Written by Vibhu Gairola

Empowerment has turned into a mantra of sorts at Hot Pop, which began as a 3D jewellery line, and accelerated past its e-commerce beginnings into a bonafide manufacturing vendor for local businesses, artists, and designers. 

Armed with a team of five, an extended group of contractors who collaborate on a project-by-project basis, and a small army of 3D printers and laser cutters, Hot Pop Factory excels in rapid prototyping and digital manufacturing. The company primarily serves locals with big ideas but limited means for production, and makes prototypes on commission — anywhere from a single copy to a batch of 5000.

Working at spaces like Hacklab and Site 3, Miao learned that for many startups, the key roadblock to their development process was lack of ability to manufacture in small quantities.

“At first it was all about ‘what’s new, what’s weird, what’s hype-worthy,’” says Miao. “But now we’re focused on real world applications, like bringing in business value and helping small companies design products,” she says.

Hacklab also helped Hot Pop get its own business off the ground, providing essential resources.

“The maker arena started out as a grassroots scene that we were heavily involved with, and sites like Hacklab were integral because we were able to use the equipment there before we could afford our own,” Miao says.

“Now, there are many other spaces and even brands latching onto that idea; new technologies are still growing, but the ideas behind them have become mainstream, and even the small grassroots network has changed into a large community.”

Thanks to their own extensive network and a growing notoriety for anything from laser-printed cards to sunglass frames, Hot Pop is no longer struggling, but, says Miao, the hustle never ends.

“Hustle is getting the best quality content out there and cold-calling every journalist we can find a contact for; hustle is learning how to represent ourselves in a way that matters to people,” she says.

More than anything else, Miao says quality work builds your reputation in any maker field; it also helps to be based in a city like Toronto with its communal environment and strong interest in small-batch manufacturing. For now, the company will stay loyal to its local roots, with plans for North American expansion in future.

Hot Pop Factory is a creative studio made up of architects, industrial designers, and fabrication experts. They provide 3D printing, laser cutting and laser engraving services to innovative businesses across Toronto.