Are you a sucker for cute cards and paper goods like I am? Then you're going to love today's chat with Alicia Heater, the creator and designer behind Slightly Stationery! Keep reading to learn more about Alicia's creative background and how it pushed her to pursue stationery design, how she balances the many tasks of being a business owner, and what's on the horizon for Slightly in 2018.
Q: Share a bit of your story with us: what experiences in your education and professional background led you to your stationery business, Slightly Stationery?
A: I've always loved design – growing up, I wanted to be an architect. I dabbled in graphic design just for fun for years, and I ended up doing our wedding invitations because as we looked around at options, I couldn't help but think, 'I could do that!' They were simple, but I got such positive feedback and so many requests to do others' invitations that I started to think I could do that for work. I launched as a custom design company, and did a ton of various invitations as well as quite a bit of small business branding. A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to start making off-the-shelf goods, not only custom-designed...and I had NO idea what I was doing. I cannot emphasize enough how much I had no idea what I was doing. My first little card launch didn't even include birthday cards, if that gives you an idea.
Q: I always love to ask! What does your workday routine look like, and how do you try to maintain a balance between the day-to-day business tasks, designing new stationery and fulfilling orders?
A: Hah! Good question, this is always changing...constant change isn't necessarily the goal, it's just been an interesting year with tons of changes that I've had to roll with. This year, my husband and I moved over 1,000 miles rather suddenly, but I kept Slightly's fulfillment all in Portland. To do that, I brought on Kathryn, my fulfillment champ. She's awesome and she does so much.
Though business is growing like crazy, this coming year should hopefully be a little more calm and organized, since we've started to figure things out a little better. We're also planning to grow the team more this year! I'm starting to work on a rhythm that's synced up with the wholesale buying calendar and my own "12 Week Years" – so every 12 weeks, I'm designing and launching new products, and then appropriately marketing and promoting those. Every day, I time-block my basic business tasks, and I'm working on better dividing those into the days of the week.
Starting to work in this rhythm is really good for me, too, since it helps me remember that there is a time for everything – I don't need to try to squeeze EVERY productive activity into one day – I have whole weeks at a time that my focus and the best thing to do is to create new products, but there are also weeks and weeks at a time that my focus is on sales and marketing and I don't do any design work.
Q: I love that you place an emphasis on color and playful design within all of your paper goods. What are your go-to tips and tricks for finding inspiration, even on days when you just aren’t feeling it?
A: I keep running lists of ideas when I think of them, because I definitely go through dry periods of few ideas. My new release schedule and 12-week rhythm helps with this, too. On those days or weeks that I know that my job is to create, I'm able to go back to the lists and notes that I've made.
So much of the inspiration comes from cute things that I see in real life, or a funny phrase that someone says that makes me think of how I can turn it into a relevant card. When I'm working on a design and feel stuck and know that it's just not quite right yet, I leave it for a day or two. It helps so much to come back to it with fresh eyes and ideas.
Q: How do you like to unwind and recharge after a workday?
A: I like to have a glass of wine and read or have some friends over for dinner. This coming year, I want to learn how to surf, so maybe some evening surfing will be a new favorite!
Q: For fellow women who are seeking a creative outlet or want to launch their own creative business, what would your greatest piece of advice be?
A: If you're looking to launch a business of any kind, don't neglect the basics – learn about your industry, crunch your numbers, set goals, implement strategies to reach those goals, and read. Read all the books you can get your hands on, and learn from those that have walked before you. All of those basics don't sound like the sexy way to start your business, but at some point you are 100% going to need to think about those anyway, so save yourself some blood, sweat, tears, and money and do it sooner rather than later. Then, knowing the big picture, you can go work on getting cute branded stuff and office supplies.