I was recently asked to fill out some questions to help develop content for a story being written about ACouplePuns and my short but busy journey growing my business and taking it fulltime.
I had fun reflecting on where I started and what I'm doing now.
Excuse the typos -- My fingers can't keep up with my brain and I recently got a MacBook Air meaning my fingers also have to learn how to type on this tiny tiny keyboard. Ok, enough excuses. :)
Sharing laughter and connecting people! I think greeting cards are the best place I could have started. I started ACouplePuns 2 years ago after moving across the US with my husband – who is a Navy Pilot. I felt for a lack of better words, homesick and displaced. Having moved from the East Coast where everyone in my life was (at most) 3 hours away I felt a bit isolated in my new home in Texas and it wasn't the big city experience I had back home where I had an abundance of social circles and hobbies and being an introvert was more of a choice versus something forced on me. I had to work a bit harder to make Texas feel like a home and really put myself out of my comfort zone. It's that feeling that inspired me to start something I could take with me wherever I end up utilizing my talents and my professional experience (military families move around a lot). I ended up with this amazing gift that is ACouplePuns. I remember setting up at my first market and seeing how many people came by and laughed with me over my cards and told me why one specific design is perfect for someone special in their life. I still look forward to this at markets and I love when customers leave little notes thanking me for coming up with something as silly as a puny card. I don't think they know how much bliss that brings to me and it's what keeps inspiring my creativity....and puns :) It’s funny writing this because we’re gearing up for yet another cross country move up to Boston this summer and instead of felling discontent I’m already getting the ball rolling and reaching out to local women’s organizations, shops and hunting for opportunities to share my cards in the new city. I set out to create this thing I could take with us and I’ve done just that – and it almost feels as if it’s on accident.
Ever since I was a kid I have always been the comedian of my friends and family so for me to turn my love for laughter into a business comes to no surprise to those who know me. The puns thing started to gain traction when my husband and I were dating long distance. We would communicate via puns throughout the day and it made the distance seem shorter because I was always laughing and seeking out fun puns or word play to share. When we would have the chance to see each other I would take photos of him and write a punny caption about what he was doing or an object he was holding. I shared these photos on facebook and Instagram and my friends began to encourage my punny antics and share any sight of a pun with me. I realized how much people enjoy sharing puns so I began brainstorming how I could expand this network of fellow punny individuals beyond my own inbox. I always dabbled in artsy passion projects on the side so deciding to couple my love for art and puns into something that allowed people to share laughter was pretty easy! It just clicked! My cards are inspired by things I love, places I travel, pop culture and now that I have a decent following many designs are inspired by the things my community of “punny people” want to see. J (I’ve shared a link to some of these photos of my husband being subjected to my punny antics for you to get a kick out of!)
Oh goodness!! ALL OF THEM! Every time I think I have a new favorite pun I find another. I think I’m also influenced by how much I love the art attached to the puns I turn into cards BUT if I had to pick one it would be “entrePUNeur”. If I ever write a book someday that will be the title J I always refer to myself as a Female EntrePUNeur – turning everything into puns and building a business out of dad jokes and art :)
Until recently I was working a fulltime job in advertising while running my business on the side (aka early morning, lunch breaks, evenings & weekends) I barley had free time – I guess being far from my family and friends was actually a blessing because it gave me the mental space to turn this idea into a business. I’d try and set aside the weekend I didn’t have markets to spend time doodling and coming up with new art. But in terms of thinking of the puns and drawings I see inspiration EVERYWHERE I’m always seeing things and thinking of silly punny phrases. For instance, I’ll walk into a grocery store and see the vegetable section and “Peas Romaine Calm and Carrot On” will come to mind. If you follow me in Instagram, you’ll see how my brain works. I see things and share the punny thoughts. Many times, this is what inspires the cards. One of my best-selling Valentine’s Day cards came to mind while my husband and I spotted a giant fondue fountain. I took a photo of him and said, “I want to FONDUEL you” and then turned that into a card. J
I faked it until I fulfilled it! My wholesale card selling journey started with an e-mail from the owner of a gift shop with multiple locations. At this time I was running my shop out of a storage container on my living room couch. I was printing cards in very small quantities and expecting to sell one or two a week. While reading the e-mail I got lost in acronyms and spent hours on google trying to interpret and figure out the cost to charge before responding. I actually had NO idea what I was doing or how to price my product for wholesale but I said YES and trusted my resourcefulness to figure it out. I’ve since done my homework and buttoned a few things up but not much is different. I was able to quickly assess the cost per card, retail market cost, wholesale cost and minimum order needed to profit before I responded to that first request and my prices have stayed the same. It was a little luck and a little trust in my resourcefulness that helped me totally "fake it ' til I fufilled it" and now look at my hobby like an actual business. Fast forward a year later and I am selling in over 30 shops in Texas and a few others nationwide. I have a predictable monthly revenue allowing me to invest in storage space, print my product in bulk and be ready ready to jump when a rush request comes in!
I’m yet to work with a fulfillment company but it is something I will be looking into now that I’m aware of the volume of cards I’m selling and have the time to do the proper research being that this is my fulltime job now.
I LOVE Etsy! I actually host my website through Etsy and have a regular shop page. I’ve gone back and forth trying out different hosting sites but the amount of traffic I get to my regular web page just doesn’t justify the high premiums and selling fees they charge. Etsy has a phenomenal product called “Pattern” and it allows me to have my own branded website but have the inventory and listings pair up with my regular Etsy shop. Sure, it doesn’t have all of the bells an whistles as other websites do but for me this works just fine – I can share images in my gallery, host a blog and the emphasis is on the products. Millions of shoppers use Etsy so I think it would be silly to not focus my time on updating listings and keeping my shop refreshed. It’s contributed to a lot of my success on the direct to consumer side and helped me grow my business.
Asking for help, being aware of what you don’t know, accepting things don’t have to be perfect … oh and time. I’d say location is a contributing factor but after doing some reflecting, I’m glad I was living in a smaller city when growing my business. It was easier to put my name out there and participate in markets that contributed to the confidence that has gotten me where I am now. I just don’t know if I would have been able to grow as fast if I were in a saturated market. Also, the internet and many groups such as the Female Founder Collective have bridged that distance gap and provided me with the connections and resources I would have in a larger city.
I recently took this on fulltime and my naivety thought I would have all of the time in the world to get creative , but I quickly realized its now just filled with everything I couldn’t do while working fulltime. I’m wearing all of the hats right now which is fine, but I want to grow and I want to not only be cards but build my brand to be the go-to source for anything and everything punny. I suppose I also need money for that lol. I’ve really just been working on building the brand with a cost-effective product so that I can someday (hopefully soon) bring on a team that can help me bring my vision for ACouplePuns to fruition.
I didn’t really get and personal advice, but I have received a handful of advice via podcasts and books. Whenever I’m working, driving or even cleaning I’m always tuned into a podcast usually about women entrepreneurs and their business journeys. When I started this I didn’t really have anyone in my life who was doing something similar but I soon became immersed in this small business world and now my life is filled with receiving and giving advice. It’s amazing how one idea can really shape the way you communicate and what you bring to the world even outside of your regular “work tasks and business”.
One key take away I always have from the influencers I “virtually” seek guidance from is be mindful of the things required for growth and be patient. I’m a one woman show right now and although I’d love for you to walk into every gift shop in the world and find a shelf full of matching punny products to make for the best gifts (ok I’m very ambitious there lol) I’m aware that I’m not there yet. I’m putting my energy into a production process I can handle as a sole owner and building a brand that I can expand when the timing and resources are right.
Learn your early lessons on someone else’s dime. I remember the first month I made more with my business than I did my fulltime salary, but it took over a year of that for me to feel comfortable enough to even consider quitting. Sure, the idea of working for yourself is AMAZING but I’m here today because I spent my early career leaning lessons that helped me grown both professionally and personally. I rely on every success and every downfall I’ve experience professionally to help me run my business. While ACouplePuns may only be approaching 2 years old the Entrepreneurial mind I’ve always brought to my work is years ahead. I can’t stress how important it is to work for an organization that is organized and helps you lay a foundation and then maybe even one that is not so organized but challenges you in different aspects such as how to work well with peers who challenge your views and process you trust to work. I’m able to market my business because I worked in marketing for 8 years, I’m able to sell my cards because I have developed professional skills enabling me to communicate with people of all backgrounds, I’m punctual and quick to respond because I’ve always worked in deadline driven environments, I know how to source products because of my experience in marketing production, I know what skills to look for when hiring a freelancer because of the different backgrounds I’ve worked with etc etc etc.
Someday If I’m lucky enough to have a team working for me, I’ll also have both good and bad examples of leadership styles I want to bring into my organization and understand what values and culture I want within my organization. Also just stay consistent. Some days you won’t want to do anything but just send out the e-mail, fulfil the order, respond to the people commenting on the content you share. It’s a numbers game and eventually all of the things you’re doing will pay off!! I show up for my business every day and that has contributed to all of the opportunities I’ve been able to have.
Oh, and need I state the obvious – A fulltime or part time job will give you the funding you need early on to open doors. Sure many opportunities have come from simply asking but selling wholesale to a national retailer was the result of hours and thousands of dollars spent to attend my first trade show. I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t have another source of income.
I’d LOVE for you to share your own story and experience with some of these questions or share how my experience helped you. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org Xo- Angelica