2020 was a year unlike any other for many of us. We had to learn how to shift to a completely digital world and use our creativity to benefit us mentally and financially. Small businesses started growing out of a time of quarantine and have been pursued ever since. Many started prior to the pandemic but grew massively during our time in quarantine. With things going back to "normal", many people started reverting back to old habits and bought mass-produced items. That's why we are so excited to introduce to you so many new small business owners and makers to our page in hopes of introducing you to them.
Our first post is dedicated to Johana from JJ Paperie & Co., a Latina-owned creative studio that offers calligraphy, engraving and surface pattern design. We were so excited to get to read Johana's answers and we CAN'T wait for you to fall in love with her products just like we did!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about the background of your business
Hi! My name is Johana and I'm the owner of JJ Paperie & Co, a stationery shop with motivational paper goods and calligraphy and engraving services for brands.
How did you come up with your business name? Is there a special meaning?
JJ is for both my first and middle name. I knew I wanted to incorporate my name in there and leave it broad enough where I could expand my business into other areas I wanted to eventually offer. I knew most of it would be with paper like greeting cards and notepads so that's the PAPERIE but I wanted the & Co for the homegoods and other items I (eventually) bring in!
How did you initially get involved with this specific craft?
I started learning about calligraphy back in 2016 but I didn't actually practice or take the time to do it. It was more in 2018 when I got engaged that I wanted to do the day-of items for my own wedding and signed up for a workshop and realllly dove into learning calligraphy. I ended up being comfortable enough to do all my day-of items which was really special.
What inspired you to start your business?
A few things! I hit a point in my career where I knew I could do more but following the corporate ladder you kinda have to wait until it's "your time" unless you change your job. At that point, I didn't want to start over anywhere else and the idea of starting my own business always lingered in my head. I had also started to surround myself (and IG feed) with other female entrepreneurs who were doing it already and I figured why not try now?
What are your biggest inspirations for your work?
My surroundings! Any of the card themes I come up with are based on a loved one, whether it's my nephew, niece, husband or family. I also love taking walks with my dog and picking flowers / greenery that I think would be pretty to incorporate in my patterns or designs somehow.
How would you describe your aesthetic, and how did you work to develop your style?
I feel like my style is always evolving, but I would like to say my aesthetic is soft, muted colors with the occasional pops of color. I never really considered myself boho but I like some aspects of that look. I gravitate towards greens & yellows during the fall and pastels in the spring/summer months. Developing your style is ongoing in my opinion! I think just working on it constantly and seeing what you gravitate towards (techniques, color, etc) ultimately lead you to finding it.
Do you have a favorite product that you enjoy making/supplying the most?
Anything with a pattern to be honest! The most recent product I had fun with and didn't include flowers was my fall tea towels.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
I'm a big fan of structure and organization so I like to make sure my days are setup that way. In the mornings, I like to dedicate an hour to "me" time so that is super important! Depending on the day, I'll either focus on designing, outreach, SEO or working on the next launch. Right now I'm working on the upcoming winter collection, along with testing new samples for notebooks and simultaneously setting up for the mini fall launch. The fall is a busy time so trying to stay on a timeline (for wholesale) and retail is something I'm still trying to get a hold of.
Can you describe your workspace? How have you designed it and how does it help in your craft?
Yes! I work at home and in our attic! I set it up with an L desk so one side I can do admin-y work and the other I can create! It's not a HUGE table but it works. I also have a nice "seating" area but I tend to sit on the floor anyway. I have my work & products displayed throughout and a calendar to remind me of what I have planned, monthly goals and/or a quote to keep me motivated. I personally like to create a nice space because that keeps me excited & going. Sometimes I'll also work on the couch :)
What is the biggest challenge you've faced as a maker and/or small business owner? What did you learn from it?
The biggest challenge has been not really knowing what to expect when you become an entrepreneur. I basically learned as I went along which has been beneficial but also really challenging. Everyone has a different roadmap and I think that's just the thing anyone needs to keep in mind as they start their own journey.
What does being a maker/business owner mean to you?
It means having the opportunity to create designs and work I want to see in the world. It is also meant to show and represent other Latina creatives and also be an example of pursuing your creative dreams without a traditional background in art or design.
What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
I love practicing watercolor and recently started getting into copperplate calligraphy. Most of my interests still intertwine somehow with my work but I don't put pressure on myself when I practice either. It's simply to enjoy it and improve my skills. If I make something that sucks it's fine!
What do you feel is the most fulfilling part of being a maker and small business owner?
I think the most fulfilling thing is knowing I am the one paving my own path. The limitations are what I give myself and not what another person limits me to. I also really know I wanted to have my business before I became a mom. Being able to be present & enjoy time with my future family was a big reason why I left my corporate job. I know it will never be easy, but my goal is to have a strong foundation and things already rolling by then.
What advice would you give other makers looking to turn their passion into a business?
I would definitely say GO FOR IT! Whether it's staying in your job until you're ready to leave or if you're able to go all in, try! Everyone's situation is different and not everyone's path is the same. Definitely do NOT compare yourself to others, especially if it's with someone who has been doing their job for 5 years and you started yesterday. I would also encourage them to read entrepreneur books early on. It's easy to fall into the instagram trap and follow advice from there but there is also something very important and different from reading books that focus more on business and mindset.