Sometimes, when everything in the world seems dark, inspiration comes through a pop of color. That’s the case for Unicorn Eclipse, a whimsical Hmong- and sister-owned stationery brand that moved from its native Eau Claire to a new home base in Woodbury this spring.
“Our art is inspired by bright pastel colors, magical aesthetics, and finding ways to make everyday objects more dreamy and magical,” says co-owner Hleeda Lor.
The biz blossomed from a love of stationery and bullet journaling, sprinkled with a hint of burnout, starting in 2016. “We were stressed with art school and frustrated with all of the creative limitations in our classes at the time,” says sister and co-owner Chia Lor, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout and later worked as an organizer and activist. “Wanting a creative outlet, we decided to teach ourselves to make stickers with our illustrations.”
While COVID-19-induced job layoffs caused panic, frustration, and fear for many, Chia saw it as an opportunity to lean into her passions. Inspired by “the power of TikTok,” she decided to give Unicorn Eclipse a shot.
The name “Unicorn Eclipse” derives from a love of unicorns. Hleeda’s name means “moon” in Hmong, so they decided to go with “eclipse” to give their business’s name the right vibe. “Together, Unicorn Eclipse just sounded like the dreamy vibe we were going for,” Chia says.
Also a Stout grad, Hleeda worked as a digital media content specialist for Menards, then a graphic designer Volume One magazine in Eau Claire, while helping out at the Unicorn Eclipse studio space as often as possible. Around a year ago, business skyrocketed, allowing Hleeda to quit her day job and run the biz full time with her sister.
“Growing up, we’ve always been a great duo and have always worked well together,” Hleeda says. “Now that we own a small business together, it doesn’t feel any different from when we’re hanging out.”
“We both have strengths and weaknesses, and we balance each other out pretty well,” Chia adds. “I tend to be more comfortable with social media and marketing, so I handle more of that. Hleeda is very organized and enjoys handling a lot of the planning for launches. We do have our disagreements here and there but always listen to each other and find a way to compromise.”
Part of the business’s appeal is, of course, its adorable product lineup: colorful, dreamy, vibrant stickers, notepads, sticky notes, bookmarks, washi tape, pencil cases, coasters, magnets, and other doodads that shine compared to other run-of-the-mill stationery. Their vibrant presence on social media has also done wonders for their brand. Since investing more into their business in 2020, their social following has grown to more than 136,000 followers on Instagram, 102,600 followers on TikTok, 1,000 followers on Facebook, and 2,700 subscribers on YouTube. This spring, Unicorn Eclipse was highlighted by Buzzfeed in a roundup of “50 Asian-Owned Businesses That Might Turn Into Your Favorite Brands.”
As Zillennials (or a combination of Gen Z and millennial), Hleeda and Chia understand and maximize the power of social media to share their art and connect with consumers.
“When I first started on social media, I had no idea what I was doing but I knew that I wanted to cultivate a community and to share my art while staying true to myself,” Chia says. “I try to focus on making content I genuinely want to create and learn what my followers want to see, and there has to be a balance between those two. I like that on social media, I can tell a story about our business and invite people to discover the art and products that we make. It can be easy to get wrapped up in vanity metrics and numbers, but I try not to let that rule my life.”
Now settling into their Twin Cities digs, they’re grateful to be closer to family—most of whom have already relocated to Minnesota or close to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. “We really value our relationships with friends and family,” Hleeda says, “and being closer to them [helps] strengthen those bonds.”
Some of their favorite products include their Rainy Day collection, including sticky notes, stickers, planner pads, notebooks, and bookmarks, as well as with their computer ID sticky note collection, comprising six different designs in the series.
They plan to create bigger notebooks, mouse pads, pens, and enamel pins in the future, but, for now, they’re making sure not to let the new products eclipse the products that their consumers know and love.
Check out more about Unicorn Eclipse at unicorneclipse.com or their Instagram at @unicorn.eclipse and TikTok at @unicorn.eclipse.