The Business of Blogging – Backstage

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.

Abby-Jean

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!

LINE

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417 Responses to “Starting a Stationery Business”

  1. Ivana says:

    Abby,
    How did you approach as to being able to find a printer and solidify a relationship with them? Also, when you produce albums and samples for the first time, what was the approximate quantity that you order?

    I’m currently starting out a stationery business and really stuck on the “business” area. I LOVE the design part but need much help on the technical and the business part :)

    Thanks so much for sharing! This is, so, so enlightening for me!

  2. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Ivana! I did a lot of research. This is a good list that Crane puts out that has letterpress/engravers grouped by area.

    http://www.crane.com/cranelettra/printers.html

    After I found a few potential printers, I chatted with each one and had them send me quotes based on 1 job. I settled on a printer and flew out to meet with them for a full day meeting where we went over each of the designs, one by one by one. They were willing to stock the paper/ink for me and assemble my albums. They were also willing to drop ship to the customer directly. By “relationship” I really mean that they were well versed in assisting an invitation line in all facets so we were able to get started relatively quickly.

    I actually made a TON of mistakes with this part of things and am happy to share those if you are interested.

  3. Ivana says:

    Yes, yes, yes! I would love to know the “mistakes” part if you don’t mind! :) Thank you so much Abby. This is very helpful!

  4. Emily says:

    Hi there
    Love this new angle to SMP – brilliant!
    Just wondered what you think is better outsourced than done in house. In my business I’m so ready (so!) to outsource some of the finance and other admin parts but not sure if it’s worth paying for….
    I like the idea that it would allow me time/energy to focus on the business. I’m good at what I do but the back office stuff is killing me! Outsourcing is very attractive but we’re early stage so every penny spent really counts…..
    Would be interested in your thoughts….Thanks Abby….

  5. Tiffany says:

    Hi Abby,

    I am truly inspired by you! Congratulations on all your success and love this new backstage blog! I am trying to start my own line of invitation designs. How was your experience at the National Stationery Show? How did you market your invitations at the show? When you refer to albums…are these the albums that you provide to the stores that sell your invitations?

    Thank you!

  6. Abby Larson says:

    Ok! Here are a few off the top of my head…

    1. I didn’t spend ENOUGH time researching printers. The printers that I chose were very busy with another line so I was always second fiddle to them. I would have rather gone with a smaller, less $$ printer that could devote a lot of time to helping me find ways to cut costs, grow the line, etc.

    2. I spent too much money upfront stocking papers, getting dies made, stocking inks, making albums. I would have instead started with a printer that would allow me to buy the materials from them as the order was being printed rather than having to stock everything up front.

    3. I would have taken on more of the burden myself. I would have assembled by own albums (printed the pages myself, stuck the invitation samples on each page, etc.).

    4. I would have had less expensive albums made. I went REALLY fancy with these and in the end, it was the work within the album that mattered much more.

    5. I would have found every little way possible to cut costs without skimping on the experience. This is the ONLY way that you will make a profit.

  7. Abby Larson says:

    Hey Tiffany! The National Stationery USED to be a must. It was the one big opportunity to sell to the very bust buyers and to introduce your line to potential press. Now, I think that it’s so expensive, it may not be worth it. There are lots of other ways to get in front of these people. A GREAT alternative would be to host a champagne viewing at an area hotel on the same day and invite only the people that you want to come.

    If you do decide to do the show, you need to have some form of album created. They can be prototypes but need to be as close to the real deal as possible.

    As for marketing at the show, I would send a few teasers in the mail to the stores that you want to target beforehand.

  8. Abby Larson says:

    Hey Emily! Outsourcing…it’s a beast. Whatever you can do in house, at least in the beginning, is worth it. The one exception might be your bookkeeping. A good bookkeeper will help you understand where/when/how you can spend your money.

    I outsourced the printing because I had to, as it was engraved. Keeping things in house will definitely slow you down but that might be a blessing in the early stages. Keeping orders a little bit low while you work out the kinks is a really good thing.

  9. Jessica says:

    Abby, I know this question is very out there.
    But how much money does “style me pretty” make?

  10. Abby Larson says:

    Oooooo. Great question, Jessica! I am not sure that I really should disclose that but I will tell you this. Tait and I take home a VERY modest salary so that we can pay our mortgage, bills, etc. We pay our employees, standard business expenses and little things that pop up on a monthly basis, then we put EVERY. LAST. DOLLAR we have into growing the site. This is a start-up in it’s truest form and we are always looking for ways to bring in more money so that we can do all of the things we want to with this site.

    I really believe that unless you are willing to put all of your financial resources on the line, you probably shouldn’t start a business. That doesn’t mean that you have to put them on all the line, you just have to be willing to if the need arises. That’s passion, that is a real belief in what you are doing.

  11. Jessica says:

    So it’s expensive to run a blog?

  12. Lili says:

    Hi Abby,

    Thank you so much for this post. We will be launching our letterpress line at NSS 2010, but we are first times. not to letterpress but to the NSS. Any advice for first times on getting traffic to the booth, the what to wears, and what to brings?

    Thank you in advance!!!

  13. Abby Larson says:

    Jessica…no, not at all. A blog has a really low barrier to entry, as you only need a computer and a blogging platform like blogger or typepad. But, we are attempting to build SMP out from a blog to a more comprehensive site based on inspiration. So the format will always be a steady stream of content (like a blog), but we’ll also have tons of tools and such to help brides build their dream wedding. Does that make sense at all?

  14. Abby Larson says:

    Lili…SO much advice on NSS. First and foremost, make your booth super cute but try really hard NOT to overspend. You don’t need to do the cocktail parties in your booth, you don’t need food or wine, you just need a really simple but adorable booth design and a great product. Also, think about sourcing out display products then having IKEA ship directly to the show for you. Little tables and frames will go a long way and they are super cheap. You can even chuck them or recycle them when you are done.

    If you have specific questions, just let me know!

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Abby,
    I’m loving the Backstage that you have started. Now I’m just hoping you will do one that is directed towards babies! Please, oh pretty please????

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I have always loved stationery and would like to have my own stationery shop.

    Bravo to you for quitting your job, and taking a chance at something you know you’d be good at. I have had people tell me that I need to be an event planner because I’m good at the details….it’s just taking that first step ya know? It’s scary! And, as much as I enjoy entertaining and planning showers, parties, etc. I don’t know if I want to do it for others.

    Hats off to you on your success!

  16. Abby Larson says:

    Thanks, Elizabeth! The first step is THE WORST. It’s so scary. It helped that both my husband and I have fathers that are entrepreneurs and they both encouraged us to build our dreams. The support is really a must.

  17. Brooke says:

    How many months did it take to launch Abby Jean?

    Do you think you could have worked a full time job while simulantously launching Abby Jean? As someone starting a small business, I struggle with finding time to work a full time job while devoting enough time to lauch my company.

  18. Emily says:

    I think the SMP brand is so transferrable to other areas – babies, as Elizabeth requested – but also home decor and other areas where style can be applied. The girl who wants a style me pretty wedding also wants a style me pretty life!

    It’s a super brand with so much potential. Well done Abby (and Tait and team!)

  19. Elizabeth says:

    I thought of another question. Where did the name Abby Jean come from?

  20. Abby Larson says:

    Great question Brooke…it took about 6 months from the time I started designing and researching to the time production began. I really started business in April and by the following May, I was doing the stationery show. There were a few months at the beginning where I was still trying to work out all of the kinks. The albums were done 2 days before I left for the show.

    I completely believe in side projects. My best advice is always to start doing. By keeping it on the side you can stay small and troubleshoot, building up a reputation and a client list before you actually go full time.

    With that said, it’s hard to do anything really well when your time is so split up. You have to lower your expectations as to what you can get done and how long things will actually take.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Emily, I totally agree with your comment about wanting a style me pretty life:) I’ve used a lot of the ideas on SMP for inspiration for parties and home decor

  22. Abby Larson says:

    Emily…we really want to eventually move into other areas, we are just having a hard time finding the time to do that! Thanks for the vote of confidence though…it goes a long way and gets the creative juices flowing!

    And Elizabeth…Abby is me, Jean is my mom’s middle name.

  23. shanna says:

    Hi Abby,

    I’ve been a long time follower of your blog, and as someone who is also starting out a new venture {event planning & styling with my fabulous new sister in law}, your words of wisdom and willingness to share your experiences are truly invaluable. seeing what you have created … it’s inspiring!

    I do have a question for you: what is the best way to begin marketing yourself? We are working on a website and getting a blog started, but I’m not sure how much of the “if you build it they will come” I can rely on. We have the motivation and are willing to go balls to the wall … could just use a bit of direction.

    thanks!

  24. Marjorie says:

    ABBY!
    You are a dream come true. I decided last year that designing stationary (wedding announcements specifically) is what I wanted to do. But I have no idea where to start! I’ve started design classes, and here you say you had no training at all! Wow. With everything you are saying, I now have a ground zero to start. Thank you!

    You said that when you started you didn’t have photoshop OR illustrator. Which would you say is more essential to the business? Also, would you suggest starting a website alongside the album? Or should one be finished first?

    I want to know everything!

    M

  25. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Shanna! Marketing is so much different even now than when I started. I think that the most important marketing tool is the internet. I actually had a full page ad in one of the most elite wedding magazines and it didn’t do a lot for my business. Marketing through the blogs, through twitter and facebook is key in my opinion. You should “work it” as much as you possibly can!

    Here are some ideas…send in DIY ideas and such to blogs, photograph work that you’ve done and send out to sites, offer to be a guest editor on a blog. Using twitter and facebook, start marketing yourself as an authority on a particular subject.

    Some thoughts to get the wheels turning!

  26. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Marjorie! As for Illustrator vs. Photoshop…illustrator is a drawing program, photoshop is an editing program. The best for invitation design, if you are starting with no knowledge, is probably InDesign.

    As for websites… I do think that in this day and age it’s HUGELY important to have a completed website and blog to accompany any business that you run. It’s a lot of work, but that is just the climate that we are in now.

    What you do with the website/blog is totally up to you. So if you are selling wholesale to stores only, the site can be a portfolio site. If you want to sell directly to brides/clients it’s more and more important to make your site and blog really great.

  27. shanna says:

    Thanks Abby! This is helpful. I guess I should sign up for Twitter … eek!

    One quick follow-up, actually to your comments to Marjorie, below me. InDesign: I need to learn this as well, as we are offering custom paper products (e.g., invitations, placecards, signs, etc.) as part of our styling. How did you learn how to use InDesign? Class or did you teach yourself? I bought a brand new Mac and brand new InDesign CS4 and I just stare at them blankly. Help!

  28. Abby Larson says:

    I totally taught myself. And I am still really clunky on it. There is SO much that you can do with these programs and anyone that has logged the hours at school can tell you that. If you can take a class, you’ll feel much more comfortable.

    I also want to note that I REALLY have high esteem for authentic graphic designers. So I don’t really suggest starting a stationery business with no background in design. It just happened to work for me but might not be the norm.

  29. shanna says:

    Thanks so much for your candor. I’ve done a ton of design work for friends for their weddings in the past (invitations and all that) and have gotten raves, so that part of your story resonated with me.

  30. Jessica says:

    Yes, it makes perfect sense.

    I googled your name once and read an interview about you.
    Are you really going to launch a “home decor” blog?

  31. Abby Larson says:

    Jessica…I thought that I was, but time escaped me. I actually brought on my husband to work with me right around that time and we decided to really make the current site great, to put all of our resources into what we’ve already created. But, I still would love to one day!

  32. Jessica says:

    One more thing I forgot to add.

    On what exactly do you put a lot of money into when it comes to “style me pretty”…

    I’m just asking because I’m planning on blogging about health and nutrition. So I need the best advice.

    Your the best of the best!

  33. Abby Larson says:

    Sure! We built the Style Circle, the Inspiration Board Builder, the technology for the Look Book, the galleries, etc. It’s 99.9% technology and development costs.

  34. Jessica says:

    Your lucky your husband knows how to work a computer!

    How much time is put into building your blog?

  35. Abby Larson says:

    Oh my gosh…it’s more than a full time job for both of us. We probably work about 12 hours a day each. He has his masters in Computer Science from Stanford so he is all genius. We put everything we have into this blog to be honest!

  36. Jessica says:

    He’s a keeper! :)

    Thanks for all your help Abby!
    If I have more questions… I hope you’ll be able to answer:)

  37. Elle Jay says:

    Abby, thank you so much for sharing with us. Over the past month or so I’ve been exploring how to begin my own custom wedding invitation business. I have zero experience with this type of work but know in my heart that I would be great at it. Hearing your story is helping me to feel like this could really happen. I know you went the stationary route but I’m curious to know if you think sticking with custom jobs only would be profitable.

  38. Abby Larson says:

    Yes, probably more so than going to wholesale route. You can really develop relationships with people if you go exclusively custom. Plus you can market yourself to area restaurants, hotels, spas to supplement.

  39. Sarah says:

    Hi Abby,
    Thank you for being so gracious and generous by sharing all these great details about your life and business! Your story is so inspiring, it makes me want to quit my job right now and start designing. I would love to start a stationery business, but really don’t know what to do to start!
    Can i ask what the startup costs were when you first started? Also, I would love to know what you think are the major “essentials” to start?
    Thank you again!
    -Sarah
    ps. I love Style Me Pretty, keep up the fabulous work!

  40. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Sarah! The way that I did it was WAY too expensive. You shouldn’t do it that way…let’s just say it was more than $25k. Not good. But, I would say that $5-10k in start-up costs should be expected depending on what approach you take.

    If you are outsourcing, the samples alone are really expensive.

    An alternative would be to do some custom jobs until you have enough to build a ready-made collection based on those designs.

  41. Elaine says:

    Hi Abby! This post was extremely encouraging! My situation is similar to yours when you first started out.
    Questions:
    I’m rusty on photoshop, did you self-learn photoshop or do you suggest Indesign?

    How much loan should I be aiming to acquire to get started?

    How did you realize stationary was the route to go? I’m interested in stationary but also all things related to design so its hard right now to hone in on a focus.

    Thank you!!!

  42. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Elaine! I would learn InDesign if you are starting from scratch. You can supplement with Photoshop and Illustrator if you need to and they are similar enough programs to where knowing one really well will help with all three.

    It TOTALLY depends on how you want your business to run. I really can’t even throw out a number as business are so vastly different depending on how you approach it and what your goal is.

    I worked in a stationery store for a little over a year and fell in love with paper. It was a real passion and one that I seemed good at when I started exploring it. With that said, creativity does translate…most creative people are good at all sorts of different endeavors. Just find out which one excites you the most!

  43. Erin says:

    Abby,

    I’m so impressed with the amount of effort you have put into answering all these questions in such detail. Thank you so much for this valuable information :)

    My question is web based. I’m working on my calligraphy business and I have a decent knowledge of html and the like, but I’m not sure where to start. It seems as if something like blogger would be the place to start an online presence because it’s free and easy to set up, but what did you do first? Website, free blogging service, etsy page, etc. and what would you recommend as the first place to start an online presence ?

  44. Melissa says:

    Hi Abby,
    I just wanted to start off by saying that SMP was literally the 1st blog I found after I got engaged and I’ve been hooked from day 1 and I love this new Backstage aspect.That being said…

    I’m a designer and my passion lies in stationery so I’m working on creating my own design boutique business. I want to stay custom and do custom orders, but also offer set designs that clients can personalize the wording/pictures on for clients that aren’t looking to pay for a custom design.

    One of my biggest problems is deciding how to price things. I look on etsy and see people pricing things so low that I don’t know how they make money for their time. What would you suggestions be to pricing custom jobs and personalizing set designs for clients to purchase…

    Also, what do you think about using an online printing service for smaller less custom jobs??

    Thank you SOOO much for taking ALL of this time to talk to your readers…I love that you’re so candid and open about your life and your work. THANKS!!

  45. Abby Larson says:

    I would set up a blog that serves as my website, through wordpress (if you know a bit of html and can customize the templates). Then, if you want to sell direct, set up your etsy shop making sure to link to it from your blog. Then start contacting bloggers and such to get the word out there!

  46. Darin says:

    Hi Abby!
    As I am reading your blog I am filled with tears in my eyes to have such an inspiring resource like you. My sister and I have started a custom wedding invitation business and we are trying to transition into a more B to B process since dealing with each individual clients requires extensive time and commitment. So my question is, if I were to sell invitations to retailers, is that retailer responsible for the customization of the invitation? Or would it get sent back to me to customize and print?

    Thank you!
    Darin

  47. Abby Larson says:

    PRICING. It’s the most annoying process. And the most difficult. I could devote an entire feature to this alone. You have to price things low enough to get clients but high enough to make a profit. If I were doing it all over again I would have ONE price for all ready made designs.

    So for example, all 1 color letterpress jobs would be X and would include an invitation, response card and printed envelopes. Additional items would be priced a la carte, but still one price.

    Then, I would apply a “design” fee to the custom designs that sits on top of the flat invitation fee.

    Online printing services…no clue. I have never used one so I’m not sure. I would just suggest having them send you samples to ensure the quality and checking references.

  48. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Darin! If you sell invitations to retailers, this is usually how it works…

    -You sell them a book, which is basically a portfolio of your ready-made designs. It also includes typeface options, ink colors, paper choices and pricing.

    -The bride comes in and the sales people pull books based on what she is looking for style and price-wise.

    -Together, the sales person and the bride create an order that specifies which invitation, what pieces are needed, ink colors, typestyles and all of the other customizeable options.

    -Once you receive it, you generate a proof based on their needs.

    If a bride really wants a custom piece, meaning not at all what you have out of your book, you offer a custom price quote to them and together you come up with a design.

    Does that make sense?

  49. Brancoprata says:

    We began our dream six, almost seven years ago! I was a math teacher with a need to do creative things so i decided to dedicate myself in a exclusive way to Brancoprata . It´s been very difficult to stay strong in this area (here in Portugal) but with good will and a large, LARGE amount of work we are still here. Of course that family is very important. Your first wedding show was total payed by them (they surprised us with that without our knowledge ). Anyway, for us the important part, for those who are starting a business is to love what you are doing and prepare yourself for lots and lots of work… but when you ear our clients thank you… it´s great, one of the best feelings in the world!

  50. Aubri says:

    Hey Abby!
    What a treat, I’m going to print this all out, highlight everything that is important for my business and hang onto every word of wisdom. It’s already been said but this is truly invaluable! Thank you Abby!!

    I have four many questions… I to am trying to build my invitation company… I can’t tell you how much this has made my day!

    1. Pricing – How did you decide? Was it different for custom orders compared to the album prices? Did you ever aim to make a certain % profit… like 50%, 40% etc?

    2. Paper – Did you always order your paper from the printers? Did you ever use vendors like Waste Not Paper or Envelopments (or something similar)? What is your take on that? I’ve actually had brides request those company because they are familiar with their enclosures, sparkly papers etc. I want to use my own original designs but also want to please my clients, should I be developing my own enclosures? Right now I’m doing a mixture.

    3. Custom vs. Whole Sale Albums – I saw you mention on reply #38 that custom was more profitable than wholesale. That actually surprised me! I’ve been doing mostly custom this whole time but I always thought once I can do wholesale my business will really flourish. What is you take on this? I think you had great advice to market myself to other vendors, hotels etc not just weddings for custom work.

    4. Letterpress/ Engraving vs. Offset Printing – I’ve actually never designed a letterpress or engraving invitation set. The brides in my area are mostly asking for Offset Printing or Thermography, on occasion I’ve even used a laser printer, for the very budget friendly. Should I start offering letterpress? I don’t know that I could single handedly raise the bar for invitation printing in the Arkansas area but I might try if you think it’s worth it? I wouldn’t be able to make much profit cause letterpress is so much more than this area is use to paying for. Arkansas has very talented bridal vendors but even so I never seen a local bride use letterpress.

    I value every word, thank you so much for your precious time!

  51. Darin says:

    Thanks Abby! That was very helpful! What is the price range for a book that you sell to the retailers? Do you usually include prices in the book? What percentages do the retailers usually make?

    Also, what is the best way to approach a retailer? Do you think sending a kit of samples/pricing and then doing a follow-up call is a good idea?

    Darin

  52. Abby Larson says:

    Pricing…figure out your production costs first and foremost. I wanted to make a 50-100% profit on the designs so I went from there. Custom orders are generally more labor intensive so you should definitely incorporate a higher percentage.

    Paper…I never ordered paper from the vendors. Always direct from the manufacturer. This is where A LOT of the start-up costs came in. If I was doing it differently, I would probably ask my printers to order it for each order then pay the small mark-up fee that they would charge me. It would have freed up my capital to grow the line a bit more. I only used Waste Not when I needed to do secondary pieces to coordinate and the customer didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So, we would flat print things in house.

    Custom vs. Wholesale…totally up to you. The invitation market, on both sides, has become hugely oversaturated. You have to have a great combination of good design and good pricing to get your album pulled off a shelf. You make 50% less at wholesale but you are doing a lot more busines. If you are confident that your designs will sell, that sales people in the stores will pull your album, go for it!!

    Printing Method…I think that you need to do what will sell in your area. If you want to test the water, have a sample of a letterpress design printed and see if there is interest! Letterpress is still white hot right now!

    Hope this helps!!

  53. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Darin…wedding albums sell anywhere from $75 – $1200 depending on the brand and the quality of printing within. Individual pricing is always included in the book. The profit mark-up is 100%, meaning if the retail price listed is $1000, you would charge the store $500.

    A press kit is a great way to approach a retailer…we sent boxes with invitation samples inside and a price list, along with a Daily Candy piece that we had. We then follow-ed up with a call to see if they were interested in carrying.

    One thing to note…it is WAY more important to have your book in a store that wants to sell your work, then to just have your book in every store possible.

  54. Marjorie says:

    Would you be willing to share who your printer was? I’d like to compare my local printing companies with a company I know provides the services I need.
    Thanks!

  55. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Marjorie! Normally I would but since I don’t own the company anymore, I’m not sure if this is something that she would like to remain private. Sorry!!

  56. Marjorie says:

    no problem! I forgot about that detail… Thanks anyway!

  57. Riya says:

    Hi Abby!
    My twin sister, Darin, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE your blog, both SMP and backstage! She was so inspired by this blog that she told me repeatedly that I had to read every single response to this blog! We have been running a small custom invitation design business for a while, but because we both have full time jobs, it’s been a HUGE challenge to grow the business! Custom design is so exhausting sometimes that I feel like I want to just launch an e-commerce wedding invitation website, such as weddingpaperdivas.com. But I can’t imagine how much work is involved in getting an e-commerce site started!

    Do you have any experiences with launching an online stationery store? We were thinking about starting out with collections of letterpress stationery, but I’m not sure how much of a market there is for that?

  58. Kalyn says:

    Hi Abby!

    As Riya above, I’m interested in growing my freelance design business into an e-commerce wedding stationary site. I just got married last month to a man in the US Air Force and we’ll be moving to England shortly, then who knows where after that. I’d love to have a portable business I can keep up with as we move around the world. What are your thoughts on the viability of this? Any tips?

    Thanks so much! I love SMP and will continue reading it even though I’m already hitched!! :)

  59. Abby Larson says:

    Hey guys! I think that setting up and e-commerce site like Wedding Paper Divas is really, really hard. I know that Tiny Prints (WPD parent site) is a funded company thus as of last year, they have had some cash to invest into growing the brand. I wish I could speak more to this but I really don’t have any experience with e-commerce sites. Sorry ladies!!

  60. Katie says:

    Abby,

    What platform do you guys use for your website now? I am planning my own wedding, so I use your website for daily inspiration for that, but I’m also in the midst of trying to launch my wedding planning business. I’ve started the blog first but it’s in blogger and I’m trying to decide if it’s better to switch to wordpress now or just keep as is and try to learn HTML for an actual site?

  61. Abby Larson says:

    Hey Katie! I use wordpress as it really allows us to get in there and customize it. I am REALLY not an expert on this but in my opinion, I would switch over to wordpress as there is so much that you can do with it (lots of plugins, etc) and use that as your website.

  62. Riya says:

    Thanks Abby! I have one more question. What is the best source for finding the right paper manufacturer? You mentioned a significant part of your start-up costs were from buying paper. Did you provide the printing company with the paper that you ordered?

    Thanks again!! This is great!!!

  63. Katie says:

    Hi Abby,
    Thanks for sharing your expertise! I’m really enjoying reading this blog and would love to subscribe to it. Is there a way to do so? I can’t seem to find that option on your page.
    Thanks!

  64. Abby Larson says:

    Riya…I did. The printer actually sent me a ton of paper samples and such and after choosing the stocks that I wanted to go with, I ordered directly from the manufacturer to be delivered to our printers.

    katie…We don’t have the RSS feed set up yet but will in the next few days. Sorry about that!

  65. Kristi says:

    The first 5 years of my teaching career held enough challenge to intrigue my creative passionate spirit, but after getting a taste of my real passion, I am dying in the classroom (high school business). For the past year, I’ve been baking speciality cakes out of my home and also have another wedding this summer to cater/plan for a friend. I would quit tomorrow and go after my dreams if not for the financial worries. Besides my retirement, I have absolutely no capital to start my own cake shop (eventually want it to evolve into a catering/bistro-like cafe…with a cool vintage & antique retail section). There is definitely a market in my area for this type of venture…I guess I’m just wondering how you worked up the nerve to quit your job and go after a dream. I’ll be 30 next month, so time is a ticking (loudly! =D). Any advice??

  66. Abby Larson says:

    Well…I had a few little nuggets that I left out. One, I worked for a hedge fund that paid pretty well so I had saved up nicely. Two, and brace yourself. I moved back in with my parents until I could get my business off the ground! Yep, as a grown adult, I moved back in with the rents, which provided a free place to stay so that I could invest all of my time, money and energy into the business.

    I think that the time is right when you are willing to do anything to make something happen. Start putting $$ aside, enough to live for 6 months without income…that is a GREAT start.

  67. Jamie says:

    Abby,

    I just wanted to send a note to tell you that I LOVE the new Backstage @ SMP Blog! I too left my high-paying corporate job this year to follow my passion . (Although I am quite a few years older then 25, married with 3 kids!) I have launched an event planning business specializing in children’s parties. It has been so wonderful to read your honest and candid posts about starting a business. Thanks for the inspiration!

  68. bianca says:

    Oh Abby, I could cry tears of joy that someone is actually generous enough to share info like this. Living in completely jobless Italy and trying desperately to make some money giving private english lessons (after four years of studying fashion/design and unable to find a decent job in the biz), I am constantly on a daily search to figure out my next move. I have the same idea as you had: I know I have good taste. Trouble is, sometimes I feel like my knowledge of two worlds and what is going on in them means I’m ahead of everyone here – except instead of being useful, they think I’m crazy. Add insane beaurocracy and a “women in the kitchen” sensibility, starting a business is nearly impossible. But you are giving me hope with just a pinch of precious information and I’m starting to see the light. I hope Italy is ready for what I’m about to throw them! Thanks.

  69. Autumn says:

    Wow! Brilliant read! Thank you so much for that..just that extra little bit of motivation that I needed to keep myself plugging away. So, I’ve got my line of invitations and stationery, but I am desperately trying to A) find a printer who is able to do commercial letterpress projects, and B) trying to get my name “out there”. Any advice on any printers who provide letterpress options? I’ve called and emailed a million print shops. No luck. {I’m in Australia, but there are many vendors here who use the services of American Printing companies.} Also, I’ve got a small’ish reputation that I’m trying to grow. I’ve only just started this business in the last few months and am using every avenue available (that is also cost efficient), but it doesn’t seem to be working as I expected. Help!

    Thanks much-
    Autumn

  70. Lauren says:

    Abby this was wildly insightful. As a nacent wedding planner you said a LOT of things I needed to hear (LOAN — QUIT JOB!) :D I love SMP and your stationery line looks like it was amazing. Congrats on your success!

  71. Lindsey says:

    Abby, thanks for all of your insight and inspiration! My husband and I have our own small business (although not related to design or weddings) but all of these tips are still incredibly helpful! One of the hardest parts of running our own small business is the financial worries and not knowing exactly how much money we will make each month. Will we have enough business coming in to pay the bills? This is always scary and makes some days incredibly hard to get through. Any advice on how to stay motivated even when things seem at their worst? Along the same lines, did you ever have days that you thought about giving up because it just wasn’t working? I think some days we just get so down on ourselves, but we truly believe in our business and want to keep going, knowing that eventually we will reach our goals. How do we know how much time to give it before we say enough is enough?

  72. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Lindsey! I’ve thought about giving up hundreds of times. In fact, I had that very thought this morning when I was trying to make breakfast for Audrey, get pictures formatted, check email and get the blog written. But twenty minutes later I was fine, felt back to normal and ready to tackle the day.

    I think that you ALWAYS have to look at your business realistically? Is it making you happy? Is it fun? Is it making you money? If all of these outweigh the negative, you are doing really, really well. You don’t ever want to sacrifice your soul for your business, but you do have to just accept that you are going to have great days and really bad days. If the former outweigh the later, you’ve got a really good thing going.

  73. Lindsey says:

    Thanks Abby! One more question….do you have thoughts on running a business with family and/or friends? We originally started our business with a good friend of my husband’s and it got sticky very quickly! They have since parted ways which is so much better. My husband and I are still working together and he is also considering a new venture with his brother and dad. How do you successfully mix your professional and family lives? Do you have disagreements, etc. and how do you overcome those?

  74. Janine says:

    Hi Abby,

    I have soaked all this great information in like a sponge – so thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge.

    Quick question: What type of business did you start in terms of taxation? Sole Proprietorship? LLC? etc? And did you go to an accountant right away or try to do the finances/accounting yourself at first?

    I am currently working a lustless job (marketing @ steady declining local newspaper) but have always thought I should be doing something more creative outside of the cubicle. I created my first set of wedding invitations this summer for a friend and am slowly working on starting my own company. Saving up the cash, so I can finally take that leap and quit the job. Thank you so much for the inspirational words to get my through another 9 – 5 day.

  75. Melanie says:

    Hi Abby:
    I am LOVING this new backstage site!
    My question is regarding the sale of your business. When you described how you knew that it was time to sell – I feel like I am at the exact same fork in the road with my business.
    I would love to sell it and see someone grow it and continue on with its success, but I want to know how you came to set a price for your business. I have no idea what it is valued at! And did you approach your clients to let them know that you were selling it or how did you put that out there?
    Thank you!!
    Melanie

  76. Theresa says:

    Hi Abby,

    Thanks for all your inspiration. I just started a Virtual Assistant Company and I was inspired by your story of creating a business, finding that first client, and the marketing aspects via the internet. I am re-designing my website, but have gotten on to all the social networks…it really is a whole new world for business owners these days….especially with bridal magazines going under, gourmet magazine going under. We really have to use the internet to market ourselves. Thanks for all your inspiration:)
    Theresa~
    Professionally Virtual

  77. Katie says:

    I think I totally will change over to wordpress. It will go with my theme of starting fresh and STRONG with my business after our wedding. THANK YOU!

  78. Elvira says:

    This my first time backstage. Similar to you I just quit my position 2 months ago and my family almost had heart-attack, especially since I am getting married next year and the shape of our current economy. I was also doing well in my position but after my father passed away I started feel like I was wasting my time at my position . I felt like I was stuck in auto pilot!

    Thank you so much writing this piece…it’s seriously inspiration to read your experience and I cant wait to see where the next chapter in my life takes me. Cheers to you!

  79. Aubri says:

    Hey Abby,
    I have another quick question again if this is still open!
    I would like to offer stock and custom on my stationery site but eventually I’ve thought about selling the stock invitations that are on my site for wholesale. Should I not offer the stock from my site anymore if that happens? Should I direct people to go to the shops that are selling it? Or can I do both? I don’t want to make the stationery shops frustrated but if I can sell the stock invitations both ways it could be a good option for all kinds of customers.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you again!

    ps how many shops were you wholesaling to when you left Abby Jean?

  80. Darin says:

    Hi Abby,

    Earlier I asked you about selling invitation books to retailers. I went to do some research at Papyrus today and was overwhelmed with out much information is in each album. Is there some kind of resource that guides you as to what to put in there or a place that specializes in producing these types of books for invitation designers?

  81. Dina says:

    I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about differentiation in the stationery market. I see that you went with engraved printing which I think was really smart because it doesn’t look like there are a ton of creative, more modern options for that very traditional printing style. My issue is that I love letterpress and that’s where I’d want to focus but there is SOOOOO much clutter in the letterpress market these days. It seems virtually impossible to create a unique niche for yourself that isn’t already claimed. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on that. Thanks! This backstage idea is amazing.

  82. Carolyn says:

    Hi Abby,

    This article makes me want to walk out of my cubicle and head straight to the drawing boards. What an amazing experience you had owning a successful business at such a young age!

    Running a small creative business is something I’ve wanted to do for years- the corporate world is not for me. Do you know any small business owners (stationary, wedding planners, florists, etc) in the Boston area who may be looking for help? I’d love to ‘shadow’ someone and figure out if this is something I could handle on my own.

    Thanks for all your blogs- love SMP!

  83. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Aubri! Sorr for the late response. A lot of companies are selling online and in stores. It definitely frustrates the stores, but at the end of the day, you have to make money. My best advice is to do what is best for your company. If the product is really good, the stores will still want it.

    Hi Darin…the main points are your collection, typeface options, paper color options and any other personalization element. You need to have basic ordering instructions and policy information. But you don’t need to overwhelm the stores just to have information in there. Keep it simple.

  84. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Dina…when I was just starting out letterpress was hot. Everyone thought that the trend was on it’s way out. They were SO wrong. I don’t think that letterpress is going anywhere as so many people, brides and artists, have fallen love with it. What I do think is really, really valuable is to offer brides a letterpress collection with a similar flat printed style on textured, letterpress paper. The same look of letterpress without the cost so that brides have BOTH the high end and the affordable option.

    One other little note, if you go the letterpress route, you really have to try to find your own unique voice. Particularly if you want to sell nationally. If your designs are a little more “generic” and I mean that in the best way possible, think about marketing your company on more of a local level.

  85. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Carolyn,

    I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for you! It never hurts to just approach the people that you are interested in.

  86. Allison says:

    Backstage is amazing-but from reading the comments, I am pretty sure you know that now! :)

    My question is:

    1. Did you start out on your own or did you and Tait start with a concept and work with it? Basically, I am starting an online boutique but it is just me. There is no one to bounce ideas off of, and no one for me to talk to as I am really the only one with the passion for what I do. It is putting me at a bit of a stop at the moment!

    Thanks for this!

    -allison

  87. Jessica Johnson says:

    Abby,
    Just want to let you know this entry is very inspiring! Thanks for letting us in on all of the ups and downs of starting a stationery line. As a graphic designer working for a stationery store, I am very passionate about all things paper and design, but I DREAM of starting my OWN line of stationery products. Thanks so much for the inspiration!
    - Jessica Johnson

  88. Meg says:

    Hi Abby,
    WOW! This information is so incredibly useful for me and not to mention undeniably sweet of you to take the time and share with the rest of us!
    I recently started my own stationery business focused primarily on custom invitations, labels and every day stationery. I have only established myself as an e-commerce site and have primarily received all of my business through word of mouth.
    Because all of my work is dedicated to customization, I feel limited in terms of making my line available at retail.
    Any tips on how to really market myself with a business that is dedicated to online purchases only?
    Thanks again for sharing!
    Meg Feenan

  89. Autumn says:

    Abby,

    Lovely post :) Your story sounds sooo familiar to mine. I quit my well paying job cold turkey last year (at 25 with no design experience) and have been running an e-commerce site wedding store since (think WPD with the online personalization etc). My husband is an Electrical engineering Phd who can program like mad and i’m constantly bothering him to help me with little stuff (we call it the night shift!). Anyways, thank you for sharing more of your story here. I sell direct to consumers through my website, but it’s definitely interesting to hear the wholesale side of the story as well.

    @Kalyn In regards to starting an e-commerce site with online personalization, it CAN be done at a reasonable price especially with outsourcing. You should be comfortable or have a familiarity with programming though, or know someone who does, because things will come up.

    Also remember that it doesn’t matter how fancy or how great your site is, unless you have traffic coming to your site and totally awesome products, you will not get customers. Both can be expensive to come by, so consider this in your business planning!

  90. Abby Larson says:

    Hi Meg! Since online is all that I do now, even if it isn’t in the stationery biz, I do have some ideas for you!

    1. Make sure that your blog is all lovely. Make sure that it promotes your product in a really beautiful way. Reach out to other bloggers to link back to you so that you naturally start getting a captive audience for your product.

    2. Do giveaways and freebies on other blogs. This is huge as it’s a super affordable way to get your product in the hands of a new audience.

    3. Use blogs, online magazines and other online sources to advertise. Our sponsorships are expensive but they get a lot of clicks and we have a super high retention rate.

    4. Use social media…twitter, facebook, etc to start building up an online reputation.

    5. Host online trunk shows giving people a fat discount for a few hours one night. Use blogs to get the word out there.

    6. Figure out what your best seller is and market that with the most attention. If it’s baby announcements, partner up with baby sites to offer exclusive discounts to their readers.

    I could go on and on! Just use the web like it’s your playground. Find new and interesting ways to get your name out there and if your products are good, the business will follow!

  91. Abby….just came across Backstage and I LOVE it. What a great space for a little more info into what’s it like running SMP. Thanks so much for doing this!

    Lindsey

  92. Hi Abby
    So great to hear all your insight!! I started my own wedding planning business at 24 and have recently started an invitation business at 25. I moved back in with my parents too so I can completely relate to your story and the sacrifices but knowing it’s all worth it. Your success is inspiring as you can see from all these posts!!

  93. Christine says:

    Hi Abby, I’m a wedding stationer in the UK where the engraved and letterpress style of invitation is not so “hot”, most of the work over here has more of a handcrafted / embellished feel to it. However I just wanted to say many thanks for sharing your insight and advice on developing and growing a creative business, you are very generous with your time and sharing of expertise and you have certainly given me a few things to think about as I move my own business to the next level! Much appreciated.
    Christine

  94. Vince says:

    I found your blog at Google blog search. I must say your story is very inspiring. I love to read this kind of success stories it motivates me to do more. It goes to show that with hard work and dedication a person can be successful with a business.

    Thanks for sharing..

  95. Rubi Head says:

    I adore your website a lot. Will read all. Keep up to briliant work on it. Thank you

  96. Laural says:

    Hi! I love your story! One question…since you didn’t have any design knowledge when first starting out did you purchase stock photos, fonts and the like to get you going?

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  98. Excellent site! I will surely recommend you to my mates. Please keep up with the excellent updates. Are ya on Twitter by the way??

  99. Alvin Irineo says:

    @eddy i am not sure that true

  100. Denise says:

    Hello to you Abby :)

    I am a 43 year old breast cancer survivor that is very much looking forward to giving back to pro-active breast cancer org’s …I kept spinning my wheels and praying on how I can give on a broader level opposed to just one patient at a time.
    Interestingly, while visiting a boutique in Seattle I took notice to a 5 year old stationary line, it really grabbed my attention as my granddaughter is quite the artist at the young age of 11.
    Abby, you story really resonated with me as I too feel comfortable with fashion, decorating homes…I really, really enjoy designing …it inspires me!

    How can this grandmother help her granddaughter create a kids line that would benefit others?

    Thank you so much!

    Denise Paciorek

  101. Denise says:

    Abby~

    I forgot to add, can you please recommend any type of conventions or ? that would assist my granddaughter & I in this venture.

    Thanks you!

  102. Sejal Shah says:

    Hi Abby,

    I love creating cards (birthday and other greetings) for family and friends. I’ve always been interested in starting a stationary/greeting card business out of the home.

    You mention printing vendors. What are the types of questions you recommend asking as you shop for printers?

    Secondly, would you get base printing done in bulk and then add personalized touches by hand to each and every card?

    Thanks,
    Sejal

  103. Sejal Shah says:

    Abby – I must add to my question.

    Every design or card I make I take pictures of to keep a reminder of my work.

    But how do I convert this passion into a printing business? Meaning, all these unique cards I make on the spot, how do you recommend making multiple cards without making each one by hand. I’m guessing this is where the printing vendors come in handy. Which takes me to my last question (from above). Do you create templates and then just print on them. and then customize them?

    What is the order and distribution of the work you as the designer continue to do vs what you would give to a printer?

    Your story has trully inspired me!

  104. Abby Larson says:

    Laural…I scoured some of the major font sites to find typefaces that resonated with my own design aesthetic. I chose a combination of serif, san serif and heavy calligraphic fonts. I tried to select fonts that weren’t over used or that I had seen on a million different invitations. I actually never commissioned out custom fonts at all!

    Denise…the National Stationery Show in NY is THE stationery convention. But it’s only for those that are serious about starting a biz or selling their products wholesale. It’s not cheap but the impact that it had on my business was worth every penny.

    Sejal….If you are planning on flat printing or doing really short runs, I would recommend just getting a really good home printer. Some of the Epsons match the quality of professional printers and it’s a great way to keep costs down. If you are selling wholesale and/or need to do larger runs, a professional print shop is the way to go. You’ll want to make sure that costs are spelled out, including reprint costs and short run costs. You want to have a contract in place that spells out who is responsible for what…payment terms, misprint errors, re-print needs, everything. You’ll also want to be clear on who is ordering and stocking the paper (you or them). It’s cheaper for you to order, of course, as you won’t see a retail mark-up. But, if you can get the printer to stock the paper, that will save a ton of back and forth time. You’ll also want to know what the best format for them to receive your artwork, how much plates cost, things like that. Try to cover all of your bases up front.

    It depends totally on the printing method that you are going to use. I did have some of the backgrounds pre-printed to save a bit, yes. You’ll need to go thru each design with an experienced printer to understand how to keep costs low for each individual design.

    As for handmaking your cards…are you painting them? Or are you illustrating on the computer?

  105. Tenielle says:

    Hi Abby,
    Thanks for sharing your story with future entrepreneurs such as myself. I am not certain that my question has already been asked because I did not read all of the threads.

    What are some names of companies used to purchase paper? Also, did you use any specialized machines such as the Cricut or the Silhouette? I would like to begin by making cards and expand to other stationery items.

    What is your advice about my approach.

    All the best,
    Tenielle

  106. Lakeisha Hall says:

    Hello Abby,

    I’m in the process of publishing my first book and I would like to know how take he name of the book and creat a product line.

    I have thoughts of pen, cups, calendars, bookmarkers and etc. I use to design wedding invitation a long time ago but put it on the back burner. Any suggestions would be grateful

  107. Allison says:

    Hi Abby,

    You’re site has been so inspiring!!!!!!!! I’ve started designing a sports themed line of stationary and am totally lost as to where or how to share my product with people to sell at their stores. Is it a dumb idea to go to the stores and show them my stationary to see if their interested? Is there another method you would suggest to gain interest?
    Thank you for you ideas and insight!!

    ~Allison

  108. Abby Larson says:

    Hey Tenielle…I was a wholesale company so I ordered bulk from some of the major distributors. They have pretty high minimums to stock the paper and actually, many of the lines that I originally used have been discontinued. But, if you are just starting off, Waste Not Paper is a GREAT place to start.

    Hey Lakeisha…to be honest, I have no experience with product development! My gut tells me that before you spend a dime on product, you need to ensure that the book is going to generate revenue and create a brand. From there, the products can come.

    Hey Allison…there are a few different routes. You can approach smaller, boutique stores about selling your line. If they are hesitant, you can offer to sell based on consignement so they only have to pay you if your product sells. Secondly, you can try to get repped by an agency who sells your products for you. The reps do the work and you pay them a fee based on that work, either flat or commission. Third, you can put together small kits with a few samples, a price list and a little tidbit about your company. Mail them to the stores you want to be in (mail to the owner or buyer personally) then follow-up after a week or two.

    Hope that helps!

  109. Summer McKinney says:

    Hi Abby,

    I am interested in starting my own business in wedding invitations, birthday invites, and etc…but i just don’t where to start or seek advice…Please Help!!!!

  110. Lisa Parker says:

    Hi Abby,

    I am looking to start up a personalized stationery business from home. I’ve created my first notecard collection and would like to launch it for the upcoming holiday. The entire line would consist of flat printing and I wanted to get your thoughts on the printing aspect. Print from home? And if so, what type of printer – laser or ink jet? Or work with a local printer to do the printing. Thanks for all your insight, truly appreciated!

  111. Liz says:

    Hi Abby,
    Found your site on a fluke today but I’m glad i did!
    I started my own online business creating custom invitations. The competition is fierce out there and I’ve enjoyed reading your advice above.
    I’m trying to keep a stiff upper lip and recognize success doesn’t come overnight.
    How can a small business like me stay afloat when you there are so many big guns (tiny prints, minted, shutterfly) offering so many great incentives?

  112. Angie says:

    Hi Abby,
    I know this may seem like a technical question but I was wondering if you could recommend a great color laser printer that will take thick cardstock (110 – 120 lb). This has been my never ending mission in life and I’ve purchased so many printers…just to throw them away or give them away to someone else. Do you know of any good resources?

  113. Anna says:

    Hi Abby,
    Thank you. Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. You are an inspiration. Long story short, your start-up story speaks EXACTLY to me. I am in the beginning stages of research–and here is where I am tripped up–art and images–I have the knack for layout and design–but since I am not a graphic designer, what images can I use? My designs (using stock images and even stamping and embossing) are simple and clean–often containing one image and beautiful typography. Can I really sell stationary using stock art? Do I have to draw my own images and scan them in? I am leaning towards letterpress as my technique. As you can tell, I am in need of expert advise–and yours is much appreciated. Congratulations on all your success.

  114. Allison says:

    Hi Abby, I am a designer and am finally taking the next step to starting my own line of stationary, actually with great inspiration from you! I came across your blog quite a while ago and was so impressed with what you have accomplished to date. I was writing you in hopes of some advice or maybe just some words of wisdom on how to turn my dream into a reality.

    My question is mainly how to market myself…..do you recommend trying to sell project as an exhibitor at local bridal shows also? Do you have any insight on that realm? I am considering selling on Etsy to start, but know that it is that is a very saturated site so any other way to market myself would be so helpful.

    Also, did you supplement any self taught knowledge with any other classes or books when designing your initial line even for the business side?

    Thanks so much for giving us so much great information. It has been so helpful as well as motivating!

  115. Alexis says:

    Hi Abby, I am a newbie at designing invitations I have asked numerous business owners in the Invitation design business field for advice and so far no help at all.
    I need your help urgently!!!

    I live in the Bahamas(the caribbean) Yes Paradise lol

    I bought a printer and I have a laptop, I make most of my invitations on Microsoft word. My business is home based.

    My Main Issues are:

    cardstock: Do I stock up on paper( even though i dont know what a client color theme might be) or get cardstock by the order?

    How to price my invitation Orders?

    what is the best Invitation design software to use?

    Is using a desktop printer good or should i use a printing company instead( which seems kinda pricey)

    PLEASE HELP ME!!!!!!!!! If you have any other advice pleaseeeeeeeese do tell.

    Thank you in advance.

  116. Tait says:

    Hey Lisa! For flat printing it totally depends on the design. If they are four color designs that need a decent saturation of ink, it’s probably more cost effective for you to print in bulk through a professional printer. Most of my notecards/invites that were flat, were only 2 color so it wasn’t much of a problem to print in house on my Pro Epson.

    Hey Liz! If you are doing online invitations, you have to realize that the larger brands out there are technology plays. They are funded organizations that are run by Stanford or Harvard grads who have the goal of selling their biz. If your goal is to create an online brand then you need to really work the blogs for publicity. Do giveaways on your favorite blogs, collaborate on photoshoots, buy advertising if need be.

    Hey Angie! I don’t have a lot of experience in laser printers. I always used an inkjet, specifically an Epson R1800 or R2400, though I think both models have since been replaced. Sorry!

    Hey Anna! Yes, stock images are generally royalty free artwork. My suggestion is to use stock images but customize them in a way that is different than other designs out there. I have seen the same flourishes OVER and OVER again and I know exactly where they came from. Honestly, most buyers aren’t that savvy but it would still make for more original design if you take what is out there and tweak it a bit.

    Hey Allison! First, nope I didn’t ever take a class on design. It was all self taught and kind of learn and explore as you go. It worked for me but I can see where taking a course or two would have been helpful. In terms of marketing, like I said to Liz, it’s important to utilize blogs out there and their reach with your target market (could be bridal blogs, mommy blogs, design blogs, et). Host giveaways, good ones not skimpy ones, collaborate on photoshoots with area vendors, connect yourself with local hotels and get on their preferred vendor lists. The options are endless really. If you want to sell wholesale than shows are a great route. If you are selling direct, they are good if your focus is at a local level. Word of mouth is still huge on a local level.

    Hey Alexis! As far as cardstock, it’s pretty impossible to make a blanket call on that. I printed wholesale so I HAD to stock a ton of paper. It was my biggest cost by far. If I was selling direct, it would depend on the volume of orders that I was doing. Buying in bulk is often WAY cheaper than buying retail or small amounts on the fly so if I was doing enough volume to support that paper purchase, I would most definitely stock it beforehand. In terms of pricing, sit down and think about what your materials are worth (the easy part) and what your times is worth (the hard part). Add that together and you have your price. If you are selling direct to brides, this is easy because you can mark it up however much you see fit. If you sell to stores you have to know that they are going to mark it up 100% again to sell retail so you can’t price yourself too high. Software…I like photoshop, illustrator and indesign. As far as printing, it TOTALLY depends on your designs. If you are doing flat, four color, you will spend a lot on ink printing them all to order. You could have your stock all printed with the design, then you could add the customization on your home printer.

    I hope this helps. I could go on forever but honestly, a lot of these answers depend entirely on the types of designs you are doing. How many colors you use, what weight of stock you are printing, how much volume you are doing, etc.

  117. Tait says:

    (that last comment was from me, Abby…but I’m logged in on Tait’s computer)

  118. Danielle says:

    Dear Abby,

    I got into designing invitations and greetings a little over 2 years ago. Currently my designs are only available to buy through zazzle. And I like that because all the printing is taken care of by them so I don’t have to stock anything except my art supplies and creativity. This is great but I don’t make as much money as I’d like with their business model.

    I would like to start having my designs sold on other e-retailers sites as a featured designer. Some of them even allow you to submit your artwork and a price sheet – but that right there is my biggest problem. I don’t know how to price it. Do I price each design based on a per card basis and what should that be? So let’s say they sell my card to the user at $3.00 a card, would a safe ball park be to charge 50% of that?

    I don’t have a website or a portfolio to speak of. Zazzle is sort of my portfolio because ALL of my designs are on there.

    Any tips or helpful hints would be GREATLY appreciated.

  119. Porsha Smith says:

    Hello Abby, I need your help. I have an idea but Im completely cluessless and I feel like Im at a creative block. I was reading through out your site and you seem to have amazing advise to give. Could you reply to my message by email? If so, my email is mkevents1@live.com. Thank you so much.

  120. Anna Spence says:

    Hello Abby,

    I was looking into attending that this year National Stationery Show. I have done alot of researching to start my own stationery business and I see alot of mention of this National Stationery Show. If you are just researching and trying to start up, what do you do actually at this show if you have no clients or products etc yet?

    Thanks,
    Anna

  121. Abigail Luby says:

    Hi Abby,

    Thanks so much for posting and continuing to answer all these questions. I have been doing custom invitation design for about 2 years and recently went full-time with my business. After stashing away $$ from those orders I am now looking to offer a collection to stationery stores. Can you please tell me either who you used or who you would suggest using for albums?

    Thank you in advance for your help!

    Abbey

  122. Ashleigh Banks says:

    I have a idea I do not know how and where to start? Can anyone attend the NATIONAL STATIONERY SHOW?

  123. Amos Chreene says:

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  124. Calder Corey says:

    Dear Abby,

    Loved reading your story. I am a 33 year old real estate agent and I am interested in starting my own stationary company.

    I have no start up money so I need to do the very beginning on my own. so I guess my question is..

    Can I print my own or do my own first designs and go from there? I live in Brooklyn. I’m thinking simple and classy like Smythson.

    thanks, Calder Corey

  125. hello!,I really like your writing so a lot! proportion we be in contact extra about your article on AOL? I need a specialist on this house to solve my problem. May be that is you! Looking ahead to see you.

  126. Brittany says:

    Hi,

    I am a 20 year old graphic design student interested in starting a stationary business and I find your experience very inspiring. But I know nothing about the business. Where do I even start? What is an album exactly? And how do I go about creating one? I apologize if you have already answered this question.

    Thanks,

    Brittany

  127. Melissa says:

    Love your story on starting your own stationery business in fact its something I have always wanted to do and I am just not sure where to start exactly, I mean I have the design down and even an idea for an entire line but where do I find printers, things like that? anything to help get me rolling is so much appreciated

  128. Jane Mc says:

    Hi Abby,

    I don’t know if you are still tending to these comments, but I came across this blog and it’s been very helpful. I started my custom stationery business almost one year ago. I haven’t had many customers thus far, as I’ve been working on getting a good portfolio developed, and trying out paper samples and perfecting my designs. I’m about to run my first ad with a very local wedding publication, and so I’m working constantly to get my first Sample Book ready. I was wondering how many samples you had in your first sample book. I am planning to have 30-35 wedding invitation suite samples, and 20-30 samples for other stationery. Do you think that’s a good first album? I hope to go full-time with my business in 2 years (or less!), and I hope to take my album to a store soon.

    Thanks for all the advice and making me feel like I’m not the only person who has started an invitation business with very little graphic design experience!

  129. Danielle Ashcraft says:

    Abby, I dont even know where to begin. Sort of like you I am in a dead end job that I am so unhappy with and am at the age that I am ready to start a career that I will Love doing and not just a job that i have to have. I was married in 2010 and even before my wedding I loved the thought of being starting some kind of business with wedding and any other sorts of events. It was after I planned my huge almost 400 person wedding that I decided this is what I was meant to do. I have put a lot of thinking into it for years and i was thinking of maybe trying out being an event planner. Now that I have thought long an hard I have decided I would love nothing more then to start my own stationary/invite.etc. business and I am so eager to begin. I am a very creative person and I love out of the box and fun modern designs that would come hard to fine and I think this would be the perfect fit for me, but i have a HUGE set back. I have NO idea where to being. I have been trying to research and i just dont know where to begin. I wanted to first find the best computer program, but I just dont know what kind I would need to create and sell my designs.I am looking for any kind of help and advice possible. Thank You so much. Danielle : )

  130. Abby Larson says:

    Danielle – The best pricing scenario (that doesn’t always work) is to take the cost of your goods + the cost of your time x 2 = wholesale cost. Then wholesale cost x 2 for suggested retail cost. Figuring out the value of your time is the most challenging part of that equation. But the short answer is yes, charging $1.50 wholesale would mean a $3 retail price.

    Porsha – you are welcome to leave your question here! I check in every couple of weeks.

    Anna – I wouldn’t attend the stationery show until I had a great portfolio, a great wholesale system, solid prices and a good direction as to how you are going to fulfill orders (whether that be for binders that house wedding invitations or packs of notecards). The show is a BEAST and it’s expensive. I would try to generate revenue and streamline your operations before you do the show.

    Abbey – A bookbinder at Dickson’s in Atlanta crafted my binders, though I’m pretty sure they aren’t doing that anymore. A great printer often has bookbinding sources in house or can refer you to someone. Though books are expensive. If you can figure out a way to make them yourself by customizing a cute binder, you’ll save LOADS of money.

    Ashleigh – Anyone that has a legit stationery company can buy a booth, so long as their screening checks out. The hosts want to know that you are a solid business with either a clear plan or a proven track record. Just remember, the show is a wholesale space, meaning that no cash to carry is offered. You are selling orders for wholesale.

    Calder – A great printer can produce beautiful results. So I suppose you need to have enough cash flow to invest in a good, solid color printer that can print sharply on heavy weight paper (80lb stock or more). Plus paper and packaging or presentation supplies. Which means that you would need either a binder or a board to showcase your invitations OR if you are doing packaged notes, you need to have samples to mail out to stores. If you want to sell direct to customers, having a great presentation is key!

    Brittany – My first suggestion would be to spend a few hours in a local stationery store. Look through the wedding albums that house wedding invitations, look at the way that the notecards and stationery are packaged, look at logos and labels, etc. Verse yourself in all of the terminology (offset, letterpress, engraved, thermograpy, etc) so that when you do start your line, you are knowledgable and can speak to the process. I wouldn’t dive in until you really understand the world of stationery.

    Melissa – Depends on what type of printer you want to use. That is perhaps the most important part of the equation. Letterpress, for example, is harder to find than a standard offset (flat) printer. Doing searches online based on the type of printing you want done is your best bet. From there, they can verse you on the best papers to use for your application.

    Jane – I would say that 30-35 samples is plenty. My first book at 6 suites, then I added 6 more fairly quickly. Mine were engraved and super $$ so I didn’t need/want to have that many. I think that if you are doing offset printing, having about 20-30 is a great start. You can see which ones work and which don’t, then send pages of updates and instructions for stores to pull them as needed.

    Danielle – Knowing where to begin is perhaps the hardest part of starting any business. I would start by finding the right drawing program. Illustrator worked well for me. I learned the program and started to fuss around with different ideas. Some took shape, others didn’t. Figuring out my aesthetic and learning to execute it with a program that I didn’t know, was really hard but absolutely necessary. But even before that, you need to have a general scope. Are you doing wedding invitations? Party invitations? Custom to the retailer? Wholesale? What is your goal. Write it down and think through what the steps are that need to happen. This is an ongoing process for sure. Then, you need to start working on your designs. Figure out how you want them printed. Source the right paper (wholesale through companies like Waste Note Paper is a great start though it totally depends on what type of printing you are going to be doing). These are the beginning phases.

    I asked a lot of people for help and advice along the way. I hope that you girls feel like you can do the same! So much luck to everyone who is just starting out. The stationery industry isn’t just a fly by the seat of your pants place. It’s incredibly saturated with really talented designers so you have to either take a unique angle with your work or make something spectacular to really stand out. That should be your forever goal.

  131. Lauren says:

    I am researching the possibility of an invitation & stationery business as well. I am a long-time graphic designer & magazine art director and while I plan to offer custom designs, I had thought I’d also carry other lines, as a reseller or dealer. So, the focus being more on being the gal you come to for all of your invitation needs. If you want custom, I’ll do it, if you want something from this company’s book, I’ll order it.

    Do you think I am better off just launching a stationery line of my own? Or can the this type of business be profitable as well? Do you know if there are any online resources to learn more about the different stationery companies? An association? Thanks for all of your help!

  132. natassa says:

    hi abby – starting a design business with no design background takes alot of courage and trust on your instinct, just another proof that the people who make it are those that are less scared than everyone else (more important than any skill). on another note, am a web and graphic designer and would love to help anyone who is thinking about starting out a business.

  133. Lauren J says:

    Hi Abby,

    First, I wanted to thank you for providing your time and advice in such an area that truly very “thin lipped” about getting a foot in that sector of the wedding/graphic design industry.

    Secondly, I’m a graphic designer of about 5 years and I have designed logos, websites, etc. for business clients and have also designed custom wedding stationery packages-digitally (they printed them themselves; except the wedding website) for a couple clients. I so much more enjoyed creating the custom wedding invitations rather than creating the business websites/corporate id’s. I have always had an a passion for wedding design ever since I was a teen helping my family with wedding stuff for family members being married.

    With that said, I find your business story amazing especially with having no design background. There is no doubt in my mind that I have the passion and my hubby has always been my rock, and I have a niche, and as a graphic designer I KNOW some things about printing *insert annoying experiences here* LOL so I am doing my research in this area constantly,

    So my two-part questions are what are great marketing ways to get my name out there in the wedding industry arena without going homeless? And I was thinking of offering website design as well, is this a big part of the industry or just a dud?

    Thanks so much and look forward to your response.

  134. Julie says:

    Hi Abby – I’m a past CPA who has always loved paper, texture and colors! I am just now financially able to do something fun and creative, and so I’m exploring the world of print design. I purchased the Creative Suites package and am currently learning InDesign. What program should I learn next, Photoshop or Illustrator? I would like to be able to design stationery, invitations, etc. I’ve done a ton of research! Also, what do you know about Envelopments? I’m looking for a hobby that could turn into a little more! Thanks for all your advice!

  135. christy says:

    Just wanted to thank you so much for your time and generosity. It is truly appreciated. All the best to you-

  136. Brigita Josely says:

    Dear abby

    hey abby, your story is such an inspiration for me
    i was wondering if i want to start with my own business?
    can i use the social networking as my source?
    just for example, TUMBLR
    It’s a great site to find pictures and if i want to create my own notebook, can i use ppicture from TUMBLR? i know that it’s someone else original picture and i don’t have their permission to use it. But can i still use the picture from social networking though?

    Thank you/ kisskiss :)

  137. Hi Abby!
    First of all, thank you so much for sharing your story with us fellow designers who are looking to become successful in the stationery business. I started my stationery business back in 2010 and at first just focused only on custom stationery. Recently, am finding less and less people are willing to pay the expensive price tag of 100% custom invitations and turning to other alternatives such as DIY. My question to you is what part of the business is the most profitable? Is it selling your designs to local stationery stores? Or is it selling of a custom design to your clients? I am attending the National Stationery Show this year to get a grasp of what other designers are doing. My goal is to have a booth in the next year or two. As of right now, I’m not 100% knowledgeable and comfortable on the wholesale process. Thanks so much. Your feedback is much appreciative!!!

  138. Jenny says:

    I came across this blog as i was researching how to start a stationary store. I am embarking on a home based creative business and needed some information. As i read your first few lines i started to feel a little more comfortable with myself and my wanting to put myself out there, your story has made me feel as if i too can do this.. thank you so much for putting your experiences out there for others to come across. I am saving this page :)

  139. Danielle T. says:

    Hi Abby- I am in the “beginner” stage. My hubby is a graphic designer and i am the accountant. I decided that I want to launch an online stationery company. Do you think that this business is still high in demand? I dont want to start a company and there is to much out there for people to choose from?

    I want to take my time to start this business to make sure that i have given it my every thought! First and foremost, i will be creating all of my designs which makes it unique! I want to create wedding invitation packages, that way my design carries throughout the entire stock. I also want to offer birthday, birth, every type of invite that you can think of. I also want to offer business packages. I am looking to go live next June 2013.
    I would like to do most of the printing. However, I know that i will probably have to find a local printer for more “difficult” jobs. What exactly are those “difficult” jobs? Mostly engraved? I am looking for a printer that i can use @ home for most of my print jobs. Are there printers that can print raise??
    I have so many ideas and would love any and all advice that you can give me.
    I know this is alot. Where do I start?

  140. Tait says:

    Hey All,

    I just thought I’d let you know that this is live. It’s not perfect, for one I think the image display needs to be cleaned up, but it works. If people use it we’ll continue to make it better. If we find it’s not popular we’ll phase it out. So if you like it, use it!

    Tait

  141. Mike says:

    Hi there, I have a large inventory of gift cards that might be able to help you kick start your business. This will help you attract customers since it will help you establish a deep product line. These cards are for all occasion (birthday, sympathy, congratulations, ect) and are being sold a unreasonably low price. Our company, accidentally over bought and now our warehouse has been flooded with quality cards. Anyways, these cards are usually sold at $2.25 retail value but we just need to get rid of them so we are selling them at $.30 you can get an entire card store for $180.. free shipping as well. If you are interested visit beaucraftselloff.ca

  142. Sap says:

    Hi Abby,

    Not sure if this was addressed but I am in the process of setting up an online store and I can not seem to figure out (and web designers too) how to implement an online personalization tool that so many other stationery e-commerce stores use. The kind that the buyer can upload their own picture and make edits right on top of the design selected. Can you offer some insight, companies, software?

    Thank you, and you are inspirational!!!

  143. Nikki says:

    Hi Abby.

    Someone just passed along your blog to me. How GRATEFUL i am to her.

    My question is geared more towards a Printer. You mentioned finding a Printer that will allow you to purchase materials as the orders are being printed. Aside from that, what are other good tips for knowing when you have found the right Printer. I have started a relationship with a large printing company in CT but the more I am learning and reading from various blogs and Designers who are starting off small like myself, I am learning to possibly start with a local printer. I am just not sure how to know when I have found the right one.

    For now, I am designing the outside flap of blank note cards with gel ink. It is important that I have quality production that picks up the shadows and smears that I create with the ink.

    What do you think?
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    Nikki

  144. Cathleen says:

    Hi there…
    I have just spent several years learning graphic design and the CS5 program through a community college. I was an “older” returning student to school and decided to follow my passion for graphic design after becoming an empty nester.
    I have friends and contacts in the wedding planning industry and also contacts in graphic design that live in another state, and I would LOVE nothing more than to start a wedding invite and event invite design company!!! I wouldn’t say that I am the best graphic designer but I do have very good taste in design. Basically, I know when something looks good!
    How long did it take you come up with your initial designs and how many did you have for your wedding planner to present to her clients? How many designs did you have?
    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions…
    Kindly,
    Cathleen

  145. Debra Murrow says:

    Hi Abby,

    Thanks for sharing…I have just launched a part of my business; my cards. So I searched and found your info.

    I also do allot of Custom Wedding Guest Book Drawings as well; thought this might interest your newest site Style me Pretty see samples here: http://colorme.weebly.com/colorme-weddings.html

    Thx’s
    Debra

  146. Stephanie says:

    Hi Abby,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a mom and am trying to do a business as well….my question to you is what design programs do you use or did use…I have a mac and am trying to find a good one with good fonts/ designs.

    Thank you again you made me feel like I can do this!!!

    ~ Stphanie~

  147. Hi Abby –

    Quick question as I delve into starting my own stationery company – where did you get your albums made? I was going to just go to the scrapbook store and purchase an album (still definitely a consideration and most likely the option which I will choose), but I was thinking of looking into a more professional album….I just don’t want the album to look cheap and homemade!
    Thanks so much! Love reading your all of your advice and tidbits!

    Jen
    Twirl Papers

  148. Kim Nguyen says:

    Hi Abby! I’m trying to start a wedding invitation business but became discouraged when I realized how tedious and challenging it was. However, after coming across your site, I am motivated again. Like you, I am starting this off with no knowledge of Illustrator or Photoshop. It is so difficult to make nice and detailed designs with it. I’m wondering, what did you do to become more advanced in your designs as you go along. Did you get help from graphic designers to make the work easier? Or take classes as you go along to help with designing the invitations? Or does it come naturally after awhile of doing it on your own? It seems impossible for me to do this on my own and make it as nice as other people’s. Also, I noticed for letterpress printing, I have to find someone to make my plates for about $150 for each design in order for them to letterpress it. That’s crazy! Did you end up buying your own letterpress machine or printer to do it for cheaper? Or did you just pay for each plates? Please help. You’re my only inspiration and motivation right now…

    Thanks,

    Kim =)

  149. ketki bhangale says:

    1)How did you get this idea of stationery business?
    2)What was the budget of stationery business?
    3)What was the motive to start stationery business?
    4)What was the structure of stationery business?
    5)Why did you choose a particular area of stationery business? Is there any reason to choose this area?

  150. Emilie says:

    If I am thinking of starting a small stationary design business out of my home, do you have any printer recommendations? I like the look your paper goods have, and so far every printer I have found just makes basic, flat, and somewhat cheap looking stationery. Basically, I wondered if you had equipment recommendations for operating a business out of my home. :)

  151. Maria says:

    Hi Abby! Thank you for sharing such valuable information. I am reminded by people like yourself that with hard work and perseverance, dreams do come truth… although sometimes not in our own timing.

    I am currently working on starting a small stationary starting with greeting cards. The print shop worker where I am getting services from told me I can get a form so I won’t pay the printing taxes since I am getting these products developed to sell to the public. I was wondering if you are familiar with this, please let me know. My mom and I are venturing on this business, she is retired and Im a freelance designer so I am very cautious with managing our small budget. Thank you so much!

  152. Maggie says:

    Hi,
    I was wondering was software did you use for making your designs. There is so many and I read that when you started you weren’t computer savvy. So, is that application easy to use? What is the name of the app?

    Thanks
    Maggie

  153. Makono says:

    You are kinda inspirational..i like your spirit.
    I’m on the same foot print you went through,
    but how did you face and approach Ms. Debi Lilly?
    Were you knowing each other before or you got introduced by some one else?

  154. Eliza Clarkson says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story. I’ve been making my own stationery for years, and I always thought about doing something with it but I’ve never had the courage. I also need to find a good printer. Or maybe a company near by that could print in bulk for me. It looks like I just need to face my fears and ask around.

  155. Nicole Grayden says:

    Hi Abby! What steps would you suggest to start a small stationary business to include, invitations, save the dates & programs? Where do you get the design templates from or do you create them yourself?

  156. Tamara King says:

    Hi Abby! I am now exactly where you were at 24. Well the zero experience part. I’ve worked in events and styling and have just created my own blog but would really love to extend into stationary. Can you recommend a good course? Do I need to do a graphic design course? because this looks way over the top for what I’m wanting to do. I need to if possible study online and have no experience with illustrator, in-design, photoshop…nothing! Would love your advice:)

  157. Angela says:

    Hello. I have been searching the net regarding personalized stationaries and I came across with this. It is nice to hear that you started from scratch, with no friends or relatives to guide you. In my area, there are just 1-2 companies that do this. I am very much interested to start on this. I believe I have a keen eye to details, I have my own style, people would ask my opinions on things with regards to design.
    My question is: where do i start? what softwares do i need? do i need to enroll to study this craft? can i do it at home?
    Please help and guide me.
    Thanks,

    Angela

  158. Heather Reed says:

    Hi Abby – I know I’m coming into the conversation a few years too late :)
    Do you happen to have a good source for the fabric albums used to show stationery lines? We are looking to do an easel album that will stand on it’s own.

    Best regards,
    Heather

  159. Kim Farrens says:

    Hi Abby,
    I just read your article and I as I was reading how you started the company and you were writing my life as I speak! I started mine 2 1/2 yrs. ago with no design experience as well. But I have a very high quality product and a great concept/story for the company. 2012 gained a lot of momentum so have decided to go from an in home part time business to getting my brand and products out nationwide. The bulk of my business is creating personalized stationery. I would like to establish a relationship with a printer but not sure how they would personalize each order without it costing a fortune. I also want to be able to personalize other items I sell. We are going to the NSS for the 1st time this year and want to know more about the “album” you speak of. I have one that is very basic of samples that I’ve put into clear page sleeves and have them in a binder. I’d like to create a nice, high end one but not sure how to go about that. I’d like to have the album house hard copies of current designs rather than having just photographs or I can maybe do a combination of both. Who, what kind of company would I approach to make one? Like you, I’d like to take it to the NSS and get stores to purchase my products. I am aiming to get my website up by April and hopefully a blog as well. I was a one woman operation, literally doing everything, but just hired on 2 part time staff. I do have a lot more questions but will start with this for now. :) Thank you for taking the time!
    Kim

  160. Emilie Guan says:

    Generally I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice article.

  161. amir says:

    hello Abby, i’m on a research about stationery store problems that occurring with computers such as data redundancy, data corruption and so on, could u tell me a little about the problems and also the solutions.. thanks btw..

  162. C Demos says:

    Hi Abby,

    I am writing from down under… Australia that is! :) I stumbled across this post the other day while searching for something on google… AND I could not believe my eyes! You were describing everything that is happening to me. I have always been a creative person and I have worked in sales since I was a teenager. I used to make quirky little things for people all the time and my gift packaging was always the talk among my friends and family. After getting married earlier this year, I decided finally to start researching making invitations as a business. When I first sat in front of the computer I was using word and powerpoint to make the invites. Then I discovered adobe and illustrator! I totally freaked out and my husband told me ‘you can do it’ so i worked and worked until I taught my self how to use it inside out! I have been using social media to advertise and in the last 3 months, I have 9 wedding clients already! I was absolutely thrilled that people liked the work I was doing and i am even getting referrals from exiting clients. :) I was so thrilled to see that someone else started the same way as me!!! I hold even more hope for my future in this industry now… so THANK YOU!!!

  163. Tori says:

    Hi,

    I have a tiny, shoebox (literally sold out of a shoebox) card company that I sell at a local coffee shop. Up until now everything has been completely hand made, cut out, glued, painted, drawn etc. But now I’m more interested into expanding into printed cards & invitations, I’ve had several requests from friends of mine to do wedding invitations. I don’t know where to start as far as computer programs, right now I’m just using Pages on Mac and it is extremely limiting, I can’t even curve text on it. I’m just wondering what sort of program you use & if you have any recommendations.

    Thanks so much!

  164. Bethany says:

    Hi ~ I just came across your blog and am so thankful I did! What a wealth of information! I am interested in branching my business out to include stationery. Are there certain companies that you recommend? If I wanted to create my own stationery, do you know of an online class that teaches the basics of how to get started with software programs? Thanks!

  165. Michelle Banks says:

    Abby,

    I’m super late to the party, seeing how this is a 4 year old post! Starting my own stationary company/store has always been a dream for me. As I’m embarking on a very uncharted stage in my life, I thought I would do a little more researching in making this dream come alive. My Google search landed me. It was so encouraging to see this is how one of my most favorite blogs, SMP, started! This Backstage section is fab. You have a reader for life!

    Much Admiration!

  166. Kait says:

    Hi Abby!

    I am in the very very very early stages of starting an invitation line. I have done some research but I am not quite sure where to start. This is really just a small project. Ideally it would be a small line for the DIY bride. I provide the design and they print in home. Any idea where I should begin? I know I am so late finding this post but if you can find the time to answer we would all love to hear more feom you!

  167. Stephanie Swarts says:

    Dearest Abby

    I am an artist who thought it would be easy getting my little gift book containing 3″65 Life Quotes By Famous People” published…Was I ever wrong!

    I have contacted so many literary agents specialising in gift books but have been told that the gift book I designed is ussualy done inhouse…cool!! I’ll go with inhouse – just to see my creation on a shelve, but its where? who? how?

    Can you please help me?

    Stephanie

  168. bratz says:

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  170. Erin says:

    Hi Abby,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog and I learned a lot in in the few minutes I have been reading about you. My question is what software do you use to create your stationary, banners, invitations, thank you cards, cake toppers water bottle labels? I have asked local companies but no one is interested in helping me. A program would be super helpful :)

    Thank you in advance

  171. Ashley Tanno says:

    Hey Abby!

    You should be proud :)
    What did you do about the lack of experience in the lack of graphics programs? I too, know very little about photoshop but am a skilled artist by hand. Obviously, it’s more lucrative to do your own editing and retouching.

  172. Cathy Sutphin says:

    Hello! I am starting my own invitation company within my family business of Floral Design/Florist. I am not interested in designing my own card, but want to explore the various whole companies to look at possibly purchase and represent their line. Can you provide some names of the wholesales?

    Thank you!

    cathy

  173. Cathy Sutphin says:

    Hi. I am starting an invitation business within my family’s business (Florist). I need to know what companies I can buy the books from that has sample invitations. Any suggestions? I would like to carry low, mid and high end invitations. Any ideas of the cost of these albums?

    Thank you!

    Cathy

  174. Rina says:

    Hi! I want to get some of my wedding card designs printed professionally because I don’t think I will be able to do that at home. However, I am having a hard time finding printing companies that will be able to manufacture my designs. I don’t know where to look! Any suggestions!?!

  175. Kim Chartier says:

    I started my company with just a bit of knowledge and said.. “if they can do it so can I” I am a Pharmacist by trade and here I am coming back to what I love to do, graphic design. I too researched printers and do all my printing in house, well with the exception of one item. It is very tedious and I get so mad at my printers that you can usually find me talking to them.. LOL.

    Adobe Illustrator is key to everything you do.. I did not know how to use it either. I hired a guy to teach me and bought a lot of books.. You Tube is your friend. Fonts are expensive, buy only what you need as you go.

    I took a class in Asheville, NC at Bookwerks to teach me how to letter press, but now I just need to find the right letter press machine without going broke. I want to learn how to Deboss as well.

    Girls and guys, stay with it… Remember weddings are RECESSION PROOF .. Kim
    Samantha Jade Designs, LLC

  176. shenovka says:

    Hey Abby!

    Its really inspired me when I was read your article. And if you mind, I would like to ask two short question. First, do you think its alright to use printing agency for start the business?. Second, how you can mae yourself believe that this business will success? Thank you for your appreciation :D

  177. Kate says:

    Hi,

    My friend and I are starting up our own invitation business. I am a graphic designer and have a great relationship with the printer since I am a printer. What would you recommend to develop a client base? Who do you suggest I speak with?

  178. Alyssa says:

    Hi Abby! I love your Business Cards! I was wondering what font you use?

  179. Michelle says:

    Hi Abby!

    This is such a GREAT post! I did custom invites for my own wedding and am now scheming to quit my big firm legal job and start my own stationary company. So inspiring that you left the corporate world to do this! What companies make the albums with all your samples?

  180. Ruins Barry says:

    I would seriously love to have you as a mentor if that’s possible.
    I want to open a stationery store but I’m still confused if it should be and online store or not. I love paper and like you have no real experience but I do have 10 plus years of retail experience. Is there any way I can correspond with you?

    Thank You.

  181. Sonia L. Hunt says:

    Hello,

    Your story is so inspirational and I would like to know a lot more of how to invest and get started with something small and turn it into something worth wild. My sister and I are wanting to start a small stationary business and make it grow into an everlasting memory. What are the major things we need to look for in starting our small business and possibly having some of the proceeds to go to the Special Needs Foundation for children with disabilities.

    Please help!!

    Thank you,

    Sonia and Tanya Ledesma.

    :)

  182. Chris says:

    Hi Abby
    Thank you so much for sharing your insights. Me and my wife have recently set up a stationery business and are trying to work our way into the wedding market as it seems like the most sustainable way to go. Profits in stationery are so tight and wedding stationery is generally bought in greater volume than regular stationery.
    My question is what profit architecture did you use when you first set out and how long did it take to get over the initial hump of not making profit.
    I’d love to know you’re thoughts on our current stationery ranges as well:
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  183. Nel says:

    Hi Abby,

    Did you also do in-house printing when you started out with your business? Meaning did you do it from your own home, like bought a colored laser printer first? Or right off the bat you went out and out sourced your printing needs? Am planning to start my business slow and small first and am looking at doing everything from home.Any suggestions on what laser printer I may start of with? Thank you much!!!!

  184. Savannah says:

    What an interesting and helpful article!! You are such an amazing inspirtation. I am currently 18 years old and about to head off to college. My dream is to start my own paper and stationery company. As for now, the single cards that I make get tons of compliments from freinds and family! Just as you said above, I know I have a great eye for design, giftwrap, etc. It seems like every time I try to make a copy of my card at the local print store, the quality looks crappy and the colors don’t transfer quite right. I use hand lettering, calligraphy, and acrylic paints to make my designs… how do I transfer my ideas and designs to the computer and print them in a way that looks professional and not juvanile?? If I use a program like illustrator, can I keep my original work and lettering, or do I use preset fonts and images? I’m so lost. I have the creativity and design, but I have NO idea how to digitally improve my work and make multiples of it.
    Please help me!!!!

  185. Jill Wagner says:

    I am looking into an online stationery business could you give me some pointers on what it takes and how much the cost would be involved?

  186. Regina says:

    Hi Abby,

    I’m looking for clipart that I can use on my invitations and resell them, any suggestions? What do you think about Mountaincow? Anything cheaper?

  187. Ashlee says:

    I’m starting a stationery company & I’ve started getting paper samples & my designs, but I’m a bit stuck as to where i should go next, should I get my stock/samples completed first. i really want to do custom designs, but how do i attract the clientele?

  188. Latosha says:

    I’m starting a stationery company, I’m at the point where I want to make sample books and sell that way, I have no idea what to you to make my sample books, Please give me some insite of the materials or where I can find the best products.

  189. Antoinette says:

    Abby,

    I am in the early stages of starting a stationary business, and I’m at the point of making my sample albums.I have no idea what to do to make my sample books. Please give me some incite of the materials to purchase or where I can find the best products. I have a prospective client that is taking chance on me for an upcoming wedding a 2 years out. Lastly, how build relationship with printers and what companies would you suggest. Lastly, adobe photoshop and illustrator essential for this business if not what computer programs are.

    Thank you.

  190. Cassie says:

    Hi Abby,

    I want to take my personal drawings and calligraphy from paper to computer to print.

    Do you have a scanner you recommend – or any tips on the initial paper to computer process?

    Thanks!

  191. Camille O'Donnell says:

    First off…..you are an inspiration. I have dreams of starting my own stationery business. I have no experience in design but a lot of passion and a creative mind. I would love to know…where did you get your designs/graphics? Did you get them with software(im looking at Indesign like you recommended), design them yourself or get them somewhere else? Thank you

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  193. Julia says:

    Hi!

    Great post. A lot of helpful information! I do have some questions though.

    1. Would you recommend working a printing company?

    2. Or would you just buy a printer?

    3. Also how long did it take you to start this business?

  194. Kieran John says:

    I do have a deep interest in starting my own small business selling wedding invitations, I would like your assistance and advise and some questions I do have in getting started. My email address is kieranjohn74@hotmail.com

    Please send me your contact details

    Thank you

  195. Nikki says:

    Hi Abby,

    I am not sure if you will ever see this, but was wondering if you can suggest a good place where I can purchase affordable wholesale wedding invitation album?

    Sincerely,
    Nikki

  196. Jessi says:

    Hello,

    What software did you use to design your cards?

    Thanks!
    Jessi

  197. gabriela says:

    Hi Abby,

    First of all i want to congratulate you for you success, i hope to have it sometime to. I´m from México, i have a little design business with my sister, we love the way the stationary business is managed in usa, and that is what we want to do! Our business idea is to build a design book and be able to sell our designs in different retail stores.

    I really need some advice o how to handle it, what information must contain, how to manage the business and dealing with customers and suppliers, we want to do it the best way and follow the business pattern that you have there, with excellent customer service.

    t’s hard to explain everything here, I’d love to get in contact with you.
    my e-mail is gaby_gcs@hotmail.com

    thank you very much!

  198. Abby,

    I just spent about an hour reading through all of this and copy and pasted so many words of wisdom and advice you gave! I could not thank you enough. Just today my husband called saying we need to talk about changing some things with the business I started since I am not generating a lot of profit yet. I am about 7 months old doing my own stationery and trying what I can to look at low-cost ways to market and get my name out there. Reading through all of this just filled me with such inspiration since I was thinking “crap… am I doing the right thing?” but I know I am because this is my passion and I love working with brides and adding a detail to their amazing day.

    You filled me with a second wave and am ready to make some changes just going off of what I read here today. I truly thank you for that, and you are such an inspiration to all of us trying to get our business going off the ground! I am actually attending the National Stationery Show for the first time this year to just go and look at all the vendors and see what it’s about!

    Thank you thank you and keep up the amazing work!!

  199. Joyce Murphy says:

    Hi Abby,
    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your information.
    I would like to know what kind of printer you use. I
    do candy wrappers and need good color. I had an old Dell
    and it finally broke. I have been searching for a simple
    center feed printer with quality color. Have tried 5 and
    the color is terrible, red is orange! Would love any
    suggestions you may have.
    Thanks so much.
    Joyce Murphy

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  202. Abby,
    I am the owner of a graphic design/wedding stationary business. I am currently at a cross roads of trying to make the business the sole source of my income (as I have been running my business for almost 2 year, working full-time elsewhere and raising two very young boys). I am ready for one job so I can concentrate 100% on Mariah Design Agency and have time to spend with my family.

    Part of my dilemma is pin pointing what I want MDA to be. Do I want to be a general graphic design/printing company that does custom, hand-made wedding materials or do I want to be strictly a wedding design company. I LOVE doing weddings and they are 90% of my income. Jobs from business and general event invitations makes up the other 10% and helps during the wedding off-season. I am looking for any advice you can provide me.

    I have an Etsy store that I sell my wedding stationary designs in and it does very well. My brides love that they can customize every aspect of every design. Most of my designs are printed in house (but depending on the order, I may have pieces printed by a professional printer). ALL assembly is done by hand, by me.

    Really I am just looking to transition to a full-time business and I am trying to take the steps make the jump.

    Thank!
    Mariah

  203. Sue Lai says:

    Hi there,

    Such great inspiration from your post.
    I also design custom wedding invitations and I am thinking about registering to be an exhibitor at the Winter Wedding Bridal expo in January 2015.
    Now I realize that this may not bring instant business, but possibly business down the road.

    Do you have any advice that you can give me in terms of setting up for the event as well as what I can do to maximize sales that weekend?

    Thanks

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  206. Sagar Bodke says:

    Hi sir,
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  207. I don’t have a degree, but I do have the passion and desire to create and design beautiful stationary. I love photography and design and i always thought outting those two together, i would be able to make something unique and one of a kind.
    I was hoping you could give me a few pointers.
    Do you think taking any classes would be a good start?

  208. joseph says:

    Hi, Abby, you really are an inspiration .I’m planning to start up this kind of business and i’m gonna follow your way.

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  211. Mariah says:

    Great blog, thank you for your inspiration! I am creative and thinking of starting an invitation business, I love all things wedding and special events. I have experience using Publisher and began learning InDesign. I do quite of bit of Marketing materials, which I design myself. However I do not have experience in the invitations/stationery industry.. What are your thoughts on becoming a dealer with an e-commerce website such as the Carlson Craft line, first? I’m now working full time in another field. I feel it would allow me to learn the invite business, while providing a little extra cash at the beginning. My plan is to slowly grow the business adding custom designs.

  212. Candejah says:

    Hello,

    I absolutely adore your for all of the wonderful advise you have given. I pray this gets to you because I noticed this is an older blog but I too have started my own stationery business. As of now I print from home and I know earlier in one of your comments you stated that you wouldn’t disclose the printing company that style me pretty uses. But can you mention how you found them? I looked on Google and I am just having a hard time knowing what exactly to search for. It is quite discouraging because many of the things that I want to do I can do on my printer I would need a commercial printer. Any advice?

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    Suddenly I feel ill-equipped. No design experience. I want to create my own line. I have seen what you wrote about InDesign and WordPress. I’m just so confused. Do I just create a design with the software and send it to my printer? How do I go about creating an album? I mean what are the elements? i.e. Binders, pages etc. This is scary….

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  216. Megan says:

    Hi there!

    I was so happy when I came across this post.

    I am currently a teacher, but have found a real love and passion for creating and organizing appealing and personalized products for others in the education world. I am currently venturing out to stop teaching and make stationary my next career path.

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  217. Kathryn says:

    I am going into my 8th year operating my own stationery business. Your blog is a really good resource for insight and encouragement for new stationers. My passion is creating original artwork for my products. When I started my business, I did have some experience doing basic layout using a stationery layout program called Printing Press Pro Extreme , which I still use. I wish I had started with the In Design program. The one I use is good for beginners…but you do kind of have to teach yourself. Just this past year I began outsourcing the printing for all the flat-digital printing. I had been doing it all in-house on small slow printers. The outsourcing has been great to allow me to take on greater volume. I have a functional website. It “works” but is very limited technologically since I had to build it myself with no real web design experience…once again… I had to teach myself. Now, my goal is to expand my customer base by offering my products in albums in brick and mortar stationery stores. I need to create an album that looks professional. Do you have recommendations on finding a source of the outer album cover ( portfolio binder) that is reasonably priced and won’t require me to purchase a huge quantity of them. I can create and assemble my own pages. Hopefully that will expand my customer base. My ultimate goal would be to sell the designs/business and continue to create new designs for the buyer.
    Let me know if you have suggestions about sources for album covers
    Thanks again for sharing through this blog.
    Kathryn

  218. Melanie says:

    I will be entering a contest related to a few stationary products I would like to bring to the market. I have been contacting printing companies and I would like to know what to do next! lol The idea is in its infancy stage, and I’m thinking the first thing to do is to create a prototype. Am I on the right track?

    Thanks a bunch,
    Melanie Holt
    Teacher
    Future Entrepreneur!

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  223. Jennifer says:

    I am not quite looking to start a stationery business but my fiancée is going to be away for a bit and I’d like to mail him custom stationery are there any software programs you recommend to make custom stationery? I’ve tried playing around in office, but I can’t really create what I am looking for.

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