Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Christmas seemed to creep up on my husband and I this year, but we're both excited to be able to spend some time off, with our family and friends. We'll be bouncing around between Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, and are very thankful that we don't have to fly anywhere!

Both the Believe Notes and Designers Care shops are currently closed, and will be re-opening in January with some much needed changes and streamlining. I'm enjoying the slight break and am using the time to catch up and realign. The end of this year has been both amazing and challenging, but full of growth and learning. There are lots and lots of things I'd love to blog about, I'm hoping to find some time to sit and write in the next few weeks.

I hope, for those of you that celebrate, you have a wonderful Christmas that filled with love and laughter!

PS - I have about 10 of my personal holiday cards left, so if any of you would like one, please just email me your address ( and I'd be happy to send it your way

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Gifts from Minted

I've been super busy this season with my highest volume of holiday sales to date - plus all of the orders from Designers Care - which means that, more than ever, I am doing almost all of my holiday shopping online. I'm one of those gift givers that really likes the gifts to be something memorable and personalized, but not super expensive, which is why I am so excited about all of the stationery gift options available through Minted.

One of my favorite ideas for a gift is a custom photo calendar - I mean, who wouldn't love to have a calendar that is actually nice to look at (instead of those freebies that your dad got during a business meeting??). The calendars are printed on thick, luxurious paper and are designed by some of the best designers in the stationery world.

Back in August my family took formal family portraits, as a gift to my grandparents, and what better gift than to use those photos to create a calendar! (I hope my Grams isn't reading this blog post!). You can even put in the dates of everybody's birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and so on! I'm positive my grandparents are going to love it! And I love how simple the design, by Kristie Kern, is!

I can't wait to pick out a few more designs - and I think I'll be picking one up for myself too! I just absolutely ADORE the Year of Art calendars! And when the year is over, you can can down the calendar and frame the art!

In addition to the beautiful calendars, I am also completely smitten with all of the Art Prints available now through Minted. While I personally wasn't able to submit any designs into the art print challenges, I think the community of designers worked together to create one of the most gorgeous art collections available anywhere.

And if beautiful art prints and calendars aren't enough for you, Minted also has some really handy (and perfectly designed, of course) journals available as well. They're super affordable, really lovely, and this one right here was designed by yours truly.

*this post was sponsored by Minted, in exchange for this post, I got a free calendar, which was really darn smart of them because I liked it so much I went back and purchased three more. Yes, I like them that much.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Small Business(es) Meet High Stress

I had promised to share the real ups and downs behind owning a small business, and what's more real than a post at 7:30pm on a Saturday night?

The past few weeks have been overwhelming - in both good and bad ways. It's been about three weeks since I started Designers Care, which is a shop filled with gorgeous note cards that are hand stamped using designs donated but lots of talented designers. We've had over 100 sales and raised close to $900 to donate to Hurricane Sandy victims - I'd say the shop is absolutely a success.

But for whatever reason, I just don't feel very successful. I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and beat down. October through December is my absolute busiest season - between holiday cards for Believe Notes, papers and finals for graduate school, busy season at my full time job, and then of course the chaos of the holidays in general - I feel like I'm starting to shut down.

One day, last week, I went to work without my glasses or my watch and I only had eyeliner on one eye. 

I'm finding that in my stress I seem to be focusing too hard on the negatives: orders are backed up (I must not be efficient enough!), I don't have enough time in the day (so I should get up super early and stay awake super late, right?!), I've made a few mistakes & one of my entire product lines failed (this was the hardest on me, by far). And even though, deep down, I know I'm not failing, I really, really, really feel like I am.

I also know that the more stressed I am, the more stress I put on my husband, and that of course leads to stupid bickering and hurt feelings. He may not be as busy as me in terms of working + school + 2 businesses, but he's NYPD and he certainly has't had a stress-free experience dealing with the hurricane aftermath. Long hours & overtime combined with seeing the underbelly of a city in crisis has definitely lead to an exhausted husband. He and I handle stress in completely different ways - he likes to sit back and do nothing but watch TV in order to escape, while I like to bury myself in even more work to take my mind off of things. But then, of course, we argue about the stress itself because I constantly push us both to do more, more, more, and he is trying to do less, less, less. At this point I think we can agree that we'd both like to just ditch the jobs, and school, and businesses and just try to catch up and cope with all the madness. And thank goodness this is temporary - things always calm down a little in January.

So yes, I feel like I'm failing sometimes - at being a good friend or wife, at cooking healthy dinners, at being present for the people around me. I can beat myself up all I want for missing a deadline or making a mistake, but then I get an email like this and it all seems to melt away:

I know you've been totally swamped! If I can help with anything, let me know. 
By the way, you really inspire me!
When I'm up at 4:30am working on a design, bleary eyed and exhausted, I can't imagine being any form of inspiration for anything (other than maybe Dunkin Donuts). But I wake up almost every morning to amazing emails from amazing people and I remember that I am not in this alone, and I am not doing this for myself. 
And even in writing the blog post, I may be feeling uneasy about it in the morning, but I wanted to share some of what really happens during high stress - you may be seeing beautifully styled photos, and RTs from fabulous people, but that isn't the whole reality. The whole reality is me at 7:30am in my office building noticing that I have eyeliner on one eye.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Designers Care

As many of you may know, I live in Queens, New York City. Although, I've got to be honest and say that, even though I've lived here almost three years, I still don't really call Queens home. Home, to me, is the south shore of Long Island on the water. I'm one of those people that actually takes comfort in the smell of low tide, which is why when I moved to Queens, I found a place right on the water. Most of the people I know are also water lovers, in fact I think it's fair to say that if you live on Long Island, you've got water running through your veins. And trust me when I say that nobody ever thought the water they so loved would ever turn against them.

Oh, but it did.

Two weeks ago Superstorm Sandy smashed into the East Coast, wrecking everything in her path. Maybe another time I'll write about what my personal experience was during the storm, but for now just know that I'm safe, my home is safe, and my family is safe. After the storm came through, and people lost everything, those of us that had power sat in absolute stupors in front of the television looking at the wreckage. The news coverage was (and still is) 24/7 about the crisis. For me, it took days before I actually realized what happened. When I went back to work, I found myself staring at the computer screen unable to really move.

I wanted to help. I thought about volunteering, but I knew I didn't even have enough gas in my car to get to the areas that were hardest hit. Plus, if I heard about a single pet that died, well, I'd be a wet mess on the side of the road - I don't know why I'm such a softie for animals. But I still wanted to help. Everybody wanted to help. In fact, as soon as the storm was over, I went online and the entire designer community was reaching out to me to see if I was OK. They kept asking if there was anything I needed - but there wasn't, I was fortunate to have had no damage. Although still, the aching feeling that I needed to find a way to help.

And then I had this crazy idea. What if I found a way to use stationery to help? So I put an exploratory idea out into the design community: Would anybody be interested in donating a design to me so that I could use the design to make a stamp and then create gorgeous hand stamped note cards to sell with ALL proceeds going to help the storm victims?

The answer was a unanimous and overwhelming yes.

Friday, November 9th, I threw the question out there. Within 48 hours I had over 60 designers involved, a submission kit created, an army of designers pitching in, an Etsy shop opened, and the decision to donate proceeds to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Designers Care was born.

I knew we'd need support, so I reached out to a few of my favorite vendors to see if they'd be willing to get us off the ground. Simon, over at Simon's Stamps, was the first person to support us by donating the our first 20 stamps. We then raised enough money as a group to purchase the remaining 40+ stamps and ink pads. was so extremely generous in providing us with some envelopes, and we're still hoping to get more paper and supplies donated to help us keep growing.
Over the course of the first 24 hours, the amazing Jennifer Wick quickly created a shop logo, while Rebecca Bowen helped raise the start-up costs, and Kim Dietrich Elam researched some legal/logistical issues. My mother rolled up her sleeves and jumped in to help too, creating a new email address, setting up all of the shop listings and helping me coordinate emails and inquiries. She'll also be helping me fill all of the orders and send out to customers. The design community became so involved that we created an entirely separate place for us to work together in creating the new initiative.

I am so humbled, honored, proud and grateful to have the privilege of organizing such an amazing project. Designers Care has already become my baby, and I cannot thank all of the designers enough for helping me get it off the ground. Our goal is to raise at least $2,000 as soon as possible for Sandy victims, we're already at over $400 and we need all of your help! I would love if you could share the story, write a blog post, pin, retweet or whatever it is that you can do to help us sell as much as possible.

And please, please, please visit Designers Care and purchase some note cards. I'm offering small (2" x 3.5" cards) or note cards (4.25" x 5.5") in singles or sets of 4 or 5. Prices start at $2.25 for a single card and $8.75 for a pack of five cards. You'll have the options of white or kraft paper, and black, gold metallic or silver metallic inks. In the next few days I'll also be adding black paper and gold embossing as well as 4x6 prints that would be perfect as framed art.

So a huge thank you to all of the designers that made this happen, and to everybody that donated to help get Designers Care off the ground!

1 - Joy Comes by Mariel Joy. 2 - Full of Hope by Paper Next by Lesa. 3 - Love Peave and Joy by The Lovely Letters. 4 - You're Awesome by Geekink Design. 5 - Made with Love by Frooted Design. 6 - Un Grand Merci bhy le Poetik Studio. 7 - Thank You by Kristen Smith. 8 - I Heart NY by 2BSquared Design9 - Tweet Thanks by Pistols

1 - Strong by Susan Asbill 2 - Shine On by Bleu Collar Paparie. 3 - Left My Heart by Jennifer Wick. 4 - Home Is by Kerry Doyle. 5 - Sunshine Ahead by Stacey Hill. 6 - Go With The Flow by Laura Bolter, 7 - Happy Thoughts by The Occasional Hello, 8 - Hope by Robin Ott, 9 - Bless Your Heart by Felicity Paper

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Danfredo Photography + Believe Notes

I'm one of those people that absolutely loves pictures - when I travel I bring more memory cards than I do socks. The past few months have been so much fun for me, as I've had the chance to work with a few really fabulous photographers. Photography just makes my heart sing, so you can imagine how excited I am to be able to feature gorgeous pictures in all of my holiday cards this year!

Danielle Rivera, the photographer behind Danfredo Photography, is a kick-ass lady in all sorts of ways, and she is also the pro behind the pictures in my holiday line! Yippie!

Not only am I super excited to have her photos be a part of my design work, I'm stoked about having had the chance to meet and get to know such an awesome person. You'll be hearing a lot more about Danielle and Danfredo Photography in the future, as I'm pretty sure you'll want to see our recent collaboration, which I'll be sharing on the blog in the future.

In the meantime, how awesome do her pictures work with my designs??

Head on over to the shop and get 5% off your holiday order, this week only, with coupon code HAPPIESTHOLIDAYS and you'll be on your way to seeing how amazing your photos look in these designs! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Holiday Wrap Around Labels

 Yesterday I announced that the 2012 holiday line is available in the shop, and today I am happy to also share the newest addition to the holiday line, coordinating Wrap Around Labels to perfectly match your holiday card!

Labels come flat printed with your address on one end and a blank space for you to write in the addresses of family and friends. The labels come in sheets of 5, and cost $30 for 50 labels, and they are free shipping if purchased with your holiday cards. 

So head on over to the shop and pick our your cards and matching labels!

Monday, November 5, 2012

2012 Holiday Cards Now Available

I'm so excited to announce that the 2012 line of holiday cards are now available for purchase in the shop. This year my focus was on adding traditional, but not stuffy, designs that worked for both couples, newlyweds and families. I wanted to play with simple designs and really strong typography - and I absolutely love the way the line came out!

Here are a few of my favorite new designs:

From Top Left: Light Hearted, Merry Everything, Snowfall, Dreams Come True

In addition to nearly 10 new designs, I have also added thick Felt paper as a paper option. So, this year, you can select from the standard 100% recycled paper, pearl/shimmer paper, linen textured paper and now thick felt - all for the same price! The felt paper feels almost like cotton paper, but at a much lower cost, it's a great way to add warmth to your holiday card.

To celebrate the launch of the 2012 holiday line, head on over to the shop and use coupon code HAPPIESTHOLIDAYS to get 5% off your purchase for this week only.

Enjoy, and happy holidays!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Custom Recap + Brklyn View Photography

One of my goals for this year is to network more and send heartfelt notes to people I really admire.  Jainé, the photographer behind Brklyn View Photography, is one of those people. I had been following her blog for a while, and when I saw her get published on Style Me Pretty I was so darn excited that I finally decided to email her and introduce myself. After exchanging a few emails (and enjoying really awesome burgers and drinks together) we decided to collaborate on some stationery and head shots. Turns out that Jainé is a paper junkie, and I'm a picture nut, so we were like a match made in heaven!

Jainé loves all things pink and fun, so we decided to create two stationery looks for her. One features lively confetti with her logo on the back, and the other has a hand embossed "thank you" on the front in gold, with bright pink and red stripes on the back. Sounds awesome, right?! I've been playing around with hand-embossing lately and loved that Jainé was on board.

I know, I know, these cards are totally awesome. The icing on the cake is that both sets of cards were paired with hot pink envelopes and gold envelope liners! And I'm not going to lie, I think I'm in love with hand embossing, it's such a beautiful way to add an extra element to designs. Labor intensive, yes, but so very worth it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Minted Perfect Match Wedding Voting is Open!

I've been so busy lately that I haven't been participating as much as I'd like to in the Minted challenges, but I absolutely HAD to participate in their Perfect Match Wedding Invitation Challenge. When it comes to the Minted challenges, I try to stretch my comfort zone and test out some new things - whether it's patterns, typography or hand-drawn details, you'll see some things from me for Minted that are really different from my normal day-to-day items. That's what's so fun about Minted, having the opportunity to stretch and grow.

So here are my submissions for the wedding challenge, voting is open, so please go vote!


1. Blushful 2. Florals on Sapphire 3. Merriment 4. Pearlescent 5. Ombre Names 6. Sweetness 7. Infinite Class 7. Subtle Mosaic 8. Vine Knot

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Custom Recap: Pink & Grey Housewarming Invitation

Today I want to share a customized housewarming party invitation I created based on my House + Warming design. I love taking a design and giving it an update through color and specialty paper, so I was super excited when my client asked for the invitation to be done in grey + pink and then printed shimmer paper. How awesome did these come out?!

I'm so smitten with this color combo, that I'm now offering these exact invitations for sale in the shop! If you love them as much as I do, head on over and check them out.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Battle of Self Doubt, Business Doubt & Being Discouraged

Today I want to talk about the absolute biggest business challenge I have ever faced: myself.

I've been going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to write this post, but at the end of the day, this blog is supposed to offer insights into my business - both the high and low. While I would love to only post about the great growth and fabulousness, that wouldn't be showing what really goes on behind the scenes.

Last week I shared some of my Common Business Mistakes, and while it was a scary mini-series to write, I thought it would be helpful so I wrote it, and it has gotten a ton of views, so thank you! Today I'll let you in on something that's even scarier to me, but I think it'll be even more helpful for you and the life/business you may be trying to grow.

Let's start off with my big confession: I seriously doubt myself. Like, all of the time. I doubt that I have the business savvy to really keep Believe Notes growing, I doubt that I have the accounting savvy to not have the IRS knock on my door and take me off to jail, I doubt that I have the actual design talent to create something timeless and versatile, I doubt that I have a warm & inviting personality and that I won't be able to make friends and be successful at networking, and I doubt that I have the ability to come off real and authentic in my blog posts.

Most days I am able to dock my doubts in the back of my mind and just plow through my to-do list,  but lately my to-do list has grown overwhelmingly complicated and my available time has dwindled to just about nothing. I'm so consumed by my business that I basically ignore all other house chores. There are stacks of laundry that need to be put away, my office is a mess, if it weren't for auto-pay, our bills wouldn't be paid, and I have a chronically empty fridge.

 my fridge, a few weeks ago: apple sauce, milk, eggs, beer, plain pasta. Oye.

One day last week I came home from my full-time job, exhausted and in dire need of some R&R. I needed to clear a spot on my sofa just to sit down, seriously. I looked around and noticed that my dining room table was covered in envelopes, samples, stamps and boxes - with just a little area cleared for my husband and I to have dinner every night. My sofa table was stacked with "inspirational magazines" - but wait, what color is my sofa table again? There was a giant pile of empty boxes sitting by the door, waiting to be taken to the recycling bin - one of Miss Juliet's balls was in there somewhere, but she was too chicken to dig in an get it herself, so she sat and cried and begged for me to reach into the pile and get it for her. Suddenly I felt overwhelmed, guilty, upset and out-of-control. Usually I'm able to come home from work and fold laundry, go through mail and tidy up. But lately I've been so busy filling orders and designing for Minted challenges, launching my wedding line, and prepping for the holidays, that I literally come home from work each day and go straight to my computer. I feel like a bad wife, and feeling like a bad wife is a sucky feeling (even though my husband swears I am not exactly the mutant stationery zombie that I think I am)

The hardest part for me, honestly, is the doubt around whether or not my business is legitimate. While my sales have increased, I'm still not anywhere near where I want to be. My Shop has days with zero visitors and weeks with zero sales. Granted, some weeks I have more sales than I can keep up with, and that feels fantastic. But on the weeks with nothing, I feel like a failure, and I start the doubt cycle again. I'll also add that I have a particularly hard time in the beginnings of the month, because all of the statistic stuff for website/blog/shop go down to zero. It's overwhelming when I look at the zero on the charts and have to think about how hard I'll be working over the month in order to get my numbers where I'd like them to be.

Speaking of numbers, I know I want more exposure. It's a goal, and I'm definitely working hard at it. I had reached out to a bunch of advertisers in the beginning of September and was so overwhelmingly surprised and happy that ALL of them not only supported my business, but wanted to feature me as "hand picked" or the like. I was on a high, until I realized that while I had money in my savings, I didn't have enough to pay for all the basic advertising. Well, that totally killed my high. I know it takes money to make money - and maybe I should take the risk of pulling money from my personal savings to pay for some of the ads?

So, at this point you might be sick of hearing me talk about this, and you might be looking for my advice or a tip of some sort. Well, I don't have one yet. I'm not exactly sure what my next step is from here, but I'm going to make sure it's a smart one (who wants to make a stupid step, right?!). Maybe I need to reduce the variety of products in my shop to just a select group of things I truly, truly love. Maybe I need to recruit my mother to help me manage some of my accounting & paperwork. Maybe I need to take some money from my personal savings to help get the exposure I want/need. Maybe I need to have more defined business hours. Maybe I just need to be patient and keep on doing what I'm doing (success doesn't come overnight, right?).

There really are some big and exciting things coming with Believe Notes, and I know that I'm running a good business, but I think we all get to a point where we need to think a little more strategically about the future. I do promise, though, that whatever happens, it'll only be in the interest of improving Believe Notes as much as possible.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Believe Notes + WellWed Magazine

Good morning everybody! I am super excited to share that I'll be featured in The Hamptons issue of WellWed Magazine this coming Fall/Winter! I got to create some fabulous place cards (hello black and gold embossing!) and my little add features a sneak peek of the new wedding line!

You can also visit my designer page on the WellWed Hamptons website:

I can't wait for the new issue to come out! WellWed always puts together such fabulous inspiration shoots, and I am so excited to be featured!

Oh, and what do you think of the little wedding invitations preview? If you've been by the shop lately, you might have noticed the soft launch of just a few invitations. I can't wait to announce the whole line!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Common Mistakes Theme #3 - Learning to Say "No"

We're now on our last theme for common mistakes that happen with small businesses - or at least, the mistakes that have been common to my small business. This last one is probably the hardest, and I know a lot of you deal with difficulty in saying "no". I'm no pro now, but I'm much better, and here are some of my experiences.

Theme #3 - Learn to Say "No" When it Comes to Doing Favors

I could go on and on about the lessons I've learned from this theme (maybe another blog post someday). When I first started my business I was happy to get whatever experience and project I could. However, as my business grew, I found myself needing to value both my work and my time. I could no longer bend over backwards for people in ways that cost me significantly more than I was charging them. While I don't want to give a specific example for this one, I can tell you generally how this goes:

An old friend from highschool/work/town contacts me and asks for invitations/announcements/cards but really doesn't want to spend a lot of money. They ask what I would be able to do for them, and I basically agree to give them whatever they wanted for such a small amount of money that I knew I really would be losing money. But maybe I'd get a referral, so I convinced myself it was worth it. Then the old friend/coworker/dog-walker would want to make ten thousand design changes, and what about matching envelopes, or skinny labels, or textured-shimmery paper? And, oh, they needed them within two days. You get the picture. I know we all want to help out our old friends and acquaintances, but unfortunately undervaluing your worth as a designer is just not a good business practice.

Lessons Learned:
  • Don't undervalue your work
  • Offer a flat percentage as a "friends and family" discount off of regular, full priced items
  • Not everybody is your "friend or family"
  • Unless I sit next to you at Christmas Dinner, I am going to charge you regular pricing for any super-fabulous-totally-custom design
  • Learn the word "no" and use it when you need to
  • Have a contract that outlines your services and exactly what you'll be delivering (I am working on mine right now!)

So there you have it - the three main themes of which I've learned most of my small business lessons. My main themes were Theme #1 - Rushing Isn't Always Good; Theme #2 - Test Things Out and Theme #3 - Learning to Say No. Like I said in the introductory post, I'm not highlighting mistakes I've made in a way to put myself, or anybody else down. I'm actually doing it for the opposite reason - hopefully you'll be able to learn from these mistakes, or maybe they seem familiar already and you have your own ways for dealing with them.

The point of this mini-series is to show that mistakes happen, we learn from them and hone our business practices so that the same mistakes don't continue to happen. I'd love to hear your input on if this mini series has been helpful, and if you have any experiences you'd like to add.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Common Mistakes Theme #2 - Test Things Out

So we're onto the second theme in the Mistakes Happen series - I'm sure you're already laughing at how similar Theme #1 sounded to you. Let's move right on into the second theme...

Theme #2 - Test Things Out

There are lots of techniques and tools out there, but just because other people have mastered them, doesn't mean you'll be able to pick it up over night. Test things out thoroughly before offering to charge money for it. Here's an example:

Remember these pretty pink silhouette little girl cards? We used little crystals on the fronts of the card, and I had heard somebody recommend self-sticking crystals, so I decided to use them. I spent hours attaching them to the cards, and once they were all done, I packaged them up and sent them off. A few days later my client emailed me to let me know that she got the cards, but all the crystals fell off. I was devastated. I reprinted all of the cards and used the clear crystals I had always used in the past (I knew they would stay glued forever!). The next day I wiggled each one to make sure they were secure, and then I sent them to my customer. My customer emailed me to say that the cards arrived and were in great shape, but that she had really needed pink crystals. I ended up mailing her a third batch of cards, without any crystals at all, so that she could try to find the exact pink ones she wanted. At the end of the day, my client was so fabulously understanding and patient, but I completely felt like a failure.

Lessons Learned:
  • Don't ship something new until your positive it's good quality
  • Communicate often - I should have told my customer that I was using clear crystals because the pink ones were back-ordered 
  • Do more research - don't take just one person's opinion. Or if you are taking somebody's opinion, test out a sample of something first
  • Double-check your work. When I switched to a new program for printing invitation envelope addresses, I found the new system botched a bunch of addresses. Unfortunately, I found out when my bride got all her invitations back.  
Anybody want to share how long their first orders with ribbons/crystals/bows/embellishments took to put together? Luckily my husband is super detail oriented, so he always helps me get things perfectly. But the very first order I had took us both nearly all night! 

Ready to learn a little more? Can you relate to Theme #3? It's all about learning to say no when people ask for favors - which is even harder when you know the person!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Common Mistakes Theme #1 - Rushing Isn't Always Good

Are you ready for the first theme in the Mistakes Happen series? Yes? Well, then let's just get right into it.

Theme #1 - Rushing Isn't Always Good

When I first opened my business, I was afraid to say "no" to any potential customers. Lots of times people would contact me and ask for rush orders. Instead of saying no, I would always try to do it. I'd make mistakes (usually by trying to cut corners to save time) and it would always end up costing me more to make the product than I got paid for. Here's just one example:

One of the very first orders I sold on Etsy was for a time-crunched customer. I was so eager to make my first sale that I agreed to have the cards to her within a week. I used an online printer that typically delivers to me within 3 days. All was going well until a blizzard hit New York and my online printer lost power. Panicked, I found a local printer, that was willing to print overnight for me. The local printer had crappy paper, and charged me 3x the price - but I did it anyway because I didn't want to let my customer down. In the end, I had the cards to her by the end of the week, but I lost a lot of sleep and money. The day after I mailed her the cards printed at my local printer, the gorgeous ones arrived in my mail from my online printer. I had to throw them out.

Lessons learned:
  • Charge a LOT more for rushed orders (like, double the price you'd normally charge)
  • Only agree to rush an order if you're actually able to do it. If it isn't possible, just say no
  • If something happens, don't compromise the quality of your work
  • Email your customer, tell them the situation, apologize, and offer something nice in exchange for their patience. I tend to offer free note cards, a stamp, or a coupon for a future order
  • Slow and steady wins the race (this must be why I like turtles so much)
 Have you ever made any mistakes because you rushed? Would you mind sharing?

Coming up you'll hear more about Theme #2 - Test Things Out, and Theme #3 - Learning to Say No

Small Business Mistakes Happen, Learn to Fix Them

*yes, I know it says miskates. sh!t happens, what are you going to do about it?

I don't care what you call them - mistakes, mishaps, errors, learning opportunities, screw ups, whatever - they happen, so you better learn to deal with them. I've made a lot of mistakes since throwing myself into the self-taught world of stationery design and small business ownership. I've had little mishaps, big meltdowns, and many sleepless nights. However, I am a firm believer in learning from the past, and so lots of mistakes, means lots of learning. The mistakes weren't intentional, these things just happen, and if you have a small business, I am sure you could easily rattle off all of your "learnings" from when you started off. I'm glad the mistakes happened, because that's how I got to where I am today, and how I learned not to make the same mistake twice.

The "Mistakes Happen" posts aren't exactly ones I am proud to share. Nobody wants to admit that they've done something wrong, especially not to the whole wide blogiverse. But I'm confident that my experiences will be helpful for those of you just starting out. While you may be able to avoid some of the mistakes I've made, don't fool yourself into thinking that you'll never again make a mistake. I'm sure this little series of posts will be a continuous one, and I'll try to periodically reflect on things I've learned the hard way.

I've bucketed my mistakes into general themes, since that seems to be the way things happened. The three themes are:

Rushing Isn't Always Good
Test Things Out
Learn to Say "No" When it Comes to Doing Favors

I'm going to do a blog post on each theme, starting in about an hour with the first theme, so keep checking back throughout the week. In each post, I'll give one example of when that theme really tripped me up, and then give the lessons I learned for moving forward. Are any of your mistakes in themes? Have you had to learn some things the hard way?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Believe Notes Collaboration with Daily Sip Studios

One of the most amazing benefits of being part of the Minted community has been the opportunity to meet and collaborate with some amazing & inspiring designers. Kimberly FitzSimons, of Daily Sip Studios, is one of the designers that I have had the absolute pleasure of getting to know.  Kimberly creates impeccable letterpress stationery, and her wedding invitations are out-of-this-world amazing! She's been an inspiration for me & has helped me define (and then refine) some of my own business goals, so when she reached out to me for a collaboration on her new wedding line, I was thrilled!

I am so happy, and proud, to share that you can now purchase my Harmony Wedding Suite, available in letterpress and die cut, at Daily Sip Studios.

They came out beautiful didn't they?! Thank you SO much Kimberly for doing such an amazing job on these invitations! I cannot wait for future collaborations and to continue working with such talented designers.

The flat printed version of the Harmony suite will be available by Believe Notes in just a few more short weeks, when I launch my full line of wedding invitations. In the meantime, if you'd like to purchase the Harmony Save the Date, you can go ahead and do so here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Holiday Cards Now Available at Minted!

One of my favorite parts of being a stationery designer is having the joy of Christmas in May. Yes, I said May. You may not realize just how much work goes into designing holiday cards every year, so trust me when I say it's a lot of work. As a designer, I'm thinking about the holidays all year round, and it's always SO much fun when Minted has their holiday challenges in the Spring. It's such a blast to play holiday music in warm weather with the windows open. My neighbors must think I'm crazy.

Anyway, I have two designs that will be for sale this year through Minted. Snowy Man is a fun, simple design featuring a little snowman and simple type.

I'm so excited that Snowy Man is now available, and if you're one of those super organized go-getter types that started buying presents last year, well now's a perfect time for you to start thinking about your holiday cards!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Announcing the Tiny Little Note Stationery Line!

A few months ago I gave a little preview of the newest Believe Notes stationery line, and I am excited to announce that the new line is officially here!

Please join me in welcoming the Tiny Little Note line to Believe Notes! These note cards are small in size - measuring in at A2: 4.25"x5.5" - but BIG on impact. They feature hand drawn details, fresh colors, and matching metallic envelopes. They come in sets of 12, and are available in a variety of coordinating themes. From florals to sweets, you're bound to find a set that speaks to you!

A secret? I've been using these as my own personal stationery for a rather long time now. 

I'll be introducing the rest of the line on the blog, but for now, head over to the Etsy shop and check out the Tiny Little Flowers line, featuring the three designs above!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2012

I took this picture in Rome back in 2009 while on vacation. I was touched to see this on an old building on a random street in such a far away place. It reminded me of just how huge the impact of September 11th was, not just for the victims + families, or for me, or for NYC or America, but for the world.

The anniversary of September 11th leaves me speechless every year. I tried to write some thoughts last year, but this year I decided I need to be true to myself and stay relatively quiet. Today is a day to remember, to reflect, to mourn, and to allow myself to be present and feel whatever emotions I find myself feeling.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Graduate School Necessities

I get a lot of questions about my time management techniques, and to be honest, I don't think I do it well enough to offer any really good advice. Most of the time I just put my head down and get crap done. That's exactly what I'm doing right now with graduate school. It's September, which means summer is officially over and I'm back to school at night after work. Right now I am only taking one class at a time - it seems to be the most manageable for me and my busy life. I get to my full-time job super early (around 7:30am) and leave by 3:30pm in order to make it to class by 6:00pm - yes, it takes me 2.5 hours to get to class. Yes, I hate it as much as you think I might.

Anyway, I do have a few things that are my absolute essentials when it comes to being an adult learner that goes to graduate school at night after working a full day. Here are the things that help keep me on track.

I wouldn't be able to survive without my giant Vera Bradley bag (1), it's machine washable, comfortable, and easily holds all of my stuff. What will you usually find in my bag? My favorite pens (3), my Nalgene water bottle (5), my Five Star notebook (6) and my iPad (8), which I keep in one of my own super durable covers. I tend to wear cardigans (2), since it's often hot on the subway, but cold in class. And I'm pretty sure that everybody in NYC wears super comfortable flats (4) for their commute - these flats might take comfort to a whole new level. My favorite watch (7) keeps me on track, especially since some classrooms don't have clocks. Although, I don't need my watch to tell me when it's time for a snack. Usually by 7:15 (mid-class) I am STARVING. So I usually pack myself a few brown rice cakes (9) with peanut butter to munch on.

And so there you have it, my graduate school survival guide. Anybody else going to school at night and have some good tips? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

iPad & Kindle Covers by Believe Notes

After months and months of hard work, I am so excited to announce the launch of iPad and Kindle covers by Believe Notes! These pretties have been a total product of passion, and I am so thrilled to be able to share them with you.

The cases themselves are super high quality, and are handcrafted using traditional book binding techniques using recycled book boards. So they essentially feel like a kick-ass hardcover book. If that's not awesome enough, they are printed with environmentally friendly inks, and then covered in the same type of vinyl used on race cars! The covers are incredibly durable and a cast overlaminate is added to waterproof your case and make it stain and tear-resistant. If you spill anything on it, just wipe it off. How, freaking, cool is that!

The iPad cases are available for all versions of the iPad - the Original, the 2 and the New (3), and the Kindle cover is available for the Kindle Fire. The custom case for the three versions of the iPad can be used as a stand in landscape mode. The stand might be my favorite part (aside from how pretty they are!) because of how comfortable it is. I've always found other iPad cases to slouch or fall over, but this one stands up strong.

Prices start at $65 for iPad cases, and $60 for the Kindle Fire case.  Each case is personalized with your name on it, and comes in a variety of pattern/color options.

There is also a great promotion going on right now for almost 50% off new designs. I'm going to be printed one of each new design, so the first person to buy it only has to pay sample price. Pretty awesome, no?! View & purchase one of the new promotional iPad cases here and a Kindle Fire case here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lessons in Product Photography

Lately I feel like I've been climbing a hill, no, a mountain. At the bottom of the mountain are tons of poorly lit, blue-tinted photographs, with fuzzy lines and bad staging. At the top of the mountain is Megan Gonzalez, of Mae Mae Paperie, and all of her impeccably staged & photographed designs.

In reality, I am probably somewhere about 65% up the mountain, but lately I feel as if I am at the very bottom, with the goats. And the goats have diarrhea.

While feeling like your surrounded by ill goats isn't fun, it is certainly very motivating to get the hell out of that place. After re-taking the photos for my iPad covers at least 5 times, I finally said "enough is enough" and started really looking into ways to improve my pictures. I asked my peers in the Minted community, I googled specifics and I asked my photographer friends. And by golly, I have learned a lot.

My biggest complaint with my pictures were the colors. My whites weren't white, the colors themselves weren't always true to the original print, the text was fuzzy. And while all of these things might not have been a huge issue with, say, business cards, they were big issues to me in preparing to launch my wedding line. I simply don't have the budget to hire a photographer, so this girl needed to give the goats some tums, and learn to take good pictures. And by take good pictures, I mean edit, edit, edit in photoshop.

If you like the iPad cover in that picture, you can go get yourself one here

So here are some tips I generally follow:

1- White balance. I always adjusted the white balance on my camera, but now I do it again in Photoshop. I adjust the curves, vibrancy and saturation of every picture. The three together seem to be a good combo for me right now.
2- Add an unsharp mask. My Mintie friends turned me on to this one. I put a sharpening mask over the entire image so that the text looks clear & sharp.
3- Use natural light. I always take my picrures by a window on a cloudy day. I also put white tissue paper over the windows to help diffuse the light even more. The tissue paper helps me to take pictures on sunny days without a glare.
4- Background counts. I had taken hundreds of pictures of my iPad covers on top of a light cream fabric background only to find later that there just wasn't enough contrast. Every product will look different depending on the background.
5- Speaking of backgrounds, I just purchased a bunch of seamless papers from Adorama. I thought it would be easier to use a gray bed sheet from Target to shoot my wedding line on. But after ironing it for hours, and then having to edit out all of the wrinkles, I think the seamless paper is a fabu-freaking-lous idea.
6- The lens matters. A lot. Unfortunately, the lens I used to shoot my initial wedding line photos distorted all of the "head-on" pictures. I was using a standard 18-55mm lens, and a photographer friend suggested I used a macro or 50mm lens. It's an investment I am going to be making in the very near future.

So there you have it, some of my photography tips. I'll try to post more tips as I learn them, since I have a feeling that product photography will always be a new adventure.

If you'd like some more tips, take a trip down memory lane and read this post, which I wrote over a year ago on photography and staging for stationery.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Coming Soon! iPad & Kindle Covers by Believe Notes

I have so many new launches coming up, from new stationery (a little peek above!) to my new wedding line. But, I hate to say it, I think I am most excited about the new iPad and Kindle covers! They are super high quality, come in a variety of lovely patterns, and make the perfect gift. It's funny how sometimes I become a little emotionally attached to items I sell - for example, I just adore my custom stamps and I can't help but smile every time somebody orders one. I have a feeling these iPad covers are going to be the same way, they just make me happy! 

These little girls are just about ready to go live - I need to finish up some photo-editing, put together the general description, figure out packaging/shipping, and then finally list them in the Etsy shop. I'm aiming to have them available within the next week or two. 

In the meantime, if you are interested in ordering an iPad cover now, email me at and I'd be happy to get one out to you before the official launch.

Stay tuned! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Stamp Available!

Stamps have been my obsession lately, I've probably got at least four myself, and I find they make a great gift for just about any occasion - from birthdays, to engagements, to weddings, to house warming and everything in-between. And by the way the stamps have been selling in the Believe Notes shop, it seems other people like them as much as I do!

So, I've added a new stamp design, now available for purchase. It's a mix of modern calligraphy and bold typography and is dubbed "City Life" since the layout is perfect for somebody with an apartment and unit number.

If you want to get your hands on the new "City Life" stamp, head on over to the Believe Notes shop and grab it for just $35 as a wood handle stamp.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Now For Sale at Minted: Handy Thank You Cards

Head on over to Minted to purchase my latest design, Handy Thank You Cards.

This Handy design was so much fun to work on - it features hand drawn elements and fun typography! It was one of the first times I submitted a design to Minted that featured hand drawing. I've been trying to do a little more drawing for my designs, so be on the lookout!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Featured: Marry Me Lovely

A few weeks ago I did my usual Twitter check and saw a bunch of new followers - I had a problem with spam followers a few times, so now I always click on the people the follow me, just to sniff things out. Well, to my surprise, my new followers were the ladies behind Marry Me Lovely - a local Long Island wedding blog.

Kristen wrote up a sweet little post about my designs, and it literally made my day! It's so fun to find other local creative people - and I hope to soon sit and chat with the ladies behind Marry Me Lovely!

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