We hear plenty about brand overhauls... calculated decisions to make our brand better, stand out and reflect things we weren't highlighting right before. But often we aren't overhauling our soul or voice. But when you have a baby they can kind of change everything... including how you're projecting your business.
#ahasmember Melissa of Print Therapy shares how the arrival of her son (who we were all expecting as she documented her pregnancy and calling him "Baby PT" before his birth) focused and changed what the heart of her business is. Guys... it seems corny and cliche, but I think when we respond to the "real things" that touch our lives it only opens up our creativity and makes us better at connecting with people in our businesses.
Thanks for sharing Melissa! Have you ever gone through a complete shift in how connected with people in your business? Let us know in the comments!
Q: Tell us about yourself and what you make!
A: Hi! My name is Melissa Wert and my husband Nick and I run a heartfelt stationery company called Print Therapy. Our focus is on creating stationery that helps people find the words to express their emotions in both the celebratory moments of life, and the challenging moments too.
Q: You recently had a baby (known as Baby PT to your followers). Tell us a little bit about what your business looked like before Baby PT arrived.
A: Before Baby PT arrived and cemented his status as our new boss, we were a stationery company like many others. We made cards for holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. We had a few thank you cards, and many every day cards, but they all sort of … and I can say this because I designed them, teetered towards the generic side. Some of our cards were very pretty, some of them witty, some of them serious. I was definitely still finding our voice as a company and our style as a brand. We also did a lot of custom wedding work and a few branding projects here and there for other small businesses. As we both had (and still do have!) full-time jobs, Print Therapy was what consumed most of our nights and weekends, and it felt really, really good to be growing a business together.
Q: Was this always how your business looked and how did you imagine its future?
A: Print Therapy got its start with a heavy emphasis on custom wedding invitations, and from there we moved pretty quickly into greeting cards and other pieces of stationery. Although I love custom work, I found a real joy in designing something that could be reproduced over and over again, and I learned that I really loved designing to my own specifications instead of to a client’s. I know fellow stationers and designers are probably laughing with a big “duh”, but that was a revelation to me. I felt so honored that a couple allowed me to be a part of their day that it took some time to move past that and to see the value in creating products that multiple people could use and find purpose in.
Once we started down the stationery road, I really struggled to imagine what we would look like in the future. I knew that eventually we wanted it to be a full time, pay the mortgage, send us on a vacation now and again, family business. But I wasn’t sure how we were going to get there, and I really had trouble pinpointing our “Why”.
I didn’t think--scratch that--I KNEW that our current brand voice was not strong enough to launch us to that level. When I looked at all of the really well known, small biz stationery power players (you know who I’m talking about!), I didn’t see myself in them, and I didn’t see my business in their businesses.
I couldn’t see myself following their path to success. It took some time, but after countless hours of trying to plan something I really couldn’t plan, I eventually became comfortable with the knowledge that somehow this was going to work out, even if I didn’t really know how. And by eventually -– I mean it took a long time and a lot of frustration of feeling like I didn’t know how to get to where I wanted to be, and learning to let it go. That feeling of keeping that faith that we’ll get there is still a strong motivator for us today, and I hope that it always is.
Q: Fast forward to Baby PT's arrival-- how did his presence and your new role as a mom change how you viewed your business?
A: People always say that having a baby changes everything, and I don’t think anyone who’s expecting a baby expects to have a baby and then for life to go back to normal. But looking back, I sort of did. I expected, of course, to have less time to commit to our business. And I expected to be inspired by his arrival to create some new products around babies -– products for baby showers, happy new parents, overjoyed new grandparents. But other than that I expected things to stay relatively the same. I thought we’d slow down custom work for a while, but then pick it back up. I thought we’d keep our general aesthetic and product types, and just keep developing new product.
But once Baby PT arrived and I became a mom, everything changed. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I changed as a woman, we changed as a married couple, and I completely changed as a business owner. I didn’t expect to feel the overwhelming need to take Print Therapy full time, so that I could control how I provided for our family. I also didn’t expect his arrival to totally change the focus of our business, and more importantly, our purpose. But he changed that, too. His arrival helped me to focus less on what we make, and more on what we hope to give people, which is that connection to one another, that level of understanding. He really made me question how we’re doing that, and how we can do it better.
Q: Why do you think Baby PT's arrival had such a profound impact on this?
A: When Baby PT arrived, he turned our world upside down for a bit. He was early, and I’ll be honest -– we weren’t totally ready. There’s nothing like packing your hospital bag and walking through the construction zone that is the nursery at 3:00am on a Sunday morning after you go into labor. Because he was early, he had some health issues, and we were separated shortly after his birth. We didn’t get to hold him. I didn’t get to even lay my eyes on him for almost three days after he was born. We didn’t get to immediately start life as a family like I had always imagined we would. And once we got home, postpartum depression hit pretty intensely. I know that’s all sort of dark and deep, but it was real life for me. It was real life for us as a family. And it’s real life for a heck of a lot of people.
Once I started to recover from that and the postpartum fog slowly lifted, it became crystal clear to me that so many people who wanted to comfort me or tell me that it would get better simply didn’t have the words for me. There is no card to give someone when they are experiencing what should be a joyous occasion, but they are left feeling so many other, often heart wrenching things. I would have given anything to pull a card like that out of the pile, given to me by a loved one, at 2:00am on those nights the baby wouldn’t stop crying and I was questioning what we had done. But I couldn’t, because it didn’t exist. And it was in those deep, dark, real, raw moments that I knew exactly what Print Therapy was meant to become.
We have always focused on stationery that celebrates love. But Baby PT’s arrival helped us to see the power of love in life’s darker moments too. It’s just as necessary to find love and support in those hard moments as it is in life’s celebrations. Our mission is to give people the words to say to a loved one in both the joyous events and the challenging events that often change a person. Baby PT really helped us to find that calling.
Q: Why did this change feel right to make?
A: Any change to your business can be daunting, but I honestly feel there is no other direction for Print Therapy to take than this one. I don’t want to be another stationery company who makes birthday cards and witty anniversary cards. There are so many companies and designers who are absolutely brilliant at those genres. I feel it deep in my gut, in my soul, in my heart that giving people the words to connect to their loved ones and help them get through these tough times in life, and giving them the words to authentically celebrate the joyous times in life, is what I am meant to do. And, if I can’t be in business to do that, then I don’t want to be in business.
Q: What changes do you see, if any, as he gets older?
A: As Baby PT gets older, I’m hopeful that we’ll get more sleep! That’s always good for the creative brain, am I right?! I think children are really, really skilled at showing you who you really are, if you’re willing to slow down and listen. My guess is that he’ll keep tuning us into us emotions and life events that we should be highlighting in our product line. He’s already set the bar pretty high in his first few weeks of life!
Q: Where can people find you?
A: You can find us online at www.print-therapy.com. While you’re there, I’d love it if you’d join our PT Family and sign up for our newsletter. To share that love, we’ll send you PT’s 15 Ways to Dress UpYour Love Letters resource list. You can also find us on: