STEP 6: WHO CAN (AND WILL) HELP ME?
We're ready for Paper by JLee: Step 6! In the previous post (step five) we looked at the various ways I market and grow Paper by JLee. In this post I'll talk about the people who supported both me and the business as I launched Paper by JLee: family, friends and fellow small business owners.
First and foremost, my family was and continues to be a huge part of my support system. My mom and sister were instrumental in even getting Paper by JLee off the ground. Specifically, my sister Julie, who runs her own financial planning firm, Ford Financial Solutions, was a huge help in getting my finances in order as I started the business. She was even gracious enough to write a guest blog post detailing the action steps we took to launch my Etsy site. In the first post of a two-part series, Julie took us step-by-step through some of the financial issues related to starting your own Etsy shop. Then, in part two, I built on Julie's advice and walked you through what it cost to start Paper by JLee specifically.
To this day, I continually turn to them for feedback and advice on everything from stationery designs to blog posts to marketing ideas. I wouldn't have opened Paper by JLee without them so a BIG thank you to mom, sister and the rest of my family. If you're considering starting your own small business/side-hustle, enlisting the help of family can be the big push you need to finally get it open. Thanks family!
In addition to family, I also had loads help from some of the best friends around. When I did the Big Fake Wedding in 2015, I enlisted the help of one of my best friends to help cover my vendor table during the evening. She helped with set up and promotion as the wedding guests walked through all the vendor tables. It was great to have someone that supportive brag about you to other people, something that can be difficult when you're just starting out. It was a big confidence boost to hear someone else speak so highly of my business, so a big thanks to Miranda! You can read more about the experience here.
I also have some very creative friends who I bounce ideas off of and ask questions about how they run their own business. One of them, Lori, is the owner and designer for Pen & Piper, a boutique design studio specializing in brand identity design. As a fellow side-hustler, Lori and I share insight, tips, and tricks with each other and give feedback about everything from website design to pricing.
I've also acquired new business from close friends. One of them (thanks Maddy!) even led to a collaboration with a retailer and now my cards are sold at the Chris + Mary shop in California! Mary, co-owner of Chris + Mary, and I were introduced and immediately started working on a wholesale order of my stationery for her shop. She was so helpful throughout the process and even helped me figure out pricing and gave feedback on my line sheet (a document that catalogs your products and provides buyers with the necessary information to make a wholesale purchase). Connections that come from friends and family can be some of the most beneficial partnerships you can have. From all of this I've learned that friends and family, even if they're not familiar with your business specifics, can be extremely helpful and encouraging as you navigate through the inevitable ups and downs of starting your own business.
As well as friends and family, I've also received huge amounts of help from fellow business owners. As I've noted in past blog posts, The Big Fake Wedding was a great event where I met a lot of other small business owners. Helen Shim of Pure Paper NY, a stationery and party decor goods shop, is one of the owners I met during the event. She designed the program for the event and, as a fellow paper-goods business owner, shared valuable information with me from everything to paper supply stores and marketing tips. I've found that, in general, fellow shop owners are more than willing to share information to help fellow owners succeed. It's been so nice to see and experience this.
Finally, Elvira Kalviste of Elvira Kalviste Photography, an award-winning boutique wedding photography studio based in Brooklyn, New York was another business owner I met at The Big Fake Wedding. Not only did she take great photos of my stationery from the event, she later asked if I wanted to be part of a styled shoot she was putting together. The shoot was a great experience and was also a great opportunity to showcase my work for a larger audience. The shoot was picked up by the WellWed Blog so it was really exciting to see my work published online. You can read more about my experience and see the work I did for the event here.
These business owners were all more experienced than I was at the time, having opened their own shops months or years before me. They were all eager to share what they had learned in the process which in turn, has been very valuable to me as I move forward and grow Paper by JLee. I can't emphasize this enough, if you have specific questions or another shop that you admire, reach out and ask them! I'm willing to bet that they would be willing to help you out!
What about you? Who supported your small business? Share your experience in the comments section!