I graduated college in May 2007.
Immediately after, I took a trip to Europe with some of my best girlfriends from high school and then spent rest of the summer hanging out with my parents and preparing to move to Maryland. I remember leaving them at the Sacramento airport. We all cried a bit. And then I stepped off the plane on the other side of the country and was with Paul and "boom!" - I was a grown-up.
After about a week of settling into life in Bethesda, I interviewed at Paper Source in Georgetown. It was a higher-end chain paper, stationery and gift store. Their mantra was (and is) "Do Something Creative Everyday." At my interview, I was asked to share how I incorporated the mantra into my life and I busted out the story of my current creative project, The Daily Card.
Surprise, surprise, I got the job.
This was the first time my blog helped me land a steady paycheck and the second to last time I ever printed out my resume.
I worked full-time (37 hours a week) for $9/hr as a sales associate. I had a one hour each way commute from our apartment in Bethesda to Georgetown that involved a car, a train and a bus. It cost me at least $11 a day just to park at the metro stop and take public transportation to work. It wasn't quite the post-college paycheck I had expected.
But this job, you guys, this job is what led me to everything.
Retail was fun in the fall of 2007. It was before the economy crash and you could tell. It was exciting to be in a store when people actually want to be buying and merchandise is rolling off the shelves. We had an absurdly busy holiday season and I remember we could not un-package inventory fast enough.
I learned A LOT in those years working at Paper Source. Merchandising and customer service, of course, but also about printing methods, paper stocks, book binding and color ways. I started teaching workshops. Within a few weeks I became a workshops coordinator (organizing the class schedule) and after about six months, a salaried assistant manager. I learned how to deal with tricky people. I learned how to set window displays. I learned how to read on the bus without getting carsick. I made some really great friends.
I also had a decent amount of time to work on and think about my own creative adventures. Etsy was just taking off in a big way and it was The Place to sell online. I don't remember how I decided that I wanted to join the hoard of sellers, I do remember exactly what I wanted to sell. I made envelopes out of old maps (using an envelope kit from Paper Source) and tucked white notecards inside.
Before I listed them, I used surveymonkey.com to gather feedback from blog readers about what they thought of the envelopes and how much they would pay. Within a few hours, I had maxed out the survey. 100 people had shared their thoughts about my notecards and I was shocked.
This was an incredible learning moment for me. People LOVE to share their opinion. Ask a question, especially in a situation where answering is easy and anonymous, and you'll get answers. The trouble is the responses will be so absurdly varied that unless you know what you're doing they don't mean much. (This post is one of my favorite examples of just how impossible it would be to please "everyone.") There is a reason that polling costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and is done by outside sources. It's COMPLICATED. It takes experts to wade through the data and pull something valuable.
But I went with my gut (that time and every time after) and listed the envelopes for a price somewhere in the middle and made my first few online sales. (Spoiler alert, there were not over 100 people clamoring to buy the item they had so willingly shared their opinion on.)
Once again, I found myself making and selling, this time online and, OH MAN, did I have so much to learn.
to be continued...part six here.