December 7, 2017
Side hustle grows into successful company
Lovebird Paper is sassy. Incidentally, so is its proprietor, Kathryn Holloway.
Her homegrown stationery company started in 2011 with a single project: designing her own wedding invitations. She had been in Jackson for about six months and decided to use her graphic design skills rather than pay someone else. She loved the process.
“I started with wedding invitations, then designing cards,” Holloway said, “but I realized that the way to grow the business was to start making other things.”
Today Lovebird Paper has expanded to a full line of products, including cards, tote bags, drinkware and notepads, ranging in price from $4 for cards to $20 for coffee mugs. The full lineup of goods can be found at LovebirdPaper.com. And for those who want to see the wares in person Holloway will be at the Art Association’s Holiday Bazaar on Saturday.
Many of her products are emblazoned with nuggets from Holloway’s sense of humor, which is a blend of puns and sassiness.
One mug reads “I can’t adult today,” and one card in the diverse selection features a pair of briefs with the line “Thanks for the support” above them.
“The ideas kind of come from everywhere,” Holloway said. “Inside jokes with friends, jokes on social media.”
When her friends are the inspiration for a card, she makes sure they know it.
“If I make a card based on something a friend said, or a joke they made, I send the first one to them,” Holloway said.
During her first few years running Lovebird Paper, Holloway also worked full time at the News&Guide as a graphic designer. She did craft shows, mostly ones within an easy driving distance of Jackson, and grew the business on a direct-to-consumer model.
But selling $4 cards order by order to consumers is a hard way to create a sustainable business, and Holloway had her sights set on a jump into the wholesale distribution market. In May she achieved the goal she held for years: attending the National Stationery Show in New York City.
She shipped a booth to New York and settled in for the biggest show in card making.
“Everyone in stationery was there, from people like me to Hallmark,” she said. “It was totally a jump, since I didn’t know how it would work out.”
Turns out it was a great idea. She garnered connections at the show to greatly expand her distribution. Lovebird Paper products can now be found in about 15 stores across the country, from Seattle to Lubbock, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lovebird has become big enough that Holloway has scaled back her work for the News&Guide to part time so she can devote the hours necessary to play nearly every role in the business. Though she contracts out for printing the cards and the screen-printing of her tote bags, she does nearly every other part of the process, including heat-pressing designs onto mugs, shipping and receiving, and being her own customer service line.
“I was down in Dallas a month ago, and I got an order from a store on a Friday,” she said. “They wanted a huge order by Wednesday, so I got back and worked all night Sunday, but I had it shipped out that Monday morning.”
Running nearly every part of the creative process gives Holloway lots of freedom, but she admitted that it often entails working more hours than a typical full-time job. She said all the work is worth it, because she has watched Lovebird grow from designing wedding invitations to a successful business.
“I took it from a side hustle to a full-time thing,” she said. “Now when I meet people, I tell them that I own a stationery company, which has been a pretty cool shift.”