Marina Paradisis, is the Founder and Creative Director of Cloud Nine. Only a year into her brand, she is innovating new design concepts never seen before. Using epoxy as a form to create various shapes and accessories, the uniqueness of Cloud Nine brings a refreshing look to a stale industry. The first epoxy boutique in Montreal, and growing. Here’s the story of innovation meets creativity.
Tell us about when you started your company?
My partner and I, Gerry Katravas, started Cloud Nine last year on February 18 so it’s just over a year and a bit. He’s more of the behind the scenes, but still a very big part of the company. I take care of the more creative direction side, marketing and all of that is mostly me. I design and create each piece but he’s always involved as well. Tasks like product testing, inventory, and restocking are mostly him. We decided that I would be more of the face behind the brand and for that reason we work so much more efficiently together.
What role do you play in the company?
More and more now I realize that you have to be the face behind the brand. I’m just proud of my work and I’m proud that that’s the face for now. We had done a video of “This Is Us” not long ago just to introduce ourselves to everybody because I was never really the type to show my face, I felt like I didn’t want to make the brand about me, I really wanted to make the brand about my work. But, I realized that making it personal really helps a lot.
“At first I didn’t want to make it about me, but then I realized that making it personal is the best way to connect with your audience. It makes it relatable. It has given me more confidence. I’m very proud of myself and it took a long time to say it.”
Tell me a bit about Cloud 9, how it’s growing, what products you are launching right now.
So, right now we have so many different items that vary from keychains to coasters, to jewellery trays, to jewellery. My background is in event planning, I graduated from Trebas Institute, in Event Planning and Management. I was 18 at the time. I’m 25 now. I started working as an event coordinator at a reception hall while I was in school. It’s been a while that I’ve been in the industry and I really wanted to bring something new to the market. When I started Cloud Nine, I really wanted to introduce it to the event world. We wanted to start with bonbonieres and corporate gifts. Really, corporate was my biggest goal for things like realtor gifts, employee gifts. With the pandemic, we had to pivot and shift our plans. We decided to create pieces that can be for every day use and perfect for gifts at the same time. We also created a lot of home decor pieces along the way such as wine glass holders, shot glass racks, lip stick holders, decorative, and so much more. If ever a client really wants a piece I don’t have, we often consult our silicone mold supplier and create the custom piece for them.
Your initial goal, you said, was to do products for the event industry. Is that something that you still want to do in the future?
Yes. I can’t wait to integrate my love for epoxy, and events together. I’m so excited. We’re working really really hard now on bonbonieres. We’re even working on things like ‘Ways to preserve bridal bouquets,’ but in a very minimal aesthetic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been done before, but not like what we’re working on. I have such a clear vision in my head and I can’t wait to introduce it to all couples getting married. I actually work for a company called Casa Deramo, so, while meeting and working with clients, I’ve brought it up too many of my brides to see if it’s something they’d be interested in and they’re all super excited for it. The fact that they’re excited just makes me more excited and happy because I know that there is a niche for it. We are missing something in wedding industry when it comes to bonbonieres, something that’s unique and different, something more personal. Whether you’re gifting your guests or even the newlyweds. Even corporate, of course, there’s plenty of personalized gifts, but there’s so much that we’re willing to offer.
We’ve started to book some meetings where we’re going to introduce and give out some of our gift box samples to see if they like them, things like custom coasters and keychains. We really want to start working more in bulk rather than per order. I love working one-on-one with clients but I feel like there’s so much more we can venture off to.
Explain the process of how you got to using epoxy to make your products?
Obviously, in the beginning, I always wanted to do something with epoxy. My partner has actually been working with epoxy for five years. Last year, I came across a video on Tiktok on someone playing with Resin in Australia, and I sent it to my partner questioning it and he was like, “Yeah, Resin is epoxy.” Game changer. I started researching in Montreal to see if people were doing anything with it. They were. There were people making keychains and stuff, but not in the way that I was looking for, not in that aesthetic.
I always have such a clear vision, so when I have that vision, I’m so dead-on with it. I just want to get it done. I always have to make sure that no one’s doing something similar, because, by all means, I’m all for inspiration, but I truly don’t like copying. I know copying is known as the “sincerest form of flattery” but for me, it’s someone’s hard work that you’re copy-pasting. I love inspiration, I look for inspiration before creating any new piece but at the beginning, I was never able to find the aesthetic I was looking for. So I decided to create it.
We started out testing products. We bought a bunch of different products. We began, it took two weeks, thank God for Gerry’s knowledge which helped too with all the little things that come with working with epoxy because honestly, it is super difficult. We made it work. At the beginning, people weren’t really understanding what they we were doing. They didn’t understand what epoxy was. They knew it only in flooring. Epoxy flooring was and is huge huge huge. It was never something where you would think of a keychain or a coaster. It wasn’t a thing. It was a bit hard trying to market.
How did you come up with which products to market first?
Once we found our niche, it was perfect. Game over. As soon as I told myself I needed to start promoting and doing things that I liked, that I know others would like, instead of thinking “Oh, what would they like?” If they’re going to buy something from you, it’s because they trust you as a creative person and they trust your work. I started doing things that I would like and then it just popped off. It was really cool.
Are you the first company that’s doing that, because I have not seen anything like it.
We started in February, and we slowly started to see it becoming a niche. It became a trend. Especially with Tiktok, it blew up. I would say in the month of May, that’s where a lot of people were kind of doing the same thing. We were the first in the sense that we created a boutique out of it, yes. For us, it was super exciting because we wanted to make sure that our product was, first of all, the best quality you could find. We really wanted something that can look like glass, like plexi, as close as possible to perfection. I am a perfectionist, so that didn’t help either. When we finally found it, we we’re beyond happy. We spoke with our supplier’s chemist when it came to all the details like making our products are non-toxic, can be used with certain things, for a coaster up until how hot can the cup be so it doesn’t deform. There’s a lot of details to it and it’s harder than it seems but I love it. I’m so at peace when I’m in the office creating all these pieces.
Where do you see your company heading now in the next few years?
I have such a clear vision of opening up a real boutique. I can’t get it out of my head. That’s really one of my biggest motivation is this boutique that’s in my head. I feel like we’re on our path of building this “Cloud Nine” empire and it’s so crazy to see how trendy resin and epoxy have become compared to just a year ago. I’m so excited to open this boutique one day. I know it’ll happen, I don’t know when, I’m hoping for sure in the next year, but that’s really our goal. Everything happens in divine timing.
Another goal is to be more accessible worldwide. We started shipping to the states a few weeks ago and we actually have our two first orders that we’re shipping to California. It was just super exciting to finally get our product elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, it started slowly but it’s all hard work. At the beginning it was honestly tough, wanting to launch new products but we also weren’t making many sales. The profit margin was really low vs the cost of all the supplies needed, which is very common for start ups, but we pushed through it. We chose to stick to our gut, continue to work with top quality equipment, and get our product out there. Getting recognized worldwide and not only in Quebec is a really important long term goal for us.
What motivated you to keep going in those moments?
It was the push from my partner, from my family, from those who were buying stuff from us, they were just like “I can’t wait to see more”. The push from everyone really got me through it . It got me to work even harder honestly, because I couldn’t wait to show what else we had in store. Just trying to explain to clients what we were doing tough as well but once they saw what we did and understood, they couldn’t get enough.
What has that taught you now going forward? What did you learn so far?
I would say that it’s to just keep going. Success to me means a lot of things but the main thing is recognized hard work. From properly educating my clients to selling our first 100 pieces, every little victory is just a closer step to the final goal. I learned that you have to market your product in a sense where you’re also explaining what it is, you’re explaining what you’re doing, and how it can be used. Being completely honest and authentic with your clients as well as in your marketing is also extremely important. I learned that knowing your worth and showing that confidence will attract more clients.
What inspires you to keep growing?
My love for creativity and design. I’ve always known I wanted to start a company with something that I would be making. I never knew what it would be, but I knew there was something that I wanted to integrate with events. I was so set on being this girl boss in the sense that I don’t need to just do one thing because events to me are my life. I love it, I was so so happy when they finally came out with a program that you can get a certificate.
When I have an idea that I’m set on, nothing can change my mind. Even if one person tells me “no,” I’m still all in. I’m a huge believer in trusting your gut and the moment that I was introduced to epoxy, I automatically fell in love with it. I fell in love with the possibilities of what can be done. You could do anything with it, from tabletops to floors to canvases to trinkets.
There’s so much that you can do and that’s why at the beginning it was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t want to go into the whole bouquet and bridal thing because we didn’t know what was going to happen with the pandemic and it was a big investment. For us, it was super important that quality was one thing that we did not give up on. It was such a wild ride with the chemist. When it comes to epoxy, you’re playing with liquid and chemicals so you need respiratory masks, regardless if it’s non-toxic, you need equipment. It’s very hands-on, it’s nothing pretty and clean, the result is pretty and clean, but I mean, you gotta get your hands dirty.
We’re ready to grow this thing. We’re ready to build this empire. We’re here to make this work.
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