Bright accessories for your home office or work desk just make the day better. If you love outfitting your desk with stylish pens and pencils聽or celebrated National Pencil Day with your trusty聽number two (pencil), you might want to consider making聽your fave writing utensil聽for a living 鈥 really. In the newest profile in our聽How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Jenna Finwall Ryan, the creator of the Etsy shop LZ Pencils, about her creative pencil biz.

Meet the Pencil Pro: Jenna Finwall Ryan

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The inspiration for LZ Pencils came from Jenna鈥檚 book club. Her book club pick was The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson, and her friends were coming over. She wanted to find the perfect party favors, and scoured Etsy for pencils with quotes from the book. She couldn鈥檛 find any. So, she decided to get a pencil printing machine so she could make her own (obviously). That was just the beginning.

Jenna聽won an eBay auction for a vintage imprinting machine and spend the next year learning how to use it. Her pencil-making hobby was a fun creative outlet for the psychology PhD and aspiring聽screenwriter. 鈥淚t was actually at the encouragement of my friends that I decided to open an Etsy shop almost a year later,鈥 says Jenna. In June 2016, LZ Pencils celebrated its one-year anniversary. Along the way, Jenna鈥檚 pencils have been featured in聽Martha Stewart Weddings and BuzzFeed, and they鈥檝e gotten Instagram shout-outs from Mindy Kaling and Ryan Seacrest too.

The Tips

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1. Have a support squad. Initially, Jenna started making pencils to give as gifts to her friends. Now, her friends buy pencil sets from her. 鈥淢y friends have been instrumental in helping spread the word about my pencils by sharing them on social media or gifting my pencils to their friends and family,鈥 says Jenna. Other times, friends can be a source of inspiration for new ideas. 鈥淪ometimes a friend will suggest a theme and we鈥檒l put our heads together to come up with a list of fun phrases that will work great on pencils.鈥

2. Reach out to tastemakers. Jenna鈥檚 big聽Mindy Kaling moment was a game changer for the small business owner. Jenna took a leap and reached out to her stylist, because Jenna has聽similar fashion taste to聽Mindy. 鈥淔ortunately, Mindy liked the picture of my pencils I posted on Twitter with quotes from her show, and I was able to forward pencils to her through her stylist,鈥 says Jenna. When Mindy posted a pic of her custom聽The Mindy Project pencil set on Instagram, Jenna鈥檚 LZ Pencils鈥 Instagram feed was flooded with new followers, and special order requests poured into her shop.

In another savvy move, Jenna had the idea to print a set of pencils with Ryan Seacrest鈥檚 catchphrase, 鈥淜ieran, dim the lights,鈥 before the series finale of聽American Idol.聽She intended to make the set solely for her shop鈥檚 Instagram, but suddenly remembered that she actually knew someone who worked on the show. In less than 24 hours, she had the idea, printed the pencils and got them in the hands of Ryan Seacrest (with MAJOR help from her friend). 鈥淭his is probably the best example of the freedom I have with owning my own pencil imprinting machine and is one of my favorite parts of my business 鈥 making pencils for fun and on a complete and utter whim. When you鈥檙e your own boss, you can do silly stuff like this as part of your work day without the fear of getting fired,鈥 says Jenna.

3. Give back. Since the start of LZ Pencils, Jenna wanted to find a way to donate pencils to support her love of teaching and writing. She now donates sets to the Los Angeles Youth Network. 鈥淭hey provide educational enrichment to at-risk adolescents. It鈥檚 inspiring that something as small as a pencil can help kids through tutoring, journaling or writing,鈥 says Jenna.

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4. Learn your trade. Before Jenna embarked on her Etsy adventure, she had never made one single pencil before. But the moment she bought her vintage imprinting machine, it sparked a creative fire in her to learn every aspect of the pencil-making process. 鈥淧encil printing was a major learning curve, but I reveled in the fact that I could print modern phrases like 鈥榃hat Would Beyonce Do鈥 with a machine that was older than Queen Bey herself,鈥 says Jenna. Jenna shares that joining Etsy was 鈥減retty intuitive to use as a buyer and seller,鈥 but that figuring out the packaging and finding the right vendors was tough and time-consuming.

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5. Most importantly, have fun. What started out as a fun hobby turned into a profitable small business for the Los Angeles-based screenwriter. 鈥淔inding a hobby I enjoy and turning it into a successful聽small business has done so much for my self-esteem and keeps me connected to my screenwriting dream,鈥 says Jenna. 鈥淎fter 2,000 orders, believe it or not, I still love making pencils.鈥 She especially loves it when a fellow writer orders a pencil set, because it makes her feel a small connection between the writer and what they鈥檒l create with her custom writing instruments.

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6. Maintain quality control. When her shop was inundated post-Mindy, Jenna flirted with the idea of outsourcing her pencils. But she realized that, even though outsourcing would free up 75 percent of her workload, she wouldn鈥檛 be able to control the final product. It was more important to her that she could focus on the quality of her pencils than the quantity. She even passed on an opportunity to sell her pencils at a major television studio store because she didn鈥檛 want to outsource. 鈥淚鈥檓 a perfectionist almost to a fault, so I wasn鈥檛 willing to compromise quality in favor of quantity. That鈥檚 why all of my pencils are still handmade by me,鈥 says Jenna.

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7. Collaborate with other entrepreneurs. Part of the beauty of working for yourself is chatting with other small business owners and collaborating on mutually beneficial creative endeavors. Plus, Jenna says, 鈥淚t鈥檚 a great way to meet other makers who understand the entrepreneur hustle.鈥 She loves helping other small brands get the word out about their wares. 鈥淚鈥檝e had so many people do the same for me, so I鈥檓 extremely passionate about paying that forward,鈥 says Jenna.

Perfect Your Skills

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1. Personalize Your Own Pencils (Free): We have a few fun tutorials on how to make your own custom writing instruments. Try your hand at making pom pom-topped pens from any聽freebie pens you get, repurpose old colored pencils into a cute ring or quickly make super cute polka dot pencils with a gold Sharpie.

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2. How to Crush It on Instagram Online Class ($29): Just like Jenna, you could turn your Instagram account into an Insta-marketing tool for your creative business. Learn how the in-house photographer for Chronicle Books engages with her Instagram followers (37K followers and growing!).

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3. The Art of Selling What You Make聽($119): This bootcamp-style course is broken up into three sessions 鈥 setting up the foundation for a sustainable business, generating revenue quickly and creating a long-term plan for business success. It鈥檚 great for anyone wanting to learn how to turn their passion project into their career.

What鈥檚 your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!

(Photos via Love & Lion, LZ Pencils and聽@mindykaling)