Alumni: Ken Tom, Entrepreneur

Catching up with alumnus: Ken Tom

Tell us what youʻve been up?
I currently own a Custom Graphic Design and Digital Print shop called The Nifty Factory. A lot of the designs that I’ve worked on were projects for small businesses who didn’t want to hire their own Graphic Designer or who didn’t know where to get professionally done graphics from. I’ve worked with various clients located here in Hawaii or another island, to the Mainland, and even international businesses from Japan. I’m always open for collaborations and working with other designers on projects.


What inspired you to start your own small business?
I think from the very beginning of high school, I knew I wanted to do “something” in the Art industry. I just wasn’t sure what in particular. I believe it was in my Sophomore year of high school that I started thinking about having my own business. In my Graphic Arts class, our teacher always had projects that were related to creating products that you would need if you owned a business. We’d create our logo, business cards, promotional products (shirts and stickers), and even a packaging box. I enjoyed designing these concepts and seeing them come to life. About a year later in my Junior year of high school, my family and friends were asking me to create some designs for them and actually paid me for my work. I immediately knew that I could turn this design hobby into a business in which all I would need is a computer and a design software. Literally, one of the cheapest businesses to start and I would be able to work remotely, work when I wanted, and charge as I pleased.


What type of business do you run?
I create designs from social media posts and logos, to shirts and store signage as well as any other various designs my clients may need. On the Digital Printing side, I offer products such as stickers, labels, banners, wall and floor graphics and now vehicle graphics.
However, my business first began in Graphic Design. I mainly created logos, shirt designs, flyers, and other promotional designs and products for small businesses. I sort of became their “in-house” Designer who could create clean, professional designs without the headache of finding reliable freelance designers or paying for a marketing agency’s services. After about 5 years of designing and going to University, I expanded my business into sports photography and began creating social media posts featuring Club and High School athletes. With my Design and Photography background I decide to expand my businesses one more time into the Digital Printing Industry.


How has earning a degree prepared you for this?
I would have to say that aside from learning the fundamentals and technical skills needed as a Creative Media artist, “earning” my degree was The most valuable part of this program. What I mean by this, is that the time and energy put into completing tasks on time, creating designs that not only look nice but have purpose, and collaborating and communicating with my peers and faculty is how I was prepared and setup for success. As creators, we are constantly tasked with creating new and innovative designs of all genres and characteristics. At times it’s hard to diversify your style so broadly but earning my degree has taught me to never forget the basics, “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid) and that Creative Media program will always be there to support you to reach your goals.


What is the most rewarding in terms of selling your products?
The most rewarding part about offering my products and services, in my opinion, is seeing the customers I work with happy with the final product or seeing my clients grow their business. I enjoy creating designs and there is such a fulfilling feeling when you are able to see something you made out in public and being appreciated.


What is the most challenging in terms of coming up with ideas?
The most challenging part of being self employed and doing things on my own is time-management. I believe if you can organize your daily tasks correctly, you’ll have a strong foundation of goals that need to be accomplished and it will more than likely keep you on track. I do this by writing everything down in a notebook. I have a notebook full of job lists, progress status’, and due dates. This lets me know how to manage my daily work flow and if I can eat lunch or not (lol).


What advice would you give to our current students looking for their passion?
As for advice to any current students trying to figure out their passion, I would say to just be yourself and be open to ideas. If you have an idea, give it a shot. But don’t be lazy and put in the work. Don’t count yourself out before even giving yourself an opportunity to succeed. If things don’t happen to turn out the way you’d hope, learn from it and move forward. We are creators


Thank you Ken for sharing this valuable knowledge with our students and community! We wish you success with your business. For those of you interested in seeing Ken’s work, please follow @TheNiftyFactory @D1Hawaii or visit his Etsy shop at