Girl You Gotta Know

Girl You Gotta Know: Alexis of Curio Press

Before you hear from Alexis, I just have to tell you the fun story of how we met.

The time - last summer. The place - on a blog post discussion thread from The Small Things Blog. NO JOKE. 

We discovered we were both attending Create + Cultivate in Chicago and we were both going solo. Actually, it was my first time going really anywhere solo!

 Alexis reached out to me via email and suggested we meet up before the welcome party and go together. Seriously, that's the kind of amazing human she is! 

You are going to love her and her beautiful products. Now, on to the interview. 

1. Tell me a little about yourself, what you do and where we can find you.

My name is Alexis Austin and I am the shop owner and main force behind the online stationery paperie, Curio Press. 

I've been both an entrepreneur and designer / crafter since I was little. I think it started when I was 8 and I decided to paint rocks and sell them door-to-door - and people bought them!! My interests have evolved a bit since then and I've followed a not-so-straight path through my education starting with Architecture and ending up in Graphic Communications. During grad school I got this crazy idea to start a stationery business on my own, and voila - Curio Press was born! It was the perfect way for me to bring my designs into others' lives while still pursuing a career that brought me joy.

Curio Press offers beautiful and unique, personalized stationery sets, notepads, mugs and pencils that make great gifts or a special treat for yourself. All the design, printing, cutting packaging, etc, is done in my studio. The business has grown over the past 3 years, but it is still just myself and my husband—he does the packaging and shipping and I would be lost without him!

Since launching Curio Press in early 2013, both the business and my family have seen a lot of changes. We moved several times and have added a very active little girl to the mix. We currently live in Saint Louis, Missouri and are absolutely loving it. 

Our main selling platform has always been Etsy but about 8 months ago we also joined Handmade at Amazon – which has been a much needed new sales channel. Our standalone website will also be ready very soon - I am doing that myself as well and there just aren’t enough hours in the day!

2. How did you know you wanted to pursue a creative career, and specifically paper products?

There is no simple answer to this. I had wanted to be an Architect since I was 9 years old and I took a very straight path to becoming one - right up until my 3rd year of undergrad when I realized that the design and printing portion of my building projects was the part I was most passionate about. So, I started a Graphic Communications minor and ended up in Grad school for printing. I knew I wanted to work in the graphic design and printing industry, but really had no idea where I wanted to end up. All I had ever wanted was to become an Architect and this huge shift threw all my life plans and aspirations out the window. 

My online business actually started during a very rough time in my life. During grad school, I was suffering from chronic, crippling pain that the doctors couldn’t figure out. It was preventing me from doing my school work so I took a quarter off from school. During that time, we didn’t have the income from my campus job (and I got stir crazy being at home) and so I decided to start a home business. I knew I needed something I could do at my own pace – sitting or laying down whenever I needed to – and that it would have to be from home. Suddenly, Etsy was on my radar and I just jumped in.

I’m the kind of person who, when I get an idea that I am obsessed with, I dive right into the deep end and figure out how to swim later. Curio Press wasn’t my first Etsy shop. I started a furniture shop about a year prior to Curio Press that sold reupholstered chairs. It was going great, but was just too much work for each piece and was a very physical job, so I decided to close it.

About the same time, I was diagnosed with very severe Endometriosis, which had spread to my intestines and bladder. After 2 surgeries I was feeling significantly better, was able to resume classes, and got a job in a local print shop. About a month later I decided to take all my printing and design skills and launch a stationery shop. I mean, paper and design were what I was passionate about- why didn’t I think of that sooner?!


3. Our lives are all on the internet these days and many girls without previous interest or desire to design are getting the itch to do so. What are your tips for aspiring DIY designers? 

The climate of Etsy and online selling has changed a lot in the past couple years. When I started doing stationery, there were only a handful of designers on Etsy doing the same thing. Now there seems to be a new shop opening every day. My best advice is to know your market and target it - and these days niche is a good thing. I’d also recommend not selling yourself short. I did that a lot when I started- I would charge way too little for way too much of my time and resources and it almost burned me out.


4. Tell me about your morning routine. Is there anything you make sure to do every day to have the best start?

Coffee - then more coffee!! I have a bit of a problem!

My husband and I are both fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with our daughter, Emma and we evenly split the childcare each day. He takes her in the morning until nap, then I take her till bedtime. So my mornings are dedicated to working on the business, whether that is doing the actual production run or just sending emails and working on development. I really do start with coffee, then I always sit down and write out all my goals for the day - split into work for the morning and life for the evening. I try to be realistic about what I can do too - one of my biggest weaknesses in the past has always been expecting way more of myself and my limited time than is reasonable. It sets the tone for the day and if I am able to accomplish everything then I can take a break that night before bed.


5.  What are some ways you practice wellness in your busy routine? 

As I mentioned, my husband and I split our childcare, so I have Emma in the afternoons. I used to spend that whole time feeling bad about all the work for the shop that I could be doing rather than really appreciating the time I had with her. But I noticed it was happening and about 8 months ago I made a mental shift - now when I am with Emma, I all all there. No work. And that has trickled into the rest of my life too. There is a distinct separation between work and life time that is really hard to achieve when your work is at home with you 24/7. 

As for physical wellness, I still had a lot of baby weight to lose when we move to Missouri, so I hired a personal trainer to keep me on track. I’ve also set aside time for cooking each day and have started on a low carb diet, which has done wonders for my residual heath issues. We eat mostly organic and only home cooked meals now!


6. You've lived so many places! What is your favorite city? 

It’s true! I have lived in 7 states - Wisconsin, New Mexico, California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and now Missouri. Each one represents a different chapter of my life. I have a couple favorites, but I think they may hold a different experience for me now. I loved the small coastal town of San Luis Obispo, CA, but that was my college self who loved the beaches and the nightlife. Albuquerque is a close second - the dry heat and gorgeous sunsets on the mountain while lounging in the pool make that my mental happy place when I need one. And now Missouri has turned out to be an amazing place to have a kid. There are way more family oriented (and free!!) things to do with kids here thanin any of the places I have lived before. So right now, Saint Louis is pretty great, but in 5 years who knows!?

7. What's an adventure you'd love to take?

Our dream is to go to France with our daughter. I’ve traveled to France and throughout Europe, but my husband has only been to Mexico. We have friends in France we would love to spend time with and just become fully immersed in the culture. I’ve actually asked them if they thought my business would survive there (as if I could get my printer across the Atlantic!) and they said no, that they didn’t think stationery was so popular there. But who knows! A great thing about working for yourself is that it is ever evolving and you are very mobile. I have no idea what will come next and so that is an adventure in itself. 

8. What makes you feel super healthy?

Being low carb!! I think it is a bit controversial as a diet, but I have never felt better in my life than I have in the past 2 month since starting low carb. It has forced me to eat very clean and cut out all the processed junk I had been eating. I used to always gave myself a pass - blaming the business and being too busy -  even though I knew it was unhealthy. And better still, my whole family is benefitting from my life change because they are getting healthy home cooked meals everyday.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received?

I have no idea where I heard it or if I made it up, but the thing I think to myself constantly is “You’ll never be ready. Do it anyway.” There have been so many times where I told myself I wasn’t ready, or if I just do this one thing, then I will be ready to move forward.  And I would just put off whatever it was that I was afraid of. Having a baby is one of those things - I definitely didn’t feel ready, but she is here and I can’t fathom my life without her. Same goes for launching my line of pencils or making friends in the new places we have lived. The conditions don’t have to be perfect, just put yourself out there and do it! You will thank yourself later.

You can find Alexis & Curio Press on Etsy and on Instagram

 

Girl You Gotta Know: Katelyn of Ryn's Roost

1. Tell me a little about yourself, what you do and where we can find you.

I'm always either just settling into one town or moving to a new one. My husband and I move often and are in the process of moving again; we have no idea where our next adventure awaits. I'm currently a full time mom taking care of my baby girl, easily the best job I've ever had. You can typically find me breast feeding in a comfortable spot on my couch, writing my next blog post, or outside strolling my daughter. Life has a funny way of always keeping me on my toes, and had you asked me this same question a year ago, I would have had a very different answer--before Ryn, I was a hairstylist and makeup artist working in a fast-paced salon. Obviously a lot can change in a year! My mom and I started Ryn's Roost, named after my daughter Ryn, as way of sharing our passion. She's an Esthetician and makeup artist. She's also really knowledgeable in health and wellness. I also started a youtube channel to share ways to cut and color your hair at home and apply makeup. {Laura's note - also be sure to check out her Instagram!}

2. You quit a job working in a toxic environment when you found out you were pregnant. Can you tell us more about that experience? The environment, the motivation and finally how you came to this difficult choice. If you had to make the decision again, would you? 

I loved my job, the energy, my clients, being creative, and the thrill of not knowing what I would be doing next. Keratin straightening was probably my biggest motivating factor to leave. It made me feel physically ill. My chest would burn; I would feel faint and nauseated. I refused to give keratin treatments to my clients, but my coworkers performed them often, and as soon as the process began, the entire salon would fill with smoke and I would start reacting. It's not like I was the only one, either. Clients would cough and complain of the smell, and I've actually witnessed a woman pass out while having it done. She had no health issues and refuses to get one again. Keratin straightening (Brazilian blowouts) should be banned. It's a horrible chemical with a scary level of formaldehyde and other toxic ingredients and carcinogens, but people seem to dismiss this for their vanity. 

I knew that type of workplace wasn't healthy, but there weren't any salons in my area that used safer products. When I found out I was pregnant, I decided I couldn't let an innocent, unborn child develop in this toxic environment -- I immediately called my manager and told her to cancel my clients and that I wouldn't be returning. It wasn't an easy decision for me, but I don't regret my choice and would 100% do it the same way, except maybe stop working sooner. The more I read the more I know I made the right decision. 

3. What are the worst hair care mistakes you see women make?

Getting a cut and color based off of a picture or what they see on someone else. You have to take your face shape and coloring, hair texture the amount of time you're willing to spend on your hair everyday into consideration. Unfortunately not every cut, color or style looks good on everyone. A good stylist should always help guide their client

 

4. Tell me about your morning routine. Is there anything you make sure to do everything to have the best start?

I start my morning with a warm cup of lemon ginger water. It's refreshing and it makes me feel good. I typically follow that with a big bowl of oatmeal. There is nothing worse than eating a meal for breakfast that makes you feel terrible the rest of the day. That used to be me: French toast, pancakes, or a sugary latte, and I didn't understand why I was so lethargic and crummy feeling. 

5.  What are some ways you practice wellness in your busy routine? 

I practice wellness through the way that I eat. I'm not on any diet, and I don't restrict myself. I eat everything: fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, but I try to make healthy decisions for the majority of my meals. Whenever I make a less healthy choice, I don't beat myself up. I let myself enjoy it. I'm also lucky to have a husband who loves to cook, he spoils me with delicious meals.

I'm also trying to practice meditation by calming my mind and enjoying the quiet moments. I'm an over-thinker, so this has been difficult for me. I started meditating while I was pregnant, and I got through labor without an epidural by meditating and listening to calming music, so I guess it's working for me.

6. What's an adventure you'd love to take?

I've always wanted to go on a safari in Africa. I love animals, and I'd love to watch them in their natural habitat. 

7. What makes you feel super healthy?

I feel super healthy when I eat well. This doesn't mean juicing everyday (although that does make me feel great), but I'm talking about a healthy balanced diet. I also drink a LOT of water. Especially now that I'm nursing, but I've always loved water. It sounds strange but that's what we grew up drinking, so I hope to instill that in my daughter as well. 

8. What's the best advice you've ever received?

I actually just started reading a book called Mindful Motherhood, and it's given me a whole new perspective on being mindful. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment without additional stories or emotions running through your head, having fewer judgments or anxiety-provoking thoughts, and controlling your outlook on any given situation. Really being present in every moment is harder than it seems, and it's something I'm working on.

9. Is there any advice you can give another woman who may be struggling with the decision to leave a toxic environment in order to save her health?

I would tell her that no amount of money in the world can bring back your health. Spending your day in a toxic work environment isn't worth the possible risk of anything happening to you. We all have a voice and purchasing power, and we can use our voices to enact change. I hope to one day see unnecessary toxic chemicals banned. 

I would also tell her that you don't have to live in a non-glam world to eliminate harmful ingredients! There are so many great alternatives to more commonly used products. That's why I started a blog, to show everyone that you can be mindful of your health without giving up high-performing luxury beauty products. 

Girl You Gotta Know - Carol of Calypte

I'm so excited to kick off my new series, Girl You Gotta Know! Each month, I hope to introduce you to a new girl who is making waves, being awesome and that I want you to get to know better. 

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Our first Girl You Gotta Know is Carol Thompson of Calypte Collection. Although born and raised in a concrete jungle, Carol Thompson has always had a deep connection with nature. After moving to the redwood curtain for her degree she became a wildlife biologist and now resides in southern California. By day she is happily immersed in the beautiful colors of nature, from the gorgeous hues of blooming flowers to the iridescent colors of hummingbird feathers. Carol’s designs are inspired by nature’s vibrant mix of colors and raw organic shapes. Today, she is dishing on Calytpe Collection, a healthy lifestyle and how she juggles a full time job with her jewelry design business. 

Name: Carol Thompson

Age: 34

Profession: Wildlife Biologist/ Creative Visionary Owner/Designer of Calypte Collection Jewelry. 

Q. If you could recommend one thing that anyone could do in the morning to start the day right, what would it be? 

A. That would be to eat a green smoothie for breakfast. We often don’t get as much greens, i.e. nutrition, into our diets as we think we do, I have seen personal improvement in my health since I started including green smoothies into my morning routine. Now I feel off when I start my morning without one!!

Q. What healthy snacks might we find on your desk or in your handbag? 

A. I typically have a handful of almonds, carrots and sliced apples with me everywhere I go. I don’t like to let my blood sugar get too low, so carrying snacks is the best way to keep things level!

Q. Tell us about your jewelry brand Calypte Collection, What does Calypte mean and how is it significant to your brand?

A. Calypte (Ka-lip-tay) is the scientific name of my favorite bird species, the vibrant, energetic hummingbird. Hummingbirds are filled with life, are incredibly gorgeous with all their colors and at the same time are graceful little birds. To me, they represent the feelings of renewed energy; beauty and calm felt when I’m out in nature. 

Q. Tell us about your three core values of your company and why they are important to you.

A. The three core values of Calypte are to: 

1. Always look for the beauty in life because it is all around. 

2. Remember that you are uniquely beautiful and full of life.

3. Embrace the peace, calm and serenity experienced when out in nature.  

These values are important to me because we all need to see ourselves in high regard and remember that we are part of a whole, connected not only to other people but also to the natural world around us. Nature brings so much peace comfort and joy to people and I believe it is important that everyone feels that connection. 

Q. Where do you find your jewelry design inspiration and what is your design process?

A. When I'm out doing fieldwork as a wildlife biologist I find a lot of inspiration from what is around me. I look at the vibrant colors from the birds, plants, butterfly’s and more. There are so many beautiful colors in perfect combinations; my designs embrace nature’s creative way of expressing beauty and charm. When you wear Calypte pieces I want to take you that place of vibrant life, energy and peaceful serenity felt when exploring nature. 

Q. If you weren’t a wildlife biologist, what would you be? 

A. That is a hard one because I have so many interests! I love yoga, photography, health, wellness and nutrition, cooking…I think I love being a biologist and jewelry designer/owner so in a perfect world I would have more time to do all of the things that I enjoy. 

Q. What are some new pieces you are working on and what are your plans for the coming future?

A. I’m working on a spring collection right now and you’re going to see a few new wrap bracelet designs, beaded bracelets and a move towards more sterling silver pieces to add to the collection as a whole. 

Q. Having a full-time job and your own business must be hard at times, how do you stay positive and motivated? 

A. Balancing my time for both is definitely difficult however, I have a quote hanging on my wall that reads “If you cant stop thinking about it, don't stop working towards it.” I love being a biologist and designing with nature as my inspiration and because I find so much satisfaction in both I know I have to keep going and share my passion with everyone. I also believe in supporting women in science and spreading the word is a great way to stay motivated. 

  Finish the sentence, Be the woman… that you know you can be and stay close to what keeps you feeling alive! 

You can follow Carol and her Calypte Collection on Instagram @CalypteCollection and visit her shop at CalypteCollection.com.