For the next two weeks, the Spotlight will be on Jessica from Empress Stationery! And we could not be more thrilled! This new mama and studio owner is sharing a little bit about everything; from how she met her husband to work-life balance and a FULL flat-lay stationery guide. Keep reading for the full interview…
“Hey y’all! My name is Jessica Hinton, and I’m the owner and chief creative at Empress Stationery! Our studio is located in Birmingham, Alabama where I was born and raised. My husband and I were married in the summer of 2018, and we welcomed our precious son, Samuel, in the fall of 2019. We are also the proud owners of the most mischievous yet hilarious shih tzu, Clementine.”
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business!
“I graduated from the Graphic Design program at Auburn University in 2007. I started working
as a graphic designer for a magazine publisher here in Birmingham, working in the advertising department. I eventually moved into the Art Department, and became an Art Director for three different magazine titles.
During these years, I learned so much about teamwork and discovered my love for photoshoots and styling. I also discovered my love for stationery. In 2008, I started designing invitations and personal stationery for friends and coworkers. Stationery became my true creative outlet, and what I looked forward to doing on a daily basis. My first wedding invitation was designed for a coworker in 2008, and as nervous as I was to do it, the end result and the joy it brought my coworker gave me the biggest feeling of fulfillment.
By 2009, an editor at my office saw my work, and connected me with a wedding planner in Washington DC that gave me a pretty steady workflow. I found myself working my full time job, and then coming home to work on wedding paper well into the night. By 2013, I made the leap and left my job as Art Director and started Empress full time. It was the scariest but best thing I’ve ever done.”
Three fun facts about you, GO!
“Oh gosh let’s see…
Ok first, I met my husband on Tinder. I throw this in there as a fun fact because my clients love hearing how I met Tyler, and that we are actually a Tinder success story! We both swiped right and I think a week later we were exclusive, and a few weeks after that we were Facebook official, so…haha. No but really, I’ll be forever grateful to the Tinder App.
Second fun fact: my husband Tyler is a co-owner and business manager of Empress. Tyler is a lawyer by trade, and a great one! So he handles all of my contract work, and legal verbiage on my website, etc. But he also is an amazing visionary when it comes to business planning and structure. He came on board shortly after we were married. So not only did I hit the jackpot by meeting him on Tinder, but so did Empress!
And third fun fact: I have a design associate named Sarah that has been with me since 2015. She started as the manager of my Etsy shop that I had at the time, and has since bloomed into the head honcho of our Wedding collection. So every wedding collection order we get is typeset and designed by Sarah. I love that she has taken control and ownership of that part of the business, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have such talent on my team! Sarah is also an Auburn grad and typography
nerd like me, and we’re also both obsessed with all things Bachelor and listen to all the podcasts about Bachelor in the office on Tuesdays. We are always down for Bachelor talk.”
Spilling The Tea
Tell us about your business? What is your background? What is your craft? How did you start?
“I was literally working around the clock by the beginning of 2013 between stationery and my full time job. I had zero social life, and I was starting to burn out on both ends. I went to my parent’s house after work one night and my dad and I were having “happy hour” on the porch (my parents have happy hour with a beer after work every day). My dad is an entrepreneur, and as I was telling him all my feelings, he just said, “Turn in your two weeks notice. Tomorrow.” He believed in the work and business that was building with my stationery, and basically made me take that leap. I did it, the rest is history. I thank my dad all the time, and I constantly look to him as a role model with my business.”
What do you find to be the hardest part about running your own business? And what are you doing to manage this?
“I think most art based entrepreneurs will agree with me when I say we are not always blessed with basic business skills, especially when it comes to the administration side of things. Leaving my full time job at first sounded like it was going to be this dream life of waking up and just creating all day. I quickly found out that was not the case. There are certain things that have to be done on a daily basis, and I’ve learned which of those things I’m good at, and what I’m not.
If I’m not good at a mandatory task, I outsource it. I hired an accountant the second week I went full time because that area is not a strong suit of mine. In more recent years, as we’ve grown, marketing has become something that I’ve had to teach myself. At the end of 2019, I finally hired a marketing group to help me organize that end of my business and it’s been one of the best investments I’ve made.
We also have always designed our own website, and it’s always such a task to add products, etc. I finally hired a website designer to structure our website the best way for our clients. We have needed to make some aspects more functional, and rather than spinning my wheels to make it better, I hired a professional. I’d rather spend my time creating new things for my clients, and let someone else find the best way for my clients to access those designs.”
A Day In The Life
How do you maintain work/life balance?
“I became a mom in September. So I’m kind of relearning my work/life balance. Before Sam was born, and really before I was married, I was a workaholic. Like, Empress was my life. And I feel like that was ok! Those were my building years, and I don’t regret the time I dedicated to it because I don’t think we would be where we are now. When Tyler and I started dating, I’m not going to lie, it was hard at times. I hid my “laptop-on-the-couch” evenings that I was so used to, and worked hard to finish everything at my studio by 5 every day. But Tyler knows, Empress is not just my job, it’s also my hobby.
Working on my laptop at night is my most creative time. My best ideas come out late at night and early in the morning. So now with a baby, we’ve worked to come up with a schedule that allows my creativity to come out when it needs to, and then during the day at the studio, I’m typically working on marketing, styling, and business tasks I can’t do at night. Since this is our family business, we are all in, and we know it will never be a 9 to 5 thing. But our business has been so rewarding for us and gives us flexibility we wouldn’t have otherwise.”
If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
“My best advice is to BE YOU. Do what you do best, and stick to it. Let it flourish. I think it is so important to carve out a specific place and niche for your business in the stationery market, something unique that brings the right clients your way.
It can be so easy to look at everyone else, and feel the need to compare. Everyone has those feelings from time to time, and it does nothing but make you feel worse. Focus on your gifts, and the aesthetic that comes naturally for you, and I can promise your corner of the market will appear over time. You will have clients that value you, and there’s nothing better than that.”
What is one of your biggest goals? Or what is something that you are currently working towards?
“Right now, my biggest goal is to grow my team so we can better serve and grow our business. There are so many other branches of design and stationery I’d like to offer to our clients, and I can’t do that without more hands on deck!
My vision for Empress is a larger studio with more team members, and a space that is dedicated to the client experience. So a better meeting space that we could also use for local workshops and pop ups. I’ve had this goal for awhile, and this year is the first time that I’ve felt that it could be a real possibility! That’s so exciting, and it makes me so thankful for this business and our clients that love and support us.”
Teach Us Something!
“One of the most valuable things I’ve learned about stationery is how to appeal to your deal client. I have found that for me, and my brand, I can find my client by presenting my product with a very particular visual aesthetic.
Our Instagram page is responsible for bringing us the majority of our clients, with Pinterest being a close second. Both of these platforms are image driven, and for that reason, I devote so much time to styling our products and photographing them in a consistent, recognizable way.
I feel like that consistent aesthetic, not only in the design of the paper itself, but also the way it is presented, has branded Empress and created the most unique and loyal client base. I have taught multiple flat-lay classes locally, to teach other creatives the value in product presentation and aesthetic. And I’d love to share with you! I’m sharing a quick guide for paper styling. Complete with multiple layout examples and lots of tips and tricks, you’ll be able to style your paper in a pinch!
Click here for the full flat-lay guide!“
- How do you unwind after work? “I’ve always loved cooking. Cooking at night is my unwinding time, and I love trying new recipes! These days, I have some sweet baby snuggles first before I head in the kitchen, and Sam loves hanging out with me in his bouncy chair and watching me cook. I hope as he gets older, it’s something we can do together!”
- Favorite place to add wax seals? “My favorite place to add wax seals is to actual paper pieces in the suite! I feel like the envelope is always the go to, but for my digitally printed clients, adding a wax seal to a paper piece adds interest without breaking the budget on a printing process like letterpress.”
Thank You So Much, Jessica!
That concludes Part One of the Partner Spotlight with Jessica from Empress Stationery. Thank you Jessica, for opening up your heart and sharing your story with us! We loved learning more about you and Empress Stationery! To follow Jessica’s journey on Instagram click here!
The Artisaire Pro Team