My most commonly asked question: "So, how did you get into this business?" . . . PART 1

When people learn that I'm the owner of a stationery and invitation shop, the most common question I'm asked is: "So, how did you get into that business?" I thought it would be fun to share a bit more about my background, motivations and expectations for Paper Trails. Let me warn you in advance - this is a LONG STORY! (Skip to the end of this blog if you're only interested in recent Paper Trails history.)

I worked my way through college as a part-time marketing assistant for a temporary staffing company. Working for a regional director who managed 15+ branch offices in Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Medina, I gained a ton of experience through a variety of sales and marketing initiatives. I created sales presentations, drafted introductory letters, helped write contract proposals, created employee newsletters, managed direct marketing programs and learned the ropes of corporate America. When I graduated from college, I had a little more than two years experience, which helped launch me into my next position within the company: outside sales.

At the time, it was a promotion - with more money, more responsibility and a very defined annual sales quota. Filled with optimism, I wandered out into the world of cold calling and telesales, thinking that my passion for temporary administrative staffing would propel the Cleveland branch into a new level of revenue and growth. Unfortunately, the year was 2002, and the reality was that the temporary staffing market had come to a screeching halt. After seven months of going door to door, leaving voice mail after voice mail, passing out my business card and many failed networking events, I made the decision that staffing sales wasn't for me. (What's that about failed salespeople becoming marketing people?? Only kidding!) So, I stepped out of the sales position and into a regional marketing role for the same company. It was a welcome change that brought me exposure to different company divisions, and opportunities to create more visible marketing initiatives.  While I loved the work, advancement was limited without relocation.

I started looking for something new, found and accepted a position with a marketing analytics / consumer data company in Westlake. At the time, I was commuting daily to Westlake from Sagamore Hills. Despite the lower taxes and cost of living, after one winter that involved a three-hour drive home, I sold my condo and moved to Rocky River. My new job in Westlake sticks in my memory as one of the most fun and fulfilling in my career. I worked with people who were super intelligent, had several great mentors who freely shared their knowledge and experience. One of the most exciting projects I worked on was the creation of a sales process (turning prospects into clients), which was the foundation for building a sales database that housed all client information and drive weekly reports to prioritize the sales funnel.

My last foray into the corporate world came when the perfect job landed in my lap - or, across my computer screen as I surfed one evening. The company was in Lakewood, looking for someone to create the strategy for and help implement a new sales database - something that I had thoroughly enjoyed at my current employer. This company was larger, about three times the revenue, and part of billion dollar parent corporation. The stars aligned and I accepted the new role. Sales and marketing for a manufacturing company was something new - with a tangible product instead of consultative, service-based offerings. I loved the work, as well as the challenges that came with working in a very traditional culture that was trying to adapt to new technologies and ways of doing business.

Enter my big idea for Paper Trails. I was watching Oprah one evening (I always DVR the new episodes) and she was interviewing people about their "big ideas" - how they got started, what motivated them, how her viewers could apply the same concepts in their own lives. I can tell you, that after watching that show, something snapped in my brain. I knew that I was destined for something more than what big corporations had to offer, but I was clueless on where to begin and what to do. I started thinking - a lot. I thought about what my strengths and weaknesses were, what I loved doing, what I hated doing, the best parts of my career, the worst parts of my career. I focused only on the good and wrapped my energy around researching markets that would play to my strengths. I spent my nights looking online and gathering ideas, pulling concepts together and formulating thoughts. After about three months of research, I had the idea to create a store like Paper Trails.

To be continued...