Stephanie “Steppie” Kuoch sells such goods to those in need of cute at craft and vendor fairs around Southern California, as well as on Etsy.com. Her entire storefront is in service of making people happy, one toast tote bag (“I heart bread”!) and leopard-print ring at a time.
Kuoch, 24, is a resident of Chino Hills and an alumna of UC Irvine, where she majored in sociology and business management, never imagining she’d one day operate a business selling her own goods—full-time.
“Growing up, I enjoyed crafting—or doing anything that involved being creative,” Kuoch explains. “Though I knew I wanted to pursue a career that catered to my passion for creativity, I never actually imagined having my own brand or selling my own goods to the public.”
It all started with a simple painting of a bird and tree she created to match her bedspread in her college apartment. She snapped a photo when she was moving out and posted it to an online décor community. And that’s when the inquiries flooded in.
“The response was overwhelming with questions about where I bought the painting or, if I painted it myself, if I sell them anywhere,” Kuoch says. “And from there, the thought that someone liked my work enough to pay for it sparked a whole new path for me. I posted these paintings on Etsy . . . and from there, it’s evolved into what it is today.”
The literal face of Kuoch’s “Steppie” label is the vacant panda expression staring back from hoodies ($54), tile rings ($8), buttons ($2) and zippered totes ($20).
But it’s the simple-yet-painfully adorable “I Am a Ninja” wares that are a continual crowd favorite, with T-shirts ($25) and hoodies ($46) acting as her best-sellers.
So why the cute toast, pandas and ninjas? Kuoch says there’s really no reason aside from it simply being cute.
“And making people smile. Or laugh, or snicker, or even yell,” she adds, explaining that someone had once yelled, “NO, YOU’RE NOT!” to one of her friends who was wearing a “I Am a Ninja” T-shirt. “My style is lighthearted, nothing serious, but fun with a hint of wit. I want to get a reaction out of people. I want to stick in people’s minds. I want to make an impression.”
Oh, and another thing you’ll notice about Steppie’s online storefront: the good-lookin’ people modeling it all. Most notable among the models are singing YouTube stars AJ Rafael and Jenny Suk.
According to Kuoch’s bio on her Etsy page, “While my little shop is full of surprises, one thing stays true: My goal to keep killing you with cuteness. So, welcome to my world, and be ready to put your happy panda face on.”