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Round Up: Favorite Snail Mail to Send

Alyssa Nguyen


Round Up: Favorite Snail Mail to Send

It’s officially fall (even if it doesn’t feel like it in Austin!), and I feel like we’re on the cusp of ramping up into every business’s “busy” season of the year. For most businesses, especially retail, the last quarter (October-December) is the busiest time of the year in regards to sales + revenue. No pressure right?

I’ve learned a lot over the past several years of learning to embrace the slower days (even months) as they offset the times where things seem to be moving at such a fast and sometimes frantic pace. Of course I’m grateful for the holiday season for so many reasons, and am so honored that The Paper + Craft Pantry gets to play a small role in our communities celebrations throughout the year.

It’s during the busy times and seasons that I feel it’s extra important to slow down, or at least find time to slow down. The holiday season can be tough for some people, for so many reasons- I think it’s a great reminder to just be extra kind, show extra patience and give extra grace whenever you can. A great way to slow down is to just sit down and write- write to someone you haven’t talked to in a while, write to your grandma who you only see once a year, write a just because note to your significant other, write a short note to your postman (or woman!)… You really don’t need an excuse to show someone you thought of them, and that they are valued.

I read this article that shared the five reasons to write thank you notes and this one on the science behind thank you notes. And was immediately inspired to write a few little notes and cards to pop in the mail.

The selection of cards we have at The Paper + Craft Pantry is something that makes me so proud because I thoroughly enjoy seeing guests in our shop take their time to peruse what we have, to really find the “one”. Here are a few of our current favorites that are my current favorite snail mail to send, just because.

INSPIRED TO SEND MORE SNAIL MAIL? SHOP OUR ONLINE STORE NOW OR POP INTO OUR NEW SHOP TO PICK OUT THE PERFECT CARD :)

Small Business School: An Interview With A 12yr Old Entrepreneur

Alyssa Nguyen


Small Business School: An Interview With A 12yr Old Entrepreneur

Earlier in the year (in January), I received an email that caught my attention. As you can imagine, my inbox is rather full and I would normally have assumed this particular email was spam. But boy am I glad I clicked on it!

The email was from a 6th grader who had written an incredibly concise email about how she was interested in doing her apprenticeship (a requirement for her school for credit) at The Paper + Craft Pantry. The email was extremely well worded and she even ended the email asking if we could schedule a phone call to discuss further. My first instinct was to say no, because honestly,taking on an intern, especially a 12 year old one sounded like a ton of work.

But I agreed to a phone call with her because I was interested to learn more about if it would be a right fit for both of us. The day before our scheduled call, I received an email from Kate (the 6th grader in the email) to confirm our call the next day. I mean, what kind of 12 year old does this?

Our phone call went wonderful and I asked Kate to put together an email as well as send me a reference before I would decide if the next step would be an in person meeting.

Fast forward to our in-person interview, Kate walked in and shook my hand with the confidence that I wish most adults (even myself) would have. I was immediately blown away by how well she carried herself and how professional she was. Kate proceeded to inform me during our conversation that she had first dabbled in small business ownership in the fourth grade at her school’s children’s fair.

Needless to say, I decided that taking Kate on would be a great decision for both myself and The Paper + Craft Pantry! Kate spent over a month with us assisting with workshops, helping with marketing efforts, and really anything else we needed support on. And before it was time for her to graduate 6th grade, I sat down with Kate to ask her some questions about her experience working at The Paper + Craft Pantry.

Who are you AND what do you do? My name is Kate Metteauer, and I am a 6th grader at Acton Academy West.

Tell me about your school! My school is centered around the Hero’s Journey and learning at your own pace. I know it sounds crazy, it’s the most amazing school ever. We learn about entrepreneurship and learn the basics of running a business. I don’t have any homework, but what I don’t finish at school I do at home. Everything is done on the computer and we are on a year round schedule.  It’s small, only around 45 total students, in the ENTIRE school, and only 12 in Middle School. There are a lot of Acton Academies, in the U.S, but also in the world.

Tell me a bit about how you started your business! When I was nine (which really wasn’t that long ago), I was surprised to get a sewing machine for my birthday. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I now appreciate it  and have realized it was the best gift I have ever gotten. Soon after I learned to sew, I started my first business. I sold mostly bags and scarves that I had sewn. I had very little inventory, and a booth at The Acton Children’s Business Fair, but I loved it. After about two years of sewing, I realized that my products weren’t selling because I was trying to sell $40 bags to seven year olds and my materials were too expensive to sell things for any less. If I wanted to sell bags and scarves it would need to be for a different audience, so I completely switched gears and started making soap.

How has it evolved? I've gained a lot of knowledge about talking to customers, how to lay out my products at fairs, and how to better make products. I even started funding it myself, instead of asking for money from other people (aka my parents).

What has been your biggest lesson in running a business? I have learned that it’s okay to try something different while also becoming better at managing my time so that I can make more inventory to sell more at each fair. I like trying new things and want to experiment more with different soap recipes, packaging, and so much more! 

While apprenticing at The Paper + Craft Pantry, what was your biggest learning or takeaway?      I have learned so much while apprenticing at The Paper + Craft Pantry, but my biggest takeaway has been that it takes time to start a business, and you have to be very flexible with everything going on around you, and you have to take it slow in the beginning to build up from there.

What were your tasks and responsibilities while apprenticing? Did you get to lead any projects?  I got to restock the cards in the shop, help prep for activities, and clean up after workshops. Although my favorite thing I got to do was probably help people paint pots and make bath salts at some of the events. I loved talking to everyone and guiding them through the process of making something.

What has been something you learned that you really enjoyed? I really enjoyed just being in the studio and seeing what people will create during the classes and at events.

What was something you learned that you didn’t expect? I didn’t expect anything honestly, and with that there were so many amazing surprises around every corner. The biggest was how many classes Pei organizes and hosts every week, and the amount of people that come to those events. Everything has been a learning experience for me, which has been amazing.

What is one thing you’ve learned at the Paper + Craft Pantry that you think has made the biggest impact on your journey as a small business owner? At my school we believe that every student is on their own Hero’s Journey. A Hero’s Journey is the basis for almost every book and movie. Everyone is on there own one and will have many of them throughout their lifetime. This apprenticeship has taught me SO many things, starting from restocking shelves to collaborating with other business owners! Through the lessons that I have learned and the welcoming nature of the Paper + Craft Pantry, this experience has greatly impacted me on MY OWN Hero’s Journey providing me with lessons I will use and cherish throughout my life.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs - Ones who are afraid to get started. What about ones who can’t decide what to do? Take the time to figure out what really makes you happy, and go for it. It’s okay to start small and work your way up from there. Anyone can start a business, you just have to believe in yourself, your work, and your ideas. At my second business fair a tried to sell way way too many things at one time and it ended badly. Instead of giving up I tried something different and used the lessons I learned to make it better than it was before. Don’t be afraid to at least try, even if you fail you can always try again, and this time with more knowledge and experience to do better.


 

FEELING INSPIRED, AND READY TO WORK?! JUST START WHERE YOU WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, AND GO FOR IT! HAVE ANY QUESTIONS? LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS DOWN BELOW.

About the co-author:

Kate is currently a 6th grader at the Acton Academy in Austin. Kate completed a 2 month apprenticeship as a part of her school credit where she learned the ins and outs of small business ownership with The Paper + Craft Pantry. She also is the co-author and editor of this blog post. Kate is a fellow small business owner who owns a soap company called Ridiculously Clean

Small Business School: Insight To How We Buy

Alyssa Nguyen


Small Business School: Insight To How We Buy

Happy Tuesday from our new shop + studio! It’s honestly still so surreal that we are in our new home. It both feels like we just moved in as well as like we’ve always been here. We just celebrated our official re-opening a couple of weekends ago so it does feel a little more real since we're 100% settled in.

Since we opened in 2015, we’ve been committed to bringing y’all the very best stationery, paper and of course, workshops! When we first opened, we started with working alongside 16 fellow small, independent designers to showcase their goods in our shop. And that number has now grown to well over 80!

We’ve grown our family of stationery designers through in-person and Instagram relationships, as well as through our visits to the National Stationery Show. We are so honored to be able to help share the incredible work of fellow creators with you.

A while back, I wrote a blog post about why we buy- a way to share a little bit of perspective of how I choose to stock our shelves. By no means am I an end all be all expert as everyone has their own way of doing things, but I still follow those same thought processes. Since we’ve grown both as a business as well as for me personally, I wanted to take the time to share a more in-depth look at my preferred way of connecting with a brand/maker/designer, and what that early stages of that relationship might look like that leads to placing an order (and re-orders after!)

BUILD A RELATIONSHIP

There are seriously SO many talented designers out there, and as a paper lover, trust me when I say it’s hard to decide which lines to carry in our shop.

I love working with designers who have a vision, designers who are not just talented at creating but are savvy business owners. I want The Paper + Craft Pantry to grow alongside these fabulous businesses. A lot of the designers I started working with when I first opened the shop are still designers we carry in the shop! And I prefer to re-order new designs and replenish our stock by reinvesting in those relationships. The designers we work with have sometimes gone from online working relationships to real life friendships- and if I'm being honest, those are the very best relationships!

Although I enjoy supporting folks we already have a strong relationship with,  I also really enjoy scoping out new designers to bring into our stationery “family"! We get a TON of product submissions via the contact form on our website as well as through good old fashioned snail mail. I typically sort through what we get into sections- ones I will file to order in the future, and ones that just aren’t a fit for us in another. It certainly helps a new designer trying to woo us to go through the proper way we choose to accept product submissions (more on that below!)

DO YOUR RESEARCH

I’m willing to bet that most shop owners can attest that each of them have their own preferred way of accepting product submissions. Do some research, look through their website (Are there instructions on how to submit your work? Are they even accepting new goods?), have you even been to their physical store? Why do you think your brand + product would be a good fit? I can’t tell you the number of times I get inquries where people say they’re a good fit for our shop because our shop is cute. That’s really nice that they think our shop is cute but it makes me wonder if they even know what The Paper + Craft Pantry is about.

Personally, I do not accept walk-ins purely from the standpoint that it’s not a good use of my time. It’s always a little awkward to have to tell someone I am unable to meet with them right then and there. Especially when they’ve got a bag or box full of product and are insisting I look through their product with no regard for my time (or what I have going on during my work day).

Although our submission policies are just a personal preference, I’m almost certain most of the other shop owners I know would agree that unannounced and unscheduled walk-ins are usually not the right way to go!

HOW TO STAND OUT

Think about the volume of emails, and even old fashioned mail a business/shop receives weekly and even sometimes daily...Getting lost in the crowd can be easy.

When submitting your brand + product to a new buyer or shop, presentation is key because I think it speaks to how you run your business. It sets the bar that quality is important to you and usually quality will translate throughout someone’s business.

We’ve received packages that were accidentally left outside in the rain but when we opened it, we mentally applauded the person who put it together for thinking to slip everything into a cello sleeve. A handwritten note is also key (when you’re a stationery business at least) and always sharing why you think your line would make sense added to our shop. Samples are always appreciated because as a paper person, I love being able to feel the weight of the paper and see how things are printed/packaged.

POTENTIAL REASONS FOR WHY YOUR BUSINESS/BRAND/PRODUCT MAY NOT BE A GOOD FIT

Occasionally we’ll receive a submission that’s a really easy no for us. But we also sometiems receive submissions that are a yes, but not right now.

The nos are usually because there’s an overlap in a simliar brand we already work with and carry in the shop. The nos are also usually from improper product submission- because it means that this person has no idea what we do and has never even looked on our website!

The yes but not right nows could be for a number of things. The quantity minimums or opening minimums may be restrictive. There may not be enough designs released that resonate with our shop to warrant an opening order.

P.s. I almost always will place an order/re-order if the designer is offering free shipping and I know of other shop owners who will also raise their hand to this :)
 

WAYS TO FOLLOW UP: 

After submitting your brand + product (in the way that specific shop requries), a follow up email a week or so after is wonderful!

I personally unsubscribe from product/wholesale newsletter that I never opted for- this happens actually more often than you’d think.

But if I already work with a designer + brand, I love when they check in with new product releases and when they remind me of upcoming holidays. Receiving product/wholesale newsletters from folks I already work with is okay in my book!

INSTAGRAM STORY MOST ASKED QUESTIONS: 


How do you choose? Based on your own taste or purely what you think will sell? 

I choose on a variety of factors but when it comes to actual design, I choose designs I feel will resonate with our community (you!) I also am firm not never carrying anything or stocking anything I myself would not want or purchase. 

How do you find designers? 

A lot of designers I currently work with I've known for years (from when I used to design my own line), I discover new designers online as well as attend the National Stationery Show to check out and meet designers in person!

Do you prefer email before samples? 

NO! Only because my inbox is always so full (any one else out there feel the same?) so it's easy for emails to get lost in the shuffle. I personally prefer snail mail and an going through our online product submission form (because the form covers questions I want to know from the brand/business/designer!) 

Best approach to submit product to a store? Wholesale ettiequte, sending samples? 

I mention it in this blog under "Do Your Research"! Each store and shop is different. Each buyer is different :) 

Open to wholesale products from overseas? 

Yes! We currently work with designers from Canada, the U.K. and South Korea. It's not a deal breaker if it's overseas as long as pricing translates to USD and also if shipping isn't bonkers.

Preference of printing type? 

I love all paper equally... okay maybe that's not true. I have a particular soft spot for all things letterpressed. 

What do you look for in a brand to carry? 

This is mentioned in the section "Build A Relationship" in the post above. 


Are you a shop owner? How do you like to receive product/brand submissions? Are you trying to add a stockist to your brand? Have you found an effective way to approach shops? 

We wanna know! Let us know in the comments below! 

 

Official Re-Opening Party Recap

Alyssa Nguyen


Official Re-Opening Party Recap

In case you missed it, we hosted our official re-opening celebration a couple of weeks ago in our brand new space!

We had so much fun transforming our workshop studio into party central for an entire weekend! We've technically been open the entire time since we moved back towards the end of June but we wanted to celebrate this new chapter with all of you. 

It's crazy to look back at the opening of our first brick and mortar  back in 2015 and see the incredible growth and work that has been accomplished since then!

From a paper wall installation that doubled as a backdrop to a really fun photo booth by Oh Happy Day Booth (peek at the gallery at the bottom to find your picture!), delicious Chameleon Cold Brew and Austin Eastciders to keep us cool, and the best cookies (because what's a party without dessert?). 

There were also 18 incredible raffle prizes up for grabs through the weekend from some of our favorite small businesses. Here's a run down of all our raffle prizes: 

We had some pretty sweet little goody bags + big door prizes for the first person in line- and y'all took that very seriously! Some of you drove in from out of town...some of you showed up HOURS before we opened our doors...and ALL of you made this weekend so special. It also wasn't hard to find our new space since atxbubbles decked out our store front with the most beautiful balloon garlands both on the outside as well as inside our shop!

SCROLL DOWN TO CHECK OUT SOME BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS OF THE DAY SNAPPED BY OUR GIRL SHELLY BORGA

Again, a HUGE thank you for each of you who continue to love and support The Paper + Craft Pantry. We were so blown away by all of you who showed up to support us! And we hope to see you around soon :) 

THE PAPER + CRAFT PANTRY OFFICIAL RE-OPENING SPONSORS

TALKING OUT OF TURN

Can coolies, grab bags + door prizes!

CHAMELEON COLD BREW

Cold brew + chameleon chow.

AUSTIN EASTCIDERS

Original, Honey, Blood Orange, Grapefruit cider.

TEDDY V. PATISSERIE

Chocolate chip cookie samples.

RACHEL GIBERSON

Paper wall art installation artist.

OH HAPPY DAY BOOTH

Photobooth for stills + gifts.

If you snapped any fun photos at our official re-opening party over the weekend, be sure to tag us on Instagram @thepapercraftpantry :) 

How-To: D.I.Y. Painted Planters

Alyssa Nguyen


Every year, we host a community craft event called the Summer Craft Party! We open up our studio for the day so everyone in our community can come by and enjoy a complimentary D.I.Y. craft project. 

Our first year, we hosted over 50 guests creating painted canvas pouches, and last year we had a really fun plant shelfie project

In keeping with the plant theme (because you know we love our plants :) we kept it fun + simple with painted mini planters! We had SO much fun getting to meet new guests in our shop as well as get to see so many familiar faces. We also decided to host a little plant adoption event like we did over Earth Day where a portion of all our plant "adoption" fees went towards a local non-profit chapter in town. 

Word on the street is that a lot of y'all were a little bummed to miss out on our Summer Craft Party this year so we whipped up some simple instructions so you can host your very own Summer Craft Party for your friends + family! 

Just grab a few supplies you probably already have lying around at home, invite your friends and family for an afternoon of crafting fun.

D.I.Y. PAINTED PLANTERS

PROJECT TIME: 20 MIN

MATERIALS

  • Small terracotta pots
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Succulents

D.I.Y. STEPS

1. Choose your color palette! We suggest starting with a few colors that go well together. 

*Pro-tip: we used recyclable trays for easy clean up!

2. Use your paint brush and create your master piece on the terra cotta pots! Use light and thin paint layers when you paint, you can always add more paint as you go. 

3. Allow your pots to dry for at least 10-15 minutes.

4. Pick your new succulent friend and pot it in it's new home.

5. Find the perfect place to put your beautiful new pot + plant!

Plan on hosting your own Summer Craft Party with this year's D.I.Y.? Don't forget to tag us in your pictures @thepapercraftpantry so we can see how much fun you had :) 


About the co-author:

Kate is currently a 6th grader at the Acton Academy in Austin. Kate completed a 2 month apprenticeship as a part of her school credit where she learned the ins and outs of small business ownership with The Paper + Craft Pantry. She also is the co-author and editor of this blog post. Kate is a fellow small business owner who owns a soap company called Ridiculously Clean

Small Business School: How We Moved Our Shop + Studio

Alyssa Nguyen


Small Business School: How We Moved Our Shop + Studio

Hello from our new brick + mortar! 

In case you missed it, we moved last month and are wrapping up our third full week in our new home. And yet it feels like it's been longer than that, as well as feels like we just moved yesterday. 

It was definitely a little bitter sweet saying goodbye to our first storefront. We had so many great memories in there from our very first customers who have now become some of our friends, to the hundreds of workshops (and thousands of workshop students) we've had the honor of getting creative with. 

We turned an old, forgotten warehouse into a little slice of paradise with our incredible wall mural, selection of cards on our card wall, and by hosting weekly events for our community.  And we'll forever be grateful for our time on East 6th, especially for all of you who walked through our mint green door there! 

Some of you may have figured out through Instagram that we packed, moved, and unpacked just in time for our normally scheduled workshops in less than 48 full hours. Seriously, we spent a few hours packing on Monday, spent Tuesday morning moving + building out new fixtures in the new space, spent half of Wednesday setting up and hosted our first workshop that afternoon.

Many hands make light work, everything came together! But it wasn’t easy, it took a TON of preparation, planning, and effort on everyone’s part. Curious about what we learned from this move? Here are a few things to consider whether you are moving into your first brick + mortar, or relocating plus some sneak peeks of our new space!

1. Have a plan

I planned out our moving week schedule by designating a packing day, a moving day, and a day to solely set up, and a day to patch/paint the old shop before I turned in my keys. The packing day went a lot faster, it took 5 of us about 3 hours to completely pack up our old shop + all our inventory. 

We started our moving day at 6am...honestly purely to beat the heat and traffic. So we were completely done by 11am. 

Here's the kicker, by the time we went to patch and paint the old shop, our electricity had already been transferred to the new shop so it was perhaps the sweatiest and hardest part of this entire move since it was extremely toasty!

In addition to planning a schedule, having a floor plan mapped out for the new space beforehand enabled us to efficiently move things in and set up the space easily- be flexible, sometimes things don't fit or look the way you want but having a general floor plan takes the guess work out of it. 

2. Create a budget (cost of a uhaul or movers, things breaking, things need replacing, extra furnishings for the new layout, updated marketing materials (decals signage) 

Moving is always going to be an expense. Having a budget can help since you'll have some time leading up to your move to save up some money to help buffer the costs. Consider a uhaul (are you going to be using movers?), account for the fact you will likely need to replace some things when you move because things may get damaged from moving or you may figure out some things just need to be replaced. 

I left a little buffer for additional furnishings since I knew our space would be much larger and I also accounted for the fact I would need to beef up our inventory so the shop felt fresh + full when we reopened. 

One thing to also consider is that you may need to revamp or update your marketing/branding, for us it was for our window, decals as well as indoor + outdoor signage. Having a budget to present to our designer was crucial in prioritizing what needed to be done before we opened, and what could wait until we were settled in!

3. Make a list of places you'll need to update your address on (bills, banks, google, website, mail chimp, social media etc.) 

The biggest stress (and fear) about the move was worrying if guests or workshop students would be confused with where we were. So we made a pretty intensive list of every. single. place. our address would need to be updated to alleviate any confusion. 

First, obviously, your bank. Update the addresses on all your bills/utilities. 

Next we worked through our website, mail chimp, email, website, google, and all our social media platforms (note that it may take some time for all of it to update: it's taken a couple of weeks for everything to finally read as our new address!

4. Call ahead (to set up your electricity + internet) 

At least with Austin Energy, it takes 2-3 days for them to shut off your electricity and transfer the service. So it's a fine balance of making sure you're out of your old space and into the new one, with as little time between them with no electricity because it's HOT in the summer. Yay Texas! 

For our internet set up, we couldn't transfer our account over since the company we were using at our old location did not service this area. So it did take a few days for them to set up the new service. But as you all know we need the internet for our POS, speakers etc. A quick fix and little bandaid to this was to just use my personal phone as a hot spot to connect to the wifi to check people out/stream music. 

5. Ask for help

I feel extremely blessed and lucky to have truly amazing and supportive friends and family. Who volunteered to help with the move (again, in the summer, in Texas). There's no way I would have been able to have a pretty seamless transition over here without all hands on deck!

Also, the kind words of encouragement, customers who popped by to say hi and bring flowers, to even volunteers via Instagram (just even the fact there were folks offering to help meant SO much!)

THINKING ABOUT OPENING UP A BRICK + MORTAR OR LOOKING TO RELOCATE/EXPAND YOUR CURRENT SHOP? HAVE ANY QUESTIONS? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!