Meet The Maker - Stefanie MacDonald from Halifax Paper Hearts
It's Monday! And that means it's time to feature another maker for our Meet The Maker series. Today, we are presenting an incredibly talented woman named Stefanie MacDonald. She is the owners and creator behind Halifax Paper Hearts and is talking to us today about what inspired her to start her own business, and loads of helpful tips for other maker and creators.
What inspired you to start your own business?
In 2014, I was invited to my aunts’ wedding and I was hunting for a contemporary, quirky note card for a LGBT+ relationship. After frantically searching some department stores that day (I was travelling, and didn’t have time to search for lovely boutiques), I designed my own card with two little old ladies on it, that said “Let’s Grow Old Together." The response at the wedding was very strong, and it inspired me to come up with a few more designs to take to our local farmer’s market. The business became my creative outlet on evenings and weekends, and after connecting with a number of stores, about 2.5 years later, I quit my job as a Corporate Marketing Director to pursue my business fulltime. Now 3.5 years into building my business, we are carried in over 150 stores across the country, and we offer a selection of greeting cards, enamel pins, and other giftware and accessories.
What are some of the challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
I would say one of my biggest challenges is managing my energy as an entrepreneur. Running a business is a little like living your life on a rollercoaster but the highs are higher and the lows are lower than you expect. You feel like you have way more on the line because you are investing your personal income into this business, and you’re pouring all of your energy into your venture - trusting that the decisions you’re making are the right ones, and taking risks every single day.
I was asked once what the most important machine in my business is, and I said my printer at the time (haha)—but actually, it’s me. When you’re working on so many things every day, trying to remember to balance your physical health and mental wellbeing, prioritizing your own needs can become a bit of an inconvenience that you can tend to overlook. It has become critical for me to take time for myself, and to really invest in daily behaviours and routines that optimize my energy, and my creativity. It can be really easy to let a creative business take over your life in a way that seems empowering at first, but really, it becomes all-consuming. When I am focused on achieving a set of objectives, I have an incredibly difficult time contributing to anything else outside of those objectives, and that can create major imbalances in my personal life.
What advice would you give to others looking to become maker or creators?
In the beginning it can be tempting to want to be all of the things, to all of the people. It can be very exciting to start your business, and you’ll likely want to prioritize many things at once. You’ll also be tempted to tell yourself that things need to be perfect before you can really begin. This is a lie that you tell yourself, in order to prevent yourself from taking a risk and possibly failing. It’s self-preservation, in its simplest form.
You don’t need to wait until things are perfect before you start, and you don’t need to do everything at one time.
For me, the root of my success was putting my attention into the things that were both important and urgent. The things that were imperative in order for me to operate. Once my company was registered, and I had a basic brand and product offering, I was able to launch with the intention of continually improving things. I was able to revisit concepts, change and update things, and introduce new things as the company grew.
While you’re at it, stop spending your finite resources on checking in on what your competitors are doing. Focusing on what others are doing in your industry will bring you to a place of fear, scarcity, and self-doubt. It will rob you of your creative energy, and will distract you from your own ability to make magic. You can only be creative in this kind of headspace for so long before you burn out or lose the uniqueness that makes your product stand out.
On the flip side, if people are copying you, try not to get too hung up on it. Call people out and stand your ground (if that feels good to you), but try to decide if spending your time chasing others will move your business forward faster than creating new designs and new product for yourself. You need to remember that if others are using you as their inspiration, they can only create from that scarcity mindset for so long, before it will start to eat at them. You get the benefit of using everything around you as inspiration – focus your energy on that, instead.
The one thing I would say is an exception is your company brand. This is something I would recommend trademarking from the beginning, because you want to be able to grow in a place of security. While I was trademarking Paper Hearts, I was opposed for the trademark and spent a lot of time and resources to win that fight for my brand name. This isn’t something I would wish on anyone, so if you have the resources to put into securing your brand then it’s something to think about doing as soon as possible.