When I first started out my coaching biz, I was stunned with the crazy statistic that "8 out of 10 business fail within the first 18 months"(source). Wanting to be the exception, I began to ask: "What are the characteristics of successful business owners? What did they do in the beginning that paved their journey towards success? How did they live out their mission despite risking failure? So, I started a blog series called "Conversations with Creatives," where I get to chat with people making the leap from freelance to full-time and living their own definition of success. Today, I'm excited to share a Q&A with the fabulously kind and oh-so-chic Cathy Fransisca of Paper Provision.
Q: Hi Cathy! Tell us a little about yourself.
A: Hi Shi, sure! I’m currently going into my second year as an expat here in Beijing where my husband works as a creative art director at a mobile games company. I used to live in Melbourne as a graphic designer and I always wanted to be my own boss. So, when a friend offered a partnership opportunity before I moved to China, I thought the timing couldn’t been better! I am now dedicating my time developing and growing Paper Provision while using my hubby as a guinea pig for my cooking in between :)
A: “To make desirable products that inspire people and put a bounce in their step by injecting a little bit of fun, humour and a taste of fabulousity. "
To be honest, I’m such a sucker for pretty things and I figured so does every other woman! I think women are very generally emotively tactile creatures who are easily affected by touch and feel. We don’t feel ecstatic when receiving a birthday e-card, but we get giggly when we receive a gorgeous paper invitation in our mailbox! Paper triggers a certain sense of emotive quality that electronic cards are sorely lacking in warmth and emotional connection, which essentially a very human aspect. At the end of the day we love being able to touch things and feel it in our fingers. Especially pretty little things....
A: The designs of Paper Provision are inspired by the contemporary trends in design and fashion industry, passing trends and the influence of pop culture, which is very progressive and malleable and go through rapid changes. So you will probably recognize this characteristic throughout all our designs. But what’s exciting, is that we’re now starting up a ”HOMME" or "FOR HIM" collection. A collection catered for men exclusively and reflects masculinity which is remiss from a lot paper and stationery companies.
These days, a lot of women have taken up on themselves, buying for their man or "LOVE OF THEIR LIFE", and our trendy stationery allows them to create an extension of themselves to give insight of their preferences upon their family and loved ones. It reflects their personality, their creative decisions and in turn gives their other half an opportunity to understand their ladies and experience the fun and sexy gesture. Any men would appreciate a bit of fluff. To top it off, I have always love masculine lines and style so it also becomes a creative indulgence for me.
Q: What was it like to go from a freelance graphic designer to starting your own company?
A: It’s liberating, empowering but definitely has its perks and challenges. I love the idea of still designing for people yet having the complete creative decisions without having to defend them to anyone. Having the audience judge for themselves whether I should change something and make it work, is to me more motivating than if a superior/client asked me to (I could be a rebel sometimes!). I do have some really good friends I trust and go to for advice from time to time, kinda like mentors who are professionals and more experienced — which makes running my own company so awesome because then it's like a platform to explore my potential and limit, but in my own terms.
Running my own biz also forces me to wear many hats and pushes me outside my comfort zone to learn more, know more, do more and ultimately do whatever it takes to make the business successful — like saying more ‘yes’ to networking events where I know no-one (I’m an introvert-extrovert!), initiating collaborations with other small businesses, or pitching ballsy ideas to competitors etc.
And despite the perks of having control in alot of things (like starting work/going on small vacations whenever I feel like), running your own biz also comes with inevitable tons of mistakes that could teach you hard lessons about the do’s and don’ts in a business (from lean principles of work to how not get yourself in trouble with the law), learning people’s character and motive, or answer sensitive business questions without being offensive, and much more. The challenges that come with running your own company will test what you’re made of but also will shape you as a more well-rounded individual.
Overall I think it's also a great way for me to grow up, practice my own discipline, learn making sound decisions and prioritize what’s most important in life — including occasional reality check of whether what I do now brings a meaningful significance long after I’m gone.
A: I would say other than the unconditional support from my circle of trust, it’s also my personal relationship with my Creator. Running my own company requires a lot of hard work and dedication, which means if I’m not careful I can easily become too focused and working into complete exhaustion until it’s too late. This typically results in a lovely mixture of stress, depression and hopelessness. Needless to say, I was burned out. Then, and only then I was reminded that it is God who planted the gifts inside me and it is Him who will help them come to life. Only through complete dependence on Christ that I can fully understand, unlock and unleash my gifts and talents (John 15:5). I am more relaxed now compared to my first few months of starting out, and am currently learning to discipline myself daily to place God first and foremost before my goals and to-do lists!
- Seeing others styled my products and post their work on Instagram which later brings me more followers..
- Shopping for pretty things which I later use for my styling props… (and I get to keep them and so I’m surrounded by all the prettiness!)
- And of course, gaining new customers and seeing people willing to pay for my products is priceless….! This one’s definitely a winner.
A: I can’t think of anything in particular that surprised me. I always knew it was going to be a LOT of work, patience and persistence, even when nothing seems to be happening. I believe in my products so it’s a matter of making it work, and never giving up.
Q: If you were to give one piece of advice to someone who is starting their own brand, what would it be?
A: Find your “It” — your brand’s unique personality and value that makes you stand out from the crowd. Then make sure you’re communicating your ‘it’ consistently in all your branding approach. Consistency proves that you ‘get it’ and thus allowing your targeted audience to trust your brand. With trust, comes customers. Customers sustain your business.
A: My big dream is to one day see Paper Provision become a widely recognized international brand. My next step would be to place my products in select retailers (on/off line) and build a community of like-minded individuals who can be positively impacted by our products.
Thanks for your insightful answers, Cathy! It's always a pleasure to converse with you abut life, biz, and creativity that flows from the Creator. Keep learning, growing, and brining your sense of inspirational chic-ness to the world.
To check out more from Paper Provision, visit their web site here. Show her some love by leaving your comments below, or sharing this post on social media.