Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Janna Willoughby-Lohr, owner of Papercraft Miracles, LLC, located in Buffalo, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is called Papercraft Miracles, and we are an eco-friendly handmade paper art company. We make magical things out of paper that brings meaning to people’s lives. We create handmade papers, paper flowers, handbound books, and plantable seed bombs that grow when planted in the ground. We specialize in custom orders for sustainable weddings & events and corporate gifting.
Our main clientele is women between 25-55 (or people purchasing gifts for women in that age range), but we also sell to engaged couples, other business owners, and non-profits.
Tell us about yourself
I am an artist, poet, musician, and activist. I’m also a wife and mompreneur, raising my three young kids while building my business. I initially came up with the idea for my business when I was in college in 2003 because I wanted to find a way to make a living with my art. During my junior year, I lost my mother unexpectedly, and then, four months later, my dorm burned to the ground with all my stuff in it on her birthday, seriously.
It was a really traumatic time in my life, and to help myself cope, I started making art about my experiences. When I shared this special paper art with other people, over and over, they kept telling me how experiencing my art changed the way they felt about life. Healing my own trauma while affecting change in other people was a really magical way to find my calling. I knew that, no matter what, I wanted to do that forever.
I know firsthand the power of a single moment to affect the course of your life forever. My goal is to intentionally craft those moments for people through the art I create. Having my children see their mothers so passionate and full of joy about my work motivates me so much. I can only hope they also find meaningful work that makes them say, “I GET to go to work today!” instead of “I HAVE to go to work today.”
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I completed the job of a lifetime in 2021, making half a million of our plantable seed bombs by hand in just under eight weeks. These seed bombs were included as part of Lowe’s Spring Garden Giveaway Event all across the US.
I assembled an amazing team of almost 70 people to complete the order, and we worked 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week, the entire time to make the tight deadline.
It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same, but the aspect I’m most proud of is that I was able to pay out over $130,000 in salary to underemployed people in my community during COVID. Knowing that my art helped all those people to feed their families and pay their bills during such a tough time in our history is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Being responsible for other people’s livelihoods is really tough sometimes. Knowing that a couple of slow months might lead to laying off my staff is definitely something that keeps me up at night.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Ask for help, ask for help, ask for help, and then take it when it’s offered. No one who is successful in business does it all by themselves.
- Invest in yourself with business coaching. Making the time and space to work ON your business instead of just IN your business is the thing that will bring you to the next level.
- Recognize that it’s not a quick or glamorous ride to the top, and then you stay there. Consistent effort every single day will help keep your business growing in a slow and steady way where you can also grow along with it. Growing too much too fast is not sustainable.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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