We’ve always had the chance to hear about all these success stories of famous celebrities and multi-million dollar companies. And while all those stories are incredible and inspiring there is one thing that The Hustlepreneur loves to hear the most and that is the stories behind local, small businesses and start ups who decided to drop everything for everything…
We had the opportunity to reach out to Ulia Koles, the Founder/Owner of Paperesque & Co. A local Toronto business who specializes in small handmade pieces. Whether your celebration is big or small, her goal is to deliver a little sparkle and happiness into your home!
Here is our exclusive interview with this little but successful, Toronto business owner.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Koles: Truth is, I have been dreaming of owning my own business for as long as I can remember. Life started to spin so quickly for me right after I graduated college. I got married, found a great job as a product developer at a fashion eyewear company, and so my dream got pushed aside.
When I gave birth to my first baby girl, I was faced with a rare opportunity to have a career break during my maternity leave. I wanted to do something creative and unique, but had no idea what. That is when my best friend Viv Li and I decided to join forces and began developing a business idea. We wanted to create a lifestyle brand, that would resonate with modern career-driven women around the world who were into fashion and style, fine dining and travel to name a few. We didn’t have everything figured out, but we were eager just to get started and go with the flow. Soon enough we both realized that daily life was getting in the way of accomplishing our business goals and timing just didn’t seem right for the both of us.
About 9 months after my first daughter was born, we found out that we were expecting again. I knew that even though my life was about to get 100 times busier, I felt more motivated than ever to pursue my dream. I had everything I needed: flexible schedule (yah right), resources, motivation, and moral support from loved ones; everything but one thing. I had no idea what I was going to sell to people. It seemed that the internet was already oversaturated with every product and service I could think of.
Taking a break from my full time job allowed me to mentally re-charge. There was room for new ideas and aspirations. I finally felt like I was being guided by something that came from within. As much as it was exciting to find yourself on the path of self discovery, it took conscious effort and constant work. Whenever I could find free time from my babies or house chores, I read, watched inspiring ted talks, listened to podcasts, did yoga, painted, I even had classical music playing in the background most of the day. Basically, I did everything I could think of, to spark creativity. I knew that once I got to that particular state of mind, I would be able to see more clearly, think with less constrain and feel intuitively.
Around the same time, many friends of ours were getting engaged, married, and pregnant. My husband and I were attending social events on weekly basis. I started offering my help, particularly in the DIY party decor department. Some of the things I made for my friends were personalized party favors, wedding refresh baskets, bridal emergency kits and photo backdrops. I began to post photos of my work on instagram and before I knew it, I was receiving amazing feedback and price requests from friends and people I did not know. That is when the light bulb went on… I realized that people are constantly looking for unique and personalized ways to make their special events memorable. Event industry was where I wanted to make my mark. I knew I could deliver and so I got to work.
What made you choose this type of business?
Koles: Two things:
- The joy of creating a product that was going to be part of something happy, positive and special.
- It needed to be something flexible that could work with our hectic family schedule.
What was your mission at the outset?
Koles: As a stay at home mother of 2 kids living on one income, I know what it means to live frugally. I wanted to create products that would be unique, beautiful, and most importantly, affordable to everyone. This is how Paperesque & Co was born: “fabulous and affordable paper décor for your life’s events”.
My products are all made out of cardstock paper, glitter being the most popular choice. I design, die cut, assemble and package everything right in my living room. I answer emails with one hand while stirring pasta sauce with the other. My goal is to continue doing everything I can to keep production costs low, for as long as it is feasible.
How many employees?
Koles: For now, I am a one woman team, but hopefully this will change in the near future.
When did you “charter” the business?
Koles: I opened my online shop with Etsy, in April 2016.
What service(s) or product(s) do you offer/manufacture?
Koles: Currently, “Paperesque & Co” has an abundance of personalized and generic cake toppers for any occasion. Recently I began to add new categories to the shop such as banners, garlands and favor tags. I am constantly improving, innovating, experimenting and growing.
What is unique about your business?
Koles: Anyone can personalize their order however they like. Whether it is your child’s themed birthday or a love message that you want to turn into a wedding cake topper – I offer you my creative services, and I get a serious kick out of it J. Each design starts with a customer’s idea, which I help bring to life with a visual software program. I use Adobe Illustrator and it is an awesome tool that makes communication with my customers a breeze.
How do you advertise your business/products/services?
Koles: Social media is such an amazing platform to advertise your business at little to no cost. It may be intimidating at first, but with all the free information available right now, anyone can learn to do it. I use Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest where I try to post something fresh daily. Once a month, I run a contest or giveaway, which really helps with maintaining visibility and gaining more followers. I offer promotional discount codes around holidays to encourage flow of traffic to the shop.
Do you work locally or nationally?
Koles: I work from my home (Toronto, Canada) and I ship my products all over the world.
Do you use the services of a professional accountant or attorney?
Koles: Currently, “Paperesque & Co” is a home based handmade business, run by one person, so I feel that there is no need for attorney representation or accountant’s help at the moment.
To what do you attribute your success?
Koles: I feel strongly about delivering excellent product quality and customer service. These are the two things that I take full responsibility of. I don’t know why, but I cannot be satisfied with my work, if my work did not bring satisfaction to others. I know it sounds silly, but a sales transaction is so much more to me than that. I treat each order as a trust agreement between myself and the customer, which I would not dare to breech. Whether I am working on a large wedding order or a cake toper for a small birthday celebration, I feel equally obligated to each customer to deliver my best work. I double check every detail with a customer before creating their order. Being meticulous finally came useful.
Irreplaceable support from friends and family played a huge role in my drive and motivation. When people genuinely believe in you, it leaves no doubt in your mind that you are on the right path.
What’s your company’s goals?
Koles: Short term: I know that there are many people out there who would really benefit from our product, but may not be aware of Etsy. My goal is to create an independent website very soon, with the purpose to reach as many people globally. Etsy was a great starting point which has given me invaluable knowledge and experience, but it is time to leave the nest.
Long term: I would love to eventually expand with a lot more product assortment and a showroom and my own office space, where I can meet with clients.
What are your responsibilities as the business owner?
Koles: Trend Research, Design and Illustration, Material Sourcing, Quality Control, Accounting, Business Analysis, Customer Service, Order Processing, Marketing, Advertising, Production, Packaging and Shipping to name a few J
Does your company help the community where it is located?
Koles: I have been very blessed to live in such a humble and diverse country like Canada. The thought of wanting to give back never leaves me and I am constantly looking for ways to connect with local communities to do just that. There are few charitable projects that I have been participating in, without mentioning the name of my business. Going forward I plan on doing a lot more work with local non-profit organizations that provide shelter and support to women and children fleeing domestic abuse.
Have you ever turned down a client?
Koles: No, I have never done that and cannot imagine a situation in which I would have to do that. Once in a blue moon I get messages that may seem rude, but I never read into them or make assumptions about people. Event planning can be super stressful; I have been there myself, so if someone has a bad day, I don’t take it personally J
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Koles: Do not get discouraged if you are off to a slow start. It is very normal to not see results of your hard work in the beginning. I call this period “the invisible progress” – something that is usually under appreciated, I think. All of your sweat and tears, sleepless nights, failures and setbacks, are part of starting out. I advertise my business in various Facebook groups almost weekly, and I remember feeling frustrated when my posts were not receiving likes. I continued to post despite that, and soon enough people from these Facebook groups started reaching out to me. It turns out they have always seen my posts and liked my products, and when they finally needed a cake topper or a banner they remembered about my business. The key is to not give up. Continue on growing your business, establishing social media presence, and you will see it pay off in no time.
How to get in touch with the owner:
Company Details :
Company Name: Paperesque & Co
Contact Person: Ulia Koles
Business Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Business Telephone: 416-985-0185
Website: Paperesque & Co.
Be sure to follow Paperesque & Co. on Social Media!