Hurray! It's launch day! I am thrilled to welcome you to my brand new blog and website, created by the extraordinarily talented Lauren Hooker of Elle and Company Design. In the coming days, I'll post regularly on lettering, wedding projects, small business and more, but for now, I wanted to tell the story of my shop and share why I decided to make the investment in an branding expert.
THE EARLY DAYS
Prairie Letter Shop began in October of 2013 under its first name, Magnolia Letter Arts. When I started, I knew that I wanted to earn some extra income addressing event invitations. I had worked on several projects for friends and neighbors, and after working 60-80 hour weeks teaching for the four years prior, I was exhausted and in need of a creative outlet. When my shop opened, I knew nothing about logos and branding. My first logos were hand-drawn and scanned into the computer and cropped to the size of an Etsy banner. I had no idea how to use Photoshop, and I took dimly-lit photos on my iPhone with hilariously bad backgrounds such as the awning of my apartment, or the unpleasant countertop in my kitchen. I relied heavily on my talented brother-in-law, who was inundated with dozens and dozens of tech help requests per week in the early days (bless his heart!).
GROWTH AND SURVIVAL
Despite my lack of branding and styling expertise, my shop took off quickly, mostly through word of mouth, once I started making custom rubber stamps at the request of a friend. Suddenly, I was bombarded with orders and would spend hours working on my shop every night after finishing a long day at an also demanding job. My products were okay at that time--but I recognize now that people connected with a few things in my fledgling shop--a (very) low price and the ability to customize. In the beginning, emotional pricing nearly burned me out of working on my shop altogether (more on that in another blog post), but I learned a valuable lesson in that crazy season-- before I knew that a clear brand was important, I knew that the product and the customer service behind it were vital. I also learned that it was important to offer items in a range of price points to support a wide range of client needs . Without a consistent logo and streamlined visual direction, I was still able to "survive"--so much so that I was able to entertain the idea of relying solely on my shop income about a year after opening my shop doors.
BURNOUT AND REGROUPING
My "survival" season landed me in a serious place of burnout, and I got so frustrated that I closed my shop for several months. I knew that my lack of a clear brand story was holding me back. In the early days, I priced my products on the low end because I had a "less than" mentality about my own business; without a polished, professional brand, I felt less qualified. Once I started paying attention to the world of e-commerce and blogging, I began to see a path towards more sustainable work, and I recognized some potential to grow my shop and presence. I attended a variety of workshops with other creatives in that season, and I noticed that my background in teaching and teacher training could translate to workshop hosting in the future. I was blessed with opportunities to guest teach at a friend's workshop and host my own--and I saw that there was a clear demand for teaching about lettering and small business. The workshops I attended as a learner also helped me grow my technical skill. My work improved, and I finally felt like I had something unique to offer.
LAUREN SAVES THE DAY
In January of 2015, I was beginning to plan more seriously to make the full-time leap, and I had the good sense to start looking for a branding professional. I knew that there was no way to move forward in my industry without a beautiful home presence on the web. I searched and searched, specifically for branding services for creative entrepreneurs, and Lauren's site dazzled me. After following her blog, I trusted her expertise and found her transparency refreshing. More than anything, I loved the look of her designs; this was hugely important to me as a hand-letterer. Lauren responded to my first email with a friendly and encouraging tone, and we talked on the phone the very next day. The next open spot in her calendar was in July, so though I was in desperate need of a website at the time, I was so convinced that she was the right designer for me that I was willing to wait almost eight months for her services.
When Lauren and I first talked, she pointed out something important that I hadn't considered. She noticed that there was a clear style and aesthetic to my Instagram feed. She affirmed that I had been building a brand all along, and that a clear logo and web presence would support and grow what what already there. When we met in an exciting Google Hangout to tour the new site the other day, we shared a good laugh that I had been able to pull of a leap to full-time creative entrepreneurship without a functional website. In the coming weeks, I'm excited to share more specifically about how I grew my business using Etsy and Instagram, and I'm excited to share in the coming weeks about how my website is helping me reach goals for the future.
TIME TO CELEBRATE!
I am so thrilled that the launch day has finally come, and I am so incredibly grateful to Lauren for her ability to make sense of the maze that is my business plan. Her design work is spectacular, and I hope you'll agree with me with what she's created here is a charming and cozy home for Prairie Letter Shop on the web. I couldn't be more delighted and highly recommend that you follow along with her as she continues to expand her services for bloggers and creative entrepreneurs. In addition, I am SO grateful to the talented sister duo that styled and photographed the headshot, stock images and many of the envelope photos for the site. THANK YOU, Holly Felts and Wendy Wygle!
Check out Lauren's recap of her design process here. It's so fun to see all the hard work that went on behind the scenes!
P.S. In celebration of my brand launch, I'm teaming up with my dear friends at the Something Turquoise wedding blog and giving away a $100 credit for envelope calligraphy. The contest ends Thursday, 7/30, so be sure to enter while you can!
Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think about the new website! I can't wait to chat with you.