Taking a Giant Leap

by Stacy Amoo-Mensah of Name Your Design and Le Papier Boutique

Hi there! My name is Stacy, and six years ago I was teaching kindergarten.  Today I own two creative businesses and have an exclusive brand of stationery on tiny*prints.

I’ve known Sara for a little over a year and was thrilled when she asked me to be one of OMHG’s monthly contributors!  I only wish there was a resource such as this when I was trying to break into the stationery business over six years ago, as it would have saved me hours and hours of research time.

I am, by no means, an expert.  However, I have learned a bit about running my creative businesses through good  old-fashioned hard work and dedication and am happy to share some of my insight with you.

With that said, the most frequent question I get about my career is, “How in the world do you go from a kindergarten teacher to a graphic designer?”  When I look back at my life over the past six years, it tends to feel like a blur because everything changed so quickly for me.  This total career transformation was sparked by an idea that I had in September of 2004. I think my path over the past six years is best illustrated through a timeline as there is so much that contributed to where I am today.

  • September 2004 – teaching kindergarten but wanted to do something “more” that would allow me to be home with my own children and still help contribute to our household
  • October 2004 – decided to make that “something” into a stationery business selling other product brands in my own little online boutique
  • December 2004 – commissioned a friend to build an ecommerce site and launched it, but had an overwhelming urge to try and design my own line of stationery to put on my site
  • January 2005 – fiddled around with the only “design” program I had available to me and spent hours mastering it (don’t laugh at me, ok? It was Microsoft Publisher)

  • February 2005 – learned enough on my own to start pumping out simple patterns and illustrations to sell on my site and customers and friends were really digging my designs
  • March 2005 – because of the great response,  I decided to take a giant leap into the stationery biz and applied to exhibit at the National Stationery Show in May (only two months away!)
  • 5 minutes later – quickly wondered what I had gotten myself into and went temporarily insane while trying to prepare for the industry’s biggest trade show while still teaching full time…what was I thinking??!!

  • April 2005 – continued developing my line and preparing for the show. In the meantime, discovered and contacted an up and coming retailer, tiny*prints, to see about a possible partnership. They were interested, and we started working together on some exclusive designs… woo hoo!
  • May 2005 – time to exhibit my brand of stationery products at the NSS, met a ton of wonderful people and picked up approximately 25 retailers to sell my little line
  • June 2005 – finally purchased Adobe Illustrator and completely immersed myself into self-learning this program
  • August 2005 – my stationery biz became a full time job (as I was designing, printing, cutting, packaging and shipping all orders with very little help) so I hung up my chalk and “retired” from the classroom
  • September 2005 – December 2007 continued building my wholesale business, increased my number of products on tiny*prints, and started another venture working with brides on custom wedding invitations
  • January 2008 – January 2009 after much deliberation, I decided to relinquish my wholesale line and focus on my passion which was/is – designing! My partnership with tiny*prints and my custom design studio allowed me the opportunity to do what I do best, and I’m able to spend the majority of my day creating, rather than filling orders.
  • February 2009 – my husband I and I welcomed our third son into the world and while designing his room, had an epiphany for another business venture

  • August 2009 – I pursued my idea and launched name your design – a little spot on the web where I sell personalized goodies for the modern family
  • Have since written and illustrated a book and have most recently developed a line of exclusive fabrics for my friends at itzy ritzy.

I’m constantly learning and trying new things, and the best part is I’m not afraid to try any of it. There is one side of me that looks back and thinks, “How in the world DID you do that?”, and then there’s the competitive  athlete in me that’s not surprised at all.  I’m usually a very cautious, well thought out individual who takes a great deal of time when making big life decisions. However, in this situation, I threw all caution to the wind and just went for it.  I can’t describe it in words, but I just KNEW I was on to something.  Once I developed this hidden talent of mine, I felt a great sense of urgency and excitement to get the show on the road.

The single biggest factor in my successful career change, aside from my own determination, was the support of my husband.  When I told him my plan to develop a brand of stationery, exhibit at this huge trade show in NY and eventually quit teaching so I could work from home… he didn’t even flinch.  He could see the excitement and determination in me and supported me every step of the way.

If you’re experiencing the same type of “I know this will work” feeling, pursue your idea! I suppose the greatest lesson I’ve learned from all of this is to follow your dreams. I know it sound cliché, but it’s absolutely true.  If you feel passionately about something, then DO IT!

Now don’t get me wrong, starting your own business is  no cake walk.  Any small business owner will tell you that there’s an unending amount of hard work and dedication that’s required to get your biz rolling in the right direction. But I can guarantee you that the success you experience will mean that much more to you because YOU created it yourself. I’ve never worked harder for anyone than I do for myself, and I love every minute of it.

Don’t let fear get in the way of your success!

  • http://carlacavelluccilandi.blogspot.com Carla Cavellucci Landi

    Sounds like it was written to me… thank you for sharing your experience!

  • http://www.littlecupcakescompany.com Caroline

    Congrats on a successful company!!! I agree, follow your dreams for sure!!

  • Kelly Koster

    Thanks for sharing your story! Do you create all your artwork from scratch? Or do you incorporate “stock” art? I’ve always wondered about this. It takes forever to draw something in Illustrator, but buying the rights to art on a stock site is very expensive….how do you handle this balance?

  • http://www.sweetmadys.com michelle {sweet mady}

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I loved how you shared it in a timeline. Neat to see your progression. You do fab work!

  • http://thishomebelongsto.com Emily S.

    Thank you for sharing. My head is almost bursting with ideas and desire to have an online shop and follow a similar path. You’re totally right. I just need to DO IT!

  • http://owlandbunnyblog.wordpress.com deb @owlandbunny

    what a great story – thanks for inspiring us newbies!! 🙂

  • http://lnzart.etsy.com Lindsay Megahed

    Definitely a goosebumpery story! Thanks for inspiring.

  • http://www.may-beeclothing.com shawna

    Thanks for sharing. I love reading about others pursuing their dreams!

  • http://www.5isthemagicnumber.blogspot.com tasha roe

    congrats on your new endeavor! your work is amazing! you should be very proud!

  • http://lovelylittlenest.blogspot.com Natalien

    Wow, you are very talented! Congrats on your great success 🙂

  • http://www.nameyourdesign.com stacy

    hi everyone!
    thanks so much for your sweet comments…it’s so fun to share my story with people who actually care to read it :).

    kelly~ to answer your question, i actually do illustrate about 95% of most of my own artwork. i know it is time-consuming…but the good part is that i have accumulated tons of ideas/drawings over the past 6 years that i keep organized and am able to pull from when i need them. for instance…a simple bird body can be changed hundreds of ways by switching out legs, beaks, wings, etc. so be sure to save everything you draw as you can always go back and rework it later to fit another project.

    hope that helps!
    xoxo
    stacy

  • http://fischtaledesigns.com Melissa

    Loved your post- it is always great to hear other people’s story!
    Melissa

  • http://www.penelopespress.com debbie

    one word– inspirational. fantastic post!

  • Kelly Koster

    Thanks for answering Stacy! That does help. I think it overwhelms me to think about creating a whole body of work, but I need to realize you don’t need it overnight. It does take time, and having it be your own in the end is important. Good tip for re-working your art. Now I just need to find a way to organize things…that is not my strong suit! Really inspiring story, you have guts! I have always wanted to attend the Nat. Stationary show and just wander around and be inspired. 🙂

  • http://www.nameyourdesign.com stacy

    hi kelly~
    i would definitely recommend going to the NSS if you are able to! I still go almost every year to meet with clients and just to browse. it is SO inspiring walking up and down the aisles looking at all the new products and meeting people who are essentially…just like you! plus, i LOVE new york! it’s a great excuse to go for the weekend.

    in regards to organizing your artwork…it helped me to create main folders such as (animals, florals, patterns, etc.)….under the main folders i create lots of subfolders (i.e. under animals i may have birds, zoo animals, silhouettes, etc.) and place my designs in there as i finish them.

    i’m not the most organized person either and sometimes forget to file things away… so, i always make sure to name the files very literally so i can do a search to find them if they accidentally get “lost. (i.e. bird_longlegs, bird_inflight).

    lastly….don’t forget to BACK UP your work! i use an external harddrive and also burn things to discs about twice a year.

    good luck and don’t get discouraged. before you know it you’ll have loads of artwork in your arsenal, more than you know what to do with!

    xoxo
    stacy

  • http://www.ItzyRitzy.com Kelly

    Way to go Stacy! Stacy is amazing. Her new fabrics for Itzy Ritzy will be on display soon at http://www.itzyritzy.com (April/May) and ready to ship in june! We can’t wait!!! Great post Stacy! Kelly

  • Jen

    You’re an inspiration Stacy! I loved reading your story. 😉

  • http://www.prettyingrid.com Danielle of Pretty Ingrid

    My heart is literally racing after reading your story! I have a passion for design, and a true desire to pursue a creative career. I need to take the leap, but I’m a bit scared; I just don’t know where to start. I’m so glad I found this article. I, like you, just need to jump in and see what happens!