Jennifer Ramos, 34, Owner and designer of MadeByGirl, a greeting card and poster company (madebygirl.com)
What prep did you need before starting a business like this?
I discovered along the way is that I thought I was wise, but I’m actually a lot wiser now. People think that just because you like something, or are passionate it will really happen. You have to work for everything–and you have to work hard! Main thing is research and e-mailing people in the industry you're interested in for advice. Business is pretty much the same across the board–there are a lot of basic rules. If you want to do what I’m doing, e-mail people, ask them questions and keep their answers in a folder and that will give you ideas about how to build your own business. It’s about asking the right questions so you can learn and it takes a lot of time and focus. For me, I put so much time into it–I was lucky in that my partner is very supportive. I went to stores and asked what kind of cards they were selling, what they liked best, etc…I’ve read lots of books – everything you want is online or in a bookstore. You have all the info there, a lot of people just don’t know how to go about it.
What books or websites do you recommend someone check out if she wants to be a stationery designer?
Books such as The Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business by Caitlin Friedman & Kimberly Yorio along with websites like www.powerhomebiz.com were very helpful learning tools in my quest to start my own business.
What pitfalls should folks look out for on this path?
For me this was a very low cost business to start. Overhead was low, so I didn’t have to invest a ton of money or get any loans. I’d caution people not to go overboard, especially if it’s not something that you know you absolutely love. I’m really weird about taking out loans in general, so if there’s anyone, friends or family or a partner, who’s willing to invest in you, go that route. I started this business with less than $6,000 for machines, paper—everything I needed. I didn’t buy a whole bunch at first; you don’t know how it’s really going to take off.
—Carmen Wong Ulrich