A New Year & A Look Back - Celebrating 5 Years!

Hello friends! Happy New Year! Happy Monday! Happy Birthday Thimblepress. I truly cannot believe that we are now five years old. I feel like the time has flown by; it is likely due to the fact that I love what I do! I sat down pulling out images to feature in this post, and as I did I began to tear up as I paged through photo after photo of the amazing things God has brought to this business, from the team members, shows, press, laughs, products, family and so much more. When I first started Thimblepress back in 2012, I had no idea it would grow to what it has become today. No, we are not a mega-massive company or make billions of dollars, but I never knew that I had the capacity to reach as large of an audience as we do with our fun, happy products. I never knew I would speak to crowds of people about what it is like to run a business and how I do it. I graduated with a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Art) with an emphasis in graphic design. I did not go to business school. I did not get a masters degree. I have literally learned everything I know about business by listening to my gut, podcasts, audio books, mentors, & God. I wish there was a secret formula to doing what I do, but I feel like every day is different, and every year brings new challenges and also new celebrations.

In 2012 I started out in a half of a garage that I shared with Kate Thomas of Little Things Studio. Without her, I may have never started Thimblepress. She took on a dog + cat owning, letterpress wheeling, neurotic, roommate and my life was never the same after. She introduced me to the world of Etsy, Uline catalogs & craft shows. I think about those times we shared in the house on Winchester all the time. I know the Lord knew what he was doing when he put to strangers (kind of - like 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of thing) together as roommates via fate of Facebook. She has always been such a friend, and when I think about where I was in life... I had the letterpress, I had some art, but I didn't know that selling it would be possible. I talk a lot about my story in a previous post HERE if you want to read about the first two years. That recap only covers years 2012 - 2104. I tend to be long winded, so these post always take me a long time to write. As I write, memories begin to flood my brain, and I begin to think... I have to tell that story!

So, if you read my first post that I linked to, you know that at the end of 2014 we were preparing for our January NY NOW wholesale market in NYC. What we didn't know, was that 2015 was going to be the largest year of growth for us yet. And when I say growth I do not mean just in orders & customers, I also mean in team members. We ended up bringing on more assembly team members, an inventory director and a production & buying manager. We had more people on our team than we ever had and we were full steam away. We were almost growing so fast, that sometimes I felt my decision making was out of control because answers were needed so fast and I was managing so much. At this time, I also decided to move into the 2200 square foot studio apartment above our studio. Which for me that was great, it meant more room for my office, a photo studio and I could live in the back. I am single with two dogs and a cat, so I don't need much room. The space needed (& still needs) a lot of work. We painted walls, brought in an oven, had a line built for a washer, had lights repaired and did I say painted? We painted so many rooms white. I wanted something fresh and easy. I have tons of art, and I wanted the art to be the focus point of the room. Anyways, downstairs we were busting at the seams with our total operations running out of 2200 square feet. We had boxes to the top of the ceiling, so the fact we were able to move my office, our photos studio & a meeting area upstairs was a huge relief to us. We had already chopped the retail shop in the front of the building in half to make room for our wholesale office. If there was an empty space, something of importance occupied it. With all of the boxes lining the walls, you can see why an inventory director would be so important. We became masters at operating in close quarters, and might I add efficiently. I knew the day would come when we needed more space, so I began to put my feelers out into the world to see what might could be, but also CRINGING at the idea of moving our operations. I knew it would take a good two weeks out of our normal schedule. Alas, the move in happened and I also attended my first ever winter NY NOW in 2015. IT WAS SO COLD. Luckily, I was so burned out on all the moving we had been doing at Thimblepress and in my personal life, we ended up buying the handmade section special with white hard walls & a white floor. I also hired a rental company to bring in a small white table, two ghost chairs and a metallic gold bar to accent the back of the booth. The amazing thing, it was ALL THERE when we walked into our booth. I had never experienced such a sign of relief to know that all we had to do was put the product out, get flowers & add vinyl signage. Granted, I am all about custom, and going all out, but I also know my mental limits and when to take a good deal! On a side note, when they say they are giving you a booth with white walls, realize that the white is just primer and vinyl does NOT like to stick to primer. Bring a regular wall paint to paint over it. Ok, back to NY NOW. At the time, we were in the handmade section of NY NOW which is a separate building in Javits North. To exhibit in the handmade section, you must apply and it is a juried competition . At the time or before that, it was a rumor (well, more fact) that if it was your first year to participate in NY NOW, they put you out at the pier (they no longer have the pier), unless you got into to one of the juried sections of NY NOW. I had learned from friends speaking about how bad it was for sales at the pier, that I did not want to do that. So, I applied for the handmade section of NY NOW. Luckily we got it! After that show, I realized that they were doing away with the pier. See, the pier was a section of NY NOW, I will call it overflow, that buyers had to get on a bus to get transported over to shop. No. Thank. You. If I were a buyer, I wouldn't get on a bus to go over there. Maybe I'm just lazy. Anyways, that NY NOW blew any other wholesale show we had ever done out of the water! We did so well, and I was so proud of our team and the decision I made to go to NY NOW. I think I was on a high from the show for a solid two months! While we were in NYC we also got word that Miley Cyrus had held our Push-Pop Confetti® up in an interview with Pop Sugar online and we just about freaked. ha ha. As we grew, we really wanted to keep engaging people more into our downtown shop and in our Mississippi community in general, so we started hosting more and more pop-up events. We hosted Michael Foster to come do tin-type portraits and that was really amazing, We also started our Mississippi Monday series on our blog. Each Monday we feature something or somewhere we think is really great in Mississippi. We want people to see Mississippi for the good it has, for the talent it cultivates, and for the new and dare I say it, hip things happening in our state. It really has been such a treat getting to feature some of our states most talented people. We have a lot of hidden gems here, and I felt like if Mississippi wasn't going to hire a pr firm, then I needed to spread my good will and be a great ambassador for our state. ha ha.

Our new photos studio really opened up the opportunity or us to do more with brand photography and social media. For three years, we were on top of one another and not able to take styled photos. Well, if we did, we basically had to shut the whole retail shop down and take it over with all our equipment. We created shelves of props, stocked up on backdrops of every color, and made sure we had lots of lighting to take our photos. Really, all you need is good natural light and a backdrop and you are set, but we wanted to be REALLY set. Well, really set we were, and it paid off. We got things done faster and more efficiently in our marketing department of myself and Bekah. We borrowed team members for hands and even used the pups from time to time in photos. The addition of our photo room really stepped it up for us in terms of when and where we could photograph and the large window with the light flooding in really helped with that.

I was crazy and also decided to take on the task of decorating for a high school prom. My discipleship girls were finally hitting the age of prom, and they approached me about styling it and everything for their prom night. It was retro themed, so we went above and beyond to bring them the most magical experience their budget could afford, and some of it they didn't even have to pay for. We created floors, flower chains, garland, indigo wall hangings, moss covered backgrounds, sitting areas with blankets, retro sunglasses & accessories, flower power lights, woodstock banner for the stage, THE WORKS. It was a challenge, but it really helped me remember how much I loved doing DIY projects, and finishing something in a short amount of time. It was a success and we even took some of the projects and created DIY tutorials on the blog from it.

2015 was also the year we had our first ever Thimblelympics. At this point our team had grown a substantial amount. Mary Kathryn Sharpe, our inventory director, began to manage our assembly team which freed up a lot of time for me. With that, with growth, sometimes causes your team to feel not as close as you at once did. I think every small business that is growing experiences that. I think you can either ignore it or face this issue head on, so I like to sometimes call 2015 the year of team bonding. Thimblelympics has now become an annual event that we created to bond our team, but also engage our team in funny games like push-pop timer, customer service challenges, Pinterest boards IRL, quizzes on Thimblepress facts and others! We have cash prizes complete with confetti covered trophies, lunch catered, mimosas, and we dress up like crazy people. At the end we ask each team member to vote for a "Ms. Confetti Congeniality," and the person who wins it gets the confetti and pom pom covered apron-trophy for one year until it is passed down at the next Thimbelympics. The fun thing about all of that is that you learn & bond as a team. When you bring your team closer together you are building your ties to each other. Also, when your team is loving their job, they will love your customers and want to do a good job for you. I don't think about that a lot - but I have heard that on podcasts. I really do try to create the environment I would want to work in. I remember having a job, and I also remember all the things I wish would have changed if I were in charge. I took those ideas and make Thimblepress the way I want it - transparent, open-door, loving, family-first, funny, colorful & respectful. I want to love to come to work everyday. I see my team members more than I see my family, so wouldn't I want to treat them well! ABSOLUTELY. They are helping build this dream. I highly recommend team bonding activities if you have a small business who is growing from a team of 1/2 to 6/7 quickly. It really does help. That same year we also made a team trip down the Bogue Chitto river on a Friday during the summer, and I took the full time team to a holiday getaway to New Orleans for a fun-filled weekend! I love my people.

2015 Also brought exciting moments like Thimblepress being featured on Good Morning America's Deals & Steals with Tory Johnson. I mean, what a huge honor and so much prep! We had no idea all the prep that went into being on Deals and Steals. I give it up to Tory & her team. They want to make sure their customers are taken care of... and truly she is correct. We had to make sure we had so much in stock of the products we would be selling and if they had to get produced again what our production timeline was like. We had to hire a company to design a specific website just for GMA to be able to handle the sales that would come in that day. We had to create a shipping table in our retail shop so that we could package all of the orders and get them out in a timely manner. We had to make sure we had people on stand-by to be able to answer calls. It was a lot, but at the end of the day totally worth it, and all the knowledge we gained from going through all of it was priceless!

2015 was also the year we finally took the plunge and hired David Dill from D + P Design Build to help us build a tradeshow booth and crate that we could use for many years in NYC. We wanted the booth to be modular to allow for change in design with new products that would enter our brand. We also wanted it modular so that we could change it up and the look would not be stale looking over several shows. We knew that having David build this was a huge investment in money, but also in the fact that we knew we would be doing shows for long enough to have paid this baby off. It is now 2017, and we have not only used that booth since, but we had David build in an extension to the booth that houses our closet, complete with pop up bar and area for a mini-fridge. The extension only works if we do a larger 10 x 20 booth, like the one we debuted in May 2016 at the National Stationery Show in NYC. The day they came to pick up the crate with all of our booth walls and catalogs in it, the truck arrived and asked us where our forklift was to get it into the truck. I looked puzzled thinking, wait, you don't have one driver man? With us both staring at each other, I realized if I did not get my booth onto that truck that day, it may not make it to the show for National Stationery Show 2015. This is how I know I can solve problems and not just wait on them to be solved for me. I will always remember that moment coinciding with what my parents always told me when growing up. I would always hear, "Dang Kristen, give it up. You are relentless. When you want something you sure do really want it, huh?" I laugh because it is SOOO true. Remembering there was a lot of construction happening in midtown, Bekah and I drove down to the contraction site. I jumped out when I saw two men standing over near a house that was going up. I quickly asked if any of them had a forklift they could spare and that I would give them whatever cash I had on hand in my purse (At that time, I had around $100… which is a totally rare coincidence). One of them smiled at me and said they would check with their friend down the street and see what they could find. I felt a wash of relief go over my body, but then quickly go back to anxiety when we had been sitting at D+P for 15 minutes with no sight of the forklift. When all of a sudden.. cluggg, cluggg, clugg. I could hear something down the street. I peered down and what did I see? My new friend and his friend riding a big ole green forklift to rescue my day. Seriously, I could have kissed that man right then and there for coming through for me. So, we got the crate onto the truck with the help of those sweet guys and off to NYC it went.

Every year, we always create a mailer that goes out for NSS. Wait, I lie. We didn't do one this past year in 2016. We got so busy that we didn't do a mailer in 2016. Well, when we did send them, we always made sure to do something more than just a flat invitation. Nothing wrong with a flat invitation, but we kind of set a precedent of non-flat invitations/mailers. First it was the party in a box, 2014 we created the tea towel and neon spoons, so for 2015 I wanted to do something useful. That's the thing, I didn't want to just send something to send something. I wanted it to be functional. The cards that we were launching at that show were all about summer, color and bright. I kept noodling on all those products when I came up with the idea for #ThimbleBrights. We teamed up with my friend Michelle of Karst Marketing in Charleston, SC (where I used to live), and created a hot pink pair of sunglasses with #ThimbleBrights in our brand font on the side of the glasses. I wanted to take it further and have our wholesale buyers interact with us on social media with their glasses. I added a tag onto the glasses that stated if they took a photo with our glasses & shared it on Instagram by June 23 of that year and tagged #ThimbleBrights, they would receive a discount on their wholesale order. The discount wasn't huge, but it gave our wholesale buyers to interact with our brand on their platforms in a fun and colorful way. Better than that, it exposed our brand to a whole new audience of potential customers. The funny thing about those glasses, I still have buyers that come up to me and tell me how they still wear their #ThimbleBrights. Above all, that is what makes me so happy! It did just what our products hope to do, inspire happiness and celebrate living colorfully!

Going to shows are always so much fun for me. National Stationery Show in particular is so fun! There are so many parties, dinners, friends. Going to NSS is like going to summer camp. Some of those people you only see once a year at NSS, and you are surrounded by people who love paper! It really is a dream! Every year Nole of Oh So Beautiful paper throws her annual paper party, which if you haven't seen photos from it you should look it up as it is a visual person's wonderland. She spares no detail when throwing that party and all the paper goods are always impeccable. If you are thinking of getting into the paper industry, I highly recommend walking NSS, if anything for the pure excitement of getting to see some of your favorite brands up close and personal. For the paper lover in me, I never want to work my booth when I am there. I just want to go drool at all the paper and brands I am surrounded by. That same summer, I attended my first Atlanta market for an extended period of time. We have been represented by Daniel Richards since Summer 2013, but I had never been to the market. It is not required, but I do like to go now. I like to meet with our reps, meet our stores & also walk the market. That summer it was super fun and also the start of one of my favorite group texts, Sanity Sisters. That summer, Charlie Wright from Emily McDowell, Emily Ley from Emily Ley, Brittany Werth from Emily Ley, Meg Sutton from Belle & Union and I began a text group that has now spanned a year and a half. Our dinners at market together were also the inspiration for my now blog series that will start back up this spring, Turn The Tables. After that market, we began planning to do dinners at all the markets we all attended after that. Talk about an amazing group of women! Some of my favorite memories involve these women and amazing meals spanning NY & Atlanta. Thats the beautiful thing about this industry. Some of my best friends have come out of it. We all know that there is enough business for everyone, so why not help each other grow and lift all of our ships in the harbor. Seriously, amazing gals. And I really hope they don't mind that I am bragging about them. If you don't know them, you should look them up. The thing about these women, they get me. They get the struggles that sometimes my family and friends don't understand. There is truly something in that. Someone that knows what you are saying in 4 words vs 45. It is easy and refreshing. Good stuff.

Markets became my norm in 2015. I began traveling more than ever with three markets a year in NYC alone. That didn't include speaking engagements, craft shows, retail shows, personal travel, showrooms. Things started to go into warp speed for me. I began to feel like I was going through the motions and not getting to make my decisions for myself. I no longer had personal time. It was still fun for me and I loved it, but I was so busy that I wasn't getting or taking the time to sit down and really process each decision. I knew then, in summer 2015, that I needed to change things starting in 2016. I needed to delegate more, I needed to travel more for myself, I needed to take care of myself. I knew it wasn't all going to happen at once, but I will tell you, it is currently 2017 and everything I did in 2016 was a choice, a decision. I began to choose my time.

July of 2015 was also my first experience as a keynote speaker. I was asked by Jennifer Faught to be the keynote speaker at Stationery Academy, now renamed Creative Founders. I couldn't believe that someone wanted me to speak about Thimblepress. I was floored and honored all at the same time. I was flown out to Phoenix, Arizona where I spoke not only about Thimblepress, but about branding in a separate section. If you read my first two years you will read that in my "former life" I had a marketing and branding studio and worked with businesses small and big to help the grow and excel in their marketplace through strategic marketing and branding. Anyways…back to the story. I had the best time speaking at that event. I was reminded how much I loved encouraging people and truly seeing them succeed. I found new confidence in what I was doing by not only speaking, but also getting to attend the week at Stationery Academy and meet all the other speaker and attendees. It was good for me to step away and focus in on just being there, being present and nothing more. I came back to Mississippi recharged and ready to move forward with new strategies in the business. I quickly implemented new systems, well tried to. The thing about a business is it is like a boat. You can't just go in and throw the wheel to the right and expect people not to fall off. I realized if I wanted to implement change, I needed to show how it would be beneficial to us to change and to change slowly, encouraging it and fostering the new growth. People don't like change. So when you tell your team that they all need to start using Asana immediately to track their task to help eliminate as many inner office emails and to help us stay on track, you cam imagine the stares I got from the room. ha ha. So I educated. Every Friday, we host a staff meeting, so every Friday I would bring in a little something new about Asana to our team and show them how it would prove itself something awesome for our team. Slowly but surely our whole team started using Asana daily.

2015 was also the start of Periscope. We have since decided it was not for us, but at the time I was super jazzed up about it. So much I tried to convince our wholesale team that we would have a network called "Thimble Talk" and they should have a talk show called "Talk Wholesale To Me" once a month and answer our wholesale buyers questions. The thing I quickly realized was that most of the people watching our broadcast were not our wholesale buyers, and we were talking about valentines day in December. Our customers probably thought we had lost our minds! ha ah! We quickly nixed the whole "Thimble Talk" network and periscope all together, but we did give it a shot. There's just so many options out there when it comes to interacting with your customer that you really need to know where your customers are. For us, our customers for the majority aren't on pericope. Most of them are on instagram and Snapchat. Oh Lord, I can't wait to tell you how long it took me to learn Snapchat… 6 months! SIX MONTHS! Yes, people. I am that old. ha ha! But I know it now, and that is a whole other story for my 2016 recap.

I know I am leaving out a lot in my 2015 recap, so please know if you did something with us and I am not mentioning it, it is not because I forgot…. It is only due to the fact that my fingers may fall off from typing this much! :) A few things I haven't mentioned that we did was host a workshop with The Itinerant Printer, hosted a pop up shop for Kyle Durrie of Power & Light Press, did a collaboration with Perpetual Shade, posted a ton of my original paintings on the website, took a group trip to get popsicles, learned what Glitter Boo was and was obsessed with it for like two months until I burned out by Glitter Booing everything. I created custom lettering for Kindness Rules. I started my Biz Tip Tuesday posts on our blog. I started the first Turn The Tables series on our blog. We hosted our first ever Makers Jubilee event at our studio in downtown Jackson. I spoke at Oh So Inspired in Sonoma, CA. We had a booth at The Little Craft Show in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We were awarded the Downtown Jackson Small Business of the Year award. I had an art show in Atlanta at Steve McKenzie's. I led a painting workshop at Steve McKenzie's. I led a hand-lettering workshop in Palo Alto, California. We were stoked at the introduction of the unicorn emoji. We took a trip to the state fair and Mary Kathryn and Cristina did the trapeze. We created lots of new products. We exhibited at NY NOW in August 2015. We made a lot of people smile. BUT THE MOST and BESTEST part of my 2015 year was adding Henry Albery Ley, my sweet merle-goldendoole to my family.

On to 2016. 2016 started out like any other year, but little did I know what a year it would be. Some good, some bad, most of all lots of learning. 2016 was the year I decided I was going to do more intentional personal travel and boy did I. I started the year off my finally getting to announce our seven card collection with Hallmark Gold Crown. What a lifetime dream realized. As a young child, my grandmother used to take to me to Hallmark stores all the time. She would give us $5 and let us buy whatever we wanted for that amount. To a small child in the 80's and early 90's, five dollars was a lot of money. I remember gazing at all the cards and wondering who got to draw and paint those cards. With two grandfathers who both individually owned independent pharmacies in two Texas small towns, I would go with them to market to buy for their stores when I was young. I was totally one of those grabby kids that wants to hoard all the samples in their bag. I remember as a 7 & 8 year old I smelled like a grown woman with my "Passion by Elizabeth Taylor" perfume samples. I don't think I had to even own a bottle of perfume, ever, because I had so many samples. I remember the greeting cards at those shows, shuffling through them and my grandfather picking the ones he wanted to sell in his pharmacy. Isn't it funny to look back on life and have that realization that everything that you have done as a child has led up to this career I am in now. I think about that a lot. Even the fact I dressed up as an artist for my kindergarten career day. It's like i've always had my eye on the prize and each step has been a chapter in my adventure to grow me to here and further. God is so good like that. Anyways, back to my recap. Hallmark was so fun and easy to work with. They wanted me to do what I wanted, to let my voice be authentic to me. As an artist, to not be art directed and be allowed to do what you want and love is so freeing. It was such an amazing opportunity. So much, we ended up designing a holiday card for them that launched in fall 2016! Stay tuned, you may hear more from the Hallmark x Thimblepress front in the near future! :)

January always means new markets. So when January came around I headed over to Atlanta for the winter market that takes place every year. We are represented by Daniel Richards and we are in their showroom in the AmericasMart. Again, I say this jokingly, but my favorite thing about market is seeing all my other business owning friends - makers & buyers & All our sweet reps that help us grow our company in those territories. Summer camp, people, summer camp, After attending the Atlanta market, I could have gone on to Dallas with Daniel Richards, Los Angeles for Lynn Mitchell, and Seattle with Nolita, but I decided to do something for myself instead. I rationalized this trip to myself saying it is a "vacation," but it is also for my business. No, people, no. Can't you see the amount of detox I needed to do to understand that vacation meant no work. ha ha! The truth in it though, when you own a small business, you are always working, And don't awwww for me, because to me, I don't view it as work. I truly love what I do, but I also know that it is good to disconnect and get away; To let your mind wander and explore without the confines of an email inbox lurking in your pocket on your smart phone. I now know, it was a work trip. Not vacation. Work. It was fun, very fun, but still work. I was getting better though; I was choosing to do this. Regardless, It was a blast and I ended up making so many great friends and connections. What was it I did? I attended Alt Summit. It was the last one they were holding in Salt Lake City, before they moved it around the country to other places. Alt Summit is a great conference for business owners and especially bloggers looking to up their game and turn their blog into a full business. I truly just wanted to go to the parties I had seen all over social media. ha ha! It is so well curated from design to speakers to giveaways, and they host these mini-parties that are decked out to the 9's with the cutest of cutest decor and design. Well, that hooked me. I also thought, heck, I can try and make my blog better too. ha ha!

After Alt Summit, I quickly got back to Jackson and turned right back around and went to NYC for NY NOW. This was a new-ish show for us in that we had moved spaces. We moved from the handmade section in Javits North to the gift section downstairs. We felt it was a smart move for us to surround ourselves with other gifting companies as all the buyers go through there and there may be some that do not even walk the handmade section. Honestly, I think they are both equally good. There wasn't that big of a change for us in numbers from handmade to gift. I think January 2016 has been my favorite product launch to date. We really sat down and thought about our customers. We thought about their favorite products of ours, we thought about our favorites and what we loved the most. We considered different formats and explored new techniques. We came up with what I think is the most thoughtful product launch we have had to that date. At the same time we were launching a product collaboration with Packed Party. The collection was super fun. We designed three cards that would house earring backs like pretzels, meow & bike wheels. We created colorful cards with fun sayings! The collaboration was super cute and I think you can still get some of them on their website.

One of the biggest transitions of 2016 was finally getting more space. If you read above, you remember me talking about how we were totally lacking on space. Like borderline hoarders. Our next-door neighbor, Lesley, of Tulip Floral was deciding to move out and create a new space and shop in Madison (which is about 20 min north). We were so sad to see her go, but what it did was open an opportunity to for us to flow into her space. See, we operate out of the city's oldest commercial buildings. Throughout our buildings there are multiple connection points to the other buildings to the left and right of us due to the fact that they were all once a printing house. Yes, I know, printing! Super cool! Anyways, once we go the go ahead to start renting her space, we called our electrician to do a little work, had some locks changed, tore down a plywood sheet that was acting as a door and opened up all the doors to that space. It was simply amazing. We moved stuff over and couldn't believe how we were able to fit all of that in the first building, but I guess if you need something to work you do all you can to make it work. We were able to restore our retail shop back to the full size it was when it opened in 2013, grow our assembly room by 400%, have a better office area for everyone, and we finally had the storage as always needed! Things truly turned around for us. I feel like the space allowed us to get more organized and it gave us faster access to inventory. It gave us more space to plan orders out and pack them. The additional space also allowed for us to expand our assembly team and bring on more people. We could only fit 4 people in the first assembly room, which became the break room that we have now. We officially got a break room! WHAAAA?! Amazing. It is truly the small things that bring me such big joy!

One thing in 2016 I am super proud of is the Thimblepress feature at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Not only did they feature Thimblepress, but they asked if I could feature any other local artist with me who I would choose, and I asked and chose to include my Thimblepress Team member, Kate Freeman, Bekah Bohlen & Mary Kathryn Sharpe. What a fun night that was at the museum celebrating not only Thimblepress, but the work and talent of my team members. Thats the thing, I know how talented my team members are. I also know that as much as I love them on my team, I also want to support their endeavors, their dreams and their callings. They put so much love into working at Thimblepress, that I cannot help but be a little bit of a mamma bear when it comes to people that work with me. I am surrounded by some of the the most creative & hard working people I know. I get teary-eyed when I talk about it, but it's true. So, seeing the art all on the panels at the museum was super special to me and I will never forget that!

I love mailing things out. I love special packages where you can tell that so much love was put into them. Every year I aim to send a Christmas card, but we get so busy during the holiday season that before I know it, the time has passed for me to send out a Christmas card. It has become a three year tradition now that we send a New Year’s card or trinket out. In 2016 I had the “great” idea to send hand painted thimbles to our current wholesale accounts as of January 2016. We started painting them in November. We as in our whole team started by painted the bases and then adding in detailed designs based off of the master copy I made. I love thimbles, obviously. I also love them because they are a sign of friendship and goodwill. Wendy gave Peter Pan a thimble to represent her kiss to him. Peter Pan gave Wendy an acorn button as a kiss in return. Each wore the symbol of love and friendship around their neck. I am a sentimental person, sensitive and crave stories that make you think and feel deeper. I also wanted a way to express to our buyers / retail shops across the world how much we appreciate their business. I knew I couldn’t give them each a hug, but I felt like the hand-painted thimble was a perfect gesture of goodwill to share. Between our team of 15 people at the time, we probably spent 60 hours EACH working on these thimbles. I spent every night after work and two weekend straight for two weeks painting these thimbles. If anything, there was SO MUCH LOVE in each thimble. Each thimble was unique, just as each store. Each thimble was colorful, was composed of different shapes and textures. They were beautiful. They each came packaged in a clear box with a gold foil label explaining the significance of the Thimble and how we are so thankful for their business. That thimble painting project was one of the longest and craziest things I have ever tackled, but I like to think it meant something wonderful to those who received it. I like to think it sits upon desks, windows, and dressers. See, can’t you just read the sentimental part of me just oozing out. :)

In March of 2016, I was honored to speak at the Indie Craft Parade Makers Summit in Greenville, SC. I spoke alongside some really amazing people. I specifically talked about the in-and-out of wholesale and what that means. The thing I like most about when I speak at a conference or an event is I stay the whole time if I can, soaking in as much as I can and meeting as many people as I can. I am surprisingly an introvert, but during conferences I push myself to soak it all in and participate as much as I can stand to participate because the content and people are so good. If you are looking to attend a conference, I highly recommend attending Makers Summit in Greenville. The ladies that put the event on are beyond dedicated and such a huge cheerleader of small business and the maker community. You will fall in love with them in a heartbeat!

In 2016, I finally accomplished one of my personal dreams which was going to Round Top Antiques fair in Round Top, Texas. I was born in Texas and even grew up around Round Top, but for some reason never went to the fair. The fair is one of the largest antique shows in the country and it spans something like 32 miles long. My cousin Audrey flew all the way in from Los Angeles as she had always wanted to go as well. We had the best girls weekend with her mom, my Aunt Jan, and her friend Benny. We went “pickin’ in the fields” as they call it, and I found so many treasures. Seriously, I think I was a junk collector in my past. Well, more like treasure finder. I can’t tell you how much I love going to a flea market and just walking around and finding amazing buys. I would say more than half of my home is vintage. I would actually go as far to say 75%. Sometimes I just go to walk around and get inspired. You never know what you will find at a flea market, and I am the ultimate deal finder. You would never believe what I paid for most of the stuff in my home. Currently, I am getting a mid-century modern couch recovered that I purchased for $40. Yep. $40. Anyways, with all that being said, the trip was super inspirational and gave me a lot of ideas for product design. Sometimes it takes getting out of your everyday routine to find inspiration. If you are stuck and can’t think of anything, get out and go visit a local flea market. Just walk around and explore.

The one thing I will never do again that I did this year was a three day photoshoot. Each day had a different look, different models and totally different outfits and props. We did it in the middle of summer and mostly utilized my rooftop as it is perfect for shooting product photos on due to it basically being a giant white box. Little did we know how much work it would really be. Don’t get me wrong. We have done photoshoots in the past, but in the past they only lasted one day. Not only did we style our own photos and models, we did all the hair, makeup and photography. We did it ALL in-house. Call us crazy? The worst part for me was being gone from the office for three days, even though technically I was in the office. I wasn’t able to be on email as much as I had planned and each day always took so much longer than we had planned out. We ended up getting some great photos out of it, some of my favorite, but it did take me so long to go back and edit them. Let’s just say the next big model shoot we have, I am bringing in my friend Beth. She is the photographer that has shot all of our other campaigns / looks, and she is amazing. She is also the friend that braved the wide open road and traveled out West with myself and my crazy pups. Her business is Beth Morgan Photography, and her work is world-class. She captures light in a way that a lot of photographers don’t. She has one of the biggest hearts in the world, and is probably one of the most loyal human beings I have ever met. Loyalty in my book goes a very long way.

One of the best days of my life happened in 2016 when a palette of LaCroix water showed up at our door. It was enough to last our team at least two weeks. ha ha only kidding, but it did last around 6 months. No lie. I will forever be indebted to LaCroix for that beautiful shipment of sparkling water. Sparkling water has become like oxygen in my life. Ok, so that sounded super valley girl, but you know what I mean. I drink so much of it. I gave up all sodas, well, except for the occasional coke, and replaced it with all sparkling water. As I type this, I have three bottles of sparkling water sitting next to me. I always keep a full backup just incase I get SUPER thirsty. It never happens. I guess I imagine a dust storm coming into the office or something? I don’t know. Preparedness, I’ve got that.

The LaCroix came in super handy as we sweated and prepared for our fourth exhibit at the National Stationery Show. This time, we got a double booth. THIS WAS A HUGE DEAL FOR ME. You’ve got to understand. I am obviously not one to force growth. As you have read, our lack of space and what looked to be a hoarding problem (totally was not, just didn’t have space) forced us out of our initial space and into more space next door. I started with 80 square feet at NSS and wanted to stay in that space forever, but our products literally didn’t all fit in the booth. My business was growing, but I never wanted to grow to fast too soon. I like small. I like manageable. I like comfortable, but sometimes God is saying, “NOPE, I’ve got other plans for you. Plans to grow you and make you uncomfortable. That uncomfortable will eventually become comfortable and then I’ll grow you again.” These are all good things; Things I am beyond grateful for, but I just want you to understand what a big deal it was for us to get a double booth at the National Stationery Show. Not only a double booth, but as I mentioned previously, we had David Dill build us a booth extension for our original booth. It turned our 10 x 12 or 10 x 10 modular booth into a 10 x 20 booth complete with a closet, pop up bar with two seats inside and a space for a mini-fridge. For my introvert self, the closet was a must have dream at a show. It is also a must have dream for when you want to eat lunch. For three years I had been chowing down in my tradeshow booth as buyers would meander in and browse. I always offered them some of my lunch to be polite, but much to my chagrin they never wanted any. haha. I was so happy to have this new closet to sit and eat in. It also served as a good space just to take a couple minutes to yourself in the middle of a show day. During a show you are constantly speaking to people. Your brain in on, more like on overdrive, as you answer questions left and right, take orders, and generally interact with humanity on a greater level than when you are in the comfort zone of your studio back at home. I love markets so much, but the introvert in me also needs time to decompress and take time to process. That closet is my process closet. The show was a huge success as as usual at NSS, Nole from Oh So Beautiful Paper threw the best party!

As soon as NSS was over, I really dug into planning my dream road trip across the country with my two dogs and my friend Beth. I had been looking forward to this trip since 2015 and I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it and making it happen. I use the Roadtrippers app to help me plan a lot of my route, but it was a two week adventure that spanned 5500 miles in my Subaru Outback. We stopped more times than I will ever remember if I didn’t have Instagram to remind me. It was an epic trip. When I was in Los Angeles, I did a lot of press meetings with our PR team and even got to meet Mario Lopez when Thimblepress was featured on Extra! No lie, that was a life highlight moment. I lived for Saved by the Bell when I was growing up! Seriously though, I was beyond honored that Thimblepress was featured on Extra. That was truly a moment to celebrate. On that trip I also visited with friend Charlie Wright and Emily McDowell, and even got to see my friends Rosanna and Joel of Iron Curtain Press at their new (at the time) shop Shorthand! Shorthand is one of the cutest stores in Los Angeles and I highly encourage if you live in the LA area that you check it out! The best part about the whole trip was that my dogs got to come along for the adventure. The pups got to meet so many people and see so many things. People think I am silly with my dogs taking them all the places I go, but for me, I don’t have kids. Yes, I may one day, but right now I have them. Henry & Willow are my little sanity keepers. They are my babes. I would do anything for them. If you want to check out photos from our trip, just search #RoadTripTapas on Instagram and you can see all of our adventures from that trip. If you want to see general Thimblepress travel photos, just search #ThimbleTravels.

Before I knew it, I was back in NYC for NY Now in August. This time we were back to a smaller booth. See NY NOW is far more expensive per booth space than the National Stationery Show. We have yet to have a large booth at NY NOW, but I hope one day in the near future we can do that. I miss that closet with the mini-fridge all the time. Anytime I go to a show with a team member I like to visit a new museum. This time, Claire and I went to the Met. The Met takes my breath away. I could get lost in there for hours. We also ate at the first dim sum restaurant (per recommendation from the folks at Bench Pressed) in the city and had our auras read (per recommendation of gals from Farewell Paperie). Every time I go to NYC for work I try to find unique and different things to do. At this NY NOW we launched two of my favorite products to date, The Day Dreamer and The Prayer Partner. I spent well over 6 months developing those products and creating the artwork for each of them. Those two products are well loved and made. I couldn’t have been prouder to debut those. As soon as I was done with the show in NYC, I boarded a flight across the country to wine country to attend our sales director, Celine Roces, wedding! It was a beautiful wedding and my friend and our inventory director, Mary Kathryn Sharpe, was my partner in crime. We traveled down the Pacific Coast Highway stopping in Santa Cruz, Big Sur, San Obispo and staying at the Madonna Inn, and ending in Los Angeles where we parted ways. She rented a van and traveled further, and I stayed in Los Angeles to see my new family member, Huxley Morrison Scheck, join the world!

2016 was kind of a blur for me. I feel like everything happened so fast and I did far more travel than I did in previous years. The only difference was a lot of this travel was for my own personal enjoyment and fun. I saw so much. Every time I got back from a trip it left me so inspired. The best part about road tripping was it gave me time to listen to podcasts and audio books from business professionals that I so admire. I feel like the way the world operates now, we can learn so much my doing just that. In September, I was back on the road traveling to Greenville, SC for the Indie Craft Parade with team member, Joy Parikh. We had to set up our booth and work it for two days. Shows like this are where I got my start in this industry, so it is important to me to keep doing shows. Honestly, I love shows so much because it gives you that precious one-on-one time with your customer to hear their feedback and see what they like. It also gives you a chance to make new connections and become a part of something bigger. That show came and went quickly and by the time I returned I was ready to start planning our DIY halloween costumes.

I had been wanting to make DIY Halloween costumes for quite some time. I had a bunch of wacky ideas, but I settled on four achievable costumes I knew I could DIY. I think my team thought I was kidding for the longest time. If you know me, you know how big I dream and how sometimes those dreams take longer than the time I allocate for them. I think my team thought it was going to be a similar situation. It surprisingly was not. I threw myself into collecting all of the supplies we needed to make this idea I had in my head come to life. We ended up creating Confetti Girl, Flamingo, Disco Girl & Push-Pop Confetti®. Each of the costumes turned out amazing. I was so proud of us for making it happen, and doing it all at 110%! We aren’t sure what to do with those costumes now, but I am sure we can re-use them somehow!

2016 is the year I turned 32, and I couldn’t have been more surprised than I was when I walked downstairs to our entire team screaming “Happy Birthday,” with an entire brunch set up with all the fixings. They even had a custom cake made for me with Willow and Henry drawn in icing on the cake. They all bought me the cutest wall hanging that I plan to put in my office and sang “Happy Birthday” to me. It was the best day and I will never forget how loved I felt. See people, this is why I have the best team in the world. My birthday month was a whirlwind. As soon as I turned 32, we ripped the bandaid off and got to working at warp speed. We ended up doing a Mistletoe Marketplace booth again, which if you are familiar with that show, lasts a week long. It is a show that is in our home town of Jackson and it goes to support our local Junior League. Around the same time we were contacted by Highland Village Jackson about doing a shop in one of the spaces they had available. After meeting Masa, I just felt right at home. Masa runs Highland Village in Jackson, and is truly a visionary for our city and that shopping center. She understands the importance of customer value and the details that go into creating it. She toured us around a former shoe store space with a bright smile and open arms asking us to envision it as Thimblepress’ space. If any of you know Masa, you know it is hard to walk away from that positivity. More than anything she is honest; she believes in Thimblepress and Jackson, and has gone to the ends of the earth to help us promote our new shop there. We said yes to a temporary plan and began to make that and our Mistletoe booth happen. We look at Highland Village as a great way for us to interact with more customers, provide unique and exciting gift items and even host more community get togethers and workshops. For us, customer experience is huge and we wanted to make our Mistletoe booth look as close to a real store as we could. I became a master of driving a Uhaul rental truck. We would take trip after trip visiting the flea market to see what had come in and if any of it matched what we needed. At that same time, I was planning out how we could turn our back storage room into a meeting room with a table and projector. We had a lot of projects in the air. So much we even had a team paint day where every team member helped to paint furniture and walls from what we had found at flea markets. By the time we went to Mistletoe, we had a whole arsenal of new furniture that we could use for Mistletoe and transfer over to our new shop in Highland Village. Closing day of Mistletoe, we packed up and delivered it all to the new space in Highland Village. The day after Mistletoe is also the day I took a flight out to California to speak at the 3rd Annual Oh So Inspired Conference. I spoke about the things I have learned in Thimblepress, but also led a small group chat on branding. Oh So Inspired is one of my favorite events to go to. It is out of my element, as most of the people that attend are wedding industry, but I think that is exacly why I like it. It opened me up to see a new world and challenge myself to see beyond my own industry. Plus the ladies that throw it, Kelly Dolata of A Savvy Event, Nancy Liu Chin of Nancy Liu Chin Florals & Mary Phan of Very Mary Inspired are three of the most authentic women I have ever met. Kelly even opened her home to me and let me stay with her. She has truly become one of my closest friends and I thank the Lord all the time these women were brought into my life. I always meet new friends when I attend that conference and let’s get real….it is in wine country. UMM… amazing.

As soon as I got back from Sonoma we were gearing up to host our 2nd Annual Makers Jubilee. This time we were outside and we had doubled our size from the first year. We even had a food truck! We had over 12 vendors and it was PERFECT weather! The year before we faced torrential downpours, so it was good to have such an amazing weather. The fall of 2016 also brought on two really amazing collaborations. Our first collaboration launched with Speak Wines. We designed three labels for their never before released sparkling wine. It is a limited edition bottle, with availability from November through the middle of January. I hand painted and drew all of the labels for them to use, and I really love how they turned out. Plus, the ladies of Speak Wines are super sweet and easy to work with. They let me come up with lots of options for them, and really let my artistic voice be seen. I am so grateful they wanted to work with us on that special project. The other collaboration we launched is with THROW online. THROW online is a company that produces pillows and other home accessories. The amazing thing about THROW is that for every 10 pillows sold, it provides a bed for a child in need through the organization Beds4Kids, founded by THROW’s founder and CEO Lauren Glass. To us, that impact was very measurable and one that we wanted to get on board with as a company. I first found out about THROW when my team gifted me one of their pillows, the Doodle one, for Christmas in 2015. I began researching the company and just let her know how much I loved what she was doing. Sometimes all it takes is a simple comment or email to spark a relationship or conversation. From there we began planning out how we could design two pillows for them, and guess what… it happened. In the middle of November of 2016, we launched two pillow designs with THROW, and we cannot wait to see the impact it makes and the number of beds it provides for kids in need!

Just as things started to wind down in November for Thanksgiving, they began to wind back up. Our soft launch for the Highland Village shop was on December 1, and we still had tons to do to prepare for the opening. After many nights working on all the paintings that would hang on the walls, building furniture, hauling inventory over and getting everything counted, we were finally ready to open! We were greeted with so many open arms and such a generous amount of love. It was and still is such a beautiful space. It is very different from our downtown shop, but not in a bad way. It is white with lots of color, more modern and cleaner lines. Our downtown shop is housed in one of the oldest commercial buildings in our city, has exposed brick, cement floors & lots of historical charm. We ended up throwing a grand opening party on the weekend of December 12 and it was so much fun. It was the last big thing I had to accomplish for the end of the year and it really capped it off nicely. It is like my whole year was tied up in a beautiful pink ribbon and covered with confetti.

In 2016 I visited 19 states. I spoke at 5 conferences / events. Thimblepress had over 18 different shows from wholesale to showroom, retail and craft. We launched 5 different brand collaborations. I took 30 flights. I traveled and was out of town for 18 weeks total. I drove well over 15,000 miles. We opened a second retail shop. I took over 12000 photos. We hosted our second annual Makers Jubilee. I met Mario Lopez. I took my dogs on two epic road trips. We expanded our studio by 2700 square feet. We renovated a storage room into a conference room. I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, stargazed in Joshua Tree, hugged a redwood, danced on the Bonneville Salt Flats, stood in awe of the Glory of God at Zion National Park, toured Antelope Canyon, sat poolside in Palm Springs, was inspired at Salvation Mountain & The 7 Magic Mountains, painted cars at Cadillac Ranch, slept in a glitter wall room at the Madonna Inn, slid down coral pink sand dunes, got pricked by cacti in Joshua Tree National Park ?, stood in adoration at Arches National Park, teared up at the 9/11 memorial & museum, fell back in love at the MET, played epic Bingo at The Standard, drove down Route 66, found some gems at Round Top Antiques Fair, stood cliffside at Big Sur, watched elephant seals for far too long, had my aura read, ate at NYC first dim sum restaurant, told jokes & ?photo assisted at El Matador beach in Malibu, kayaked a river, finally did acupuncture, welcomed a new family member, Huxley!

All in all 2016, was a good year. A year of letting myself get out of the office more to experience life and travel, to get inspired. All in all, I want to thank you for surviving that whole read, but also supporting our brand, our dreams and Thimblepress. Without your cheerleading, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I have SOOO many secrets I am holding on to right now that I cannot wait to share with you about what is coming next for Thimblepress. Just stay tuned… It’s gonna be epic!

xo, kristen

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