I was awake in bed...again, running through my morning to-do list and stressing about work deadlines. My restlessness caused my husband to turn over and mumble, "You're not the same person you used to be." I wanted to scream at him for not comforting me, but at that pivotal moment, I realized he was right. It was time for a change, and this is how I got inspired to start a wedding stationery business and finally do something that I love.
How I accidentally launched my wedding invitation business
Being a newlywed, the chaos of wedding planning was still fresh on my mind. I DIY'd many of the decorative elements of our wedding to save money.
I had done graphic design in the past as a hobby, so one of the DIY projects I enjoyed the most was designing my own invitations and stationery.
Little did I know, I had done early market viability testing for my wedding stationery business! Our guests were so impressed that I had made these invitations with my own hands that I got requests from friends to create more for their weddings.
Just like that, I got my first few "clients," and my first bonafide business was born.
How I transitioned into my stationery business
My custom wedding invitation business started off as a side-hustle. I spent my days working at my corporate job. I answered business emails in the evenings and spent nights sourcing suppliers, learning how to use printing equipment, and refining my design skills.
After a year of moonlighting as a graphic designer, it became hard to juggle my wedding projects' demands and my job. Here are the key steps I took to transition into full-time entrepreneurship:
1. Going from a full-time to a part-time employee at my day job
To focus on my wedding stationery business, I negotiated with my work to reduce my working hours from 5 days to 3 days a week. I was honest about my personal situation with my boss and had already demonstrated solid performance in the workplace.
In addition, I had to take a pay cut, but it was worth it. I ended up gaining 2 full days a week to focus on my business guilt-free.
2. Figuring out my business budget
My accounting background came in handy at this stage. I knew it was crucial to have a financial projection and a business budget to build a successful business.
So I created a spreadsheet to estimate my income and expenses for the next 2 years. This acted as a blueprint as I worked on growing my wedding invitation business.
3. Saving up money to invest in my business
I cut back on personal spending like shopping, entertainment, and eating out and instead started saving more of my money for my wedding stationery business.
Gradually, I adjusted my mindset to think of it as redirecting spending towards my business like an “investment” instead of splurging on luxuries that provided no future return.
I set a goal to save 6 months' worth of estimated business operating expenses to have a buffer. Also, thankfully my husband continued to work at his corporate job.
4. Spending money to make MORE money
Early on, I met clients at coffee shops with a binder full of paper swatches and samples. Going forward, I wanted to look more professional.
Sometimes it's true you have to spend money to make money. So, I decided to rent a small, 200 sq ft. office space to display my work and meet clients in a private yet comfortable setting.
Signing a lease felt terrifying, but once I displayed a real business address on my website, I gained instant credibility over my online-only competition.
In the wedding industry, clients value face-to-face interaction, so this decision took my business to the next level.
5. Quitting my six-figure job!
Six months after going part-time at my day job, I mustered the guts to finally quit and exit the rat race. I had booked up a solid roster of clients for the upcoming busy wedding season, so I knew there was enough income to carry me through the end of the year.
Ultimately, the only way I could provide my best work was to focus 100% of my efforts on serving my clients.
What it's like running a stationery business
It was tough explaining my life choices to people after discovering I quit a six-figure job to venture out on my own.
In fact, I didn't even tell my family for a whole year because I was terrified of dealing with their skepticism and warnings about how I’d take a career hit if things didn’t work out.
Instead, I became friends with fellow wedding vendors that I met through my clients and at trade shows. This networking technique brought collaboration opportunities for creatively styled photoshoots.
My best work got published in high-profile wedding blogs and magazines that boosted my credentials and generated more business.
Two years to six figures in business revenue
After my second year of running my invitation business full time, I finally cracked the six-figure revenue mark. On the surface, that milestone felt like a fairytale, but it didn’t come without sacrifice and late nights!
Once my business became profitable, I started to take a structured approach to pay myself first. I use a modified method from the book "Profit First" by Mike Michalowicz to manage my cash flow.
It involves allocating a percentage of all my cash receipts into different "buckets" like paying myself, operating expenses, taxes, paying freelancers, or reinvesting into the business.
How to start a stationery business
So, that's how I quit my six-figure job and started a stationery business. If you think this is a business you would like to adventure into, here's how to start a stationery business.
1. Build a business plan
When starting a business from scratch, one of the first things to do is build a business plan. Your plan should include your start-up costs, operations strategy, marketing plan, and competitor analysis.
This will also include choosing and registering your business name, identifying your target audience, ongoing costs, and pricing your products.
2. Define your brand
The next step in how to start a stationery business is defining your brand. When you brand your business, it defines what makes you different from your competition. For instance, Chanel is a brand that is known for its luxury items and classic designs. Your brand influences how your clients view your business.
3. Legalize your stationery business
It's essential that you ensure you legalize your invitation business. Establishing your business as a legal entity protects your personal assets. Basically, if for any reason someone were to file a lawsuit, it would be against the business and not you personally.
The different types of business structures are Limited Liability Company, Sole Proprietorship, a Partnership, or a Corporation. The most common structures small businesses start with are either a Sole Proprietorship or an L.L.C. Research the different business structures to figure out what's best for your business plan and goals.
4. Invest in equipment and software
Whether you decide to specifically have a wedding invitation business or venture out to other types of designs, you will need to invest in the right equipment and design software. Some items you will need to get started are:
- A high-quality printer
- Design software such as Adobe Creative Cloud
- A creasing machine
- A quality paper cutter
If you don't want to print the stationery yourself, you can find a local print shop or use sites such as printed.com. This may save you money on ink, paper, and wear and tear on your printer too.
Part of learning how to start a stationery business is figuring out the most cost-efficient way to operate it. So try to research the best option for you and your business.
5. Sell online and in-person
To really build up your business, it's best to sell online and in person. For instance, you could set up a website to reach a bigger clientele online and also set up at arts and crafts festivals and markets. This is a great way to start your business without leasing a space right away.
Also, network with friends, family, and co-workers to get the word out about your new business adventure! They will likely spread the word for you or maybe even purchase some of your products to help you launch your new stationery business!
Start your own stationery business
Aspiring entrepreneurs are often glamorized by social media posts as someone with their laptop on a beach or jet-setting to exotic locations. Contrary to popular belief, most success stories don’t happen overnight. However, with determination and hard work, you can start your own stationery business.
In reality, entrepreneurship is a journey that often feels lonely. Being around like-minded people is vital. Find fellow business owners in your network or mastermind groups who can relate to your struggles and way of life. They can motivate you and keep you accountable to your goals.
Entrepreneurship is the path less traveled. Get used to the feeling of constantly swimming upstream, and be motivated by the possibility that once you finally achieve success, it'll all be worth it! You'll prove to the skeptics that it’s absolutely possible to make a living doing what you love! Get started with our free business course!