2015 was a BIG year for us- Our team grew by two and it has been an incredible time of learning and growth! We had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful clients between our weddings, bridal/ baby Showers, corporate events, non-profits, and Etsy. We are beyond grateful to have worked with such amazing people who made this year so special! Over the past month+, we have had a chance to catch our breath, gather our thoughts on 2015 and talk about our dreams for 2016! Now we want to share them with you- Enjoy! What have you learned about the stationery industry in 2015?
Sophie: I have noticed a few different trends in the past few years. The "belly band" has become ever more popular as a way of keeping the invitation in a nice, organized presentation without the bulk of a pouch. I have noticed that the opulence of invitations has shifted from pouches and crystals and ribbons, to foil stamping, blind debossing, dip dying, and ornate calligraphic design details. Another thing is the rise in "branding" your wedding. Instead of the traditional monogram option, which, I'm sure, has Emily Post rolling in her grave, couples are opting for a cohesive brand to carry throughout their wedding and beyond. We have done countless embossers, wax stamps, branded tags in the past two years.
Rachel: Since beginning to work with SZP, I have learned to think a bit farther outside of the box. Invitation design allows for more dynamic and intricate designs. The print options are endless! I have really been enjoying the ability to be a bit more hands on with the designs and get crafty.
Britt: I have really come to love paper! Sounds cheesy, but knowing all the work and details that go into creating a invitation suite, business card, etc has made me come to truly love it. In addition to my love of paper, I have learned a lot about the event/stationery industry through social media. I have learned that social media is a hilariously frustrating, yet powerful tool for companies! It can be an incredible way to get your name and work out there, yet it is so difficult to predict which posts will engage people and which will not.
What are some things you have taken from 2015 clients?
S: In 2015, I had my first two experiences of WHY setting up business policies is so crucial. After giving my all to a particularly abusive client's save the dates and invitations, I decided to void the remainder of their contract and forgo designing and producing their remaining stationery pieces. I was so glad that I was protected in doing this because of the language in my contracts. I realize that contracts are there to protect both you as a business owner, but also the client in the event that it's just not a good fit. I had a similar experience with a bride who opted for letterpress this past year and only noticed the misspelling of a name after it had been printed and delivered to her. The production release we have all clients sign before printing their order protected us from any liability and we were able to work out the re-printing for her on a very tight timeline. These procedures help establish boundaries and help hold both you and your client's accountable.
R: Working with couples, I have learned that questions are key. The more you ask the more you know and the better you understand them as individuals, their relationship, and their overall style. Bringing their vision to life, getting people excited for their day, I think that's my favorite part.
B: Similarly to Rachel, I learned that #couplestyles is a real thing. Our questionnaire is essential for getting to know our couples and finding out whom they are and what is most important to them. Each detail helps us to create stationery that will set the tone for their big day. Couples are not always on the same page with what they like (opposites truly do attract it seems!) and it is important to find a compromise and ways to express them both throughout their stationery.
What have you learned about running a small business?
S: It's ok if you aren't a good fit for every single client. And in fact, taking on clients who might not be a good fit just because you want their contract, might actually cause you more heartache. Recognize what you are strong in, what you do differently than others in your career field, and keep rocking in that area. It's also not as glamorous as one might think. It's a lot of hard work, many late nights, and a constantly messy house/office. Sure you can make your own hours and take vacations, but when you do those things, you aren't drawing cash from those hard-earned "vacation days". If no one is working, no money is coming in. You also have to put in many hours in order to succeed. By no means am I saying that "I've arrived", but I believe the elusive work/life balance can be possible if you put in hard work up front. If you are to the point in your business where you are experiencing growth beyond your capacity, then it's time to consider adding other members to your team. I was long overdue in making this step because it is so hard. As I am not a mother yet, I can only speculate that this feeling is something similar to sending your child to kindergarten for the first time. You have raised this "baby" and have done a good job...but now you are involving someone else in the responsibility of making it grow. It's so scary, but crucial to growth (which can be -and probably WILL be - painful). You must also be diligent about choosing the right people for taking on the responsibility. Although it is another investment in many senses of the word (time training, money to pay them, waste, turnover, etc.), it has been a huge lifesaver for me and I was so blessed to have found the girls that I now consider teammates.
R: I love working for a small business. One of my first jobs was working for a small jewelry design company and I have had a passion for it since. Each client becomes a part of the family and the dynamic allows for you to give them the attention they deserve. I love working with clients, building the relationships, learning about them and their style and bringing to life their design.
B: I have learned a lot about the behind the scenes of small businesses that people don’t typically see. People tend to see the ability to set your own schedule, but the items they don’t see (I didn’t see) are the crazy late night hours and lack of sleep. With a small business, all the responsibility falls in the owner lap and at the end of the day you are the only one responsible. As a small business employee, it is important to understand what all goes into that and knowing the importance of being willing to wear a lot of different hats. It’s essential to help in any way possible.
What were your guilty pleasures in 2015?
S: Always, always, always it's coffee. My favorite thing to do is head to a new coffee shop to work for the day. I love the smells, sounds, and obviously I'm a sucker for a good latte. If I'm honest, I sometimes exist on only coffee in a day's work (certainly not healthy, but convenient). A good bowl of popcorn at night is a must about 2 times a week. I also treat myself to a good smelling candle every once in a while with an Anthropologie or Athleta shopping spree sprinkled in for good measure. When I get the time, my husband and I binge watch shows like Criminal Minds or Person of Interest along with a dose of hilarious reality TV like the Bachelor.
R: About halfway through 2015, once I moved to Colorado, I developed a love for donuts. The amount of donut shops here is not fair to anyone who is trying to practice self control. Not just regular donuts either, heavenly donuts topped with delicious glazes and crushed candy and cookies. Also on this list would be car concerts of Justin Bieber, full on singing and dancing, alone. I have no shame in this.
B: My Target obsession reached new heights in 2015. Living within walking distance has been super dangerous for our budget. I am already obsessed with Starbuck’s chai lattes, so the fact I can have a warm one in hand while shopping for basically everything is pretty amazing! In addition, I enjoy watching the Real Housewives of O.C. and B.H.- I mean do people seriously live that way?!? Lastly, my obsession for fantasy football got a little out of control. I was in two leagues- one family and one with college friends and it tended to keep me up way too late at night. I did win both leagues though, so some would say it was worth it :)
What are some things you are looking forward to in 2016?
S: I am looking forward to a bit more freedom having the help of 2 girls and I look forward to traveling a bit with my husband and some friends later on this year. I'm also hoping to climb a few more Colorado 14ers. :)
R: I look forward to the new projects we will get to work on and the new clients we will get to know and welcome to the SZP family. I am excited about adding more designs to the Etsy shop, expanding our shop and online presence.
B: I am looking forward to more growth and learning, as well as working with new clients and industry professionals. Also, I am really looking forward to returning to California for a visit this spring!
Cheers to 2016!!!