Woman Crush Wednesday.
We love to celebrate female movers and shakers who are successful locally, nationally, internationally, and most importantly, personally.
This week, we are so excited to highlight Kalyn Johnson Chandler, the owner and creative director of Effie's Paper :: Stationery&WhatNot, a boutique online paperie based in New York City selling modern chic stationery and desk accessories for busy professionals, moms, social butterflies and college students.
We asked her to share with us her story and her thoughts on success.
How did you get started in your field/career?
I am a formerly practicing lawyer turned fashion stylist turned graphic designer. I know, it’s a lot! I practiced law at a big law firm for a little over ten years before making my segue to the entrepreneurial world.
Before I started Effie’s Paper, I was helping busy professionals get dressed. I was working with doctors, lawyers and bankers – people with very demanding jobs and very little time – so, my approach with them was very high touch. I ran my styling business the way I had learned to run my law practice. As a result, I was burning out quickly.
I was having trouble scaling the business (fashion and style blogging was not what it is now …) and it was far more physical than I’d known to realize. In addition to being mentally depleted after working with clients (no matter how fit someone is, we all have body conscious issues and my job was to make everyone feel good about themselves in their clothes), I was also physically exhausted from carrying clothes to the dressing room, helping the seamstress tailor them properly, carrying shopping bags and being on my feet shopping all day long.
I started my styling business because I love fashion and style and helping people look and feel good. But, what had once been fun for me as a hobby was turning into a downer for a job. I joked with my husband that I wanted to have a widget that would sell itself while I slept.
Let me back up a little bit. You see, I’ve loved stationery and paper products since I was a little girl. My grandmother and company namesake, Mrs. Effie Hayes, worked for Mitchell Greeting Card Company when I was a kid ... Believe it or not, my sister and I had an entire cabinet in my grandparents family room filled with stationery. It was awesome! So, I guess you could say that stationery is in my DNA.
But, it wasn't until I was planning my wedding that the idea of starting a stationery company began to germinate. I had hired a London-based graphic designer to create a bespoke wedding stationery suite for us. Her printers were in India and we were running up against Monsoon season which meant that, in addition to learning how to art direct her and her team, I had to find a printer here to print a lot of our wedding collateral (place cards, table numbers and the like). The more I learned about the manufacturing end of things, the more I felt like having my own stationery company might be the right thing for me.
And then, about 6 months after my wedding, I was sitting at my desk writing thank you notes on stationery, aside from my wedding stationery, that I didn’t love and I had my AH-HA moment. I knew that I couldn’t be the only stationery connoisseur craving stationery that had a bit more of an urban modern edge to it.
What was your biggest roadblock and how did you overcome it?
Fall of 2014 didn’t quite go the way I anticipated. To be honest, I felt like turning my Boss Lady card in and walking away from this thing called entrepreneurship.
In the span of about four weeks, I’d lost two great interns, hired another two that I immediately had to fire and my website was hacked. It was pretty bad. I was at my wit’s end and not exactly sure how I was going to balance everything on my own. Plus, my husband and I had planned a big trip for mid-November and I didn’t have anyone to “man” the shop. I was anxious, stressed out and not particularly pleasant to be around . . . sounds crazy, I know.
And then in the middle of the chaos, it hit me. Rather than try to fix everything in a short period of time and head into my vacation a hot mess, I decided to shut down. Yup, you heard me. I shut down – literally I put a pop-up box on the website that said the shop was closed for a little R&R and any orders placed would be filled when the shop re-opened the second week in December. I hated the idea of losing money and not being available during one of my most profitable seasons, but even more I hated the idea of going on vacation and not being able to unplug, re-charge and be present with my spouse.
Once I thought about it like that, it was an easy decision to make; it was probably the best decision I could’ve made. I went away and enjoyed myself and really didn’t think about the business or my next steps or anything business related. I came back refreshed, but very uncertain about Effie’s Paper. I took the rest of December off mentally, fulfilled orders and decided to start fresh in 2015.
Once the new year started I was full of ideas. I wanted to re-brand, re-build the website and re-visit my product mix and overall mission. I originally started Effie’s Paper because I wasn’t finding the kind of personalized stationery I wanted to purchase. I figured if I couldn’t find what I wanted, others probably felt the same way.
But, as with any business, sustainability is about being able to scale. Most of us love pretty paper, but many of us love our smartphones and texting more. I realized that if I wanted to scale the business, I needed to pivot. The full name of my company is Effie’s Paper :: Stationery&Whatnot. This was intentional: the original plan was to start off with stationery and slowly incorporate “whatnots” in to the collection. And frankly, we’ve always carried whatnots – coasters, pencils and the like – but I’d never taken the time to really focus on what the perfect complement of whatnots would be for my paper company.
So, in this re-birthing phase, I started to think about the pretty things that I love and buy impulsively. My morning routine consists of working out and going to my local coffee shop for a latte. I’m a sucker for cheeky sayings, notebooks, fun wall prints and just about any desk accessory that’s glammy and makes me smile.
Et volià, I had my whatnots! Why have a boring water bottle at the gym when you could have a cute one? I drink a lot of coffee and binge watch Netflix like a champ! So, a travel coffee mug with “What Would Olivia Pope Do?” just made sense. It seems simple and on many levels it was, but if someone had suggested I head in this direction four months prior when it seemed like my entrepreneurial world was crumbling around me, it would have fallen on deaf ears. I needed to step away and rejuvenate my mind, body and soul in order to be able to think cogently about next steps.
It’s hard to believe that it’s two and half years later. My, what a difference time makes! Yes, Effie’s Paper still sells stationery, but our focus is no longer personalized stationery. On the stationery front, we sell super cute boxed sets of blank note cards (with great cheeky sayings) that make it fun to write those dreaded thank you notes during the holiday season. Today our focus is on pretty desk accessories – cheeky coffee mugs and journals, chic post-it notes and notepads, cool key chains and cocktail napkins, fun nameplates for your desk and stylish makeup bags. They’re all products that I use and love and love making.
So when someone asks me what’s the best thing that’s happened to your business, I can say unabashedly, “my website getting hacked.”
Kalyn Johnson Chandler is the owner and creative director of Effie’s Paper :: Stationery&Whatnot, a boutique online paperie based in New York City selling modern chic stationery and desk accessories for busy professionals, moms, social butterflies and college students. Kalyn is a lawyer by training and a self-taught graphic designer who loves Hermès scarves and costume jewelry.
For a peek into her world of stylish stationery and desk accessories, go to www.effiespaper.com.
SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS:
Instagram – @effiespaper // https://www.instagram.com/effiespaper/
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/effiespaper/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/effiespaperstationery
Twitter – https://twitter.com/effiespaper