Photos by Amy Gee
Meet the entrepreneur behind The Bitter Buffalo: Gillian McLaughlin. The Bitter Buffalo is one of the 18 values-driven businesses that have come together in support of Pollen’s mission to invest in human connection. Together, they challenge Pollenites to raise $20,000 by Give to the Max Day on November 15, which they will match dollar for dollar.
Match the Hive and donate today.
All About The Bitter Buffalo
The Bitter Buffalo is a woman owned, artist run screen print studio in Northeast Minneapolis, specializing in textiles and finishing touches for custom apparel and handmade goods. Founder Gillian McLaughlin has been printing for 15 years with a love for the screen printing medium and a heavy focus in type driven art.
With a degree in Retail Merchandising and background in fixture building, she brings a unique eye to every project and event from concept stages to execution and delivery. “Quality comes over quantity every single day,” she says. “Connecting on a personal level with clients to understand and really care about their vision is key to delivering work that we’re all proud of.”
“I’m making everything up as I go and I think that’s a really good thing,” says Gillian. “We’ll grow together.”
Let’s hear from Gillian
Pollen: When times are tough, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Gillian: Quite literally, my 8 year old, because I have to feed him and get him to school.
Seeing how happy and grateful they are is just the best. I’m still excited to work and learn while I’m doing it.
Pollen: When did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
Gillian: I’ve always been pretty independent and have had a tendency to buck authority but it was never really a dream of mine, it mostly came out of necessity. I’m a single mom, we went through some tough times, but I realized for me to have all the things that are important to me I had to make a full go on my own when my son was about 2 years old. I couldn’t work on someone else’s clock if I wanted to chaperone field trips and drop him at school each morning. I couldn’t make art if I was working for anyone else. I couldn’t have a beer fridge at a 9-5. I just had to make it happen.
Pollen: What responsibilities do you feel as a business leader in your community?
Gillian: It’s always been really important to me to be accessible. This is as basic as being friendly and answering my phone; even if I can’t always complete a project I’m going to find you someone else for you to reach out to.
A huge accessibility piece for me has been the fact that I don’t enforce minimums. This gives independent artists and other small businesses the opportunity to try out some products they’ve been dreaming about without having to invest in a huge invoice or inventory.
We create a working relationship that feels more personal and allows for room to learn and grow. Teaching has also been really important to me. People are fascinated by the screen printing medium and often find it unapproachable when really anyone can do it. I absolutely love having opportunities to live print or lead workshops, especially with kids. More recently I’ve found myself with less time for these endeavors but still have the need so I’ve been finalizing a kit for printing in the home with a tutorial video series. As someone who is in a world of both business and art I interact with communities that don’t always overlap so I do find interesting perspectives and experiences in both and enjoy bringing both to ‘the other side’. I will always be an advocate for artists and women; I host a lovely holiday market (passing as my year end ‘office party’) where I showcase mostly women artists and makers in Minneapolis.
Pollen: Where do you look for inspiration?
Gillian: My son, Ari, is an artist in his own way. We ‘collaborate’ and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had on projects in a long time. Reading is huge for me, libraries and bookstores can always spark something for me. Nature may be cliché but it’s totally legit. Taking a trip to a new place always gets reflected in my work, even if I don’t get to do it much. There’s good old Instagram too if I’m looking for quick, on trendy, hyper curated inspiration.
Pollen: Why do you value being part of the Pollen community?
Gillian: I value the Pollen Community for their commitment to connection. That connection piece is twofold for me. I rely on referrals for almost all of the work I do. Being a part of a community that is full of truly amazing folks that value my work has been a wonderful asset to me. I’ve been lucky enough to skip advertising and simply do good work for good people and BOOM! they introduce me to more good people that I can connect with! It’s also been an outlet and a place to check in for me. I spend almost every day solo in the studio, getting out to events reminds me that I’m human (not super human) and it’s okay to be vulnerable and find ways to make those connections on a personal, not just business level. It allows me to check in with other like-minded people and even reconnect a bit with myself.
Join Gillian: DONATE TO MATCH THE HIVE TODAY