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!