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Stephanie Cooper

National Stationery Show Madness

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The National Stationery Show. It’s a large paper and gift trade show that takes place in the Javitz Center in New York. It now happens twice a year (used to only be in May) in combination with NY NOW, another huge home & gift trade show, in February and in August. 

February of 2019 was my first show ever. At that point, I had been slowly growing my greeting cards line for about 2.5 years. I started my business out with just the custom wedding stationery but as I navigated the growth of that small business, I noticed other stationers also had a wholesale line of cards which I thought was smart. I also thought it was so perfect because truthfully I have loved cards all my life. I always purchased the blank ones with a pretty illustration on the front. If you know me, you already know I’m a huge fan of the written word. It’s eternal. It’s romantic. And to me, it’s the most meaningful way to express yourself to someone because you’re putting it down on paper for them to read over and over again and to look back on in years to come. 

2018, I had Logan. It was a tough year and I wrote more about my postpartum experience in another post here. I had so much growing and adjusting to do in order to find my balance. Not actual balance, just my version of it. I was never planning to give up my career, my business, my goals, to be a mom. I always planned on figuring out how to succeed at both and what I learned is, you can only succeed if there is dedicated time set aside for each one separately. So I spent all of 2018 juggling everything as any mom or parent really, can relate to. But when you want something badly enough, you do it. 

So here’s what I did to prep for the trade show… 

  1. Scour pinterest for booth ideas, inspiration, tips, etc. 
  2. Brainstorm booth ideas every single day and night in order to land on something that felt “on brand” 
  3. Asked myself, what is “on brand” for Stephanie Tara Stationery? 
  4. Developed a brand
  5. Redesigned my logo with hand lettering because that was “on brand” 
  6. Called my friend Tori from Tori Love Jewelry, every single day and night for moral, emotional, creative and business support. Frientors are everything and now I have so many more to add to the mix that I’m so grateful for and met at NSS! 
  7. Hired a family friend in construction to help structurally design and build my walls
  8. Hired my husband with sexual favors as pay, to paint said walls and then help me do literally everything physical for the trade show ( I’m only half kidding about the sexual favors ) *John and my dad come with me to every setup and after everything gets forklifted to my spot, they put the walls together 
  9.  Cried and had every breakdown imaginable because I did not know how I would get everything done in time
  10. Got everything done in time (Within reason. You have to sacrifice some things and get to them the next time around. For example, I did not have as many marketing materials or skus as I would have liked but each show I add a little more and that’s okay) 
  11. Had major help from a friend, Jodi from The Neighborgoods, who had done the show previously and gave me tips on where to print my catalog, where to print my order forms, how to order electric for my booth and how much, where to order flooring and so much more. She was an absolute lifesaver and I’ll forever be grateful! I feel a sense of paying forward my knowledge now to any other people going into the show for their first time because it’s impossible to do it successfully without some insider help
  12. Did so many other little details that it’s impossible to actually list or we’d be here all day and no one wants that but if you do, message me and I’ll happily get into more detail! 
  13. Showed up and wrote orders
  14. Went home and freaked out because I had never sent out wholesale orders before and that was a giant learning curve in itself
  15. Set Up an actual shipping station in my studio so the next time around it was 75% easier

I could definitely go on but I think for now that’s a good beginner run through. The key is to identify YOUR priorities for YOUR brand and YOUR goals. Some people want to have a lot of products and some just want to have greeting cards. Sometimes one product works great for another company but does horribly for you and that’s just something we learn along the way. For example gift wrap did badly for me and also I hate storing it and mailing it. I say try whatever your passionate about, after doing research on what the market will spend on it and how much you’re willing to shell out in order to get your prices right for wholesale, and then get out there and show the world. Oldest story holds true, you’ll never know until your try. 

Here are some photos of the 2 NSS shows I did in 2019 and in just a week, we’ll be at it again!

 

NSS February 2019 – total newbie 

NSS August 2019 – semi seasoned

Last day of setting up – Feeling tired and excited

John’s alter ego is a stationery designer – as can be seen in the photos above, really feeling himself in my cubby.

I like gathering all of this information and these photos in one spot for myself because it’s a nice memory to look back on. I can remember the feelings I wrote down and see the growth I’ve made from one show to the next. Highly recommend to anyone out there making moves, document it in a place that’s special to you!

Salt Drift Farm Save

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Salt Drift Farm Envelope

January 2, 2020

Salt Drift Farm Save The Date

January 2, 2020


Calligraphy by: Nancy Favorito

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Martha’s Vineyard Love Story

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Martha’s Vineyard Love Story Envelope

December 20, 2019

Martha’s Vineyard Love Story Save the Date

December 20, 2019


Calligraphy by: Nancy Favorito

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Map of Beacon, NY

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Map of Beacon, NY Vintage Stamps

December 2, 2019

Map of Beacon, NY Details

December 2, 2019

Map of Beacon, NY Invitation

December 2, 2019


Calligraphy by: Nancy Favorito

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When we were wolves

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One year ago, the Potenza family transformed into wolves for halloween. I think my look was more fox like but for the sake of cohesion, we’ll go with wolves. What I did was research wolf (and fox) makeup on Pinterest, bought a very cheap fur vest, made little felt ears, sewed some craft fur into one of John’s flannels, and a few other details and then decked us out. It literally took 3 hours to get ready. Nothing is done lightly in this house. We then headed to the woods where we utilized that handy self timer and snapped away. Did people pass by on their hike and give us funny looks? They sure did. But you know what, who cares. We just growled at them until they ran away. Lol no we did not do that but it would have been very fun.

Below is a recap of that glorious photo shoot and maybe some ideas for your own family halloween costumes? Really if you just get the most basic requirements and add them to clothes you already own, you’re much better off than building a costume from the ground up. Way too overwhelming. Leggings and plain shirts can become anything. And have fun with the details! I did a search the other day for animal ears on amazon and there are quite a few. Shop small guys but when in a pinch, amazon all the way. #realist

Thanks for reading! xx

 

Holiday Wonderland

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Holiday Wonderland Envelope

October 17, 2019

Holiday Wonderland RSVP side 1

October 17, 2019

Holiday Wonderland Map

October 17, 2019

Holiday Wonderland Invitation

October 17, 2019


Envelope Calligraphy by: Nancy Favorito

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My Postpartum

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I’m going to take a rare opportunity to discuss something with less humor than usual. I’m still going to add my flare of comic relief here and there because where I’m at now, it’s easier to look back on these moments and feel lighter. That’s why it’s so important to keep pushing forward no matter how hard of a time you’re having. So that you can take that moment to reflect and see how far you’ve come, how much stronger you’ve become and how much braver you are now. We are all just doing our best. Repeat that to yourself DAILY as a reminder. We are human beings. Fragile, emotional, unsure and confused most of the time. But waking up everyday and trying to achieve something. That ‘something’ is different for all of us. For some it might be making it to that next vacation. For others it might be growing your own business (ok, that’s mine, surprise!) Maybe you want to have a family and cook dinner every night for the ones you love. All of these things are reasons to stay here on this planet until you absolutely cannot anymore at the ripe age of 110. And then I’ll see you all in the land of the dead where it just gets better! (Coco reference. If you haven’t watched that movie yet, RUN DON’T WALK to netflix.) 

Mental health is one of my top priorities for myself and my family. I see my therapist every week and I have straight now since I found out I was pregnant. And before that I have been on and off seeing my therapist since I was 15 years old. I don’t ever plan on stopping now more than ever. Life as an entrepreneuring mother, wife, sister, daughter, niece and friend, is something I take seriously. I aim to put all the thought and care into those relationships and myself, as possible. And I admit I need a little help. Like all the time. 

As a highly emotional and independent person, talking to friends and family about my “issues” usually brings me more stress than help. I have healthier relationships and boundaries ever since I stopped sharing all the hard things with them. That’s not to say that I don’t fill them in on what’s happening in my life and when I’m having a struggle. The difference is I no longer rely on them to help me solve them. Less judgement, more laughter, support and love. 

While I was pregnant with Logan, I did a lot of research on postpartum depression. Knowing how emotional I was/am, how young I was and how unfamiliar with babies and children I was, I thought this would help prepare me. What I didn’t know was nothing could prepare my naivety for how different my life would actually be as a new mom and also, a forever mom.  

I literally came home from the hospital after giving birth, which was fine and healthy and normal by the way. No birth horror stories here. I did faint in the shower at the hospital but that is simply because I am crazy. Quick synopsis, I genuinely was just terrified that if I moved the wrong way my entire vagina would rip open and I would die. Like I said, crazy. Ok that will be the last time I use the word “vagina,” promise. In THIS post, promise. 

So I get home from the hospital, I’m sore and tired and feeling weird. John and I greet our cats who I haven’t seen in three days. My family came by to help us get settled. And all the while I’m not looking forward to sitting and cuddling my brand new baby. I’m thinking about all the things I want to work on in my studio and wondering when I will be in less pain to comfortably sit in a chair and do so. This, incase you’re unaware, is the wrong behavior and thought process. It’s lovely to be excited to continue working and feeling like yourself again. But it is unhealthy not to give yourself at least 3 weeks of maternity leave to literally sleep, feed yourself and the baby, watch tv and learn how to breastfeed, if you so choose. I could have asked for help from my family. Come over, hold my baby and let me sleep since my entire body just experienced a trauma. But no. I decided I was supposed to do it all myself in order to become a capable mother. Big mistake. One that I have now learned from and was so completely blind to at the time, no one could have convinced me otherwise. It’s okay though. I forgive myself because some people need to learn the hard way. But as long as we learn, that’s all that matters. And as long as we stay here on the planet, trying. I can’t emphasize that enough. If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, to any degree at all, find help. It is all around. Someone you know, knows a great therapist and once you take that leap, you will never look back. Except to reflect on how far you’ve come, duh. 

Back to post partum. The entire first year with Logan in our lives, I had no childcare and I continued trying to work the same amount of hours as I had before I had a baby. This. Is. Insane. I was feeling, guilty, angry, depressed, anxious, confused and like a failure pretty much everyday. I was resentful of my husband for getting to go and work and be alone and do his thing just like before we had a baby. I was getting sick constantly because I gave myself no grace and allowed myself no time to breathe and rest.  It took me an entire year WITH therapy to get my shit together. After Logan turned 1, I told John we needed to create a weekly schedule so that I could have balance. We found a daycare 2 days a week and my grandparents commited to one day a week to watch Logan. I now have 3 full days to just work and be Stephanie. Business Stephanie. Creative Stephanie. Drink coffee while it’s still hot, Stephanie. Frown if I want and no one is looking at me, Stephanie. Put a show on in the background and not worry it’s melting my sons brain, Stephanie. I could go on but I think you get it. Especially if you’re a parent YOU GET IT. I love my son more than anyone and he makes me smile and feel genuine happiness when I’m with him. But I feel those feelings and absorb those moments so much more now that I know every week I can just be me on set days. Recharge my batteries, schedule in my responsibilities, take a nap if I feel I need one (this doesn’t happen often but I should work on it). Eat a ton of cookies for lunch if I fancy. It’s healthy and it’s necessary. 

I did not like my life for that first year. I had a lot of happy moments. I bonded with my son and we spent lots of time together, which I cherish. I grew more than I ever knew I would or even needed to. I learned how to make baby food and cook healthy meals. I shopped for adorable baby outfits and shoes and smiled. I made strides in my business. I exhibited at my first big tradeshow and it was a success. But I did not like my life. I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick and it was because I didn’t make the necessary changes for myself that went along with the change that was thrust upon me the second Logan entered the world. 

My postpartum depression was not the kind where I didn’t want to be near my baby. It was the kind where I continued to over sacrifice, trying to be “perfect” and “happy” all the time but actually just felt anxious and angry. I have been feeling better, like Stephanie again, since about April of this year. That’s not even very long ago. But all of the memories and feelings from above that I described feel like a lifetime ago. I am sure when I have another baby I’ll make some mistakes and the adjustments will be difficult but thankfully I know better now. I won’t be afraid that my life will never be balanced. I will be prepared to readjust and ask for more help. 

If you’re feeling down whether you had a baby or not, reach out to anyone you know who can help you find the right help. And if you know someone who has been down, had a baby, is starting a business, is struggling with some facet of their life at all, be kind. Offer to bring them a meal. Offer an ear to listen and offer the knowledge that we all need a professional from time to time. Or every week forever, like yours truly. We are all doing our best.

 

Thanks for reading, xx

 

Roundhouse Love Story

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Roundhouse Love Story

September 26, 2019

Roundhouse Love Story Envelope Liner

September 26, 2019

Roundhouse Love Story Save the Date

September 26, 2019


Calligraphy by: Nancy Favorito

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Red Maple Burgundy Floral

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Red Maple Burgundy Floral Liner

September 26, 2019

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September 26, 2019

Red Maple Burgundy Floral Rehearsal Dinner Invite

September 26, 2019

Red Maple Burgundy Floral Back

September 26, 2019

Red Maple Burgundy Floral Map

September 26, 2019

Red Maple Burgundy Floral RSVP

September 26, 2019

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Calligraphy by: Nancy Favorito

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HOW TO Write Your Own Card

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Recently my Nanny, who to clarify is my “grandma” technically but chose the title “Nanny” instead, told me she was afraid to write her own sentiment inside of a card. I asked her why and she said she looks at the blank page and feels intimidated by all the white space and her mind goes blank and she has no idea where to start. Now I know she isn’t the only person who feels this way because people have declined purchasing my cards in the past for that very reason. And I am here to hopefully help you at least try to write your own card and see how it feels with a simple suggestion. 

Write how you feel. It sounds too easy, right? And you might be like but Steph, that’s actually the worst advice ever go away. But I’m not done. Ask yourself, what do I feel when I think of this person? Let’s create an example. 

You’re writing your sibling a birthday card. You guys are in your twenties and spend a decent amount of time together so the memories are recent and they’re vivid. Think of the last time you saw them. Did you have a good talk? Did you laugh? Did you cook dinner together or maybe make a cocktail? Did you watch a movie or discuss one you’d just seen? Overall, did you enjoy your time? Let’s hope yes. Now you can put words on paper..

 “Wishing the happiest birthday to my sister who always makes me laugh while we are cooking random dinners and talking smack about crazy strangers who destroy our lives in the supermarket. The person who makes the best margaritas and has the ability to retell a movie in the absolute most hilarious way. I couldn’t imagine my life without you. You’re the best and you deserve everything and more of those margaritas! If only I could make one for you as well as you do. Looks like you’ll have to do it for us both! I love you forever!” 

Okay so that took me approximately 6 minutes to write. Now if you’re saying to yourself “I don’t have six minutes to write a card,” I ask you sir, why not? I have found that the times I set aside to write my own sentiment to my family and friends, end up being the most peaceful moments of my day. I finish feeling grateful, happy and full of love because I just gave thought to why I appreciate that person so much AND bonus now they’re also going to feel that love and appreciation, which is the best gift you can give someone. Snail mail people. Learn about it. Try it. It’s the damn best. 

I hope you’ll give it a go next time you go to pick out that card with the prewritten message that can apply to just about anyone in the world and will leave very little impact on whoever receives it because it’s not specific to them and their incredible characteristics. If you write them your own message, they might just keep that card forever and read back on it from time to time to feel good. And you could be that feel good reason! 

Here’s an even simpler version of the above example sentiment I wrote, with just as much impact incase maybe that one felt super scary to you first timers…

“Happy birthday to the best margarita maker and my favorite person to talk to. I hope you have the greatest day ever, I love you” 

I would still keep that card because it came from the heart and made me feel happy to read it…now I like need to go learn how to make an excellent margarita. And you need to go practice your card writing skills. We both have work to do so bye. Until the next post!