This millennial quit her job to create an NFT collection and build a lifestyle brand
SINGAPORE — While some may dismiss Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) as a fad, serious money can be made for those who sell in this trendy cryptocurrency space.
Ask Chanel Lee, who sold out her collection of 7,600 bread cartoons NFTs called Tasty Toastys at 0.02 Eth or S$87 each in February. Her next goal is to build a global lifestyle brand based on these cartoons over the next decade.
"I already wanted to make it a brand and licensing business. The design was intentionally kept simple — I want it to be the next 'Hello Kitty'," Lee said in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore.
After over four years in the corporate world, including completing a two-year scholarship bond, Lee decided to step out of her comfort zone and focus on creating her NFT collection based on an idea she had to create household goods under a brand Toastys.
Her interest in NFT started back in June 2021 while preparing for an interview at a local metaverse start-up. Although Lee did not join the company, she started reading up and understanding about the metaverse. She got a job in automation technology but left after a month to start working her Toastys idea by selling NFTs.
“I’m the kind of person that if I do something, I will throw myself into it. If I work in the day but also work on the NFT project at night, I wouldn't be a hundred percent in either place, so I thought, let me just do this crazy thing and quit my job because timing matters in the NFT world,” Lee said.
Lee threw herself into the project and started buying NFTs and doodling Toastys. Named after the toasty feeling of comfort and warmth, each Tasty Toastys NFT is a randomly generated bread cartoon which features a unique combination of bread flavour, spread, garnish and facial expression.
Lee, 30, created all the cartoon elements —enough to make over three million combinations — in under two months before the minting process.
“I’m not a formal artist by training but it’s okay because with NFTs, I feel it’s less about the art and more about the joy it brings and how meme-able it can be,” Lee said.
In November 2021, she first listed Tasty Toastys on the market. In her own words, it was a "failure" because the NFTs were “priced expensively at 0.058 Eth during a bear market”. Lee also felt that she had not built up a large enough international network, so Tasty Toastys failed to gain traction then.
She reworked the collection and relaunched on 31 January. The simple and cute designs contributed to the collection’s virality and were sold out within a week.
As a brand of the Internet age, Tasty Toastys embraces online lingo, such as adopting the tagline “let’s get this bread”, which means to make money. But behind the references to meme culture is a mission to grow a loyal community, backed by strong business fundamentals.
Every week, Lee holds a gathering on Twitter Spaces, where Tasty Toastys NFT holders can engage with each other in audio conversations. There is an exclusive Discord server for members who prefer to type, and since March, Tasty Toastys began hosting events in the metaverse. At the Decentraland party, partygoers can wear a Tasty Toastys backpack and dance to a live DJ set, while their NFTs hover over their shoulders.
“We hope to create more of these gifts for our community so that in every metaverse that they go to, they can show off their Toastys-related digital merchandise”, Lee said. “Our community can then go into each metaverse as a bunch, making the community ‘sticky’ down the line.”
Looking ahead, Lee hopes to expand the Tasty Toastys brand to include collaborations with other NFT artists and metaverses. She is also leveraging her NFT experience by serving as an advisor at Metapoly, which describes itself as "the first decentralised metaverse land tycoon that helps users drive investment in the Metaverse".
Lee admits that successes in the relatively unknown metaverse space can look deceptively easy, but emphasises that NFTs are not a get-rich-quick scheme.
“What makes the project special is not going to be the NFTs. It’s going to be the business model,” Lee said. “Think through it as you would a regular business.”
Why is your NFT collection called ‘Tasty Toastys’?
‘Toastys’ is misspelled, because the origin is the feeling of what toasty is, which is warm and cosy rather than the actual toast itself. I purposely kept it because that is the original brand feeling.
This was a feeling that I was going after rather than anything tangible, but I can’t have a brand without some mascot or something that people understand visually. With NFTs, it’s very much about meme culture, so we decided to make a pun on the word ‘toasty’ into slices of toast just so it's more visual. It’s also similar to other NFT projects with funny names or alliterations.
How is Tasty Toastys different from other NFTs, and why should people collect them?
We have decided that we will give full commercialisation rights to the owners of the NFT. For example, if you own a Tasty Toasty which has a smiling face, kaya spread and grape juice, you are allowed to do whatever they want with it – build your own brand or business as you see fit. I'm a huge champion of this because if we hold the IP (Intellectual Property) too tightly, it doesn't give the community the freedom to run with their imagination and it really challenges what we think IP is about.
A corporate company releasing an NFT would not allow for commercialisation. But because Tasty Toastys is natively born in the NFT era, it’s worth experimenting with this opening of the IP, and this is what set us apart from other brands.
How did Tasty Toastys become a hit with NFT collectors? Was there a spark that led to the sold-out status of the collection?
I think pricing the NFTs lower than others helped because it was a combination of them having a low price plus how open I was to talking about them in the public space that gave people confidence in Tasty Toastys. Because I was active and opening public discussions about NFTs, people saw that there was little bit less of a risk to try out the space with my project.
Market timing is also very important – if you didn't get picked up in a bullish market, it might not fly.
What was the reaction from your friends and family when you decided to pursue NFT creation full-time?
I have a close circle of long-time friends. They knew that I was obsessing over NFTs non-stop, so when I told them I was doing this full-time, they weren’t surprised. They were all quite supportive, and they knew that I’m someone who cannot sit still. I think they just felt like ‘this was just another crazy thing that Chanel’s going to do’.
My brother helped me through this whole process of creating NFTs. He has his full-time job so for him, this is a hobby where he helps me during his free time. He talks strategy and helps me study the tech because he is more tech-trained than I am.
What advice do you have for aspiring NFT creators?
The first thing that people need to understand is that NFTs are not the be-all and end-all of anything that you are trying to work on. I see them as a vehicle for value so think through as you would a regular business. It’s more than just art – you must think about the value you want to deliver for your community, and if NFTs make sense for that.
But for pure artist work, selling would be the same as before NFTs were around – I think people buy into the story of the artist a little bit more than the art. Twitter for NFTs is where the community is so start building up a community of your fans on Twitter because it makes your life as an artist a lot easier. Marketing and community involvement makes a big difference in name recognition.
What is the future of women in NFT and the metaverse?
It's human nature to long for quality connections, regardless of our individual backgrounds. We’re already seeing diversity thrive more on Web3 because a larger proportion of people are now actively building to be more inclusive, so the future's looking bright, in my opinion.
I’ve found that there is a joy & comfort in presenting yourself as whoever you want to be in the metaverse, woman or man. I’ve mostly had great experiences and haven’t let my gender be self-limiting.
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