I get a ton of questions about Abby Jean, the stationery business that I used to own, so I thought I’d give you guys a little bit of background info on my first venture into entrepreneurship. Feel free to jump in with questions!
I started Abby Jean when I was 25 years old, a few weeks after I up and quit my completely unfulfilling job at a hedge fund out in San Francisco. It was a bold move to quit such a great paying job like that and I think that my parents had minor heart attacks when I broke the news to them. But, it all turned out ok and honestly, it was the desperation of needing a little mula that fueled my motivation to start a business.
I had ZERO, repeat zero, design experience when I launched my stationery business, Abby Jean. I didn’t know how to use photoshop or illustrator, had no clue how to set up an invitation design, find a printer, run a company. I was as green as you can possibly get. And yet, I knew that I had good taste. I knew that people generally responded well to the little tokens that I created for them, to the way that I styled my home, my clothes, my gift packaging. So I took that confidence in creativity and RAN with it.
Here’s how I got the brand Abby Jean up and running:
* First and foremost, I happened upon a wedding planner, the fabulous Ms. Debi Lilly of A Perfect Event in Chicago, who was willing to market my first very sad looking wedding invitation album to her high end clients. She booked my first 3 orders for me, giving me a little boost that I needed to get started and encouraging me to really design a line that I could be proud of.
* I decided on the direction of my brand. High-End, Engraved. So, I found a printer that could do really high quality work and I solidified a relationship with them.
* I took out a loan. I needed to produce albums, samples, order stocks of paper, etc. which cost money. Thus, I needed a loan.
* I spent months making sure every element was absolutely perfect, every paper choice complimented each other, every typeface looked as if it was made for that particular invitation. I honed and I honed and I honed the product until I absolutely loved it.
* I did the National Stationery Show for the first time, starting with zero clients and getting my first 21 stores by the end of the show. Doesn’t sound like much but for me, it was thrilling.
* I did EVERYTHING myself. Seriously everything. Ordering paper, designing, bookkeeping, marketing, advertising, sales, operations, client relations, I could go on and on and on.
I actually call that time in my life my hard knocks school of business because I literally learned everything there is to know about running a small business. It was exciting, it was challenging, it was forever stressful. I made a TON of mistakes and I had some pretty great milestones. At the end of year 2, I had a little over 100 stores around the country, most of which were the best in their area. That was a little token that I kept in my pocket and always reminded myself of on those days that seemed incredibly dark.
When I decided to sell the brand, I just knew that I was at a real turning point. I had grown to a place where I either needed to take on a full staff to help me run things or I needed to sell the company to someone that could use their already in place operations to grow it and make it thrive. Fontaine Maury, the brand that bought Abby Jean, seemed like the perfect fit.
Starting, running and ultimately selling a company is something that I am SO proud of. That really motivates me to create an even better brand in Style Me Pretty. To bring everything that I learned through Abby Jean into my newest adventure and to approach it with a sense of pride that I definitely didn’t have when I was 24.
I know that there are a ton of you out there who are starting or dreaming of starting small, creative businesses and I would love to be a resource for you. If you have questions about Abby Jean, about Starting a Stationery Business, about anything really…now’s your chance! Ask away, I will try to be as candid as possible!