Lomography Partners: Omoi of Philadelphia, USA

Come one, come all. Lomography has partners all over the world to help serve your analogue needs. If you're from the USA then it's your lucky day! We're featuring our Philadelphia-based partner Liz Sieber of Omoi in today's installment of Lomography Partners.

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting some of the incredible female-led businesses that work with us, and we’re thrilled to feature Liz and Omoi as part of this series!

© Liz Sieber of Omoi

Hello, can you introduce yourself to the Lomography community?

My name is Liz Sieber, I’m the founder and proprietor of Omoi Zakka Shop, a life goods and stationery select shop. Omoi is a bright and busy shop in Philadelphia’s historic Old City neighborhood, and a beautiful online shop with extensive content written and photographed fully in-house.

Omoi is a Japanese-style “life store” on a micro level. You’ll see handy bags and accessories for your daily commute, colorful small-batch artist items, staff-selected books, and imported periodicals with an expansive, detailed and, dare I say gratuitous stationery section, which has earned us somewhat of a cult status among collectors.

My current day-to-day is largely centered around planning the creative direction and strategy for the growing company, managing the daily accounting, and connecting with brands and artists that we’d like to present in the shop.

What is the story behind your shop? How did it all start?

The original store was born out of my love for the retail scene in Japan. I was lucky enough to spend semesters in the 90s and early 2000s when I studied in Osaka and hung out in Shinsaibashi on weekends. I was 16 the first time I visited, and I had never been to a city so densely packed, even the alleys and underground walkways were lined with all types of shops. It really awakened something in me to see how creating a retail space and curating a unique combination of sights, sounds, and smells could be a way to express my creativity and also satisfy my personal preference for working in a business-related field.

Omoi is turning sixteen this year! It’s incredible to see how the shop has evolved into what it is today, with the help of longtime Web Director, Monk and Accounts Director, April, as well as all the shop staff that have brought personality and contributed to the store throughout the years.

© Liz Sieber of Omoi

Why did you choose to work with Lomography?

I have a lifelong love of collecting and archiving all types of objects; always curious to know what any given object might look like or be packaged like in another part of the world. Having a camera along to capture a moment is a natural extension, and there’s nothing like the excitement of getting your pics back and finding out if you got that shot you had been hoping for.

We started working with Lomography back around 2009 at the time that several models like the Fisheye, Diana F+, and Lomo LC-A+ got reintroduced to the market, a few even wrapped with a mini photography book and lengthy manual detailing how exactly to create some of the effects that Lomography cameras are known to produce. In a time before having information readily available on the internet, I thought these were a great value—like a camera and photography class in one, put together in a way that didn’t come off as intimidating or pretentious.

Do you have a favorite Lomography product?

While I have given several of the toy cameras out as gifts over the years, my personal one and only is the LC-A+ which came packaged in a screen-printed wooden crate with several supplementary books, cable release, and even a little Lomo printed wax paper wrapper. This was maybe the most expensive item I sold at the time, and I remember being really proud when the first one sold. When we got down to the last one and I realized that the limited edition set wouldn’t be restocking, I grabbed it as a present to myself.

© Liz Sieber of Omoi

Do you think there are any specific advantages or disadvantages to being a woman business owner?

This type of question is tricky for me because I so infrequently think of what I do within the context of whether it’s characteristic of a female business owner. I just want to run my business to be caring, inclusive, and expect a high standard of work from everyone. We’ve definitely witnessed condescension from vendors and tech but I’m not interested in highlighting that. I’m immensely proud that the workplace at Omoi and the company/brand itself is resilient, creative, and intuitive and that we are able to operate successfully without traditional hierarchy or old-fashioned protocol.

Do you have a favorite memory of running your business over the years?

After 15 years, we were literally bursting out of our Pine Street space and it became time to move. It was really touching to have neighbors and longtime customers send messages and stop by for one last shopping spree in the original shop (only to see them again the following month across town). People wrote us some really heartfelt stories about like how they came to the shop on a first date and how they discovered a love of cameras and filmmaking after buying their way through Omoi’s toy camera collection.

Who inspires you?

I get inspired the most by people who are musical, people who are good storytellers, and people who are fashion risk-takers.

© Liz Sieber of Omoi

What excites and energizes you most about your work?

The store itself is continuously pushing me to think from different perspectives and experience levels and taste levels. I love devising my own theories as to what I think customers will be looking for next season, and I love finding out what’s covetable among my staff as well.

Do you have any plans or future projects you are working on?

The consolidation of Omoi into the larger single store wound up working out well for us and we’re able to start making some updates around the shop. We’ll be adding our first official office. If you can believe it our entire store has operated nearly entirely off the back of the shop in a nook with no door for the full sixteen years, same in both shops. I’m really optimistic that opening this space will give us room to grow the team and the types of projects we can work on.

© Liz Sieber of Omoi

What advice would you give to anyone (especially other women) who wants to start their own creative business as you have done?

Again, I’m almost embarrassed at how stuck I am on answering this question since I generally refrain from qualifying the work I do with “as a woman”. I get that this question is being asked because it’s Women’s History Month. Still, given that I primarily don’t promote the work that I do as being about women or distinctly for women, I feel like I’m not the right person necessarily to say something meaningful on this topic. I also want to mention that Omoi works hard to be an open and inclusive retail space and workplace, accepting of all genders and recognizing that Women’s History Month, and the celebrations and interviews that happen during this month, must include trans women.

I’d recommend to anyone looking to open a business, whether they happen to be a woman or not, to really truly be comfortable with working with yourself and working on yourself. Not necessarily in pursuit of perfection or acceptance in the eyes of others, but at the end of the day you’re going to have to figure out how to have to be in business with yourself. It’s tough because you know all your own strengths and weaknesses and how to tear yourself down. It’s critical to learn how to self-motivate and be there for yourself and build back up.

Vital Information

Official Name: Omoi
Address: 41 S 3rd street, Philadelphia, pa, 19106 (on 3rd Street between Chestnut and Market Streets)
Services offered: retail store for film, camera gear, stationery, apparel, lifestyle, and artisanal goods

Want to see your favorite store featured in our magazine? Please send us an email at wholesaleinquiries@lomography.com and we will check them out!

written by cheeo on 2023-03-27 #people #places #partners #analogue #usa #philadelphia #film-photography #stockists #lomography-partners #film-store #lomowomen23 #omoi #omoi-zakka

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