A crazy idea between friends has turned into a million-dollar business for artist Sophie Tea, after it became a viral trend for festival goers.
London-based Sophie, 26, and her best friend Jenna Meek, the mastermind behind The Gypsy Shrine, went viral back in 2017 after they gave birth to the ‘glitter boob’ trend.
They were at a ski festival in the French Alps and had become locally famous for painting people’s faces with glitter.
“It was so popular in real life but to scale a business, it’s important to make noise online,” Sophie tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “We knew we had to do something outrageous.”
“It was Jenna’s idea for me and two other girls to take our tops off on the top freezing cold mountain and cover our boobs in glitter.
“I remember everyone at the bar was glaring at us but I don’t regret it one bit!”
The photos quickly spread around the world, and glitter boobs soon became the outfit of choice for many festival goers.
A post shared by THE GYPSY SHRINE (@thegypsyshrine) on Mar 21, 2019 at 12:50pm PDT
“The first time it went viral it was a complete shock and we both saw a huge surge in following,” Sophie says.
“We were both in the early stages of our businesses and I’m very grateful for the experience as social media growth is now becoming increasingly difficult. It gave me a great platform to forge a successful art career.”
The only thing concerning Sophie, who splits her time between London (where her studio is) and Sydney (where her boyfriend is based), was her parents’ reaction to her marketing style – but thankfully, even that was positive.
“To my delight they were completely supportive, they could see my plan to utilise the publicity to push my business to the next level.”
Having thus far found success on social media, Sophie and Jenna went one step further by staging a live event in California.
“The second time it went viral was a calculated move by Jenna,” Sophie says, “We both wanted to break into the US market and we knew that photos of glitter boobs was a viral formula that worked.”
“So in April 2017 we went to LA and did a Coachella-style glitter boob photoshoot on Venice Beach, and boom, we had our next set of photos for the next viral campaign which we could more adequately prepare for.”
✨GLITTERATI ✨ Soooo this solo show is in collaboration with @thegypsyshrine 💥💥 I was one of the early glitter girls and @jenna_su (founder) and I have been wanting to out on a show together for so long 🎆 It’s finally here! Tickets for the PARTY NIGHT, after 8 have JUST been released, there are only 100 left so be sure to grab yourself one!!! 😘😘 link in bio! Also, you will be able to get yourself a FREE glitter makeover on the night and my best friend @heidipetite will be performing at 9:30! It’s going to be a sick night on the town in LEICESTER SQUARE! everyone welcome, thank you so much for being here gna be a good life xxxxxxxx . . #glittertits #sophieteaart #independentartist
A post shared by S O P H I E T E A (@sophieteaart) on Feb 13, 2019 at 7:05am PST
While this was an easy win for Jenna, whose Instagram following exploded, it was a slower burn for Sophie who primarily sells custom artwork.
“My product offering was a lot more expensive and convincing my sudden surge of followers that I’m not just the girl who gets her boobs out, took time,” she says.
“I worked tirelessly seven days a week, 15 hours a day in a bid to convince people to buy into my artistic vision.”
Sophie, who has a degree in business, had to transform her approach to selling art based on the demographic of her social following, who are primarily between the ages of 20 and 35, and have never thought of purchasing original art before.
“I’ve had to adapt my entire strategy to cater for my audience,” she explains.
“I pride myself on ‘taking people’s art virginity’ and making it accessible to everyone.”
Still painting away in my make shift L.A. studio 👨🏼🎨👨🏼🎨 24 hours ago I was sat around a casino table playing Blackjack in Las Vegas and right now I’m COVEREDDDD in paint again 🤓 Check out my IG story to watch life today, it’s been prettyyyy hectic. I discovered a new art store…. 🖤🖤🖤 Im gonnna PUSH THROUGH until the early hours and only stop when I have the most bangin new collection, just please keep your fingers crossed for me that they dry in time for my group show tomorrow 🤞🏻 xxxxxxx . . . . AS ALWAYS; I’ll be putting my work on Instagram later, don’t worry for those of you that missed out in commissions and the abstract 50. I’m back in a sick painting mood again so if you’re quick you could grab one in the next few days – turn my notifications on! xxxxxxx . . . #laartist #sophieteaart #independentartist #artexhibition #abstractart #garage #workforsale
A post shared by S O P H I E T E A (@sophieteaart) on Mar 28, 2019 at 2:15am PDT
“One of the ways I have gained so many orders is by offering payment plans where my customers can pay for an original piece of art in monthly instalments up to a year, with no interest. It’s an affordable way to invest in original art and allows me to impress more people when they display my work proudly in their house, leading to a 50 percent repeat customer rate.”
Now, 30 percent of Sophie’s art sales come from the US, and she expects to turnover nearly AU$2 million this year.
When in Sydney last month, she posted 50 small original pieces to her Instagram page priced at $700 each, and they sold out in less than half an hour.
Funnily enough, Sophie notes that, “I learnt more about business in my first week of setting one up than I did after four years at business school coming out with a first class degree.”
“I believe learning how to comprise a comprehensive business plan is a complete waste of time. Business is about pressing go, taking risks and being completely adaptable to market conditions.
“The glitter boobs was an opportunity I seized. I garnered 20,000 over the month of it going viral but the most interesting part for me has been converting those followers into loyal, repeat customers.”
🚫SOLD🚫OMG! What a stressful day!!!! 💕 I honestly have not stopped!!! Packing down the entire show, clearing my Sydney studio, packing and wrapping all paintings, having a bump in the hire car 🚗, rushing to the airport! MADE IT! Im flying to L.A. because I have a show there 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 my first one in the U.S. which I’m super excited about!!! FIRSTLY tho, I am taking a pit stop to Vegas to have some much need bezzie catch ups ❤️❤️ . . . I am absolutely exhausted, I know I just need a good sleep and a hug butttt I’ve made the decision to give myself a week off from my 8pm 💎Abstract Challenge 💎. The reason is I just don’t want to burnout and also I never want to rush any of them. I have so much on over the next week, letting the quality suffer as a result of my hectic schedule just isn’t an option. SO yeh, thanks for understanding and I will be back with a bang, trust me xxxxxxxxxx . . . . Next stop VEGAS, but OMG I can not wait to sleep on this flight ✈️ . . . . #independentartist #artexhibition #internationalartist #sophieteaart #artforsale . . Holla for a hexagon and to avoid a waiting list xxx it’s £3,800 xx
A post shared by S O P H I E T E A (@sophieteaart) on Mar 23, 2019 at 3:00am PDT