Letterpress Wedding Invitation Designer on NPR
(Left to right: NPR reporter Elizabeth Blair, Heather Noss, NPR producer Liz Baker)
If you heard a recent interview on NPR with a local wedding invitation designer in DC who got her start on Etsy, it was in fact me, “Rose”, aka Heather Noss! Since I have heard from a lot of friends and clients who heard the story and had other questions, I thought I would expand on the story here!
NPR’s Elizabeth Blair came to the Digby & Rose studio in NW DC recently to talk to me about my experience starting the business, from a the perspective of a seller who successfully grew a business through Etsy. The story focused on Etsy’s growth and how it has changed over the years. Although it’s true that the focus of the site and profile of sellers has changed, when I started my own business at the end of 2008, it was a perfect place for a “micro” business to get a start. (At the time calling it a “small” business would have been too generous!)
I read once that every small business entrepreneur has had a moment of insanity, which strangely enough happens to coincide with the very moment they decide to start the business. My moment came when I decided that October 2008 was the perfect economic climate in which to quit my government job as a Foreign Service Officer at the State Department, become a professional artist and inventor, and start my own handcrafted paper business out of my home. The kitchen table became my workspace, and over time every other available space in my apartment became the home of boxes of envelopes, printers, paper cutters, and stacks of paper. Thankfully I had early encouragement, as within 3 weeks of starting the business I had my first sale, a box of 6 handmade thank you cards.
As a generous boss, I gave myself a lot of opportunities to work on all the sections and departments of the business. I was the head of Accounting, Chief Photographer, VP of Customer Service, IT guru, lead consultant for Special Projects, and of course “the one who makes the stuff”. Once I even scored Employee of the Month! For a long time it was on Etsy alone that my sales grew, and at the same time I was able to grow as an artist and a business owner.
At the beginning of 2010 the limit of operational capacity in my apartment was reached, and I was able to move into a first studio space, which is now one of three studio spaces at the current Digby & Rose retail location in NW Washington, DC. The business naturally moved beyond just selling on Etsy, as referrals from previous clients and a local reputation grew. (Also a worldwide reputation, as I’ve now done invitations for clients as far away as Uganda, Switzerland, and Argentina…and we’re really big in Australia!) By now I think we’ve graduated from “micro” to “small” business!
So I now get to work with customers that are at a particularly happy moment in their life, on a very personal item, their wedding invitations. It’s a chance to be creative and indulge a love of letterpress, where every finished order is like a new present. A big thank you goes out to all of my clients who have put their trust in me to make invitations they love. There was a lot of hard work involved with many of the ups and downs you’ll hear from many small businesses, but getting started was really made much more possible by the ability to sell my first items through Etsy. For all it has changed and all of the criticisms mentioned in the NPR piece, for myself I can only say Thanks Etsy for Helping Me Grow a New Life!