I am thrilled to announce that today marks the beginning of my new blog interview series Become Your Dream. Fueled by my passion to help inspire others to turn their dreams into a reality, Become Your Dream will feature artists and creative entrepreneurs that I admire. I believe that by them sharing their story with the you, perhaps we can inspire each others (and myself) to fulfill our dreams, learn more and aspire greatness.
My first interview today, is with Colleen Ellse. Believe it or not Colleen and I met through Instagram. Colleen is my go-to gal for letterpress. Her simple approach to design and letterpress is what I love about her style and work. Not to mention she is super smart, professional, sweet and inspiring to watch. Learn more about her below and see what I see via instagram here.
And on to the interview:
1. Tell us about yourself and where you’re located.
Hello! My name is Colleen Ellse – I’m a designer and letterpress printer. I grew up and live in Massachusetts, just south of Boston. I love period films, a good cuppa tea, doing yoga or going for a run or hike, and am a bit of a crazy cat lady.
2. What is your business and what sets you apart from others?
I’m the proprietor of Letter & Lark, a custom letterpress studio which focuses on creating beautiful work through thoughtful design and quality printing. I believe in having an attentiveness to my customers needs, producing high quality design, and am extremely meticulous over the execution of my work. I’m very much a “details person”; I think my thoroughness in every facet of a project shows – as it should especially since so much of my work becomes cherished keepsakes from important life moments (a wedding, a new baby, an entrepreneur getting their first business cards).
3. What is your passion in life and/or business?
My Mom said growing up my grandfather would say repeatedly, “if you’re going to do a job – do it right.” I really try to live by that mantra (in my professional and personal life). Some would say I’m “type A,” but I just like to say I’m a perfectionist. At the same time as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been really striving to live a simple, but full life: eating organic, nourishing food, spending time with close friends and family, and taking lots of breaks to be with nature. I think being more mindful everyday has helped me worry less and appreciate what I have more. Both things filter into my personal and work habits.
4. What brings you ultimate joy and inspiration?
I really love being able to take the time to bring a project to it’s fullness; designing and tweaking till things till they’re just right, spending time creating palettes of color, texture, and type, then finding just the right paper, envelopes, or materials for a project. When I’m able to delve into every aspect of a project, it seems like that’s when people notice those projects the most. It’s reassuring to get positive feedback on the details that had so much thought put into them; I love seeing people that value craft as much as I do. And when I work with custom clients for really important moments in their lives, it’s such a neat feeling to be a tiny part of that experience. I’m honored whenever I’m chosen to work with them.
5. Who are your dream customers/clients?
I love when clients are open to suggestions but at the same time have an idea of what they’d like. Sometimes not knowing what you want causes more of a problem to trying to pin a direction down. I love when I get to really collaborate with people and bounce ideas off of one another. Being able to do something out of the box and research design and materials gets me inspired too!
6. What has been one of your biggest lessons or challenges as an entrepreneur, and how did you learn from it?
Learning that just because one path has worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. I’ve realized that with advertising, craft fairs, marketing, bookkeeping, design – literally every part of my business. You just can’t compare yourself or your business to someone else entirely and think if you do what they’ve done, that it will magically all come together. I’ve been lucky to have worked for other women small business owners and they’ve inspired and guided me along my way, but much of my own success has been in carving out a path for myself. Also, I’m still surprised at no matter how much you analyze and plan for things, sometimes the best thing to do is just listen to your gut instinct and take a leap of faith. I’ve had instances where I wish I listened to my gut instinct and did things differently, and I’ve also had some of my biggest successes by doing things that logically my brain thought couldn’t work. I really like how running a business involves being well prepared and thorough, but also being nimble, flexible and leading the way with your heart as well.
7. Where do you see yourself in 3 years from now?
My goal is to have a small studio where I can hire one or two people to lighten the load a little bit, and not have to always “wear all the hats” for the business all the time. It would be really great to have help on things that I’m not so great at (a.k.a. bookkeeping!) so that I can focus on the tasks that I’m really good at. Also, I’d love to be able to continue to grow the business but also start having a family, being able to have a reasonable work/life balance… but isn’t that what everyone is trying to accomplish these days?
8. If you had 30 seconds in an elevator with your role model, who would it be and what would you say?
Wow! That’s a tough one. I’m guessing I’d be “starstruck” and have a hard time knowing what to say. I’d probably just tell them how much they’ve inspired me, and knowing how hard you have to work to get what you want out of life, that I really admire them for what they do. That – and maybe see if I could take a photo of them with me!
9. If money was no issue, where would you be and what would you be doing?
Are we being completely honest? In my dreams, I’d be in the countryside of the UK or France, in a rural village. Still letterpress printing, with several gorgeous presses belonging to my name – and also being a small organic farmer, living in an amazing, refurbished old farmhouse with a separate building for my studio on the property, a baby on my hip and other little ones running around, helping me feed the chickens.
10. Any words of wisdom you would like to share with others striving to become their dream?
It takes work: a lot of hard work (they say it’s a lot, but seriously – I never dreamt how much it would take). But it also takes a ton of heart. Never give up, no matter how tough it gets. If you’re going to do this, you have to be passionate about what you do! Living and breathing it everyday, putting in the time, being really proud of the work you do. It can be exhausting sometimes, but it’s also the most rewarding work you’ll ever do. When you’re meant to do something in life, you’ll just know in your gut that it’s the right path for you.
I am currently listening to: Tuning into Spotify – currently playing Philip Glass.
My favorite book is: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.
My favorite business tool or piece of equipment is: Hands-down, a Vandercook press. Such a beautiful piece of machinery.
My favorite quote is: ”It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” by George Eliot. And I like one from Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, “Good luck… you’re gonna need it!”