This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Lianne and Paul Stoddard, the passionately talented and creative duo behind Swirly Designs!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as entrepreneurs?
Lianne + Paul: We wanted to create designs that we loved – and under our own rules, so to speak. We met in art school, both venturing into the different art fields; Paul started freelance illustrating, and Lianne entered the graphic design field. It wasn’t until after we got married that we decided to combine our talents and start our business.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Lianne + Paul: Our passion for decorating and celebrating holidays inspired our handmade designs. We envisioned our business to be full of creativity – a place where unique ideas are born. We wanted to share our passion with everyone.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Lianne + Paul: Swirly Designs is a studio where we create bright, holiday-inspired ornaments and other designs using polymer clay along with other creative mediums.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Lianne + Paul: We launch 5 collections of our handmade polymer clay ornaments and designs every year on our website. If you live in or near the Boston area, we also participate in a couple of craft shows during the Christmas season.
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Lianne + Paul: While no work day is truly “typical,” our studio is located out of our home, so our work and family life always seem to overlap through out the day. We tend do a lot of the business-related work during the day (answering emails, bookkeeping, photographing work, etc.) and save our creative work for late at night, after the kids have gone to sleep. It’s hard to get involved with clay or painting only to be distracted throughout the day. It’s been interesting learning to prioritize our activities and projects over the years. Some days are better than others, but for us, this is the best solution for our family right now.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Lianne + Paul: 1.) To really enjoy what you do, because you will be making lots and lots of them. 2.) If you are working together with a partner, be sure to know who is in charge of what tasks. 3.) Remember that you’re a Maker, a Marketer, and a Seller. You have to play all roles to make your business run smoothly and productively. If you are lacking in an area, learn to delegate those tasks out to someone else. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Lianne + Paul: We always seem to be overwhelmed, especially whenever we are launching a new collection. The pressure we feel not to disappoint any of our customers, especially during the Christmas season, can be very high. We live in the world of instant gratification and overnight delivery. We really try to explain to everyone who orders upfront that it is only the two of us doing everything, from making to shipping, and we try to be very realistic when we promise to deliver. Knock on wood: We are happy to say we have never missed a holiday deadline.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Lianne + Paul: Sticking with our gut about subject matter with design; we create things we love, and don’t always follow what’s trending. Collaborating with the right companies and other creatives to expand our creative ideas and to reach a new audience for our work.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Lianne + Paul: The biggest obstacle by far was when our studio was randomly selected for an IRS audit a few years back. Thank goodness, we are fairly organized and keep pretty good records, so we were able to locate a lot of the requested information. Lesson learned: When companies tell you to go paperless…think twice about doing it!
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Lianne + Paul: Our focus as of late has been our local school system. Having two children now enrolled in school, we are very passionate and involved with the activities and the goings on around the school, especially around creative arts programs.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Lianne + Paul: 1) Social media: Having a presence online is a must nowadays. Posting and sharing behind-the-scenes snapshots of our process and studio on Facebook and Instagram really helps us stay connected with our customer base.
2) These business services: Paypal, Square & MailChimp are also extremely helpful to better serve our customers.
3.) Arts & Crafts stores: We visit them all the time to check out new art materials that we might be interested in incorporating into our work. There is nothing like roaming up and down the aisles of a craft store to help spark an idea.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Lianne + Paul: To have Swirly Designs reach a bigger audience and have new opportunities for us to create holiday joy with our designs.
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Paul: Potatoes…Oh so yummy. You can prepare them so many different ways; the possibilities are endless.
Lianne: Cereal. I love all kinds, and have been known to eat cereal for dinner.
LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…
Lianne + Paul: For tunes in the studio, we like Mumford and Sons, Chris Isaak and Guster.
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Paul: I will watch the old Rankin/Bass Christmas and Easter specials on TV.
Lianne: I watch a lot of vloggers on YouTube.
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?
Paul: I would have my own creative writer; I’m horrible! It takes me 3 times as long as it should to write a short blurb. It can be very frustrating.
LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?
Paul: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” –Dory, from Finding Nemo
Lianne: “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” –Dr. Seuss
Thank you, Lianne and Paul, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love your work and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Swirly Designs! 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!