Creamlab: the origin story.

So at the point of writing this blog post, I'm a 30-year-old male living happy with my girlfriend and daughter in Rijnsburg, the Netherlands. And like every human being, I'm going through life having the same insecurities and distractions as everybody else. But these feelings get especially strong near the ending of your twenties, once these years are running out you start thinking about life itself, you gotta grow up.... or so the world tells you too.

>> Hi, this is going to be a long read, duhh, it's the origins story. Spoiler alert: I won't have superpowers in the end <<

I always thought that your first ten years you're stupid and just learning things. In your teenage years, you explore the delights the world has to offer and test its boundaries. During your twenties, you're in college and take it to a next level and experiment with all you learned during your teenage years. Then the thirties hit and you should have a family buy a house have a dog and work your ass off until you're 65, then you do some traveling with your wife and die surrounded by your family...

Thing is that this pretty much looked like my life but I didn't want to go down that path, like some of my childhood friends. And without realizing it I kind of skipped my twenties, I wasn't a party guy or a slacker or a stoner nor was I wasting my years at college unnecessary and after 8 years leaving with a nice pile of debt and a useless degree (no offense). I've been working full-time designer jobs since I finished Graphic Art school in 2006, had a steady relationship and in January 2008 I even started my own webshop Mintyfresh with my buddy Leon.

Now I'm the type of person that likes doing the least amount of effort to get the most amount of result a.k.a. laziness. This on top of the fact I have the same attention span like DUG from Pixar's UP "SQUIRREL!", these "perks" can be nasty distractions and are horrible as a kid in school since I could never finish something in time and was always late everywhere. The upside is that you work really well under pressure on deadlines, for some reason I can do three times the amount of work and focusing when I know I only have 24 hours left. This has always been a setback during school since I was always late with projects & learning for exams. But this little perk comes in very handy in the designer world where everything is last minute.

But these perks are extremely horrible WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR OWN COMPANY, until this day I put forward everything I don't like doing. That's regarding accounting, adding items to the shop or the packing of orders. I admit I've been doing this whole entrepreneur thing basically alone for the past 7 years (Leon and I parted in 2010) without any knowledge so it's not weird someone starts to detest some of the less interesting parts of the job. It's not a great excuse but once a job becomes a choir it becomes less interesting and you start doubting why you're still doing it.

My girlfriend never liked living at home so at age 18 she moved out and started living by herself, she eventually found an anti-squatting building (people live there to prevent the house from being squatted), downside it's an unclear situation since you can be moved out with only 4 weeks notice. But it was a gigantic 250 old house with a 300m² flower bulb shed in my village of Rijnsburg, so who cares. Perfect for me as well, so as soon as her roommate moved out I moved in and took my company with me (this was when I just needed 6) This house gave me all the foundation to actually become bigger with Mintyfresh without having to take care of high living expenses, company storage, security all that shit, but back to where we began... the late twenties.

We lived happily for about 7 years in the Anti-Squat House, my company grew a lot and after the studio, I worked at went bankrupt and I got laid-off I decided to focus on Mintyfresh and try to turn it into a full-time job. The full-time attention started to work and after a few great exclusive product releases combined with the low expenses I could keep putting back the money into Mintyfresh. But the big three-o was knocking on the door and in a long relationship you start talking about future and it was time to think about expansion of the family. The house we lived in was nowhere near kid-friendly so we would have to find something new, but since my girlfriend was not able to get babies easily we thought we had a while to save some extra money and look for something new... well, we though we had a while....

Yes, you guessed it she got pregnant a bit faster then we expected, so we had to change our game plan since the clock was ticking down fast, 7 months to find a house within our budget. Finding a house that made it possible to run the company from home like I did for the past years was hard, we didn't have any real savings (we really love sushi) so we were fishing in a small pond, we skipped on a lot until we found the place we're in right now. The family that was living there was going to be evicted (sad story) but because of it the bank wanted to get rid of it fast and we got a great deal, only problem we would not be able to get the key until 3 weeks before the expected date. So yadda yadda (we didn't get keys to the house in time) yadda yadda, the baby was born in the old house, we had too much to do on the new house and I worked day and night with my father-in-law to get the house ready. Many family & friends pitched in some of their free time to help sand, paint, build, destroy and move so 2 weeks into her life, Indy was able to move in her new home.

It was nowhere near finished but we had too, summer was crazy hot and the old house was a fucking dump. Since rent was so low on the old house I kept it on as my Mintyfresh HQ for a few months, the new house had a big garage under it but it was filled with so much stuff I couldn't move it yet. At the end of the summer of 2015, we finally moved all the stock from Mintyfresh to the new house and closed that chapter. 

The new house was much more efficient, I didn't have to go through 5 rooms and a shed to find all the products for my orders it was all in one big area. But juggling a social life, a company, and a baby at once is hard. I completely underestimated being a parent, so Mintyfresh basically got under snowed and I kinda started losing interest, sure I still went to conventions once in a while, stocked on the newest goods and shipped the packages but the love was sort-off gone. Until that one trip to Northern-Ireland...

Early 2016 my sister Chelsey went on an internship to Bangor, Northern-Ireland. Her boyfriend James is North-Irish and when he had to move back for school and she had the chance do an international internship she obviously chose to go there. and trust me Bangor is an absolute concrete shithole so she did not go for the weather or culture (sorry to all the bangorians). She got an internship at a local artist studio and had the best 6 months of her life, learning everything about printing. They lived in a little bitty house in shitty bitty Bangor had itty bitty income but were veryberry happy :-)

You don't know my girlfriend but let's just say she likes doing things, a lot. So she invited herself, me and Indy to stay with Chelsey & James in their itty bitty house for a mid-week to sniff up the lovely countryside of Northern-Ireland. So they said yes and with our little baby in the backpack, we went on our trip. We did the Belfast tour, ate greasy fish & chips and I tagged along with Chelsey for a whole day of Screenprinting madness, we turned a few of my old drawings into screenprints and this made me so goddamn happy it sparked a new flame inside of me. 

We went home with a pile of printed goods, and all I thought about when I got back was how to get that feeling back. I was like a junky looking for his next high, so I picked up a pencil and a paper and started drawing again since years. As a vivid collector of prints, designer toys, and other collectibles, it was long ago I felt like I could actually become part of this art community. Not only as a seller but also as a designer & producer. I started thinking and exploring the creative side which was set aside again from painting to video (I even had a fucking vlog...) 

I wanted it to be something new, Mintyfresh was there and has its name but it had to be new, and in the early days of my graphic school life, I had a classmate that sold URL's on the side, the thought of stuff, made a shitty website and sold it all together. I thought I could do that too so I started registering a lot of URL's... at the highest point I had 50+ unused URL's and waited for someone to buy it... was not a great success I admit, but one of these was What I did was write down cool words and combine them into possible company names, this was 2005 and a lot of stuff was happening online. I used Creamlab as a portfolio for a while and got rid of a lot of the URL's but never ever did anything with it until summer 2016.

I had to renew one of my other URL's and saw I still had Creamlab and thought about how I always wanted it to be something cool like Mintyfresh. I was then hooked on vlogs and slowly but steadily saw the relived hype of pins & patches. With my renewed love for designing, I thought I would start a vlog and take people on my journey while creating the company. I had a great time doing it but since I was still juggling all these daily things and on top of that I also started a new company and doing vlogging which took about 8 - 10 hours of my day... I could not keep up and gave up after 40-something days. But what it did was forcing me to focus on the one thing I really wanted, spread art. 

After the summer Chelsey needed to do a last short internship for school and since nobody wanted a person for just 2 months she did it at Mintyfresh. During this period we thought of what Creamlab is, what the core principle should be and what it wants to become. We worked out a schedule for her school assignments and basically created Creamlab together. From the logo to the webshop, this was a great period and it was a sad moment when she was not around full-time anymore. 

But there it was, Creamlab, a fresh new foundation for a great new beginning. The following months I started contacting factories in China, Turkey, Portugal and here in the Netherlands. I had a gigantic list of products I was interest in making, but after a lot of back and forth I felt like Pins & Patches would be best to start with. It has a low MOQ, affordable, you can basically do any design and for an unique product it's an awesome platform. And best of all you have full control, I love working with artists that maybe don't have the means to bring their creations to life and this and working with Creamlab might give them that boost that i wanted all those years ago when i was an aspiring artist.

And that brings me here, after almost a year of officially starting with Creamlab next week another shipment is arriving with hundreds of pins & patches from great artists. One year ago I could've never believed this was possible. We even have multiple shops around the globe stocking on Creamlab products and every order that comes in brings me that high again I had 9 years ago when I first started Mintyfresh.

My life is still a chaos, last-minute is my middle name, but I feel comfortable in that chaos. Exactly one month from now I will turn 31, only 9 years until the forties... let's keep going and see where this is going to take us... first stop... Kickstarter... 

Joël out.


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