Small Business Series: Do Your Homework

July 31, 2012


While I spend most of the time on this blog sharing drawings and sneak peeks of new products and custom work, I do want to also focus on what it takes to launch and run a small business. When I first launched Happy Cactus Designs last year, I benefited from developing a network of stationery veterans and learning first-hand from some of the best in the industry. That said, it has taken a lot of time, effort, trial and error, experimenting, and vetting to develop and grow the business. I hope with this blog to share some of my insights in hopes of helping others who are thinking about launching their own small businesses (whether it be in the paper industry or beyond). Consider this post the first in a series about managing a small business and how I get things done. 

Are you toying around with the idea of launching a company? The best advice I can give anyone thinking about jumping into the stationery/greeting card industry is to do your homework and learn as much as you can from those around you. I enjoyed drawing cards for friends and family for a number of years before it even crossed my mind to create a business out of it. I knew I had the creative skills, but didn't know where to begin! Somehow, the stars aligned...In May 2011, while living in New York City, I received the course bulletin for the School of Visual Arts' Continuing Education program in the mail. Thumbing through the thick catalog, I stumbled across the perfect class: the business of greeting card design taught by the amazing Joyce Wan of Wanart. For the rest of the summer, I was immersed in learning everything I could have possibly ever wanted to know about this industry, including concept development, industry standards, production techniques, pricing, trade shows, and marketing. On top of the class, I spent hours upon hours on the internet researching sources, industry leaders and how they got their start, and what steps were necessary to formally launch a business. I emailed other stationery designers with questions and was thrilled to find what a supportive environment it was that fostered a community. 

The bottom line:

- Research art and business classes that are available at local universities, art centers, etc. in your area. Take a risk and sign up for one!

- Don't be afraid to ask questions. I found that more often than not, veterans in the stationery industry were more than happy to answer my questions and share how they launched their business. 

- Find a community. I found that while the support of family and friends is beyond necessary to launch a business, it's also imperative to have colleagues in the industry that know what you are going through. Signing up for the class at SVA allowed me to meet others who shared my interests. These days there are so many ways to connect with others online as well. I joined a number of LinkedIn groups tailored to the industry. They've been great forums to learn more about best practices and trends and to ask questions. 

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