Name: Rebecca Fletcher
Location: Columbus, OH, USA
Business Name: Rebecca Fletcher Designs
WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS?
I’m a kindergarten teacher by day and a business owner and calligrapher by night! I have designed a range of products from wedding stationery to downloadable home decor to sassy t-shirts. I would love the opportunity to design something for you!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
I never set out to create a business- I kind of stumbled upon it! I began hand lettering as a way to relax after long days of teaching kindergarten and, when I began posting my very humble creations to my personal social media pages, my friends and family began encouraging me to sell what I was making.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR INDUSTRY OR NICHE?
I have always loved beautiful writing. I have always had nice handwriting myself, and I actually used to practice signing my name over and over again (in case I ever got famous and needed to sign a bunch of autographs, ya know?). When I was searching for a hobby, I knew it needed to be something that I could build up from something that I already enjoyed. I went to the craft store one day and saw an inexpensive pen and nib set and purchased it, and that was the beginning of my journey!
DO YOU DO THIS FULL TIME? IF YES, WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE THIS? IF NO, WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?
I teach kindergarten during the day and run my business in the evenings.
DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE? IF SO, WHAT DID YOU STUDY?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy. They don’t apply to my business, but I do use the knowledge and skills daily in my classroom!
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR? WHY OR WHY NOT?
I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit within me, even if I didn’t always know how to harness it and make it work for me. When I was younger, I would make my sister help me pick flowers off of my grandma’s tree, and then we would go door-to-door and try and sell them to the neighbors. When I was in high school, I crocheted modest hats and bags and tried to sell them. In college, I made bracelets with glass beads and offered them for sale on my Facebook page. I have always loved the idea of making money from things I have collected or made, so I’m very excited to finally be embracing it!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED SINCE STARTING YOUR BUSINESS?
One of the biggest and hardest lessons I learned came from my first wedding stationery order. A bride purchased a custom listing from my shop and then asked for a save-the-date. I was thrilled with the order and didn’t think to set terms or expectations (such as, you’ll get an original draft and then two sets of revisions; additional revisions will incur an additional charge; this file type is what’s provided and different file types will be an additional charge; etc.). We went back and forth for weeks, changing the layout and the text and the fonts until finally, I had finished the order.
A few weeks later, she contacted me again and told me that her printer was requiring a different file type with certain color specifications and bleeds (neither of which I knew anything about at the time), so I spent several days going back and forth with her and her print shop before finally being truly done with the project… and, for all of this work, I made $12 total (minus Etsy fees and taxes).
I don’t place any blame on the bride; I simply had no idea what I was doing and did not have policies or contracts in place for this kind of thing. I was stressed for weeks about it when it all could have been avoided by taking a day or two to do some research and set some policies in place. (By the way, I worked with this same bride to design her wedding invitations a few months later, and it was a breeze because I had learned so much from working with her before. I loved designing her invitations and they came out beautifully!)
Other lessons I have learned include taking breaks often, not allowing myself to be burned out, and keeping track of my taxes throughout the year instead of waiting until tax time!
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
I suppose that I never realized how much goes on behind the scenes. I am not just a calligrapher- I am also in charge of marketing, bookkeeping, inventory management, social media, email, and so much more! I set out just intending to sell my creations, but there’s so much more that is required to run a business.
WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS?
GO FOR IT! You have the knowledge, you have the passion, you have the dream, so do it! If you can’t go all in all at once (hey, I totally get it!), do one thing every day to get yourself closer to your goal. Talk with someone who is in the field you want to break into. Make a vision board and plan out your dream year Invest in your own website domain. Talk to friends to gauge their interest in your product or service. If you wait until you feel ready, you’ll never do it.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH SETBACKS AND IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
I have only been in business for a short while, but I have definitely had my share of setbacks! Most have been my own fault- lack of advanced planning, biting off more than I can chew, careless mistakes, and the like. I always try to self-reflect on what’s happening and asking how I can improve it. Do I need to step away? Do I need to cancel plans and hunker down and get it done? Do I need to start all over again? Pinpointing the issue is really key for me to move on.
As far as imposter syndrome goes… I’m the poster child! I’m a kindergarten teacher, not a business person. I genuinely have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I’m wingin’ it, living on a prayer, and hoping for the best. I do take online classes through Skillshare to improve my craft, but it’s very intimidating to see others who have been doing what I do for FAR less time and are FAR more talented than I am. I try hard not to compare myself to others and remind myself that, just like others have skills that I don’t have, I have skills that they don’t have.
There was one particular situation that was debilitating in terms of imposter syndrome; it was related to the bride/save the date situation I mentioned above and made me walk around with my tail between my legs for weeks.
I was so frustrated when the bride reached out to me, weeks after receiving her save-the-date file, and asked for different file types with these specifications that I had no idea how to fulfill. I vented on a private Facebook group meant for other hand letterers. I said that I didn’t know how to do it, I was being paid pennies per hour, I just wanted to be done, etc. Most of the comments were helpful (telling me to charge more, to finish this project but not take on more until I had contracts in place, empathizing and telling me how they dealt with similar situations) but several were unhelpful and flat-out mean spirited. One person told me, “If you don’t know how to do the simplest things like bleeds, you definitely have no business designing wedding stationery.” Another said, “You charging $12 for all of this work is cheapening the field for the rest of us who actually know what we’re doing.”
I was absolutely devastated. I quickly figured out how to finish the project on my own and sent off the final files, but I was defeated and discouraged. I thought, “They’re right. I have no business doing any of this. I literally have NO idea what I’m doing. They deserve business and I don’t.” I walked around in a daze for weeks, not picking up my paint pens or iPad or even doodling.
It took a lot of time, along with a lot of encouragement from my family and friends (and especially my husband) to get back to normal. Looking back, I realize that what they said wasn’t necessarily wrong; however, I am definitely much more careful with who I vent to and I try to be as gentle encouraging as possible to others who are frustrated with how a project is going.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT BEING A CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR AND DOING WHAT YOU DO?
One of my favorite things is seeing people react to my calligraphy; especially people who know me from school or church and don’t necessarily know about this “hidden” talent. The first time people see something I have scripted or hear that I designed and lettered the shirt they asked about, they’re always so surprised! I love being able to show people a side of me that most never suspect.
IF YOU WEREN’T A CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I love teaching full-time, but I think that I would have made my way to hand lettering even if I weren’t selling my designs. It’s just a perfect fit for me. I would also love to be a Disney travel agent! I am always planning trips to Disney World and Disneyland (even though 90% of them never actually happen).
WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?
To me, success means looking at everything I have created, from each little printable I have designed to the business as a whole, and being proud of it. It means being able to do what I love to do (and getting paid for it- that’s still crazy to me!).
WHAT IS YOUR WHY?
I genuinely enjoy making the things that I sell and can honestly say that I would be doing it (honing my skills and learning new ones) even if I weren’t selling my items. I love teaching people about hand lettering and things like faux calligraphy (a calligraphy style using markers, crayons, or whatever else you have on hand), and my heart bursts when I see people loving the things that I have created!
IMAGINE IT’S A YEAR FROM NOW AND YOU’RE CELEBRATING WHAT A GREAT YEAR IT WAS FOR YOUR BUSINESS. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ACHIEVED?
Let’s see- I’m closing my eyes and dreaming big! I have far exceeded my goal of 500 sales in my Etsy shop. People are sharing my images on their social media and sending others back to my accounts and shop. I’ve done amazing brand collaborations with companies that are household names (I’m lookin’ at you, Joanna Gaines!). My hand lettering is on products in retail stores nationwide- mugs, candles, pillows, hoodies, framed art, etc. and I have new inquiries in my inbox daily. This dreaming stuff sure is fun!
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL/WHO DO YOU LOOK TO FOR INSPIRATION AND WHY?
I could write about this for hours! Some of my favorites are Stefan Kunz, Elizabeth Gray (The Grayter Good), and Tara from Rad and Happy. I have followed them on Instagram for a long time and have watched their styles and businesses evolve over time, and it’s so exciting to see them doing new things and learning new skills.
WHO HAVE BEEN THREE OF THE BIGGEST SUPPORTERS ON YOUR BUSINESS JOURNEY?
I honestly can’t just pick three people! I can definitively say that my husband is my #1 supporter. He doesn’t always understand why I do what I do (“Why do you have to make all of those shirts tonight?! Just go to sleep!”) but never pressures me or tries to dissuade me when I have my heart set on something. When I get overwhelmed with work, he helps me prioritize and makes sure that I eat. He is also amazing at taking care of household things so that I don’t have to worry about them: he’ll vacuum, wash the dishes, feed and water the cats, make the bed, and do all the other little things so that I can focus on my work. He’s awesome! ‘
My friends and family are amazing at sharing my items on social media and driving traffic back to my page. My mom and sister are constantly sharing my Facebook posts! I have multiple aunts and cousins who have purchased things from my shop and shared my creations and promotions with their friends. Several of my work friends are my best shirt customers!
You often hear that it takes a village to raise a child, and I think that it also takes a village to build up a successful business. I’m happy to say that I’ve got one of the best villages out there!
WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?
This question is funny because, if you know any teachers, you know that we don’t have a lot of free time! I spend my days teaching kindergarten and most evenings working on my business. When I have a day off (scheduled or otherwise), I try to steer clear of both of those things and have fun! I love going to dinner and a movie with my husband on the weekends. I also enjoy meeting friends at the local outdoor mall for lunch or coffee. I am a textbook introvert, though, so my favorite thing to do is stay home, order a pizza, and snuggle up with my husband and cats while watching a movie or bingeing on Gilmore Girls or Glee. I’m also an avid reader and try to flip back and forth between nonfiction/teaching/business books and fiction to keep it fresh.
WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS AN INTROVERT OR AN EXTROVERT? HOW DO YOU THINK THAT IMPACTS YOUR BUSINESS?
Definitely an introvert! It makes running a business interesting, to say the least. There are many things I would love to do that I just haven’t worked up the courage for yet, like approaching the owner of a local shop that I think my products would do really well in. I know that in-person is better than email, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet out of fear and intimidation. I also hesitate to do craft shows, even though I know that my items would do well because I am comically bad at small talk! In fact, here’s a real-life example of my small talk abilities:
Me: Hi, how are you?
Them: Great, how are you?
Me: I’m doing really well, how are you?
Them: Umm, great. Hey, I have the same shirt as you!
Me: Thanks, me too!
See? Not so great. 😉
Being introverted has served me well in other areas, though! I am easily able to hunker down and get work done because I love being alone. My thoughts also translate well into writing (I actually was an English major when I started college) and I do really well with email and text conversations! My affinity for reading has allowed me to learn a lot about running a business in a short time. I’m also very open about my introversion, and my family and friends are really good at respecting my space when I’m “introverting.”
WHEN DO YOU FEEL THE MOST PRODUCTIVE? ARE YOU AN EARLY BIRD OR A NIGHT OWL?
I definitely feel more productive in the mornings! Unfortunately, it’s really tough between the months of August and May because of school… but when summer rolls around, I am definitely much more active in the mornings! I love waking up, making the bed, pouring a cup of coffee, and sitting down at my laptop to get to work.
DO YOU HAVE TIPS FOR STAYING PRODUCTIVE WHILE WORKING FROM HOME?
I love making lists and breaking them down! My personal planner is broken up into 3 sections: school, home, and shop. I try to check off each section before moving on to the next. “Chunking” is really helpful for being productive during the long summer days: mornings are for creating, early afternoons are for running errands, early evenings are for updating Etsy listings and responding to emails.
WHAT IS A BUSINESS TOOL YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT?
Pad! It makes digitizing my work so easy, and I love that I can just pop it into my purse and bring it with me wherever I go.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE OR AFFIRMATION?
“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PODCAST?
I love the Goal Digger podcast with Jenna Kutcher, the Influencer podcast with Julie Solomon, and the Rad and Happy podcast. A non-business podcast I love is Awesome Etiquette!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS OR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT BOOK?
Move Your Bus by Ron Clark has been one of my favorite personal development books for years! I read it with the mindset of a teacher, but it applies to run a business, as well. Anyone who works with or around other people should read it!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BLOG?
I love Jenna Kutcher’s blog! She shares a little business, a little personal, a little mac and cheese- my kind of things!