I first “met” Eleanor about three years ago when I was approaching sponsors for the Made in Germany giveaway hosted here on NOH. I just loved her fabulous shop of wedding and other printables, e.m.papers, and it was great to have her on board during that event.
A fellow U.S. expat who has settled down in Munich, it was really fun to connect about our various paths in life and note the many similarities. Earlier this year, I also had the opportunity to meet Eleanor in person at The Hive blogging conference — and as I expected, she is as gracious and witty as I thought she would be. And she’s also been following a similar career path lately and helping others to break free of their day jobs and do something they love in life. If you are looking to escape, I highly recommend you check out her new course here.
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Eleanor again here in NOH — and perhaps help inspire you to start chasing those dreams! Read more from the Get Inspired interview series.
When did you realize you were destined to do your own thing and become an entrepreneur?
I never really had a crystallized moment where I thought ‘I want to be an entrepreneur!’ Conceptually, I think the urge was always there though. My dad built me a clubhouse when I was a kid and I would pretend it was the headquarters of my own company.
Realizing that, ultimately, I wasn’t a fit in a corporate environment and that I would never experience creative freedom working for someone else or in a situation where I had to have clients encouraged me to ultimately start my own business.
How did you come about starting an online printables business?
It was very, very roundabout. e.m.papers originally started as a wedding invitation business over 10 years ago by me, Eleanor, and my friend Molly. The first initial of our first names were the ‘e’ and ‘m’ in e.m.papers. The business never really got off the ground, mostly because we were young and ambivalent about what we wanted and where our lives would take us. We also couldn’t our heads around the business of printing, distributing and selling stationery.
When I was trying to figure out how to quit my day job , there was no ‘one big thing’ I liked doing; I really enjoy doing graphic design (but I wanted to design what I liked, not what clients wanted), I love working with the internet, I like writing, I’m methodical, structured and organized and interested in business. I also value keeping my own schedule. I enjoy designing but not production so selling designs appealed to me and seemed like a good business model.
Of course, it took several years for all of this to percolate in my unconscious before I got the ‘flash’ for the idea to reanimate e.m.papers as a printable stationery business.
Who are your business idols that you think we can all learn a lot from?
Tina Roth Eisenberg, Rena Tom and Seth Godin
What are your top tips for success?
- Keep going
- Create a plan and stick to it
- Don’t be afraid to ask, even if it scares you
- Collaborate with others
- Get over any fears of self-promotion (still working on this myself!)
We all learn a lot from our failures. What have you learned from failing?
That it is very good to have a back up plan! I’m still learning the ins and outs of running a business. Last year I made a lot of investments early in the year when I was having record sales without understanding cash-flow projections through the rest of the year and found my self scrambling in the second half of the year. I had to suit up and freelance for a few months to get back on solid financial footing. This was always the fall back plan. As much as I didn’t want to do it, I was glad that I could.
You recently started a new project, Steal This Process, that is directed at small creative business owners who have found themselves overwhelmed with tasks and planning required to really get their business off the ground. Can you share one or two crucial points from your course?
Setting realistic goals and creating a plan you can stick to throughout the year are key. It’s easy to get disoriented/distracted but these two things are like having a roadmap. If you stick to it, you’ll get to your destination.
Where do you recommend others start online and in print if they want to start their own business?
Where to start! There are so many great ones.
- Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (37 Signals)
- Anything You Want by Jason Sivers
- Escape From Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim (Escape blog)
- $100 Start-up by Chris Guillebeau
There’s many more, but those are the first that come to mind. I also took Marie Forleo’s RHH B-School. It wasn’t cheap, and her style may not be for everyone, but I found it worth every penny, especially with the lifetime access. I reference it over and over for different aspects of my business.
What is your key to success when it comes to managing your time & not going crazy?
Making every effort to stick to my weekly plan and shutting off the computer at the end of the day and for the weekend.
What might we see you doing in the next 5 years?
I’d like to open a collaboration/co-working space here in Munich.
If you could change one thing in this world to make a difference, what would it be?
Teach kids business, trades and entrepreneurship in school. I think it would be great if the de-facto mindset wasn’t ‘getting a job.’ To be honest, who wants a ‘job’? Nobody! People want livelihoods.
Before we say goodbye, will you share a favorite quote to live by?