Published April 22, 2018
Eunice Adounkpe is the owner and founder of Tongue Tied. You can take a look at her work by visiting https://www.tonguetied8.com and you can reach out to her with any inquiries you may have at email@example.com.
Q1: Are you originally from Omaha?
Eunice’s family immigrated to Omaha about 16 years ago when she was only nine years old. She was born in Niger, which is in West Africa. Her family’s ethnic group is from Benin, which is adjacent to Niger.
Q2: What are some of your hobbies and an interesting fact about yourself?
Eunice speaks five different languages and plays a couple of sports. Her biggest hobby is, of course, art. She also loves cooking different kinds of food in her spare time.
Q3: Where did the idea for Tongue Tied come from?
Eunice had always loved to draw when she was young. In high school she went through a phase where she was drawing nearly every day. To her, drawing became a mental and emotional outlet. One day she just started drawing on her shoes for fun and some of her friends in high school thought her shoes were especially cool and told her that she should sell custom shoes. As a high schooler, the thought of making extra money sounded appealing (obviously), so Eunice created a website called “Funky Beast” where she would post pictures of her work. She quickly realized that people wanted to buy her artwork and that’s really when her business became real.
Q4: How did you come up with the name Tongue Tied?
As previously mentioned, the business started off with the name “Funky Beast” because of how unique and bizarre the artwork was. As our business owner matured, however, she realized that she wanted the name to truly reflect something more intimate and personify real-life struggles that she has faced as an immigrant. “As an immigrant, it’s a lot harder to express yourself…that inability to say exactly what you want to say and get it through to someone.”
Ms. Adounkpe went on to explain that, “Art was that medium for [her] to be able to show ‘this is what I mean, what I’m thinking, and what is going on in this brain.” The name Tongue Tied expresses how she translates art into language and is able to easily share her thoughts and feelings with others.
Q5: How did you acquire your first customer?
The very first paying customer of Tongue Tied was a woman that Eunice went to school with at Metro Community College. Eunice would often where her custom shoes whenever she would go out as a form of free advertising. One of her classmates approached her and asked Eunice where she had got them because she wanted to buy a pair for her daughter’s birthday. This made her realize that the more people she had wearing her shoes, the more advertising she would receive. Eunice then sent free pairs of shoes off to some of her friends all over the country so that they could wear them and create more awareness for Tongue Tied.
Q6: How did you know this was your passion?
“I knew that I was passionate the moment I started spending more time in the studio than I was spending time with people.” Eunice told me that whenever she is doing art she never realizes how much time is actually going by and how she always seems to just get lost in her work. The feeling that she gets when seeing other people wearing her art also verifies that art is her passion.
Q7: What was your goal when starting your business and how has that changed?
Ms. Adounkpe’s goal when she first started doing art was to gain catharsis. She quickly realized that it could also be a way for her to express herself and share her story and beliefs with the world. As she matured, Ms. Adounkpe wanted to share art as a way of protest and a way of facilitating discussion to issues that really mattered to her, including gender and racial inequality. “Art quickly became a way for me to fight back,” she told me. Recently, the young artist has also began viewing her work as a way for her to leave a legacy and leave pieces of her and what she believes in throughout the world, even long after she is gone.
Q8: Did you develop any key partners or mentors along the way?
Eunice is a strong believer that mentors are crucial to success of small businesses. She has had mentors who have helped her in areas of social and mental stability, as well as mentors in the art field and those who have helped her from a business standpoint.
Q9: Are there any artists in particular you look up to?
Eunice was quick to mention one of her mentors, Jerome Dubas. This former professor of hers is Eunice’s biggest inspiration. She mentioned that Jerome helped her realize the importance of creating art that means something to others. He taught her that art should have a backstory. In his class, Eunice also was exposed to several Japanese artists that she took particular interest in, which has inspired some of the design aspects of her pieces.
Q10: What has been some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a small business owner?
Ms. Adounkpe said that she has three main challenges she continuously has to face. The first one is that she is still a novice business owner. She emphasized that it is challenging to adapt and learn new things along the way whenever an issue comes up.
Her second biggest challenge is that she sells art online only and does not have a physical store. “People are used to walking through a store, looking at the items, feeling them, and then saying ‘yes this is something I want to buy.’”
The final struggle that Ms. Adounkpe mentioned is the content and style of her artwork. Her art tends to be in-your-face and touches on controversial topics. Living in a conservative, Midwest town has been a bit of a struggle and she is always trying to find people that her artwork can relate to.
Q11: What products does Tongue Tied offer?
Tongue Tied is a multi-medium business. The business offers different ceramics, plate ware, sculptures, 2D work, and also makes custom clothing items including shoes and shirts. Occasionally, customers will even bring in unique objects and ask for them to be customized.
Q12: What is Tongue Tied’s position in the market?
Eunice believes all of the artwork at Tongue Tied is rebellious and inspires feelings of protest. The art purposefully refrains from being politically correct and is meant to provoke thoughts of the unfairness and inequality of society.
Q13: How do you determine how to spend your money?
Eunice expressed her frustration at how expensive it is to make art. Right now, she is trying to find what type of machine suits her needs best. For example, she could invest in a very nice high-end pottery wheel that will last her awhile or could purchase a lower level one to save money in the short term. Eunice also needs to make sure that any equipment she purchases is versatile and allows her to use it for multiple different things since she creates many different types of art. One hack that she uses is that she finds other people, including her mentor, who have the tools that she needs; she often uses their machines for free.
Budgeting is very crucial to small businesses, she says. One trick she uses to save money is that she does all of the marketing and advertising herself, and does so in a way that costs virtually nothing as you will read in her answer to the next question.
Q14: What forms of advertising do you use?
Tongue Tied, like any other business, uses social media to help with advertising. However, the company primarily uses guerilla marketing tactics to advertise. Eunice will wear t-shirts and shoes that have her artwork on them when she goes out in public, and has given her friends free branded clothing to wear as well. On top of this, Eunice lays her business cards in locations that are out of the ordinary and will attract attention of others. She makes sure the design of her business card is eye-catching so that if someone sees it, they will pick it up. Eunice also told me that she goes around to art galleries around town and will strike up conversations with the owners, as well as customers.
Q15: What’s next for Tongue Tied?
“World domination.” The ultimate goal is to have her artwork be displayed in homes and become present in wardrobes all around the world.
Q16: What is Tongue Tied’s relationship with the Omaha community?
Tongue Tied’s relationship with the Omaha community is really just beginning. Eunice tries to attend a lot of the galleries and art shows around town and loves seeing what other local artists are doing. She mentioned that she brings her drawing pad with her anywhere that she goes; she will spend some time people watching and then draw certain attributes from different people and blend them together to create new concepts for her work. Eunice hopes to one day give back to Omaha since it has treated her so well.
Q17: What is your favorite part about doing business in Omaha?
Tongue Tied does business all over the country. They just recently had a project where they needed to create several hundred trophies and send them down to Texas. Ms. Adounkpe’s favorite part about selling her work in Omaha is that most of her art is going to friends, family, and people they know. This gives her a sense of peace and lets her know that her work is getting into happy homes that appreciate what the art stands for. Ms. Adounkpe also takes pride in knowing she is helping Omaha evolve and grow when it comes to diversity.
Q18: What is your current view of Omaha and where do you see it going in the future?
Eunice believes that Omaha is still a bit of a novice when it comes to diversity and inclusion and that the town is too segregated. Her belief is that if the city becomes more mixed in terms of people and culture then it will only allow for quicker growth and the creation of new ideas.
Q19: What should be Omaha’s slogan or catch phrase?
“We ain’t all about corn and beef.” Eunice, like probably every other Omahan, wants to eradicate the Midwest farmer stereotype for people who live in Omaha. She went on to say that, “Omaha brings a lot of different cultures together and is very much an urban area.”
Q20: Why should someone from New York, LA, or Chicago move to Omaha?
“We cultivate a culture of growth.” Omaha is still growing, but that is one of our benefits. Eunice Adounkpe also believes that we have a large amount of very talented people, specifically in the arts. “I feel like every person that I have met here in this town has something to bring to the table, and because they all have something to bring to the table, we are all gaining from that.”