“Our ideas just arise out of a synthesis of everything that we have experienced and loved over the years,” explained Skye Saylor of MarninSaylor. “Thomas and I grew up in the 90’s, so we got to experience all the good stuff during our formative years: the first waves of anime coming over to the US, the pinnacle of Cartoon Network, Tamagotchis, Furbys, Pokemon, early internet flash animations. We also both grew up in rural locales and spent a lot of time making our own fun outside, unsupervised, for hours at a time. I think the Pastry Pets are probably a combo of all that saccharine, 90’s over-the-topness but with a dash of rural grit, adventure, and mischief.”
Saylor and her husband Thomas Marnin now inject that sweet influence into MarninSaylor, a Seattle-based small shop and home of the widely recognized Donut Cat. “I had been making plush toys for a long time, but had never sold them. In the fall of 2012, I made the first Donut Cat based on a little sketch. I put a picture of it up on Facebook and a few people wanted to purchase them for holiday gifts. I was so surprised,” she recalled. “My then-boyfriend (now husband), Thomas, offered to help me make them. We had a great time working on them together and soon came up with the idea for the Mini Donut Cats, and eventually Maple Bears.” In November 2013, MarninSaylor moved from craft fairs to its current residence at the iconic Pike Place Market. “We have learned so many new production techniques and purchased tools and equipment to leverage those skills. Both of us have backgrounds in graphic design; we love thinking about all the little extra branding, packaging, and experiential touches that can really make a product something memorable,” said Saylor. “Nowadays, we are a little vertically-integrated factory: we make all of our toys, keychains, coloring books, stickers, bags, and patches right in our studio, as well as designing, printing, cutting, and assembling all of the packaging materials for them.”
And, while it started with a donut, MarninSaylor has since “baked” an entire line of plush Pastry Pets. “The most popular Pastry Pets are definitely Rainbow Sprinkle Mini Donut Cat and Mini Honey Bun. Before Rainbow came along, it was Strawberry Mini Donut Cat, and before Strawberry, it was Vanilla. It’s always interesting to see which designs and colors our customers respond to,” Saylor shared. “We are pretty big fans of our Build Your Own Sprinkle Mini Donut Cat option. Customers get to choose the body color, furrosting color, and as many different colors of sprinkle as they like. They also get to name the flavor, and each plush comes with a certificate and a sticker made to match. It’s really fun to see the names and color combos everyone comes up with.” Sounds delicious!
As a small shop led by a husband and wife team, MarninSaylor faces its own unique challenges. “People tend to see that as an advantagewhen running a business, and in our case it definitely is, but it can also make things more difficult from an economic and relationship standpoint,” she explained. “Because we both run our business and have no outside income, we are constantly at work. We both have to be firing on all cylinders to keep this thing from falling apart around us, and it can be really difficult to make space for a personal relationship within those pressures. We have certainly gotten better at the whole work/life balance thing, but it always has to be a conscious decision to break away from work at the end of the day and just be with each other as people instead of as business partners.” Saylor described themselves as “just really, really scrappy people:” “We don’t own a car and do all of our commuting by bike or transit. Neither of us comes from wealthy families and we have both known financial struggle our entire lives. We went from being poor kids to broke college students to edge-riding business owners. Everything we have built has been done with maximum effort and minimum capital investment.” The small shop’s anchor logo design is a symbol of their adventure together. “In the spring of 2012, we were both working jobs we disliked and needed a change of pace. We wanted to travel but didn’t have much money to spend, so we decided to take a walking trip. We walked from Seattle to San Francisco down highways 101 and 1,” Saylor said. “When we got back and decided to start a business it just seemed right that we use the personal brand. I’m the anchor since my last name is Saylor and my family has a longstanding naval history, and Thomas always wears a big wooly scarf.”
MarninSaylor is currently working on another kind of confectionary construction: “We are opening a permanent store at Pike Place Market! We have had our booth there for almost six years and having a permanent store has been the dream since the beginning. Our projected opening date is November 15th, which is … quite soon, and we have been oscillating between extreme excitement and deep panic ever since we were offered the space.” In the meantime, pick your own tasty treat from the MarninSaylor website and the shop’s Facebook page here.