Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from Meg Gleason of the letterpress and stationery design studio, . Her path into the stationery design world started on the family farm in rural Iowa. With a graphic design degree in hand and job-less, Meg decided to create her own path by jump-starting her own letterpress studio. Today, she sells her stationery line around the country and enjoys working from home alongside her family. Thank you, Meg, for giving us a glimpse into your creative career journey! —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
The decision to start went alongside a decision to move to the country and farm with my husband’s family after college. I had a degree in graphic design and had always dreamed of having my own letterpress studio, so being job-less in the country was the perfect place to start a business from scratch. At that time I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in letterpress, but we bought our first press anyway and felt excited about the prospect of making things with such a beautiful machine.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
It took a couple years for me to plan where Moglea would fit into the market, and especially to gain a confidence in what I was doing. I first started out doing random freelance projects, mainly in identity design while doing pro-bono jobs for family and friends on the side. It was from these jobs that I was able to take the time to focus on growing my hand-lettering and illustration. When I finally sat down to plan out our first stationery collection, I knew how important it was to create products that felt unique to the already saturated stationery market. I didn’t want Moglea products to get lost, so it took time to plan out ways for simple greeting cards to feel hand-crafted and one-of-a-kind. I had experience in collage, dyeing fabric, and watercolor, so I wanted to bring these complex processes into the stationery market and pair them with letterpress. It’s been such a blessing to finally put all the ideas into production that I have had in my mind for years.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
The best piece of advice I had received was simply to be patient and not give up. Once we had the press going, I felt like such a failure for not having products on the market right away. I gave myself personal goals and deadlines for launching a stationery line, but couldn’t seem to keep them. What I didn’t realize until later was how important it was to grow as a designer and a printer. Now I feel confident in the quality of our printing and our products. If I would’ve launched any earlier, I don’t think I could say that.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
It was very challenging in the beginning to start producing the products I had designed with such limited financial resources. We were limited in the equipment we could afford, the people we could hire, and the quantities of supplies that we were able to order. All of our production and assembly is done in house for the collection, so everything in the beginning took so much longer to execute than it does now. For example, we used a small padding press that only held 30 pads at a time and a 100 year old manual paper cutter to cut our parent sheets down to size. As more orders came in, we were able to upgrade our equipment and do things much more efficiently. With any business, it just takes time and many hours of hard work to acquire the revenue you need to get projects moving faster.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Focus on your strengths. I remember what a challenge it was to hire someone to help with our website. I spent hours and hours trying to learn HTML and CSS and feeling miserable, before finally hiring a company to code our website. I’m better at delegating now. When I started, I thought I could do everything. Now if I know that I’m not gifted in a certain task, I’m happy and excited to hire someone more capable than me to do it.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had one moment of failure in particular, but there have definitely been challenging parts of growing Moglea and keeping up with the production side of our line. As we’ve grown, it’s taken more space and more employees to keep up with orders. This year in particular (and especially since our children came home) it’s been a fight to keep up with production and keep things feeling normal in our home. Working from the home has been a gift, but I feel it has pushed me to be working constantly, and I don’t want to do that anymore. We plan to build a new studio this summer on our farm to keep the business close, but outside of the home. My husband and I are so excited to have a new space for Moglea, and we feel it will create a separation between work and home-life that we need. Family is so important, far more important than work, and we’ve learned it’s good to re-evaluate often whether Moglea is taking up too much of my time.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
We launched our stationery line at the National Stationery Show in 2012 and up until that launch, we had never sold a single card. When our first order was placed, I was shaking with surprise and nervousness. I had no clue whether the line would sell or not, so it was crazy just to have someone buy something we had made. Now as we send cards all over the country, I just feel so happy to be doing what I love to do.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
I’ve never read a business book, but my best resources for running a business have been from my mother (who owned and managed her own beauty salons) and my husband and his family with their experiences in running Gleason Farms. To gain encouragement and direction from successful business owners is priceless. When my husband and I talk business, even as different as farming is to stationery, the problems and solutions and situations are still the same. If you want to start your own business, find someone who has started a business (any business!) and ask a lot of questions.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Make sure your product or service is original and feels awesome to you. You’ll get easily discouraged doing or selling something you aren’t excited about or others aren’t excited about.
2. Don’t be afraid to spend money (or lose money) at first. It’s scary, but all businesses require a little investment to get going.
3. Be ready to work long hours, but luckily you’ll get to chose those hours and exactly how you’ll spend them.