I hate to start off blog posts with excuses, but this one really needs a little ‘splaining as it were. I contacted Jeannette Ordas, a local Vancouver designer/blogger/all-round-crafty-gal back in early July with this idea that I would run a local summer series of profiles of some of my local indie business heroines. Then my first trimester of pregnancy caught up with me (read: very ill, very tired, barely making it through the day) and my beloved cat became very suddenly and terminally ill. In hindsight that seems like rather silly reasons to have let this interview/profile of Jeannette languish in my inbox for so long, but at the time I just couldn’t tackle one more thing.
Last week, however, I had the great joy of finally meeting Jeannette for the first time at the One of a Kind Show here in Vancouver and my resolve to get this out of my inbox and up here was strengthened. Jeannette is just as lovely as you might expect if you happen to be a fan of her cards, her foodie blog or her web design work. She’s an inspiring and very creative entrepreneur and I owe her a big thanks for doing this profile (and for bearing with my delays).
How long have you been running your own show (shows?). That is, how long have you been the one responsible for paying your salary?
I’ve been working for myself since February 2005, which was when my job as Web Designer at a local ad agency went belly up. I started applying for jobs, but wasn’t having much luck – but at the same time I started putting out my own feelers and started getting my own web design clients through word of mouth and from ex-co-workers. The month that I was laid off, I started my food blog, Everybody Likes Sandwiches. About a year later, my now-husband and I started our own web design company, Matchbox Creative. Also at about the same time, I decided to devote some of my down-time to Etsy and really started to get my greeting card business, The Beautiful Project, up and running.
One could easily apply the labels “Entrepreneur” “Artist” and “All-round-creative-gal” to you, what with co-running your own show for you day job, and then doing The Beautiful Project and your foodblog on the side as well. If you had to pick a label, which do you think is most apt for you?
I do like the term “all-round-creative-gal” since I definitely do have my fingers in a lot of creative pots. I’ve never been a one-track-mind kind of person. For a long time I wished I could have had just one passion to do something and do it well, but instead, there were just so many things that I was interested in. It made things difficult when I was younger. Now I think it’s okay that I’m passionate about so many different things!
What inspires you to keep being your own boss?
I’m very focused and self-directed so it’s easy for me to be my own boss. I love being self-sufficient and I love the independence of working for myself. Being able to choose the type of projects that I want to work on leaves me feeling that I’m living the life I want to lead.
What support networks do you turn to as a business person?
My biggest support network really comes from my husband (who is also my business partner). He’s my biggest supporter for all my creative endeavours but he’s also my biggest critic when it comes to designing. The only time we fight is when it comes to his critiques of my designs. We really hash out all the design problems and shortfalls of a piece and I feel my designs come out stronger because of it. I also have made a lot of female friends with creative people who are selling on etsy, who are artists and designers, and who are trying to make their living from their craft. When we meet, we meet up as friends, but our discussions about what we’ve learned, the mistakes we’ve made, and how we’ve grown our businesses really help solidify that we’re not in this alone and that we can make our dreams come true.
How do you define success as an entrepreneur?
Success to me means that I’m living my life how I want to live it, by taking on the type of projects that I want to work on, by creating a strong body of work, by feeling confident in my skills and abilities. It means taking on challenging work and learning new techniques so that I stay sharp. It also means that I have the money so that I don’t have to scrimp and save (though I think those things are inbred from childhood). Success means that I feel good about my life and my choices and it means that I’m happy.
Can you tell me any stories about awesome feedback/customer interactions you’ve had? ie/ Great stories people have told you about how they use your cards or artwork?
I always just assumed that people would give away my cards to others, so I was really surprised that so many people framed the cards and hung them up as artwork. One of my big sellers is a card with a pretty pink flower and text that reads “Hooray for Me and Fuck You” and I always wondered who would people send that card to. At a recent craft fair, a woman came up to me and proudly told me that she bought the card and has it hung up in her office! I love that! I also participated in the Got Craft mini fair in June and one guy was so thrilled that he had found my cards. He said he recently told his partner that someone should come up with cool cards, anti-Hallmark cards. “These are those cards!!” He was so excited and it really made me feel great about my work!
And, do you do in person sales — craft fairs and the like — or just focus on Etsy?
I first started out on Etsy and only focused on that for a few years until I did my first craft fair in Vancouver last summer. It was really easy to remain online and sell anonymously. I always think I’m kind of shy and making chit-chat to strangers scared me. Turns out, I’m not shy and I loved meeting people at craft fairs. I also decided to start wholesaling to stores, so I’m starting to branch out and sell my cards that way.
Can you tell me about the name “The Beautiful Project”? I love it, by the way and am wondering how you came up with it.
Thanks! I didn’t want to restrict myself to anything, so I didn’t want to choose a name that made reference to some specific craft. In fact, my first listing on etsy in 2005 wasn’t even a card, it was a small stuffed animal. I chose the name The Beautiful Project because I wanted to create beautiful things and I liked the idea of it being my own personal project, something to keep me inspired and get me working on my own things rather than client-work.
If you had to play favourites, do you have a favourite design now (or of all time)?
My current favorite is my You Look Beautiful Today card. It’s colourful and who wouldn’t want to hear that they looked beautiful? But my all-time favorite is my Dutch birthday calendar. My husband is from a Dutch family and I loved that his family had these funny little calendars that they hung in the bathroom. The calendars themselves were pretty ugly so I decided that I’d make a beautiful one filled with Dutch motifs and imagery.