Archive for the ‘Year Review’ Category

2016 in Review + Looking Forward

2016-Review

At the beginning of each new year, I like to do a summary of the year before.  It’s nice to look back at the bigger picture and take stock of what was accomplished. I spend so much of my time, heads down working on smaller projects it’s nice to take some time to get better perspective and set goals for the future.

(you can read all my past yearly recaps HERE)

Studio Move / Retail Show
By far, the biggest event of 2016 was our studio move and opening a retail shop. This was a huge and expensive endeavor that took months and months of planing and tens of thousands of dollars.  I started the process of looking for a new space in April of 2015.  We finally moved studios in March of 2016.  Our new studio is more than 2x the size of our previous shop at Lacuna, where we were busting out at the seems. It’s a storefront on the street level and open to the public.  The ten minute walk to work has made my commute so much more enjoyable. And the retail shop has really changed the game for Steel Petal Press. Scroll down to the bottom of our about page to view photos of the new space.

7-12-16 Steel Petal Press Studio Tour Chicago, IL ©2016 Jennifer Kathryn Photography

Employees
I hired two new employees this year: Matt is our shipping lead and Lindsay helps with retail and post production of our greeting cards.

7-12-16 Steel Petal Press Studio Tour Chicago, IL ©2016 Jennifer Kathryn Photography

7-12-16 Steel Petal Press Studio Tour Chicago, IL ©2016 Jennifer Kathryn Photography

New Products!
I released lots of new products this year including Gift Wrap, Fortune Cookie Pull out cards, bookmarks and more.

Birthday Fortune Cookie Card Funny Letterpress Birthday Card Fuck Mug Letterpress Bookmark Awesome People Read

Retailers
I picked up lots of new retailers. And am excited to have Steel Petal Press carried in 38 states plus Paper Source who has 120+ locations around the country. View our full list of retailers here.

Interns
I hosted 3 amazing interns this year: Jane, Laura and Sarah.

Steel Petal Press internship

Press!
Opening the retail shop I got a lot of great press. I was featured in Chicago Magazine as the best stationery shop! Plus Chicago Style weddings, Logan Squarist, DNA Info and so many more.  You can view a mostly up-to-date list of recent press here.

Best of Chicago Magazine 2016

Renegade Craft Fair + One of Kind Show
I returned to sell at the summer Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago and also at the December One of a Kind Show. The shows are intense and busy, but a fun change of pace.

Steel Petal Press at One of a Kind Show

NSS and NYNow
This year I attended the National Stationery Show and NYNow on the other side of the field as a buyer for the retail shop. It’s fun and get overwhelming figuring out what to buy for the shop. It’s a task I’ve enjoyed learning and am still improving on regularly.

Giving Back
Something I’ve been wanting to do for a while is implement some sort of charitable donation program.  At the end of this 2016 I was able to give a sizable donation to NRDC to help protect the environment.  In 2017 I plan on giving quarterly donations to different organizations I believe in.

This year also came with some pretty big lows.  The election was pretty devastating to me and Trumps impending inauguration still makes me sick to my stomach.  Around the same time one of my employees got really sick and was out of work for almost two months. It not only put strain on me emotionally, but also stretched me and my staff thin covering her shifts, working the One of A Kind Show and dealing with our first holiday season as a retail gift shop.  I spent the end of the year doing what I could to survive and was forced to let a lot of things go.  It was a challenge for my type-A personality.  I am thankful for my husband and my team who all stepped up with support and helped me and Steel Petal Press get through the last two months.

I’m starting the new year with a new perspective: take better care of myself, let go of toxic feelings, let go of perfectionism and carve out more personal time for myself. I’m trying not to let the current political state get to me (which includes limiting my news) and I hope to give back where I can.

I usually end these posts with bigger professional goals for the upcoming year.  But this year, I don’t have many huge aspirations. I feel like I have my hands full with business as it is and my only hope is to keep building on what I’ve started:
– keep the retail shop running and improving
– keep releasing great product
– keep adding retailers to our list of vendors
– do more press out reach
– hire an additional person – right now if anyone gets sick or needs vacation time we all feel stretched thin
– maybe at the end of next year, I’ll consider heading back to exhibit at a tradeshow

Other than that I feel pretty good at where I’m at, and it definitely keeps me plenty busy.

2014 In Review

2014 Year in Review

I know I say this every year, but 2014 was another big year for Steel Petal Press!!  I usually like to start these posts by looking over the goals I set for myself the previous year (see recaps from 2013, 2012 and 2011) but it looks like I didn’t write those down last January, so I’ll just have to go by 3-5 year goals from 2012 (still totally applicable!)

Here are the highlights and milestones of 2014:

New Website
I started working on revamping my website in September of 2013. 6 months later, it finally went live in March of 2014!  Read my post about the experience HERE.

National Stationery Show
It was my second year exhibiting at the National Stationery Show. This year I had my own both, built my own hard walls and brought my husband with me.  You can read my recap of the experience HERE.

NSS

Paper Source
One of my card designs got picked up by Paper Source! Selling to a national chain has been fantastic. They place fairly large wholesale orders very regularly.

Other New Stockists
I added 20+ new retailers to my list of stockists in 2014. They are super awesome and I’m thankful to be working with each and every one of them.  You can see my full list HERE.

Incorporated
In August of 2014 I hired a lawyer and filed the paper work to officially become Steel Petal Press Inc. (Goodbye sole-proprietorship!)  When I made the decision to hire my first employee,  the first step of the process was to separate myself from my business. Hence Incorporation! Which leads me to my next big event..

Hired an Employee
In August, I posted an ad on craigslist, weeded through over 150 applications, went through the interview process and hired Maranda, as my part time administrative and studio assistant. It’s been a learning curve adjusting to someone new in the studio, but it’s definitely alleviated a lot of my workload.

Interns
I hosted 4 interns in 2014.  They all brought something a little different to the table and I enjoyed working with each of them. It’s also so fascinating to see how differently each of them works, their strengths and weaknesses.

Celebrity Wedding
I worked on one highly intense, celebrity wedding rush order.

Custom Orders
I worked on over 100+ custom orders including personalized stationery, business cards, holiday cards, save the dates and wedding invitations.   More than half my custom orders were wedding invitations.  I worked with couples all over the world from Chicago to Australia.  The state that wins for most clients? 12 couples from New York chose my services last year.

Gold Foil Wedding Invitation

Press
I got some great press this year.  From Buzz Feed, Oh So Beautiful Paper, Brides.com and more (see the full list here), but the most exciting was seeing my work and my studio featured in a Japanese book about letterpress: A New Trend In Letterpress Printing

And now on to my goals and plans for 2015

– get busy enough to hire another part-time employee (someone to help with packing and shipping)
– pick up 10-20 more wholesale accounts (at the National Stationery Show or elsewhere)
– be published in a major bridal publication, Brides Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings etc.
– have more card designs picked up by Paper Source
– Find a Sales Rep

Longer term 3-5 year goals

– move into a new space, hopefully a storefront closer to home (the commute kills me)
– new space = more space, purchase a Windmill and learn how to print on it
– hire a full time employee

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And now a few personal goals

Get finances together – buying a house has been expensive, and definitely an adjustment in terms of spending and money
Keep going to the gym – I was really good about working out regularly last year, and I want to keep that up in 2015
Read more books – Winter is the time for reading! I have 6 on my shelf ready to get into
Eat less sweets – I have a major sweet tooth, it is one of my vices that got out of hand over the holidays. I’ve found that if I allow myself to eat sweets on Sunday, it’s easier for me to resist for the rest of the week.
Personal relationships – Although there are still times that work can take over, over I felt good about my work-life balance last year. I want to continue to put energy into my friendships, my husband and my family while still working to improve and grow Steel Petal Press.

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And that’s my 2014 in review!  You can also view 2013, 2012 and 2011 recaps on my blog. How was your 2014? Any big goals for 2015?

2013 In Review

I usually write my year in review post much closer to the start of the new year, but as I mentioned in my previous post this year got off to a rocky start.  After several days to let the dust settle, I’m finally feeling ready to delve into my recap of the last 12 months.  (You can read previous years’ recaps here: 2012 and 2011)

2013 was a really great year for me professionally!  Looking over the goals I set out for myself I accomplished almost all of them.  I definitely think writing them down not only keeps me accountable, but also really helps me define what’s truly important and worth going after.

Here were my highlights of 2013.

Finances and Business direction
After meeting with Sage Wedding Pros I was able to write a mission statement for my business and I got a much better handle on keeping track of my finances. I set some sales goals, which I didn’t quite meet, but I it’s always good to have something to work towards, right?

Press
My work was featured on several popular blogs like Paper Crave, Oh So Beautiful Paper, Style Me Pretty, Refinery 29. I was also featured in several print magazines (which was one of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year) Uppercase Magazine, Stationery Trends (three times) Inside Weddings and Southern New England Weddings.  My most exciting press, however was my career feature on The Everygirl.  You can ready the full interview HERE.

Interns
I worked with some great interns this year including Lisa who now has a permanent position with me as a part time studio assistant (You can read her interview here.) Erin worked with me for almost 6 months this year and Riley was with me for the last two months of 2013.

Wedding Collection
I developed my wedding collection, creating 5 new non-custom wedding invitation designs. These are a few of my most popular:

New Products
I added new cards, gift tags and photo cards:

National Stationery Show
By far the biggest thing I did all year was set up a booth my very first National Stationery Show.    It was by far the most professional, most intense,  most rewarding thing I’ve done so far in my career.  Not only did I push myself in ways I didn’t know possible, I also made great contacts and friends in the stationery industry all over the country. I did a really great job of documenting my experience on this blog. You can read all the posts HERE.

New Stores
I added so many new retailers to my list of stockists. Many of them I picked up at The National Stationery Show and others found me through etsy wholesale and other avenues.  The most exciting was the national chain: Urban Outfitters who sells one of my cards on their website: HERE.  I’ve been working on developing my wholesale business and I definitely saw a lot of growth in this department over the last year.

Calligraphy class + Wayzgoose
In November I took at 2 day calligraphy workshop with Molly Jacques and I went back up to Hamilton Wood Type Museum for their annual Wayzgoose. I really enjoyed taking the time to learn and develop new skills.

Lead Type
I started a small collection of lead and wood type!   I was so busy I didn’t have enough time to use for most of the year until the very end of 2013 when I was able to start playing with some small tests. In 2014, I plan on releasing a small line of personalized stationery using hand set type.  You can read those blog posts here and here.

Lead Type

New Website
Updating my website and creating a new e-commerce site was actually in my longer terms goals, but I was able to start working on it in the fall of 2013. It’s taking longer than expected to get everything done but it should hopefully completed in early 2014. (I can’t wait!)

Clients
I also had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful clients again this year. They’ve said some really great things about me on Yelp and Wedding Wire. They really make it all worth it.

A few things I did differently this year:
– less craft fairs
– more blogging
– more social media in general most notably a lot more instagramming
– I stayed in the same studio all year, and PLAN on staying put as long as possible

All in all 2013 was a really great year. I settled in and got into a better groove with my business. I stretched myself in new ways and learned new skills.  I’m really looking forward to what 2014 has in store.

Next I will post my business goals for 2014! I think I might do something a little different this year and throw in my personal review of the year…

Happy New Year 2013

never give up

I love the turning of the new year,  it gives me time to pause and assess what I’ve accomplished and allows me to set goals and intentions for my future.  And every year I’ve been able to accomplish almost everything on my list!  It’s actually pretty incredible looking back on my post from 2012 I did even more than I had set out to do this past year.

1 – New Space:
In January 2012 I moved into a new studio space shared with two other letterpress printers.  The new studio was bigger and better and provided the space my growing business needed to expand and grow.  Then in September 2012 I MOVED AGAIN! This time into my OWN space. //// Steel Petal Press now resides in the gorgeous Lacuna Artist Lofts in Pilsen.  .. Not only did I move once but twice in the last year.  I’m happy where I am now and have no intentions of moving again any time soon.  As I said in my previous blog post about the move:  it is no easy feat.  Especially with 3,000 lbs of equipment in tow!

Letterpress Studio Move

Old and New

2- New Equipment:
Moving into the new space gave me room to add much needed equipment to my print shop. I purchased a lever paper cutter, a flat file, a scanner, and a vandercook. The paper cutter was on my list of goals for 2012, but the vandercook was a longer term dream. I had no idea I would have the opportunity to acquire one this past year!

Vandercook SP-15

Sweetie

3 – Interns:
The new, bigger space also allowed me to fit more than one person in the studio at a time. I was able to bring on Lisa and Breanna at the beginning of the year. They are both still with me today! They have been AMAZING. I am so grateful to have such wonderful company and help around the studio. I truly think of them as part of my little family and I am lucky to have them around.

4- National Stationery Show:
In May 2012 I visited New York City to walk the National Stationery Show to get a sense of it.  In September 2012 I signed up to attend as a VENDOR for 2013 with the Ladies of Letterpress booth.

National Stationery Show, 2012

5-  Custom Jobs:
This year I worked on 55+ custom projects! More than 50% more than I did last year.  Including a bar mitzvah invitation, birth announcements and business cards (all new skills added to my list of services).

envelope liner tutorial

6- New Services:
I added Business Cards, Edge Paiting, and digital printing to my list of services.

Edge Painting Letterpress Business Card

7- New Card Designs:
I introduced 20+ new card designs from Birthday cards, to Congratulations cards, to Thank You cards to new Holiday Cards! I also sourced help from the talented Jenna Blazevich who worked with me on some hand lettering for some of the cards. (I plan to collaborate with her again in 2013)

Handletter Calligraphy Thank You

8- Video:
I worked with the very talented video team, By The Barkers, on my amazing letterpress VIDEO.

Letterpressing from The Barkers on Vimeo.

9- New Products:
I added letterpress coasters, boxed sets and a laser cut ornament to the items I create and sell.

Letterpress Thank You card

10- Craft Fairs:
I participated in 10 Craft Fairs in 2012. I mostly stuck to local Chicago craft fairs this year with the exception of a trip to INDIEana Handicraft Exchange and the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market in San Francisco.  I had record breaking sales at the Summer RCF in Chicago and then AGAIN at the Chicago Holiday RCF!

Steel Petal Press

11- Letterpress Road Trips:
I was able to take some really fun letterpress road trips! I visited the Hamilton Wood Type Museum twice; Once for a workshop in March and then again in November for the Wayzgoose. In August I attended the 4-day Ladies of Letterpress Conference in Asheville NC. Also the afore mentioned National Stationery Show in NYC in May.

Wayzgoose 2012, Hamilton Wood Type Museum, Two Rivers WI

12- Stores:
I started working with several new stores that now carry my cards in Chicago and around the country.  – I hope to add even more new stores to this list in 2013.

13- Press:
Steel Petal Press got some great press in 2013. My greeting cards and wedding invitations were featured on several popular blogs including: Style Me Pretty, the ABC News blog, Apartment Therapy, and Oh So Beautiful Paper.

12- Connections:
I’m most proud of the connections I made through Steel Petal Press with people all over the country in 2012. I met some other amazing letterpress printers (at the NSS, LoL Conference and Hamilton Wood Type), I got to work many really fabulous clients on their weddings, and I built strong relationships with my two interns, Lisa and Breanna.

13- BALANCE:
Finally, my biggest accomplishment in 2012 was finding better balance in my life…   At the end of 2011 I was over tired, over worked and anti social.  I had found 10 new grey hairs, bags under my eyes and new wrinkles on my face (I blame it all on stress and over exertion).  I vowed in 2012 to find a way to lead a more balanced life.  It took some time, but I was able to streamline my business, cut out extraneous work and really focus on what matters.  Most importantly my family, my relationships and my health.  Things are still not perfect and there is definitely room for improvement BUT I’m in a much better place this year than I was this time last year.

And now onto goals for 2013…

My business goals for 2013 are
– Write a business plan. A for REAL business plan. This is one of my goals I didn’t get to in 2012. I realized I have no idea what I’m doing so I will be enlisting the help of Sage Wedding Pros.
– Work out an actual marketing strategy
– Design a line of non-custom wedding invitations
– add Thermal Printing and foil stamping to my list of services
– be featured in a well known national publication (Brides Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, Real Simple) OR on tv. I am also considering hiring a publicist for this.
– attend the National Stationery Show and pick up 10-20 new wholesale accounts.
– do more to educate myself about Letterpress printing. Attend the Ladies of Letterpress Wayzgoose in Iowa, and the Hamilton Wayzgoose where ever the new venue may be.
– start to build up a collection of wood and lead type. Incorporate the use of type and linoleum cuts in my shop.

Longer term 3-5 year goals:
– Revamp the website (I’m considering a custom e-commerce site)
– hire an employee (or two)
– move to a larger studio and buy a heidelberg windmill press

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and now onto personal goals…

Like I said earlier, I feel like I’m in a much better place personally than I was this time last year.  That being said there’s always room for improvement -my personal goals for 2013 are:
– Spend more time living in the moment, enjoying my life and friends around me. I don’t always need to be thinking about my next big business plan
– get back in shape
– drink less alcohol and eat less sugar
– take more down time for myself
– Keep the house tidy and clean (I let things go way to long last year)
– go on a trip somewhere exotic and/or warm with my husband
– tell the people I love how I feel about them

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2012 was a HUGE year! Maybe even bigger than 2011 (which I didn’t seem possible). I really can’t WAIT to see what’s in store for 2013 !!

Happy New Year!

The New Year is an important turning point. It’s a time to look forward and a time for reflection.  2011 was huge for me and especially for my business.  It was this time last year (January of 2011) that I was laid off my part-time job and decided to focus all my energy on making Steel Petal Press my full-time career.  It’s hard to believe that was only a year ago because SO MUCH has happened since then and so much has changed over the past year.

1 – Card Designs and process.
I have designed and printed soo many new card designs in the last year that my store front hardly looks like the same place it was just one year ago. Some of my new favorites (and best sellers) from the last year are:

My Favorite Valentine's Day Card

Dang Letterpress card

Chicago Letterpress Poster Print

The Best letterpress Thank You card Also around this time last year I started printing all my cards on 100% cotton rag (tree free) paper which is not only nicer to the environment but also looks the best and leaves the best impression.  I also started pairing each card with a colored envelope adding so much more than plain, boring white.

2 – Custom jobs!
Although I had completed a few custom orders before 2011, this was the year my custom orders really started to take off!  I completed  35 Letterpress Wedding Invitation suites, plus Save the Dates, custom Wedding Guestbooks AND I introduced a new line of Personalized Stationery, which sold very well over the holidays.

3 – Space
I bought a press and moved into my very own studio space.

4 – Etsy front page
Items from my shop were featured on the etsy front page 9 different times

5 – Press and Praise
My story was shared on Etsy Blog “Quit Your Day Job” series and Blogxcar Press Blog.   I was also featured or mentioned in many other great wedding and paper blogs like Rustic Wedding Chic, Paper Crave, and Oh So Beautiful Paper.

6 – Craft Fairs
This year I only left town once for a regional craft fair in Madison WI, and still managed to sell at 11 craft fairs in the Chicago area through out the year.

Needless to say, it’s been a very very busy and rewarding year full of ups and down (mostly ups) and over all a fantastic learning experience…

Moving forward I really need to start thinking about next year with more long term business goals in sight.  This year was more of a test for me; a trial period to learn if running my own letterpress business was even a possibility. Up until this point I have been more focused on getting things done rather than long term vision. Now that I know it *can* be done, I really need to hunker down and write up some business plans, some 5-year goals and start to envision my business even longer term than that.

My business goals for this year are:
1 – move into a bigger more professional space where I can meet clients instead of out of my home.
2 – purchase a paper cutter (so I don’t waste so much paper cutting 3 sheets at a time)
3 – adjust my prices on custom to better reflect the labor involved.
4 – get a steady intern (or two) to help with the production process
5 – Visit the National Stationery Show in New York to see what it’s all about (before applying myself)
6 – Write out a (real) business plan with long term goals

Longer term goals in the next 5 years. (in no particular order):
– buy another press (a Vandercook press and/or a Windmill.)
– hire an employee (or two) someone to help with Admin, Marketing, PR, web maintenance and other business stuff. Also a studio assistant to help with production.
– be featured in a national publication (Brides Magazine, Style Me Pretty, Martha Stewart Weddings) OR on tv 🙂
– Participate in the National Stationery Show (2013)

________

So, now, after all this business talk I also want to mention some of my personal goals to help me lead a more balanced, productive and healthy life because we all know career isn’t everything (although sometimes its easy to forget…) and without love, friendship and laughter the rest of it would have no meaning.

– husband. – My husband is my best friend. He has always been there for me, supported me and encouraged me from the beginning. I need to remember no matter how busy I may be, our relationship comes first.   We should always find time to spend quality time together, continue to work on our relationship and on healthy communication.

– health – as I get older my health becomes more and more important to me. I want to add some light weight lifting to my work out routines to build muscle.  I want to continue to go to the gym at least 3 times a week and find more time for my pilates classes (which I abandoned when the holiday season started getting insanely busy)

– detox – I have a 2 week elimination plan for this January. no booze and no sugar for two weeks.

– friends – spend more time with Chicago friends. With a craft fair every weekend in December, I had to disappear from my friends, but I want to make sure I know what’s going on in their lives and I can be there for them if they need me or even just for some smiles and good times.  Balance is key.

– Savings – hopefully put some money into savings for the future.

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So that sums up my 2011 and my goals for 2012. I’m sure there’s something I forgot to mention that I’ll remember later.  Either way 2011 was a really huge year! and I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store.

for now, over and out – Shayna