As we start the new year, it seems like the perfect time to reflect back on 2016. It also seems like the right time to share what this first year of business was like for me, from the perspective of the owner of a small business.
If you didn't already know, I'm Pei — the girl behind The Paper + Craft Pantry, die-hard stationery fan, workshop planner and small business supporter. I get tons of emails regularly (and I do try my very best to get back to each and every one of them!) asking me how I got started, what I look for in new designers, how I choose what workshops or events to host...the list really goes on and on.
So I've compiled the top 10 most-asked questions for you!
1. Who is @pspapershoppe on Instagram?
Okay, okay...I know it may be confusing. But @pspapershoppe is my semi-personal account. The name came from a little home-based stationery line I started back in 2013, p.s. Paper Shoppe. I doodled very rudimentary and "cute" cards. I absolutely loved what I did, and owe where I am today to having the guts to quit my full time job to pursue a little stationery business. Without the experience with p.s. Paper Shoppe, I don't think I would be able to be as authentic in my small business goals with fellow small business owners. And I'd like to think that's why I've been able to build true relationships with everyone I work with.
So I've thought about changing this Instagram handle to my name, but truth be told, I still have a secret dream of getting back to doing some more doodling and design. Because as crazy as it sounds, considering I own a very creative business, I still need a creative outlet!
2. How/Why did you start The Paper + Craft Pantry?
At about the 2 year mark of my small business journey, I was at a figurative crossroad of where I wanted to take the business. My little stationery business was doing well, and the next obvious steps would be to refine my designs, perhaps launch a new collection and take them to a trade show.
Well, nothing, absolutely nothing about that excited me. I loved attending little markets and events all over, and loved all the friendships that were forged along the way. Let me just put this out there, small business owners hustle. They hustle hard from loading up their cars bright and early to get to a pop up event, to standing on their feet for hours and hours, genuinely telling their story and sharing their product to every single person who comes by, reloading their cars at the end of a long day...and want to know something? I've never seen any of them complain, and those who loaded-in early or got done loading out first, always offered to help others. I mean, do I really need to say more?
With The Paper + Craft Pantry, I honestly just wanted a space where I could share paper goods from stationery designers where their stationery would be the main "attraction". I wanted to be known as a stationery store or paper shop first and foremost, sure we do have some gifts...but my worst nightmare is hear someone refer to my business as a gift shop. I also wanted a space that allowed me to work alongside and support other business owners who may not work in the paper realm. So mesh that with how I enjoy hosting parties and events, I created a vision for a studio where workshops and events could be held.
3. What's the biggest challenge in owning a brick & mortar?
A couple of things, the first is fighting the burn out — you see, owning a small business isn't a 8am-5pm job. Sometimes it's a 6am-6pm or 12pm-12am job. Point is, there's always work to be done. Well, partner that with having actual shop hours and being the sole person running the business when we first started, I was running ragged! I knew I needed support when I felt myself dragging my feet into the studio. And here I was walking into my dream job, so I knew I should've been feeling the complete opposite. So I crunched some numbers and decided that for The Paper + Craft Pantry to grow I needed to hire a couple of creatives who shared my vision.
Second, trying not to dwell on the negative. Let me preface, I'm extremely social and 100% love having people in the shop and studio. I also feel absolutely blessed to call so many colleagues and small business owners friends. But I've also realized you can't please everyone. Plain and simple. Not everyone is going to align with the vision we have here with the shop and studio. And it's hard not to take it personally when not everyone understands the hard work that goes behind sourcing products from other independent small businesses or values the time it takes to get an event or workshop ready.
4. What's the hardest thing you've learned since opening your shop/studio?
The hardest thing I've learned, and honestly it's something I work on regularly, is saying "No." Last year, there were months were I clearly over committed myself and the business. I felt like I had to say "Yes" because I didn't want to disappoint anyone. By saying "Yes" to so many things, I ended up having to say "No" to some really great things because I had overbooked myself.
I learned that the people who reacted in a negative way when I had to decline a partnership or collaboration were people I wasn't meant to work with in the first place. And I learned that the people who were understanding, were people I would one day work with purely from the standpoint that they respected that I knew what was best for my business in that moment.
5. How do you get through the bumps in the roads? The hard days? Or when things aren't so great?
There have definitely been some hard days (even weeks), and I think just giving myself some time to feel down, feel a little defeated is an important part of this whole process. Learning to dust myself off, and audibly telling myself "You can do this" helps me refocus and get back to work, as silly as it may sounds.
Having a great support system and community is also another huge factor, there's nothing more reassuring when you share with a fellow small business owner some of your struggles and them exclaiming that they're feeling the same way or are going through the same thing!
6. How do you decide what stationers to work with?
There are seriously SO many good stationery designers out there. And as a paper lover, it's SO hard to choose! You can get the full scoop here.
7. How do you decide which workshop instructors to work with?
This one is a pretty straight forward one, I work with instructors who own businesses I admire and want to support. I work with instructors knowing that co-hosting a workshop together means revenue, exposure, and a community for their business and mine. I also work with instructors knowing that I plan on working with them repeatedly down the road!
8. How do you do it all? How do you find balance?
Hmm... I laugh a little every time someone asks me this. Because truth be told, I don't do it all. And I'm definitely not balanced — at least not 100% of the time. I've learned to delegate and ask for help. I've also learned to manage my time to keep as much separation from work and my personal life/time as possible.
9. What do you have planned for 2017?
My plan for The Paper + Craft Pantry in 2017 is simple: continue to provide our community with stationery and great workshops. I'm also planning on taking over more of the creative side of the business in regards to our blog — D.I.Y. posts in particular!
10. What's a goal for The Paper + Craft Pantry in 2017?
Launch our online shop. Roll out our 2017 Community Initiative. Hire a full-time team. Partner with one of our dream businesses. Become known as THE paper shop and workshop studio in Austin.
If you have any additional questions feel free to leave them in the comments, below. We'd love to hear from you!