheri and Kevin Ching, specializes in 100% original designs and products – all of which are handcrafted and made with aloha. We asked Sheri a few questions about their journey as creators and small business owners, what they love most about Tiny Hearts and how their UH education has helped them along the way.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Tiny Hearts – a name inspired by my two little boys – started a little over a decade ago when I participated in my first craft fair as a way to add towards their educational savings. Like any avid crafter, I had (and still have) quite the collection of supplies. You name it, I probably have it. Kevin, my husband, realized this was a great way to apply his graphic design skills for fun. At first, we dabbled with different types of crafts and worked with various mediums, but we eventually found our niche and Tiny Hearts just sort of grew from there.

What do you love most about your work?

Tiny Hearts provides us the opportunity to be our own bosses, and also allows us the creative control to design what inspires us. Through this journey, we’ve been able to connect, collaborate, and learn from other local small businesses. Working with these talented makers and creators has taught us invaluable lessons – both business and life – and they’ve shared with us tips from their own personal experiences to be successful at what we love to do. We are so grateful for this amazing community’s support.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of starting your own business?

Our original foodie designs are inspired by local foods that we grew up with and enjoy eating. From the brainstorming process to the finishing touches, creating each design with its own personality and detail takes time. Many designs are embedded with its own quirkiness and a touch of humor. Seeing a customer catch our joke and appreciate our attention to detail is genuinely rewarding. We love that our creations can bring joy and smiles to their faces.

The most challenging?

Each year, we challenge ourselves to come out with fresh ideas and functional products. As a small business, we can’t possibly carry the depth and width of products that some bigger stores might offer. However, what we lack in terms of products, we try to make up for with creativity and locally handcrafted goods. For instance, we hand-cut and individually fold all of our notecards, manually crank each of our foodie magnets, and now that our boys are older, they help us package each of our products one by one. It’s truly a family affair and a labor of Aloha!

How has your UH education helped you in your career?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that we both have full-time career’s with department’s within UH Mānoa. Tiny Hearts is our creative outlet outside of work, but the education we received from UHM applies to both. UHM’s graphic design program taught Kevin the importance of always thinking outside the box and seeing things from a different perspective that most people would overlook. As for me, UH Mānoa CTAHR’s Design and Merchandising program provided me with the skills and knowledge of running a business.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your day-to-day operation?

Our primary source of sales, craft fairs, has become non-existent with the stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements in place. We’ve had to operate business solely online. Increasing our social media activity as a form of self-advertising has helped to increase traffic and revenue, but our local fairs is simply irreplaceable. On the bright side, having the flexibility to work our full-time jobs from home means not having to sit through afternoon traffic, which gives us extra time to devote to Tiny Hearts and, more importantly, extra time to spend with our family.

For more on Tiny Hearts, follow them on Instagram and Facebook. To shop Tiny Hearts products, visit the Tiny Hearts Etsy shop.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni