Have you ever dreamed of owning your own company with your best friend? We had the chance to talk to two lovely stationary enthusiasts, Bridget and Lisa of Proper Pen, who are doing just that. Read on to learn how they made the jump from recent college graduates to business owners...
Name: Bridget Sweeney
Hometown: Oceanside, NY
Current 'Hood: New Haven, CT
Educational Background: BA in English, Binghamton University - December 2010
Name: Lisa Cannizzaro
Hometown: Oceanside, NY
Current 'Hood: Nashua, NH
Educational Background: BS in Mechanical Engineering, Cornell University - May 2011
First, we love your stationery! Can you tell us a little about your art and design background?
We first met in a high school cartooning class, and as the only two girls we formed an immediate bond. Over the next several years we continued to take art classes and develop our work; even attending Pratt Portfolio Day in the hopes of applying to a great Fine Art school. While our paths led us to different states for college and in different directions, (Lisa majoring in Mechanical Engineering and I in English), our love of art and our friendship has never faltered. Our styles are inherently different. Lisa creates bright and colorful illustrations, while I tend to use darker contours in my hand lettering; but we lend our personalities to the eclectic mix of our products, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Second, we very much admire you both starting your own business at such a young age. What inspired you both to do so this summer?
Initially, we had some luck selling our individual handmade goods on Etsy, but wanted our unique designs printed so we could grow our brand and leave us open to wholesale opportunities. Proper Pen has been a way for us to collaborate creatively and stay connected despite the distance. This summer the timing was right to launch our curated collection!
As best friends living in two different states, what does an average day at the “office” look like for you both? Are responsibilities split evenly or do you each have your own set of responsibilities within the company and for managing the online shop?
We converse daily over email but also make sure to schedule regular phone calls and come prepared with an agenda. Typically, we set our goals for the week and divide them up based on preference. While we alternate tasks, I particularly enjoy staging & photographing our products. To make things easier we also both have inventory to fulfill orders and handle the shipping process as quickly as possible!
Where do you look for inspiration for your work?
I often derive inspiration from exploring great shops on Etsy. I love the curated collections that change daily on the home page. To me it’s like a museum of great handmade work, often tied together by just one color or theme. For our “Something Blue” collection, blue, silver and gold will be the pervading colors.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting Proper Pen?
Knowing that our cards are a vehicle for conveying meaning and spreading joy is the most rewarding part of starting Proper Pen. We recently fulfilled an order for a bride who purchased a “Maid of Honor” card. The idea that in some small way we’re making her wedding a little more special makes it all worth it!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received about following your passion and what advice would you give our readers who want to start their own businesses?
Research everything! Think from the perspective of a potential customer. Make sure the payment process isn’t too complicated, that your shop is mobile friendly, that you won’t have trouble spelling the company name when searching for it...etc. But most importantly, do what you love and you won’t regret it. If you have a passion, pursue it to the ends of the earth.
What’s next for Proper Pen?
We’re looking forward to rolling out our Holiday line, introducing more notecard boxed sets and designing for our “Something Blue” wedding collection. Stay tuned!
F U N Q U E S T I O N S:
Item(s) in your office you can’t live without:
Fresh flowers (for mood lifting and photo staging)
Micron Ink Pen Set (the most precise for hand-lettering!)
Pottery Barn Photo Carousel (The perfect way to store & display our cards)
3 websites you read every day:
Radio BDC - Love to listen to new music and hear about what is going on around Boston while I work.
Etsy - It’s great to see what crafts other people are doing!
Pinterest - Perfect place to organize inspiration, and collect things we think are cool or interesting.
On your playlist this week:
Jenny Lewis - The Voyager
Vance Joy - Riptide
The next city you want to visit:
Even though Lisa and I have both been, I would love to go back to San Francisco and set up shop at some fun craft shows!
To learn more about Bridget and Lisa of Proper Pen, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Photos via Proper Pen