June 10, 2019
Industry Profile: Public School Paper Co.

Public School Paper Co. was created by sisters Christina and Rochelle. Stationery was not new to them when they began the business, as their parent’s owned an office supply store. When they were children their favorite thing to do was to make and sell paper creations at their parents store — they even made a paper handbag with a staple-studded design, which they sold for five cents.

Stationery Trends wanted to learn more about this company formed from a life-long passion so we reached out to Public School Paper Co. founder and creative director, Christina Williams. She provided insight into the business as well as tips for others in the industry. Read on to learn more about this creative maker.

Stationery Trends (ST): When did your business open?

Christina Williams (CW): We officially opened in 2015 under a different name, but re-branded as Public School Paper in 2018.

ST: Please describe in a short paragraph the various products you offer?

CW: We LOVE paper! Most of our products are stationery-related: greeting cards, notepads, post cards, gift tags, and pens. We also offer gift items like tote bags, button sets and some kid-specific items like our wooden Screen Time Tokens.

ST: There are some things that are timeless—a little black dress or the perfect martini comes to mind. What epitomizes “timeless” for you when it comes to stationery?

CW: On this matter, and so many others, I’m definitely influenced by a childhood spent in my parents’ school & office supply store. When I think of “timeless” stationery, I see personalized flat cards, letterpress printed, with a classic typeface like Copperplate, on a thick, gorgeous off-white paper and Euro flap envelopes in a fun color.

ST: What are your three top-selling products?

CW: Our notepads have been a best-seller since I launched them as an afterthought at a craft show in 2015 and they are still going strong today! “Holy Shit, we’re still married!” card — this one’s been a strong seller since it’s launch, too. Gift Tags — our gift tag sets do really well year-round. They’re great to keep on hand, and they’re packaged in these cute clear boxes that look really special on display.

ST: What have you learned about running a stationery and gift business that’s surprised you?

CW: In business, it’s a given that not everyone is going to like everything you do or create. What’s surprised me is that it gets easier to accept negative comments or criticism with experience and time. When I first started, I was so emotionally invested in my work that when someone didn’t like a product or a design, it felt like a personal rejection. Over the years, I’ve become much more comfortable with the fact that I can’t please everyone.

CW: If you were a stationery product, what would you be?

Christina Williams (CW): I’d be a to-do list. Not because I’m organized by any means, but because I’ve always loved making lists and checking things off the list. I’m guilty of writing down unexpected tasks AFTER I’ve completed them just to have the joy of crossing something off my list.

ST: What is the best buy under $50?

CW: Our tote bags! They’re made of a thick, cotton canvas with a gusseted bottom, so there’s plenty of room for library books, groceries or any other essentials for running errands.

ST: What is your best splurge product?

CW: Restaurant Bingo, for sure. Although it’s not a huge splurge at $12, it keeps the kids (and everyone!) engaged and off screens while you’re waiting at a restaurant.

ST: What is your design process when adding a new product? What kind of research is involved?

CW: When we add new products, I like to make sure they’re sourced responsibly and produced in the USA whenever possible. I try to be very thoughtful in creating each collection, with every piece serving a purpose, or filling a particular niche. I design everything myself, so my design process is very personal.

I’m inspired by things my kids say, interactions with friends, colors and textures I see around me. The design process itself starts with a bunch of notes/ideas scribbled in a notebook. Then I start drawing (both by hand and digitally); usually about the time a collection is halfway done, I have an existential crisis and second-guess my talent, ability and every career decision I’ve ever made. Then I pull it together and finish the collection, and every time I surprise myself by loving the new collection even more than the last.

ST: Any tips for others in the stationery industry?

CW: I’ve been working in the stationery industry for over a decade, and I’m convinced that I’ll never feel totally “ready” for the next step. So my advice would be to start taking action toward your goals right now. It will always feel slightly terrifying, and in my experience, that never goes away.

Instead of focusing on the fear, find joy in working to achieve your dreams. Also make sure you learn from your mistakes and celebrate your victories — big and small — all along the way.

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