Behind the Scenes with Airi of Pozivibes
We spoke to Airi of Pozivibes to learn more about how sustainability influences her business and what being a woman of color means to her.
Hi, Airi! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.
I am the sister of Asuka Boutcher, who is the brainchild of our original family business, Kazaxe by Azuka-Bom, a dance fitness company. Of the two, I am definitely the more “behind the scenes “worker (which I truly enjoy), the one that gets satisfaction getting into the details to get the job done…and the one that requires a lot more coaxing to take big leaps in business decisions, so the blend of the two of us working together, my sister being the one with the big ideas, creativity and will to take huge leaps into the unknown, has created a really interesting business dynamic that has gotten us to where we are today. RepItUp Print Shop is the result of Asuka wanting more flexibility in creating a bigger clothing line that really showcased what we represented as a company. Ultimately, I was charged with being responsible for the printing business, and left my 9-5 a couple years into this venture to be able to keep up with the growing demand.
What inspired you to launch Pozivibes?
Our print company, RepItUp Print Shop, was initially launched as Pozivibes as an arm of our dance fitness company, Kazaxe by Azuka-Bom. After a couple years of having to order massive quantities of a single design and wishing for a bit more flexibility in our merchandising, we made the jump to venture into this new business, knowing almost nothing about digital design or printing. Our parents have always been pretty business oriented, and always the DIY kind of people, so after years of struggling to find the balance of how much to order vs the cost benefit, it only made sense for us to take the leap. As business owners, we have not really set up to create a massive venture, just fulfilling a need specific for our business, but somehow, word always spreads throughout our community and the response is always so great that we journey on. At some point, we realized that through the print company, we were able to fulfill a need in our community for individuals and small business owners that allowed them to express themselves, “rep” who they are, or what they stand for, without having to spend hundreds of dollars or buy mass quantities, and so the transition to Rep It Up emerged.
Sustainability is a huge part of your business model, something that we love. Did you always know you wanted to focus on sustainability? Where there any challenges to incorporating that into your work?
Being raised in Okinawa, being mindful of material consumption and the impact it has on our community and earth has always just been a part of life. By providing a service where we, and our clients, can print just what is needed and not require mass quantities to make the project affordable, we trend towards mindful consumption and sustainability. It wasn’t the virtue of which we built the business, but it is a part of my every day decision-making in my own life, so it naturally translated into the business.
In terms of environmental sustainability, we made the decisions to put in the large upfront investment in DTG and vinyl printers using water- based inks. While not entirely green or void of waste, it was better than the alternative plastiol ink-based printers - for both our health and the environment. Being self-learners, we continue to try to adopt greener practices in waste management as we learn about the waste impact and how we can make changes to positively impact the way we do business in terms of sustainability.
What is your favorite part about Pozivibes?
My favorite part is definitely the challenges and learning opportunities it presents on a daily basis. When we acquired the first DTG machine, I knew absolutely nothing about Photoshop or Illustrator, how to maintain stock to be able to consistently print, so there’s been a huge learning curve and the possibilities of what I can do with this is ever expanding so it’s nice to be in a business that allows me to work both in a quiet rhythm when I am in a printing flow, but also has this aspect where I can be a creative learner to encourage this side of me that was often quieted when I was in the corporate world.
What does being a WOC mean to you?
More than as a WOC, I would say my meaning stemmed more from being raised bicultural: with an American dad and an Okinawa mother, born in Japan and then having moved to the U.S. later in life. Add to that, being a military brat and experiencing living overseas with peers who were from all corners of the world, while also having family that was 100% Okinawan, being aware of and having appreciation for the diversity that surrounded me, as well as understanding how to be inclusive became second nature - something that has been so valuable in not only my own growth, but also that of our company. Okinawan culture is all based around community and celebrating everyone. We, as a family, brought that energy with us from Okinawa to the DMV. Looking back at it now, I can really see how the way I grew up manifested in our company.