This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Jacki Gil of the Huntsville, Alabama-based Salt + Paperie, a line of hand-lettered stationery + gifts. Welcome, Jacki!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?
Jacki: I always felt like I was missing something when working my previous design jobs, then the minute I participated in my first “styled shoot,” I knew what it was! I had been missing the tangible part of design: printing and delivering something beautiful. After working a full-time job and my “side-hustle” for over year, I had built up enough repeat clients and an amazing word-of-mouth advertising crew (thank you, family & friends!) that I was able to take the leap into being a full-time small business owner in May 2014!
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Jacki: When I got started, I wanted to create designs that really captured the theme or color scheme of a certain event, whether it was a wedding or birthday. I wanted to be able to add that special touch of “hand-craftedness” that you wouldn’t ever be able to find from an online invitation store.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Jacki: I create one-of-a-kind invitations. Every invitation starts with a blank page, and is thoughtfully designed based on the ideas and dreams of my clients.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Jacki: Currently, we only sell our products in our online storefront, but we are looking to partner with brick and mortars in the near future!
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Jacki: My husband wakes up around 5:45am to start his day, and about the time he’s getting out of the shower, I’m waking up to start my day. Most days, I can convince him to bring me some coffee (so blessed!) and I start up my laptop. I get started in the bed with my pre-planned calendar of events that includes emailing clients or designing until I’ve finished what I need to do. Working from bed has helped me keep from getting distracted with household tasks in the morning like dishes or laundry. Out of sight, out of mind!
Then, around 9 or 10, I might be printing jobs or working on our other little business, Encourage Huntsville. In the morning is when I feel most creative and least distracted, so I try to start with my hardest design job then. Most days I also try to take a “lunch break” and meet my husband at the gym.
Each day is different, and when one day doesn’t match my schedule perfectly, I try to be flexible… because that’s the beauty of being your own boss! (P.S. I never turn down a lunch date with my mom… she doesn’t have to be scheduled in!)
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Jacki: 1.) Remember that you have to start somewhere and you just have to start. Many times we found ourselves saying, “yes, we can make that happen!” and then figuring out how to make it happen! Fake it ’til you make it.
2.) Each business owner has to analyze how easily they can get burned out… and make sure you don’t let it happen! We all have our thresholds… and some days I just need to go to Target instead of going through invoices.
3.) Remember that it’s all been done already, but not by you! Sometimes I see everything that everyone else is doing and feel like it’s all be done. Just stay true to your style and design what you want and clientele want.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Jacki: When I am truly overwhelmed and find myself jumping around from project to project, I turn my phone over on my desk, turn off my email on my computer, and make myself work on one thing for 30 minutes. Normally, after I finish one project, I can easily move on to the next thing without jumping around. Good music via our Amazon Echo always helps too!
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Jacki: This question is hard for me! I don’t feel like we’ve made any one huge decisions to help our business, but yet a series of smaller decisions that have helped us grow. One of the decisions that we made early on was a complete name change and rebranding. My first business name was “Jack & Gil Designs.” This is cute, but it was also confusing for people. My name is “Jacki Gil”, but people would call my business “Jack and Jill Designs,” thus turning me into “Jacki Jill”. Hmm, no!
Once we realized that we wanted to specialize in paper design AND production, we knew we needed a name that told people we weren’t just designing digitally anymore. One post-vacation ride home from beach, and Salt + Paperie was born. It fits our life and our style so much better! You can read more about what it means to us in the About section of our website.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Jacki: Again, we haven’t had any HUGE failures in running our business thus far. (Praise the Lord!) But, we have had a TON of small failures – like ordering the 500 koozies with a misspelling of our own website (this is real!), not ordering the right color envelope liners and not being able to send them back (another real fail!), ordering way too many of something, or realizing that we grossly underestimated man hours on a job and over-schedule ourselves (all. the. time.)
These things are all small failures that teach us lessons along the way, and each time it happens, we chalk it up to learning so that the next time it happens, we will: 1.) double check colors & spelling! 2.) triple check amounts needed; and 3.) realize there are only so many hours in a day, and that you probably can’t line 250 envelopes in 1 hour.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Jacki: We love the ocean! We donate a portion of our S&P koozies to the Coastal Conservation Association.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Jacki: 1.) I live and die by my Google Calendar. I schedule everything on there. Honestly, it’s kind of scary if something happens to it…!
2.) We used Quickbooks online for our accounting and LOVE it. It’s on my phone, so I can pull up invoices when I’m out with a client, delivering orders or getting a check. Getting paid is important!
3.) The third thing is Expensify. It’s what we use to track all of my mileage. Each day when I get into my car, I record the mileage from the day before. Otherwise, I would never remember! Writing off mileage has been one of our greatest tax write-offs because I drive a ton for my business.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Jacki: I would hope that we would have a brick and mortar location, with a back-end that is strictly for storage and production of custom pieces! I would hope to have some employees and interns, and maybe even some other in-house designers. Over our first few years, we grew incredibly fast; and I can only hope that will continue!
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Jacki: I still feel really guilty about working from my bed in the mornings, and having coffee brought to me by my husband, but I love it so!
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?
Jacki: Taking down my Christmas decorations after the holiday season is over.
LBC: What’s your spirit animal?
Jacki: This question took the longest for me! I asked my husband and my mom, and then took three quizzes online. Haha! I’m going with a starfish, because they live in the sea, but aren’t aggressive or stinging. They mostly mind their own business and do their thing, but if they lose an arm, they will just grow it back. I feel like I’m fairly adaptive in life and business.
LBC: Have you ever held an odd job or one you weren’t particularly fond of?
Jacki: I was a graphic artist for a local news station. I liked the work, but the hours I did not like so much. For the morning news beginning at 4am, I had to be there to design at 2:30am… and errors/typos are really frowned upon in the news! Who can function to design that early?!
I do love that I held that job, however, because it was one of the most surreal experiences when I worked there during the devastating 2011 Alabama tornado outbreaks. I was able to text friends and family who were already without power to warn them of coming dangers, and to hear of heroic stores of those who helped after the devastation.
LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?
Jacki: I would purchase a huge farm, and take in stray dogs or the ones that were about to be put down in the shelters. I have huge heart for animals, but as it is right now, it feels like I can’t help them all! I would let them play and run the farm, and we would probably have a huge doggy pool, too. It would be the best million dollars spent ever!
Thank you, Jacki, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love your work and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Salt + Paperie! We’re cheering you on…
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!