I fell in love with K + A Alesandrini’s work while thumbing through Etsy. They’re work has a hand-made look and feel that I love. Here is their story, on how they live the dream:
K + A Alesandrini | Little Alexander
Tell us about yourself, where you live and what you’re like.
We’re K + A Alesandrini. We’ve been inseparable since we were kids. We went to college together in Seattle and lived there for 9 years before moving out to the country to start our business and have a kid. We now live and work in an old white farmhouse on three acres of land surrounded by cornfields in rural Iowa with our son, who is currently mastering the art of rolling over.
We like the autonomy of our life, the space we have to ourselves, all the time we get to spend together, and how loud we can play our stereo. We also love trips back to big cities and time spent in wilderness.
Tell us about your business and how you got started.
Together we run Little Alexander
making and selling illustrated paper goods. K is the artist; she draws, paints, prints and designs all of our notecards, notebooks and artwork. I (A) do the rest that is necessary to keep our business going, like hand stitching our notebooks and responding to interview questions
There is nothing we like better than dropping everything and starting fresh. So when we both tired of our ‘real jobs’ back in Seattle, K dreamed up Little Alexander, and we both dropped everything to make it real.
Tell us about your work, what you create, how you create, the process and more.
K always starts at her desk with blank paper and a pencil. She usually has the laptop open with lots of photos of whatever it is she’s drawing to use as references. From there, her drawings may get transferred to watercolor paper and painted, scanned onto the computer and digitally colored, transferred onto linoleum and printed, or cut out of mylar and stenciled. That’s part of what she loves most about working for ourselves; she doesn’t feel any pressure to limit herself to just one medium or style. Her end work is sometimes whimsical, sometimes technical, sometimes graphic.
From there, her artwork becomes the cover of notebooks that I’ll put together or notecards or prints that we’ll digitally print in our studio. So while you picture her working at her desk, you can picture me at a table nearby, folding paper and stitching bindings.
What is your dream customer or client?
We love the variety of customers we get, and we love to think about all that happens to our goods, all that they get to take part in, in our customers’ hands. For example, a notebook of ours is currently traveling by bike from Toronto to Vancouver, in the hands of a guy who got it as a gift from a friend.
Right now we’ve shipped orders to every continent except Antarctica. So for the moment, our dream customer is someone who works at a research station in the Antarctic.
What has been one of your biggest lessons, challenges or failures as an entrepreneur or creative, and how did you learn from it?
Last fall, we were contacted by a company we’re big fans of, asking if we took wholesale orders as they were interested in carrying our goods in their shop. At the time, we only sold to individuals on Etsy, but we couldn’t pass up the chance of working with a place we so respected. So we said yes.
K spent a lot of time researching how wholesaling worked, we put together a line sheet, and we took the order. Then we made more notebooks and notecards in a span of weeks than we probably had in our whole existence as a business. We figured out how to scale up production in the moment, because we had to. Now we can take wholesale orders like they’re no big deal.
I think that kind of growth works well for us. When faced with a new situation or opportunity, we think less about who we are and more about who we want to be, and then we do what we need to in order to become that.
Tell us about your dream, passion and mission in life and in business, what drives you, fires you up and makes it all worth it.
We like beautiful things. Whether that’s in the form of land or objects or stories. It is a privilege, then, to be able to make beautiful things to share with other people.
But we wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t allow us to live a good life. For us, that life involves time together, a sense of autonomy and good food. At the moment, we get those things by working at home together, getting to make our own decisions about what we make, and having the land to garden and keep chickens and honeybees and plenty of time to cook.
If you had all the money in the world and could be anywhere in the world doing what you love, where would you be and what would you be doing?
For the moment, we would be here, living together more or less as we are, although perhaps we’d hire someone to paint the outside of our house. And we’d take more extensive vacations.
That doesn’t mean this is it for us. We love thinking about what we’ll do next…
If you had 30 seconds in an elevator with your hero, who would it be and what would you say?
Being inside a small space with someone we’d never met but greatly admire with the expectation that we should say something is like something out of a nightmare for the both of us. What can I say? We’re introverts, and we take the stairs.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years from now?
We do love uprooting ourselves and trying out new lives. Perhaps we’ll be in a big city somewhere; our kid will be about ready for school, I’ll get going on a PhD is physics, and K will be making her art for an even wider audience. For sure, we’ll still be spending time together, keeping our sense of autonomy and eating good food. We love that Little Alexander is completely portable so it can be a part of any life we choose. And in 3 years, it will only have grown bigger and better.
Is there any words of wisdom, advice or final thoughts you would like to share with others out there inspiring to become their dream?
Be honest with yourself. There are dreams that are nice to dream about, and there are dreams you actually want to live. Both are valuable, but don’t mistake the former for the latter. And keep in mind that every life has down sides. Even so, if you know what you want, go get it. And when you find you want something different, great. Go get that next.
Facts about K+A Alesandrini:
Most inspirational music: Answer to Yourself by The Soft Pack
Most inspirational book: Georgia O’Keefe: A Life by Roxana Robinson
Most useful business tool or piece of equipment: Our badass paper cutter, the Martin Yale 7000E Stack Cutter
Most inspirational quote: ”Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln
(It’s quite possible he never said it, but it’s a great line anyway)
Check out their blog here and their facebook page here.