“Of Note, something worth noting, something worthy of note.”
“When Kate and I (Isabel) met a few years back, we were both at a transitional time in our careers. I was leaving my position as a Design Strategist at a small product design firm in the area, while Kate was taking some time off teaching. It was a beautiful summer day when we met up at the nearby park, and started chatting about things that energized us. We soon discovered a shared passion for collecting, sending, and receiving mail. We informally discussed starting our line of everyday stationery, a brand we imagined would cater to the non-occasion. Shortly after, we had our first official meeting at the Boston Public Library and began documenting our journey via Instagram.”
Introduce yourself. Where are you originally from? Where did you learn your craft and how/when did you get started?
KK: Hello! I am Kate and I am originally from Los Angeles, CA. Letter writing has been a craft I’ve been unofficially honing since I was young. I’ve always loved paper stores and the task of finding the perfect card for my friends, but I never thought I would make a career out of this love. I graduated college with a degree in Sociology and then went on to join Teach For America, teaching K-12 Special Education in Colorado. My teaching brought me to Boston where I met Isabel. We bonded over our uncertainty regarding our career paths. I was feeling burnt out and needed to take a step back.
IB: Hey there! I am Isabel and much like Kate, I grew up quite a few miles away from Boston, in Guatemala City, GUA. I moved to Boston to attend the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where I learned all things product design and typography. Since my time at MassArt, I’ve had a passion for objects that are designed with the intent of having a strong emotional connection with the end user.
Where do you live and work now, and how does this environment influence your creative process? How’s the maker’s community in Boston?
Up until recently we were both living in Boston. This summer we both moved out of the city to settle more permanently in places where we could have more space, Isabel to Nashua, NH and Kate to Amherst, MA. Additionally, knowing our company has its own little home in Amherst now (more on that below), is a big motivator for both of us. We are excited for the future of this space, how it will enable us to grow, and encourage us to create an environment for letter writing gatherings. We teamed up with Kathryn Yee of The Everyday Co. to host Boston Made, a market showcasing the work of local makers, and the event was a huge success! We were encouraged to continue this venture and recently collaborated to host a market during The Design Center’s annual Design Market.
Can you elaborate on your particular design process? What is your workspace like? What materials do you prefer to use?
Our design process is inspired by our daily interactions with the world around us, things we find ourselves wishing we’d say out loud, phrases we hear others say on the radio or on podcasts, and quotes we read. We note all these inspirations in notebooks, on our phones, through pinterest boards, and come together for larger ideation sessions when it is time to design new additions to our line. Both our spaces are filled with thrifted books, collected mail, found baskets, good morning light, and plenty of letter writing supplies including our favorite pens, vintage postage stamps, and postcards.
Letterpress printing is our preference for method. We chose letterpress printing for our medium as an ode to pre-digital technologies. In this antique method of printing, raised plates are inked and pressed onto the paper, leaving an indentation behind. It is that tactile quality, that indentation of words pressed into paper, that we are after. We want our cards to elicit both a physical and emotional response. We use 100% soft cotton recovered from the apparel trade and the fine fibers left after ginning cottonseed. These papers are tree-free, require fewer chemicals for processing and produce less waste. We also use recycled papers from a mill entirely powered hydro-electrically.
Explain the story behind the name: how and why you chose it.
Leading up to the launch of our business in May of 2014 were many months of figuring out who we wanted to be and how we wanted to contribute to the stationery world. In that time we established that it was the “just because” niche of the greeting card industry that captivated us. Within that niche, it was the small yet significant moments of reaching out to loved ones that we hoped to encourage. Of Note came from a Saturday morning brainstorm session. “Of Note, something worth noting, something worthy of note.”
Who or what do you draw inspiration from? How do you come up with the sayings on your cards?
We draw inspiration from our favorite podcasts, from vintage books, from words themselves, from our current reads, and most importantly from things we wish we said to the people in our lives more often. All of our phrases are chosen with the hope that they will inspire and encourage connection.
What does being Young & Able mean to you?
IB: Being young and able to us means we devote our energy and passion to a project/business/ brand that we truly believe in.
KK: Young and able means that we feel empowered to carve out a non-traditional career for ourselves that includes working with our hands and allows us to share our passion for handwritten communication with the world.
Biggest lesson learned in 2016:
Our biggest business lesson learned is that good pr goes a long way. Janelle Nanos from the Boston Globe contacted us this summer to talk about why our generation is sending more mail. The resulting article ended up being on the front page of the Boston Globe, which led to increased traffic to our website, more newsletter subscriptions, and some new wholesale accounts. Of course this makes perfect sense, but over the years we’ve heard a lot of advice from successful business people, and none of them said “invest in pr.” That will be our recommendation moving forward.
What has been your greatest struggle/obstacle so far?
IB: Holding ourselves to the design and production deadlines we set for our business has certainly been a struggle. I think we always find that we need more time to either ideate, design, print, and even account for the time spent photographing the final products. Since we are aiming to be part wholesale, part direct to consumer, we have to keep in mind that buyers adhere to purchasing cycles and that we have to be one step ahead than how we prepare for launching product on our Etsy shop or on our online store. It is definitely something we look forward to improving.
What’s your least favorite part of running a small business?
KK: Money. I look forward to a time when we’ve grown Of Note enough that our income is more stable.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself about starting your brand and business?
KK: Good things take time. You don’t have to rush to do your business full time. It is okay if it grows slowly. Put in the work and the good results will come.
We love meeting over coffee at Young & Able. What's your favorite local café?
Amherst Coffee is the perfect mix as it is both a coffee shop and a bar. It is a great place to have a mellow evening writing letters in the company of strangers.
Top 3 favorite Instagram accounts you follow:
@freelancewisdom, @evamoonpress & @dominomag
2017 ultimate personal goal:
IB: Take risks!
KK: Push my comfort boundaries with regards to sharing Of Note’s story.
All images from Of Note Stationers :)