As an illustrator, I’ve always marveled at those who can make an entire business around note cards. The sheer number of beautiful designs needed boggles my mind. Yet, 1canoe2 thrives in the industry, winning trade show awards and awing customers over and over. The ladies behind this letterpress powerhouse were nice enough to sit down and share their story and insight with us today. I hope you enjoy it!
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
Beth :: I got a degree in Graphic Design from the University of Missouri, then did design for a TV station in Nashville for 6 years before I moved back to Missouri. Here, I worked as an Art Director for Columbia Business Times for 4 years, while simultaneously running 1canoe2 out of my basement! It was a big step when I finally quit the magazine and started working for 1canoe2 full time.
Carrie :: My degree was in nutrition (also at University of Missouri), then I got certified in art education to teach elementary art. I taught Kindergarden-5th grade for 6 years until 1canoe2 became my full-time job.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
Beth :: Growth — it was a big transition to take 1canoe2 from being a part-time hobby to a full-time job. We had to hire more people and learn how to manage them. It’s not just us anymore; we have full-time employees that look to us.
Carrie :: Getting out of Beth’s basement and into our own work space. We turned a 150-year-old barn into a working studio. It’s a really creative and happy space, but we’re still working out some kinks.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
Carrie :: We felt great after the 2013 National Stationary Show in New York. It was a great week and we won several awards (Best New Product Award for the 2014 Oversized Wall Calendar and 3 Louie Awards for cards in a couple different categories). Everyone just responded really well to us that year.
Beth :: There have been several times where I’ve thought, “Okay. This is it!” The first time that happened was when Anthropologie bought our recipe box. It was so exciting! We were the real deal and, now, they’re a loyal partner.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
Beth :: Well, any creative business is naturally a little unstable. But I have no doubt that our creativity will keep flowing. It’s who we are. As for projects, we always keep a running list of things that we want to try out. There are a lot of projects that we want to do but haven’t had time to research the details. But we’ll get there!
Carrie: I’m always just trying to better my artistic skills. When you’re running a small business, there are a lot of responsibilities that tend to pull you away from what you really want to be doing. Everything has to get done, so we just have to try to prioritize the best we can so we can each focus on the parts that we really enjoy.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Beth :: Yes! I do spreadsheets to give my creativity a break. When I can’t focus anymore, I go back to designing.
Carrie :: I just have to take a break. Go outside. Do something that’s totally unrelated.
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
Carrie :: Well. I don’t know that I have a typical 8 hour work day. I work at home a little in the morning before I come to the barn, then talk to everyone here and do some more. I may go workout in the middle of the day and work more at home later in the day. Basically work for me comes in little spurts of a couple hours at a time.
Beth :: I have to have separation because my daughter, Amelia, is in daycare. While she’s there during the day, I work really hard and try to do nothing but work. Then when she’s home, I try to only be home with her, physically and mentally.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
Hiring Haley Arndt, our Creative Marketing Director. She is the engine and the (brilliant!) spark that moves our publicity. Having a talented person so dedicated to that job frees us up to concentrate on design and new products.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Beth :: Work hard, make things happen. Work hard, make things happen. You just have to watch the numbers. You can’t ignore the numbers and trust that everything will work out in the end. It doesn’t all work out on it’s own.
Carrie :: Surround yourself with a good team.
Beth :: Yes – find people to fill in the holes of your skill set.
Carrie :: Focus on the skills that you’re good at and love to do, and make sure you have other people around you to fill in the holes of what needs to be done.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Carrie :: Hopefully still doing what we love and finding ways to expand. We didn’t start 1canoe2 with a set business plan and we still don’t have one. We just want to continue making good decisions and doing projects that we love and care about. We’ll see where that takes us.