It’s the first Dream Job of the new year! I’m thrilled to introduce you to my new friend Jayme Hennel, the owner and creative director of Hennel Paper Co. One of my guiltiest pleasures is to stalk stationery blogs (but I really shouldn’t because I just end up buying stationery I don’t need) so I’m no stranger to Jayme’s work. Her illustrations are so cute and cheeky — I am majorly obsessed. I hadn’t realized Jayme and her husband had relocated to Charlotte, so I was excited to come across her booth at the Vintage Charlotte holiday market at the end of last year. I love to meet makers, and after grabbing lunch with Jayme in December, I asked if I could interview her for this series.
If you love illustrative stationery or dream of working for yourself, this interview is for you. I really love Jayme’s advice for getting unstuck from a creative block. Keep reading for some awesome insight into a one-person creative business. // susannah
1. Jayme, how would you describe Hennel Paper Co.?
Hennel Paper Co. is my brain on paper. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true! So much of what pops into my head or comes out of my mouth ends up as a greeting card in my shop. I create cheery & cheeky handmade paper goods guaranteed to brighten up your day.
2. What were you doing before Hennel Paper Co.? What inspired you to change paths?
Before I started Hennel Paper Co. and even for a while after, I was working as a graphic designer at a university in Detroit, MI. I liked my job, but had this overwhelming feeling of being creatively unfulfilled. I knew that I had more to give and my heart could not rest until I did something about it. So I started HPC with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do. All I knew was that I just needed to start. Eventually, I began making greeting cards and people actually bought them. The more I made, the more that sold. It’s now over three years later and here I am, working for myself full time and trying to navigate a rapidly growing business. It’s so funny, because I didn’t wake up one morning knowing that I just had to make greeting cards, but now I can’t imagine not making them.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
Like many other creative people out there, I suffer from a kind of creative paralysis. Often times, it results of having too many ideas and not being able to decide which direction to go. I get stuck and the longer I’m stuck the harder it is to break free from. (This is a real thing, right? It’s not just me?) Anyways, when this happens normal inspiration sources like Pinterest or Instagram only seem to make it worse. So what I’ve found that actually helps is to just stop. Stop trying to think of ideas. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Just stop. Go outside, go to the mall, watch Netflix, whatever. My best ideas are always inspired by real life. Conversations with my husband, the ridiculous things I say, and real life events never fail me. Also, coffee helps.
Click through to read the rest of the Q&A with Jayme Hennel of Hennel Paper Co.!
4. Describe your workspace.
I work from my home studio in Charlotte, N.C. To meet the growing needs of my business, my studio seems to be in a constant state of flux. I have storage shelves full of envelopes in a rainbow of colors and hilarious greeting cards just waiting to be sent to their new homes. A couple weeks ago my husband helped me set-up some industrial shelving to hold my many printers and that has been so great for production. We’re planning on moving to a larger space this year and I have so many dreams about the cafe lights that will be strung from the ceiling and the spacious work tables that can hold a team of future employees.
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges for Hennel Paper Co.?
I’m really huge on celebrating every success. It’s so important to take the time to recognize the little victories, because owning a small business is hard. There is no magic formula and most things are figured out by making mistakes and trying again.
I’ve had a few recent successes that I’m really proud of. First, getting my product line picked up by a few well-known retailers across the country, has been incredibly amazing. I also won a design competition on Spoonflower a couple months ago for their annual Tea Towel Calendar contest. I am also beyond grateful to say that I just won a large scholarship to attend a conference in Los Angeles next month, called Paper Camp. I’m so excited for this and how much it’s going to help my business.
Some of my biggest challenges beyond accounting and inventory management (bleck) are having confidence in my work and setting boundaries for myself. I am extremely picky and what one might look at and love, I see where I could have made it better. It is a gift and a curse, because I am never truly happy with what I make, but it is always pushing me to do it better next time. As far as boundaries go, I struggle with taking time off to rest and do things besides work. After all, it is just me. If I don’t do it, no one else will. I try to have at least one day a week completely off. I am not always successful with it!
6. What are your dreams for Hennel Paper Co.?
I want to grow HPC to the point where I can hire my husband to run my operations (and secretly so I can be his boss!). I would also like to have a small staff to take over everyday tasks, specifically shipping comes to mind. One day I hope to do larger scale licensing work with manufacturers like Land of Nod and Penguin Books.
7. Who do you look up to?
Every paper goods designer is going to say Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co. She has built an empire from nothing more than paper and paint. It’s pretty amazing. My grandmother is my true role model, though. She was the sweetest, most loving woman and she encouraged me to pursue my dreams. If it were not for her, I don’t know if I would be running my business today.
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
When I’m not making cute cards, I’m still drawing and creating something new. My brain just has this never ending desire to make stuff. Outside of that, I love hiking and taking our pup on adventures. We recently took him to Key West. He went kayaking and got to see dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.
9. What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
There is so much that goes into this type of job. As an entrepreneur, having a business mentor is invaluable. Getting training on the paper industry and what is takes to be successful is also key. Trade Show Bootcamp holds a conference called Paper Camp — this is an excellent resource and also a good place to find a mentor. To build your creative skills, Skillshare is wonderful. And, last but definitely not least, finding a group of friends with similar interests and careers is important beyond measure. Go to local events and conferences, talk to people and build relationships. It is so nice to have people to bounce ideas off of and ask questions to. Finding my group has changed my world.
10. If you weren’t running Hennel Paper Co., what would be your dream job?
It’s hard to imagine not doing this, however, I have some ideas about other things that I would like to do in addition to HPC. I would really love to be a small business coach and help other creative biz owners get started and grow their dreams. I am forever grateful to those people who helped me and think it would be so rewarding to pay it forward. In a completely different direction, I would also really love to start an animal rescue. Animals have always held a special place in my heart and I can’t think of much better than finding them all loving homes.