Maybe you’re an aspiring illustrator who loves to peruse your favorite illustrators’ work for ideas. Or you see a stack of a paper and know how to turn everyday card stock into colorful paper flowers with your creative flair. Nothing makes you happier than a solo afternoon with a sketchbook + color pencils and drawing to your heart’s content. This week, in our How to Quit Your Day Job series, Keiko Brodeur, owner of Small Adventure, a paper goods company based in Los Angeles, shares her tips for how she took the leap and started her own paper goods company.
Meet The Paper Goods Pro: Keiko Brodeur
Keiko’s nature-inspired stationery and prints have been featured in publications like Lucky and Bust, as well as on sites such as Apartment Therapy and Design is Mine. But before she turned her attention full time to Small Adventure, she juggled a part-time job teaching piano and violin lessons, often working 30 hours a week at her day job while putting as much as time as possible into her paper goods company. It took Keiko about five years of working on her business on the side before she was able to make the leap to being her own boss.
It’s okay to take your time. Keiko’s transition from her day job to small business owner was a slow process. “Sometimes it takes awhile! My transition was pretty slow, working on part-time work while I put in as much time on Small Adventure as I could,” says Keiko. She didn’t want to make the leap until she developed Small Adventure into a sustainable business that could thrive on its own.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. As an artist, Keiko says she’s always looking around her environment for new and fresh concepts, whether she’s traveling or admiring other artists’ work to get motivated. Currently, she digs “photos of traditional folk garments, children’s books and travel photos” as sources for creative ideas.
Find your tribe. Starting your own biz requires working solo a lot, which can be discouraging at times, but Keiko suggests finding fellow creatives to socialize with and learn from their experiences. If you sell your goods at craft fairs, reach out to makers who you admire. “I’ve made some pretty awesome friends through selling at craft fairs,” says Keiko. Work-wise, you’ll want to assemble a team who can help lighten your workload, like an accountant, a photographer and a designer.
Get by with a little help from your friends and family. Keiko credits her supportive family who helped her start and grow her business. They’ve driven two hours to her studio space to help her package cards and ship out items. “I couldn’t have gotten this far without them,” says Keiko. When she’s traveling to out-of-town craft fairs, friends have generously lent their space for housing and helped her fulfill orders.
Presentation is key. As a hard-working small business owner, Keiko is mindful to keep her expenses low while also maintaining the quality of her supplies, because how she presents her illustrated prints, cards and journals is vital to her company. Wherever people see your work — “the packaging of the products themselves, product photographs, the design of a catalog, social media and even setting up a booth at craft fairs” — it should reflect your brand and style. (Check out Small Adventure’s Instagram feed for a peek into Keiko’s social media style.)
Enjoy being your own #girlboss. Setting her own schedule is one of Keiko’s favorite things about being her own boss. Plus, she says, “not having to stick to exact hours keeps me from getting in a rut,” so a flexible routine is ideal for her creativity. “I really enjoy being able to think of whatever illustrations will fit into my line and work on them whenever I want to,” says Keiko.
Take time to relax. Keiko is upfront that she spends lots of time and energy devoted to running her paper goods company, and while she enjoys it immensely, she acknowledges that she’s given up weekends and fun events to support her work. “But it can be extremely rewarding to see your work blossom and receive positive feedback,” says Keiko. She’s learned that taking time away from work and relaxing is one of the best ways to keep her motivated and creative.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Craft Show Secrets: How to Get in, Make Sales and Grow Your Business ($99): If you are thinking about selling your paper goods at local craft fairs or trade shows, this online course will help you learn the ins and outs of the complex world of craft shows.
2. Custom Stationery Online Class ($19): In this Brit + Co class, beginners will learn how to apply watercolor paint to blank cards, basic embossing techniques and adding a pop of color to envelopes.
3. Tune in to #Girlboss Radio (Free, Subscribe via iTunes): Sophia Amouruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, interviews creative, cultural and business leaders about what they’ve learned in this empowering podcast series.
What career would you like to see covered next in our How to Quit Your Day Job series? Let us know in the comments!
(Photos via Small Adventure)