Get to Know StyleSmaller Shop

StyleSmaller Shop is the newest online spot to find the sweetest collection of accessories for little girls, kids toys, and unique home items. It's filled with bright colors and pretty patterns that both mom and kids will love. Curated by stylish mommy blogger, Kate of StyleSmaller [who happens to be my dear sis and BFF], this shop is a must-visit. I've already purchased a couple treasures but still have my eye on quite a few others; and after a visit, I'm sure you will too!

Head on over to find the perfect gifts for a child's birthday party, a summertime hostess, or something for you and your home. Happy shopping!

Get to Know Nicely Noted

If you haven't noticed, I am a big fan of fun, colorful stationery and great business ideas. Nicely Noted is a subscription service that offers just that: stylish cards (with postage stamps!) you can have delivered directly to your mailbox each month. I'm excited to introduce you to Perry Nelson, the woman behind Nicely Noted, and hope you find inspiration in her story and pretty photos!

Nicely Noted Interview with Delighted

When did you open Nicely Noted and what inspired you to do so?

Nicely Noted launched in March of 2012 and was born out of a love of writing and receiving letters—in addition to a lifelong appreciation for beautiful stationery. My background in technology and design—as the Online Director for Dwell magazine, Online Editor at W magazine, and Site Design Account Manager at Dell—has only deepened my belief in the importance of old-fashioned, handwritten letters. The feeling of sitting down to write a note (with pen and paper!), choosing the stamp, and sending it off into the mail, brings a kind of thoughtfulness and care to our fast-paced lives.

The idea to create Nicely Noted came to me while walking my newly-acquired puppy, Charlie. Growing up, I was an avid pen pal and collected a plethora of stationery to fuel my letter writing habit. But as an adult, my stationery bin wasn’t nearly as stocked, and I always found myself trying to squeeze in a desperate trip to the gift store for every birthday party or baby shower. I thought that offering a few handpicked, letterpressed cards each month, complete with the stamps to send them, might be just they way to get folks practicing the wonderful art of letter writing again.

I’m happy to say that Nicely Noted helps people discover new designers and enjoy the convenience of having the perfect card on hand. You get to look forward to receiving a sweet care package each month, and you’ll pass that joy along to the recipients of all of your letters!

Nicely Noted Interview with Delighted

What inspires your card choices? 

I curate the Nicely Noted collections from existing card designs by talented letterpress card designer and printers. My aesthetic is inspired by a wide range of influences from fashion and architecture to my day to day surroundings. I am drawn to simple clean lines and bright, fun accents. 

What is unique about Nicely Noted?

Nicely Noted curates letterpress cards that you would not likely find at your local card shop and we select beautiful stamps from the USPS. Our offering is unique because of the contents of the collection as well as in that we provide an easy reminder to send more handwritten notes.

What was the greatest challenge you faced during your first year in business?

Balancing my day job and working on Nicely Noted.

What has been your most exciting sale or learning experience?

A highlight was when Jessica Biel tweeted about how much she enjoys her Nicely Noted deliveries...I like to joke that subscribers boyfriend's receive the same cards as Justin Timberlake. 

Nicely Noted Interview with Delighted

What is the best business advice you've received?

Focus on growing your core product rather than getting distracted by one-off marketing projects. 

What does a typical work day look like for you?

No two days are the same. I am often working from my office (aka second bedroom) which is a lovely spot. I have a big bay window that overlooks a couple trees and my dog, Charlie, naps in the chairs and keeps an eye on the passersby. Other days I am running errands to pick up the belly bands from the printer and delivering supplies to the fulfillment house or working from a coworking space downtown. I also make time to get out of the house a few days a week to meet another entrepreneur for coffee or have lunch with a friend.

How do you stay connected to your customers?

I am in touch with customers daily via email and Instagram. I get great feedback from what they post. I've conducted a couple surveys to get broader insights, but also hear individual feedback on which cards or stamps people love or don't. 

Nicely Noted Interview with Delighted

How do you balance work and home life?

Oh, I'm not sure this is a strength of mine. Because my office is at home, it's hard to tear myself away from my desk. I make a conscious effort to eat some meals away from my desk but my office is my favorite room in my house since there is so much light and creative inspiration around.

What has been the most rewarding part of owning a small business?

It is really rewarding to hearing customers say how much the look forward to their Nicely Noted collection each month. It's wonderful to provide a service that people enjoy. It encourages me to know that many people wish they sent more handwritten notes, that they appreciate the reminder and that it actually makes them take the action of sending more notes!

Can you recommend any books or resources to aspiring entrepreneurs?

I frequently turn to Quora for questions about which vendor or tool is the best for a specific challenge. The related questions and topic areas make it a great place to learn background information to inform further research or ask educated questions of the vendors you are considering. 

Nicely Noted Interview with Delighted
Nicely Noted Interview with Delighted

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start an online business?

You do not have to spend a ton of money to hire a developer to get a website set up. You can get a proof of concept or minimum viable product live to see if there is interest before you invest in hiring a designer or developer. 

On the other hand, my business probably wouldn't be where it is without the gorgeous product photography I had on the early version of my site, so I recommend finding a great photographer to capture your product. Since you can't actually touch the product online, the images of it need to represent it very well. I was fortunate to make friends with my awesome photographer, Kate LeSueur, while walking Charlie. Sometimes the universe send you just what you need to take the next step!

Nicely Noted Interview with Delighted

Photos by Kate LeSueur

Visit Nicely Noted
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Checking-in with Nicole Flowers of hiip

Thinking outside of the box and creating something usable, chic and with a spirit of giving is just what Nicole Flowers has done with her bag company hiip. Using a "one-for-one" model, for every stylish bag sold, she gives one away to someone less fortunate. Style and service: what could be better? We featured Nicole as she was just starting hiip back in 2012. Now—a year and a half later—we're excited to see what's new. Here's our interview with Nicole from the current issue of Delighted.

hiip bag | Delighted Magazine

Can you tell us about hiip and what "hiip" means? 

Sure! hiip is a new fanny pack company (we're just over a year old!) that has two bottom lines. Like other social ventures, we have a desire to provide a cool product to fashion-forward consumers but also have an impact on our community. hiip stands for "Helping Individuals in Passing" because for every bag purchased, we hand-deliver (not just donate) a kit of necessities to a person in need on the street. Our desire is to get to know our communities in a real way by making personal interactions that aren't usually pursued.

What is your professional background and what inspired you to start your own business?

I had wanted to start my own company for about seven years before launching into the world of entrepreneurship. After spending a year in advertising sales in Manhattan after college, I moved home to San Francisco and joined the biotechnology world as a meeting planner on the commercial side. The freedom to chase personal ideas and goals in that organization helped to develop a critical thinking mind and gave me the courage to venture out on my own. It was an amazing eight year growing experience and, though many young people want to jump right into their own business, the lessons in communication and working with people, setting deadlines and seeing how business works, have been absolutely priceless now that I work solely for myself and am building my team. 

You officially launched hiip over a year ago and nine months into it, quit your day job to focus on your business full-time. What prompted you to make the jump?

Through my interactions with people outside my circle (aka my family and close friends) and my circle's circle, I realized the idea could stick and I could have a valid customer base. Once I realized and truly started thinking about it, I worked pretty hard at doing both a full-time job where I traveled a good deal and launching a small business. Nine months into doing both I knew that in order for hiip to not just be a hobby, I had to devote time and effort and so I made the leap!

hiip bag | Delighted Magazine
hiip bag | Delighted Magazine
hiip bag | Delighted Magazine

Hiip is committed to giving back using a one-for-one model. What does this look like and who is it you're giving to?

My initial desire with hiip was to not only provide our customers (or hiipsters as we affectionately call them) with a cool new, functional bag but also an opportunity to get involved in the community. We partner with the Salvation Army weekly to join together and pass out the hiip Kits in various areas of San Francisco. It's an organic outreach where we put together meals provided by their team, toiletry kits provided by ours, and we head out to the streets to strike up conversations and build rapport with those living around us that we wouldn't usually see or notice. Though we're only operating Handouts in San Francisco now, I'm excited to say we'll be launching in about 10 other cities in early to mid-2014!

What has been the most challenging part of quitting your day job and running your own

Oh man. I'd have to say time management. It's one thing to have a huge to-do list and organizing apps to write it all down but actually managing myself has been hard. I'm a creative and a dreamer and it can lead to some distracted days! But the good news is I'm building a great team of dedicated people who provide strengths to my opportunities. I also miss the camaraderie of corporate life but I wouldn't change it for anything. Building something special, no matter the challenges that come along with it, is priceless.

What is most rewarding?

Seeing this whole operation grow! We have a few collaborations in the works, we're getting orders from all over the country (and even internationally), we're hiring some great talent, and we're making a conscious impact on this city. Seeing others believe in what we're doing is also a strong reason to continue on. People want to get involved, they want to help, we offer an avenue and we're a part of the ever-changing face of business. It's pretty cool.

What has been your greatest learning experience since starting this venture?

No man is an island and there is no way I can do it all on my own. Through interns and even part-time employees, I've been able to release some of the not-so-CEO things to focus on big picture items. For a while I was trying to manage every piece of the business but not only was I not completing everything well, I wasn't able to tackle as much as I needed to. I know now that investing in support is more cost-effective than trying to manage it all alone.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I've found a rhythm in bucketing my days so I keep focus only on the week's important tasks. I only check my emails and respond to inquiries on Mondays and Thursdays and I limit it to the morning. We all know it can be a time-suck so I've addressed that accordingly. I have a weekly meeting with my Chief of Staff to review outstanding items that need to be completed over the week and other than that, each day is different. I build a to-do list at the end of each week and then schedule specific time each day to complete the various tasks. I've found that scheduling myself (and not overdoing it!) helps with my productivity. If I need to draft a contract or review a photo set, I block an hour and get to it. It mirrors my list (for a life-saver, I recommend Workflowy) so my attention is clear-cut. I do not work on Sundays (don't even open the computer) because I believe everyone should have a complete day of rest to re-focus on family and friends - two of the main reasons that I, personally, work for myself.

hiip bag | Delighted Magazine

What advice can you give to someone who is considering starting their own business that gives back?

1. Find a cause you're passionate about because it will keep you going. 2. Provide a product or service that no one else is offering. After that, start it. The best advice I can give (that I received at the beginning of my adventure) is: Action trumps everything. Find out what works and what doesn't. Fail. Succeed a little. Fail some more. Then, once you feel like you've found your spot, do it and do it well.  

What can we expect to see in hiip's future?

Favorite question! We have some fun months ahead of us. Not only do we have lots of new lines focusing on new areas of San Francisco with new looks coming (Momma and Mini to be the first come early spring!) but, as I mentioned, we'll be expanding our Handout program across the country early next year. The creativity keeps coming and we're still making improvements, little by little, to the bags and the process. It's great fun and we're so glad our hiipsters are sticking around for all that's to come!

hiip bag | Delighted Magazine

Find hiip here: Shop | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

From the Desk of: Amanda of Wit and Whistle

Creative notecards and paper goods are some of my favorite things, and Wit & Whistle offers just that. All products are designed and illustrated by Amanda Wright and inspired by her love of drawing and her desire to indulge in light-hearted creativity. Take a peek into her workspace and read about her typical work day and more!

Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine

When did you start Wit & Whistle and what inspired you to do so?

I started Wit & Whistle in 2009 because my graphic design job at the time wasn't allowing me as much creative freedom as I had hoped for. I really missed working with my hands and drawing. I started making greeting cards on the side, and lo and behold people wanted to buy them!

What is the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

There are so many rewarding parts, but most of all I love having the freedom to work on whatever I feel passionate about at the moment.

What does a typical work day look like for you? 

Every morning after breakfast I make a cup of tea and go down to my studio to ship orders, restock, and things like that. I reserve my afternoons for creative pursuits like sketching, brainstorming, photography, writing blog posts, and such.

What was most important for you when setting-up your workspace?

Because my workspace is in our basement, I wanted to make it as light and bright as possible. White furniture and a cluster of paper lanterns over my desk really help chase the dark basement feeling away. I also made sure to keep all my supplies within arm's reach, which makes my work flow as efficient as possible.

What items did you splurge on? Save on?

I don't think I really splurged on anything for my studio. I try to be as thrifty as I can in my work space to avoid cutting into my profits. Most of my office furniture is from Ikea, and my glass-top desk was a hand-me-down from the previous owners of our home. It's huge and heavy, so they left it for me instead of moving it

Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine
Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine

What is your favorite thing about your workspace?

My absolute favorite thing about my studio is that it's all mine! I can listen to blaring music, make a huge mess and never clean it up, talk to myself in a funny voice, or chase my dogs around the room. I don't have to worry about bothering anyone, and I can do whatever I need to do (however weird) to keep my creative juices flowing.

Is there anything you would change about your workspace? If so, what?

I would love to have more windows in my space. There's something about natural light that really seems to fuel my creativity. A nice high ceiling wouldn't hurt either!

What tips can you share for keeping yourself as efficient as possible?

List making really keeps me on track, since I get an incredible amount of satisfaction from crossing off completed items. I also record how I spend my time using Yast. Time tracking ensures that I won't accidentally waste an hour browsing Pinterest when I should be working!

What tips can you share for balancing work and personal life? 

Don't be afraid to say "no". Having time for friends, family, and enjoying life is so important, and this means you can't take on every opportunity that presents itself. Learn to be okay with that!

When not at your desk, you can be found ___ .

Cuddled up on the couch with my dogs and my sketchbook.

Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine
Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine
Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine
Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine
Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine
Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine
Wit & Whistle via Delighted Magazine

Shop Wit & Whistle's charming paper goods and follow her online:
Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

Get to Know Pictilio

Vitaliy and Candace Prokopets are the creative and spunky duo behind the wedding photography studio, Pictilio. I guarantee that working with them will generate lots of fun conversation and laughter, not to mention beautiful photos. They are a true pleasure to be around. I asked them to share a bit about themselves—from how they met to their future business plans—to inspire those of us who have started (or dream about starting) our own small business. Their story shows how determination, talent and lots of love inspired a creative  business focused on the joys of marriage and life.

Pictilio Interview with Delighted #smallbusiness

How did you two meet?

I sat diagonally across the table from Vitaliy in our college cafeteria when I overheard that he was from Ukraine. I yelled down the table informing him that I was Ukrainian too, but my St. Louis accent betrayed me. He dismissed me immediately but I'm not one to easily accept defeat. I picked up my tray and moved closer. We bantered back and forth, me trying to prove my Ukrainian blood and him trying to discredit it. With no proof in hand, I ended the conversation telling him I’d bring back evidence. “And when I do”, I said, with outstretched arms, “I want to feel the love!” I walked out of the cafeteria that day, but not out of his life. Neither one of us knew just how much love we’d soon have for each other.

When and how did Pictilio come to be?

Vitaliy and I launched our photography business in 2008 as Prokopets Studio. We started off photographing families, but soon found ourselves in other avenues of photography. In 2010, we attended the Identity Conference which changed everything. We discovered two things while there: our passion for marriage and our love for photographing weddings. We decided to build our business around these two things and relaunched our business as Pictilio at the beginning of 2012. 

What has been the best part of working together as a married couple?

Vitaliy: Making out with my wife anytime of the day! Just kidding. I love getting to watch Candace use her God-given gifts and succeed. That brings me true joy. 

Candace: I've most enjoyed seeing how God knit us so perfectly together. The gifts I possess are incredibly different from Vitaliy's. He loves photography and technology. I love writing and marketing. His photography skills paired with my business skills are the perfect match for a successful business. 

What has been the most challenging?

Boundaries. Hands down! When you own your own business and you work together as husband and wife, it is so easy to have it consume your life. Whether it be working into family time or having business fill the conversation, any aspect of it can vie for your attention. We have to remember that we are husband and wife first and business partners second. We set and agree upon boundaries together and consistently check in with each other to make sure both of us are feeling good about our relationship. 

Pictilio Interview with Delighted #smallbusiness

What do you enjoy most about photography?

Vitaliy: I love the moment when everything comes together and you get "the shot". Knowing that you clicked the shutter at just the right moment with just the right expressions and just the right light is a good feeling. And to deliver those moments to the couple and see their reaction brings it all full circle and it leaves you feeling fulfilled as a photographer.

Candace: I enjoy helping to create a moment. When the camera comes out, it is hard for most people, myself included, to feel natural and comfortable in front of the camera. I like to be a part of creating a genuine moment with real emotion so our couples walk away feeling good about themselves when they see their photos and have fond memories of their experience with us.

What do you love most about being part of the wedding industry?

As a photographer, it's very easy to feel isolated. It's just the two of us each day. We don't have other employees, no company parties. But when the wedding day rolls around, you are part of a team of professionals all working together to create the best memories for a couple on their wedding day. 

I recently discovered on social media that a wedding planner/designer I had the pleasure of meeting this past fall was flying to another state to surprise her clients in person with a mock up of their wedding bouquet. She had arranged it with the couple's wedding photographer to deliver the bouquet at their engagement session. I couldn't believe what I was reading. These two individuals, Rhi from Hey Gorgeous Events and Shalyn from Love The Nelsons, made the wedding industry even better with this collaboration surprise. They not only made this couple's wedding experience unforgettable, but they raised the bar for fellow wedding professionals like myself to likewise surprise my clients with unforgettable memories. It makes me honored to be a part of a community serving people in such meaningful ways. 

How would you describe Pictilio's style?

There are different styles that photographers label themselves as, such as, "lifestyle" or "fine art" or "photojournalistic", but I'm always hesitant to give our work any of these labels. During the course of a wedding day, we can incorporate all three of these elements into how and what we shoot. Instead of shooting with a particular style in mind, we try to shoot with three words in mind: light, emotion and fun. We look for natural light that is both flattering on our clients and the image itself. We work to draw out true emotions from our clients. And lastly, we want our clients to walk away feeling like they had a lot of fun during their experience with us. 

Your tagline is "in the business of making love"...can you explain what that means?

That is hilarious! And I can totally see why you would think that's our tagline. I guess in some ways, it's our website's tagline. I don't recall how we first came up with the idea. As the writer of the business, I'll claim it as my idea because I love playing with words. But I think it was our amazing web designer Peter Gurry of Gurry Design who featured it on our home page. The minute I saw the mock up, I knew it was perfect. Statistics say that you have roughly 3 seconds to capture the attention of a new visitor to your website. I knew this would do the trick! We then decided to incorporate it into our intro video. 

What does it mean? It's kind of two fold. The literal meaning could be that we are in the business of making love because we are husband and wife after all. But that could get awkward for some people. So, the play on words is that we want to make love with the work and art that we produce. We want people to be more in love after their interaction with us whether in person or on our blog. 

The real tagline for our business is "Your Love. In Focus." This too was a play on words. As photographers, our cameras will naturally "focus" on and capture a couple's love for each other. But also, at our core, we want to motivate couples to focus on their relationship leading up to the wedding day and long after.

Pictilio Interview with Deliglhted #smallbusiness
Pictilio Interview with Delighted #smallbusiness

What has been the most rewarding part of owning a small business?

Freedom! I feel truly blessed by the freedom to set my own schedule, do the kind of work I love, and vacation when I so desire. But it's also something that I aspire to steward well and not take advantage of. 

What was the greatest challenge you faced during your first year in business?

We didn't have a clue what we were doing our first year. Thankfully, after five years of owning our own business, we've come to learn that this is all part of being a small business owner, especially a creative small business. There will always be new things to learn. If you want to continue growing, then you'll constantly be walking into unknown territories. You'll find that just when you conquer one area, you'll soon be stepping into a new unknown. 

Can you share about a business risk you took since starting Pictilio? What came of it?

We've taken two big risks since starting our business. The first was completely rebranding and relaunching our business as Pictilio with a focus on weddings. When we did this, our business was comprised of 80% families and 20% weddings. It may have even been 90/10. We were basically going to start saying no to our main source of revenue and walk into the unknown of wedding photography. It was the best decision we ever made. We've never been more excited or more passionate about what we are doing with our business.

The second big risk was me quitting my office job at the end of 2012 to join Vitaliy doing the business full-time. It too, was the best decision. Our business has flourished with both of us working on it full-time and our quality of life has improved along with it. To finally be doing what you love full-time is so rewarding and brings with it so much joy. Which in turn, results in increased productivity. 

What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own small business?

If you are serious about starting a small business, be ready to make serious sacrifices. To prepare for me quitting my day job, we had to downsize in order to drastically lower our monthly expenses. We now live and work in a 350 sq foot space. We still drive our 2001 Volvo that we've had for the past 7 years. And honestly, I couldn't be happier. It's not that I don't miss my two-bedroom condo. And there are days I allow myself to dream of having a new car. But we had to make the hard choice. Did we want the big condo and nice car, or did we want to be living out our dream? We chose to live a life of purpose and I'm thankful to God for the grace He gave us to make that decision. But it's something that requires continued observation because the temptation for stuff never goes away. 

Where do you see Pictilio in five years?

That is a scary question to answer on paper because there is accountability when you say something out loud for others to read or hear. Right now, Pictilio is 90% focused on photographing weddings and about 10% focused on writing about marriage and relationships on our blog. Five years down the road I hope that the marriage and relationship portion of our business will be a higher percentage. I also hope that it won't just be writing that we'll be doing. I want to be leading, hosting, or teaching some kind of workshop, conference or gathering regarding marriage and relationships. My dream is that Pictilio will be a voice not only in the wedding industry, but out in the world, that marriage can work.

Pictilio Interview with Delighted #wedding
Pictilio Interview with Delighted #wedding
Pictilio Interview with Delighted #wedding
Pictilio Interview with Delighted #wedding
Pictilio Interview with Delighted #wedding
Pictilio Interview with Delighted #wedding

For more Pictilio, visit their website and follow them here:
Website | Facebook | Instagram 

From the Desk of: Mandy of Waiting on Martha

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mandy Kellogg Rye of Waiting on Martha in the fall issue of Delighted where we shared photos of her super stylish office style as well as her tips for staying productive. Read the interview below and visit her shop to find great items to decorate your workspace.

Follow Mandy: Blog | Shop | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter
Photos by Robert & Tiffany Peterson of Rustic White Photography

Waiting on Martha Office via Delighted Mag

Can you tell us a little about your online shop and blog?
Waiting On Martha is the ultimate online source for creating a beautiful everyday. I launched the blog and online boutique in 2012 to share my obsessions in home décor, entertaining, food and drink, and fashion.

What is the most rewarding part of owning your own business? 
That it’s my business! It all started with just a thought back in 2012 and continues to grow each and everyday. Reflecting on where it all started and where it is today, I have such satisfaction in knowing that I created and grew Waiting On Martha by working harder than I ever have in my life. I just can’t find the words to describe this feeling of accomplishment!

What does a typical work day look like for you? 
As an entrepreneur, each day is totally different. A “typical” work day for me begins at 7:30 a.m. and comes to a close around 2 a.m., Monday through Saturday. Since I toggled between the blog and the online boutique, my daily tasks vary from design work in PhotoShop, inventory, customer service, writing posts, order fulfillment and shipping, partnerships with brands, editorial styling, sourcing new brands and products, photo sessions with Rustic White, forecasting media activities with my publicist, to recipe development. Somedays I’ll be shooting with a magazine for 12 hours, somedays I’ll be consumed by my email inbox and somedays I’m busy mixing cocktails at 8 a.m. If there’s one thing that’s consistent every day, it’s dinner with my husband and daily walks with my dog, Addison.

When setting-up your workspace, what was most important?
That it had to be functional. When I started, I had big plans for a particular area of the office, but when it came down to it, it turned into shelving for

What items did you splurge on? Save on? 
I splurged on the big pieces: My chandelier, wallpaper, and custom spindle chairs. I saved on the art/prints and my shelves (all from Ikea).

What is your favorite thing about your workspace? 
It’s all mine—and completely me! Currently my office is at home and it is the one space that I made my own and didn’t need input on its design for anyone else. Hence the wallpaper...which I adore.

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Waiting on Martha Office via Delighted Mag
Waiting on Martha Office via Delighted Mag
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Is there anything you would change about your workspace? If so, what? 
So many things! I’ve already begun plotting my next office space. In my next space, I’ll need a lot more room for inventory, and I wouldn’t do black, as it shows every speck of dust, knick, everything!

What tip(s) can you share for keeping yourself as efficient as possible?
Focus on what you’re doing and on one thing at a time. Distractions can pull you away from the task at hand, so if I’m focused on something, I’ll keep my email  inboxes and social media pages closed. Another tip I have is to just get started. Don’t procrastinate! We all get overwhelmed by our to-do lists, but instead of staring at it, worrying about how you’ll possibly get it all done, just start doing.

What tip(s) can you share for balancing work and personal life? 
Balance is definitely something that I’m still trying to figure out and was much easier when I didn’t own my own business. When it’s your name on the door, it can be consuming. But there’s one thing that I do well when it comes to balance: I work hard and I play hard. When I disconnect, I really disconnect! I live in the moment and don’t worry what’s going on in the office. Now, I just need to work on disconnecting more often!

When not at your desk, you can be found...
In the kitchen cooking, listening to music and drinking wine.

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Etsy Success: Pretty Smitten

Visiting Elizabeth Johnson's Etsy shop, Pretty Smitten, will certainly inspire you to add more color to your  life. From notecards to entertaining pieces to iPhone covers, each item is not only bright and well-designed, but can be personalized for extra fun.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth for the fall issue of Delighted. Read below to find out about how she started her shop and what a typical day looks like for her.

Follow Pretty Smitten: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Pretty Smitten Coasters via Delighted Magazine

When did you open your Etsy shop and what inspired you to do so? 
I opened my Etsy shop in 2009 after the birth of my first child. I have always known that I wanted to do something creative and I realized that it was the perfect time to take the plunge! Etsy makes it very easy to start a business. I was able to start slowly and really develop my brand into what it is today.

How would you describe your design aesthetic? 
We offer designs that take traditional elements, such as the polka dot and Greek key pattern, and add a modern, preppy twist with design options like our signature rugby stripe. We love to incorporate chic, new color combinations to reflect current trends.

What most inspires your designs? 
I find the most inspiration from interior design and fashion. I love seeing a pattern or color combo on a pillow, painting or dress and then bringing to life again in my own designs. A simple stripe pattern can inspire a new design.

What is unique about Pretty Smitten? 
Pretty Smitten is unique because we offer customers a truly customized experience. Our Pretty Smitten Design Staples allow the customers to build their own unique design by choosing colors, design elements and monogram style. We also offer some of our favorite color and pattern combinations on each product, which is great for the customer who wants a quick buying experience by relying on our design expertise.

What was the greatest challenge you faced during your first year in business? 

My greatest challenge in my first year of business was simply figuring out how to run a real business. I started designing and listed items on Etsy almost immediately. As sales increased and I got busier and busier, I realized I still needed to set up the back end of the business. There’s a lot of accounting and paperwork that goes along with starting your own business and it took time to wrap my head around that part.


Pretty Smitten via Delighted Magazine
Pretty Smitten via Delighted Magazine

What has been your most exciting sale or learning experience since starting your business? 
I think some of my most exciting sales come during the holiday season. I have families that have come back year after year for their Christmas cards and gifts. It’s so fun to hear from them again and it’s awesome to know that they trust Pretty Smitten to make their holidays special.

What is the best business advice you’ve received? 
Some of the best advice I’ve ever received is to simply trust myself. Trust my design aesthetic, trust my abilities, and trust that I know what is best for my business.

Can you share about a business risk you took since starting Pretty Smitten? What came of it? 
One of the biggest risks I took was discontinuing my party line. It consisted of hand assembled party items like cupcake toppers, favor tags and bag toppers. It was adorable and well loved by both myself and customers, but as we added two more babies to our family, I quickly realized it took more time than I was able to give. I was afraid to lose the loyal customer base and took a risk to do what is best for my own life balance. But you never know, maybe someday I will decide to add it back into the line!

What does a typical work day look like for you? 
With three children under the age of five, there is rarely a typical day! I’m mostly a stay at home mommy and I work during nap times and at night. Two days a week I have help and those are the days I can really focus on Pretty Smitten. One of these days is devoted to packing and shipping orders. The other I try to reserve for new design work, photographing products and new business. Of course every day I’m responding to customers and fulfilling new orders. It’s a little hectic but definitely worth it!

How do you stay connected to your customers? 
I try to respond to my customers inquiries as quickly as possible. I think customer service is the number one thing responsible for building trust and loyalty for my brand. And my favorite social media tool is by far Instagram. Photos are just fun and I love being able to ‘meet’ customers and share glimpses into my life.

How do you balance home life with work life? (Especially being a mom!) 
It can be a challenge! But the one thing I always try to do is to separate work and mommy time. When I’m playing with my kiddos and taking care of them, I don’t want them to feel like I’m always checking my email. And when I’m working I want to be as efficient as possible. Separating the two as much as possible keeps me feeling less scattered, more focused, like a better mom and a better business owner.

What has been the most rewarding part of owning a small business? 
The most rewarding part by far is getting to do what I love without sacrificing time with my family. My interaction with customers is also incredibly rewarding. I have customers that come back again and again...for gifts, for themselves, for holidays...and they’ve become friends. To see their names pop up in my orders or inbox always makes me smile!

Can you recommend any books or resources to aspiring entrepreneurs? 
The team over at Launch Her is great! They have consultants available to speak on multiple business topics. I’ve spoken with consultants for both marketing and wholesale advice and have gotten some really great tips. Sometimes it’s also just great to talk out your plan, as it really helps to organize your ideas and get focused.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own Etsy shop? 
Take time in the beginning to plan: Get your product line in order, know what you want to start with and even where you can expand to in the future. And start managing accounting and finances right away! Trust me, it’s no fun to play catch up.

What are some of your favorite Etsy shops? 
A Little Lady Shop: Adorable hair bows and headbands for girls. 
Parima Creative Studio: Art prints and originals at great prices. 

The Caramel Jar: Super yummy caramels!

Pretty Smitten via Delighted Magazine
Pretty Smitten Notecard via Delighted Magazine
Pretty Smitten via Delighted Magazine
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Pretty Smitten via Delighted Magazine
Pretty Smitten via Delighted Magazine