Lora DiFranco, founder of Free Period Press, joins us to talk about her journey building a successful e-commerce business.
As a self-described recovering overachiever, she created Free Period Press to remind herself, and other go-getters, to slow down and take care.
Lora is one of our oldest & dearest entrepreneur friends, but we learned so many fascinating new things about her and her journey in this conversation!
We talk about how her childhood influenced her business concept, lessons she’s learned as an e-commerce business, and how she went from side-hustler to full-time business owner.
We also get a sneak peek at the next Free Period product that’s going to be DELISH (hint, hint!).
Shop The Vision Board Book by Free Period Press:
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Hello, and welcome to Seriously Creative. I’m Jess.
And I’m Gwen. And today we’re talking to Lora DiFranco. Lora is the founder of Free Period Press. They create the cutest and most fun paper products that help you slow down and unplug.
Lora’s goal with all the products that she creates is really to just help people stay connected to their body and their mind and their community, which I feel like we all need a little more these days.
So they’re just the most helpful products and they’re designed so beautifully. And Lora’s also one of our oldest and dearest entrepreneur friends. So we were super excited to dig in a little bit more. And she’s just in general, such a smart business savvy lady, and she’s so much fun. And so you’re gonna really enjoy her.
And we’ve spent so much time with her over the years, but definitely learned some new things in this episode, especially about like selling on Amazon versus wholesale versus e-commerce and all that is so interesting. So you guys will definitely enjoy this one. And one last thing she gave us the first sneak peek and an upcoming Free Period Press product.
That’s going to be delish. So enjoy Lora DiFranco.
All right. Welcome Lora. We are so happy that you’re here.
I’m very excited to be here.
Yay. So Lora is the owner of Free Period Press — owner, founder, CEO, and we all three go way back. So we met originally in corporate America. There was actually an innovation team that was formed. I don’t know now, like five, six years ago.
Yeah. Something like that.
Lora and I were randomly assigned to it, probably because everyone knew that we were secretly good entrepreneurs and innovators.
I know, I think so.
And we worked together, we ended up all three doing a little test for a greeting card box.
Which was super fun.
My favorite memory of you is when we were sitting together at the table and you just like pulled your seat back and looked at me and go, do you, like, read business books? I was like, yeah, do you? And she goes, I felt like you would.
And I just don’t know anybody else who does. And I just really like that about us. We became friends, finding you was like finding a soulmate in the corporateness of like starting this corporate job. And like, you know, everyone has been there for a really long time. And then I met you and I. We get each other.
Oh my God. That makes me so happy. And at the time you were like, I have this like little side business thing and I like create these coloring books.
That’s not a big deal. And now you’re like a legit. Full-time business owner. You are one of the most well known small businesses in Cleveland. You have your stuff all over the internet and all over the world, and it is so impressive.
So whenever we’re like, we know Lora from Free Period Press, but like we knew her like even before she was a big deal.
So. We’re gonna go into like how you got here and all of that, but tell us, like, where is your business today? What are you doing? Like, how is it sort of split up among online and in store? That kind of thing?
Yeah. So Free Period was just me for a really long time. And then about a year ago I hired my first part-time employee.
I was pregnant at the time, so I was like, I need to get some systems in place so I can actually take a maternity leave. So. Very overdue. A lot of things that I should have systems I should have put in place and all that kind of stuff. But so now we share a studio space with a, another branding agency called Agnes studio.
So it’s me and a part-time employee, Amber who fills all our orders and does customer service. And does she has a million hats as like anyone does in a small business. It’s amazing. Um, and then just a team of like amazing freelancers consultants. Contractors people that pitch in too. Yeah. And our, our line has grown a lot.
We did start with coloring books and then just kind of branched out into other other products that kind of speak to living intentionally and self care and just slowing down and focusing on what’s important and all that good stuff. So yeah, we have a pretty large product line now and I would say. Our biggest sales channels are in wholesale and Amazon.
And we also sell on our own Shopify website, but it’s interesting. The direct to consumer stuff. People in Cleveland know that side of our business, but it’s actually a pretty small percentage of our business, which makes sense. Cuz Amazon has a lot of people on it, apparently.
Turns out to be lot of the market.
But it’s really great that you’re doing well on Amazon because so many small businesses you hear about them like not doing great on Amazon.
And I, I have some thoughts around that, which is like a lot of our products, and this is kind of intentional. Like when we create a new product, it’s often something that doesn’t exist in the market, in that exact form so far. So, so we have like a couple of like, actually that you guys designed, the Schedule Magic planners and notepads.
And those do like, okay on Amazon, but obviously there’s like a million planners and you know, notebooks and that kind of thing. So it’s kind of hard to stand out. What does great on Amazon are our Habit Calendar and our Vision Board Book that you guys also designed.
We did. Oh my gosh.
And those do great because now there’s a bunch of habit tracker type of products, but we were the first habit calendar on Amazon and the first very well designed vision board book.
And so when people see, so yeah, it’s, it’s just about, you know, as so many things in business differentiation, uniqueness and, and finding your niche.
Yeah, for sure. That’s so awesome. Okay. So take us back a little bit first. I wanna know a little bit about just your childhood, cuz I feel like when we’ve talked about this before, there’s like a little bit of that that feeds into how you started your business and why you started your business.
And I don’t even think, I know.
Oh, yeah. Childhood stuff. And how it ties into your business. It absolutely 100% ties in, I think about this all the time now, because so, so I, I grew up in Cleveland, but my parents are from Italy and my grandparents lived there. I have aunts and uncles and cousins that live there.
So every few summers we would spend about a month in Italy in this, like…
That’s amazing. A month.
Yeah. We would spend a month there just visiting family. And the pace of life is just. Different. And my parents are from this tiny farming village and it’s just like, it’s kind of as romantic as it sounds like I would just spend all day like wandering around and reading books and playing with my siblings and like hanging out with whatever neighbor kids I could find.
And, you know, then we would have like a three hour lunch and it, so I always had this kind of like kind. Duality to my personality and my upbringing. Whereas like in Cleveland, I was like the ambitious, like straight a student that played three sports and practiced the piano. And like, you know, had all that like very busy American go getter schedule.
But then I also had this life in Italy where I, you know, family was first and the, the pace was so much slower. And so as I kind of came in into adulthood, And didn’t get to go to Italy for a month. Every couple of years, I was just missing that and just, just missing that kind of slowness and intentionality around prioritizing friends and family and, you know, self-reflection and just having more kind of time to yourself.
And so that is 100% where Free Period comes from is like, it was a few years into. Working full time and needing to carve out some space for myself and wanting to do that for others. Cuz I was just seeing everyone be stressed out and burnt out around me. And so yeah, just wanting to create this space to like give everybody permission, including myself to like slow down and, and live more intentionally.
I love that so much. And I think the Habit Calendar was the first product. I feel like after the coloring books that I really was that the first product you created.
Oh, it was, and it’s such a good tool because I think like it’s meta because it’s habits, but like, it’s so hard to create habits around things or, or be intentional when you don’t have anything to help you do it.
Yeah. And so there’s something. Writing it down and just like every day, getting to give yourself a new star or something, there’s like very, like I’m still in sixth grade and somebody’s giving me gold stars sort of like mentality to it. And it, it really does like help things settle in. I think it’s so powerful.
Yeah. And I just, it, the Habit Calendar in particular has, was just such as most of our products is just something that I wanted for myself, because like so many of these simple habits about slowing down are. So simple, but just so hard to incorporate into our everyday. So it’s like, yeah, just that, that easy way of giving, giving ourselves some positive encouragement from just checking something off at the end of the day is sometimes all you need.
Yeah. And then the other thing that’s so interesting is they’re all so pretty. They’re all so well designed. So how did that sort of come together where you are hiring artists and creatives around town or I’m sure, probably now at this point around the country, to create for you.
Yeah. I try, I try to be really clear about that because I come up with the product ideas, but I’m not a designer. So every one of our products is designed by, an artist or a graphic designer that I collaborate with to bring it to life. So I just love design and I, I just love good design. And so that has always been.
A priority for Free Period is for all of our products to feel special and beautiful because it also, I mean, and it kind of goes back to like that Italian culture of like your, your life should be beautiful. And like, you know, there, there’s such a big difference in like, you know, not everything needs to be like this, but like, The difference between using a beautiful notebook and like how, how special that feels versus, you know, something that you get at the drug store.
And so, yeah, so that’s always been a big priority and it combined with the fact that like, I love supporting local artists. And I love collaborating with designers cuz they always take this like kind of rough idea I have and then they come back with something that’s like way cooler than I could have done on my own and way different than even what I was thinking.
So that is also just such a fun piece. And so as I was starting Free Period, that quickly became like a core value is like how. We can support artists. And so kind of spread the love and also be promoting artists as we’re launching new products, too. For sure. So like early days, how did you make that like, model work?
Because that’s like an investment to collaborate with someone on something like that and like knowing, okay, I’m just starting this out, but I have to like, Upfront before I even know this is a viable product. Yeah. I have to invest something like, how did you make that work? Yeah, so it very quickly, like very early on, I started with artist friends that could, it could be more of a collaboration where were splitting.
The sales revenue. So, um, I don’t really do this anymore now that we have the cash flow that we can just pay artists front. And, um, cuz it is a more complicated business model to be like seeing how much revenue you have and then splitting that up evenly or however we do it. So, but yeah, at first it was like more like the promise of something.
And so it was more of a collaboration of like, Hey, let’s try this thing together. And then it slowly evolved into. Setting money aside so that I can pay artists front for whatever we’re producing. That’s awesome. I think it is so first, like just the go-getter ness of like, let’s find a model that works is so savvy of you.
And so I love that. Like, that was the first way to do it. Even though like trial and error didn’t end up like. Continuing that way. But I also remember the first thing that I had designed, which was very early on mm-hmm you paid me really well for what I was designing. And I know I had even worked designing for corporations like on spec or freelance or whatever, and what you were paying was better than that.
Yeah. And so I think that also says a lot about like truly supporting artists, not just like a lot of people say they support artists because it, you know, supports their end goal. But like also making sure that like the artist is getting compensated enough. The quality of work that they’re doing. Yeah.
And that is a huge thing. Just in building a business in general is like, just getting to define what your values are. And, and I think it’s part of like being a woman owned business too, of like saying that business as usual of like trying to make as much money as possible or trying to just like squirrel away.
As, as, as much of the pie as you can get, that just feels so gross to me. And so like, so much of building Free Period is like getting to do things in a way that just like, feel good, you know, and it, and it feels good to be able to like pay people what they deserve. And, and so that’s always been a huge thing for me is like I even bought, do you know what that book is called?
That’s. It’s it’s like a textbook size that has like the market rates for designers and illustrators of like what to get paid for a poster and what, you know. Yes. Yeah. I forget what it’s called, but it’s like been around for a while. I don’t even know how accurate it is. So I, there are some newer, newer additions of it.
I’m sure that has to be. Yeah. So I, and so like, that’s a thing that’s on my bookshelf of like, I just wanna make sure that people are getting paid, what the, the going rate is and something that feels fair, um, for everybody involved, especially cuz. I mean Free Period wouldn’t exist without the artist. And so it’s like such a huge part of our business, so right.
It’s not like just like a nice thing to do. It’s like, literally. The, the artists like are the business. Yeah. You know, and I love that. You’d see it that way cuz you don’t necessarily have to, but that is such a big part of it. I think like it’s, it’s clear in the business that you value creativity in a huge way.
Yeah. So for sure, I think it amazing. Well, Also that you made it work for your business model. Like you were able to go from it being a side hustle to now being full-time and having a part-time employee mm-hmm and still also compensating the artists in an appropriate way. Like that says a lot about just like the foundations of your business.
Yeah. And that, and that took a lot of time too, because there was, you know, I think I would say the first, like four or even five years of Free Period, it was just a side hustle and like any money we got, I was just so excited about making the next product that. Put all of the revenue into the next product.
And so I was definitely not getting paid or it was not a sustainable business model, but that’s kind of, it was kind of the fun thing about having it be a side hustle and having another income that I could rely on is that I could, you know, like build this product line of things. I was really excited about.
But as I got further down the line and was like, I would really love to do this full time. I had to get serious about the money side of things and being like, okay, so how do we structure this so that I can leave my job, do this full time. And that’s when I started paying more attention to cash flow. And I think I’ve talked to you guys about this book profit first, but that was the.
Book that kind of like walked me through, like, how do you set up your financials as a business in a way that, um, you can pay yourself and set money aside and like have things. Totally more buttoned up. And so that, that was the biggest game changer for me in, in. And do you have an accountant that you use now or do you still handle everything?
Yeah, so we, I have an accountant that handles like my taxes and I just hired again before maternity leave a bookkeeper that kind of goes into cookbooks and kind of does the. Categorizing and all that kind of stuff, which I was really bad at I was gonna say, did you try to do that yourself first? Cause we sure did.
yeah. And I’m sure I just, I think I like made it so much worse for the woman that I hired. It’s like, first I’m gonna pay you to clean this up. Yeah. So, sorry. To keep doing it for us. That’s amazing. So when you were, it’s probably diff a little bit different now, but especially in those early years, when you were putting something out into the world, I think this is something that we talk about a lot, cuz we’re creatives.
And so you can’t create something and not have some sort of attachment to it or some sort of, um, feeling raw maybe a little bit when you put it out into the world, like, did you have any of that? Were you nervous where you like, people are gonna judge my stuff? Hmm.
Or not, which is awesome. I think, no, I think I always, I was a little bit nervous to, you know, to put in new, new product out there. And, you know, I think maybe this is like shows some like overconfidence, but I was always like, almost expecting like, oh, this coloring book is going to sell 1 million copies and it’s gonna, you know, it’s gonna change everything.
And then, and. You know, I have a, a good friend. Who’s a musician. And she, we talk about this all the time. Like you launch this album and there’s just so much hype around the launch. And then it’s like, okay, then the, then it’s like the next week. And it’s like, the buzz is over. And you’re like, now, what? And you, so you just realize, so I think that that was definitely a learning experience.
Like. My first few products had that, like the launch day is the day and now it’s kind of transformed to like the launch day is the beginning. And you realize that like, Launching something is just the first step on a long road of like constant promotion and needing to get, get the word out in so many different ways.
And so it’s like the first step, but I think that’s also a nice part of the collaboration. Like the creative collaborations that we do, all of our products are based on is like, Yes, the concept could succeed or fail, fail, but it’s not like my artwork or like I don’t have that kind of attachment. I have attachment around more like the, the, the product concept or format or that kind of thing.
It probably helps you be a little bit more objective from a business perspective. Yeah. Because sometimes yeah. And when you said that actually did feel familiar. Cuz we have done that a couple times where we’re like, we just finished this course. It’s amazing. Yeah. Like can’t wait to see what happens. And then yeah, like the marketing is so much a part of it.
Like nothing sort of ends when the product or course or whatever the thing is is done. It’s like it’s just beginning. Yeah. And now you have to like make people want to buy it. Yes. And I would say the other thing is that. and this is, this is O kind of, uh, an adjustment that I’ve made over time too, is just that concept of like, you need a lot of at bats to hit a home run.
And so I’ve kind of, I’ve also tried to change my mindset of like, putting everything, to make the product as great as possible before I launch it. But also knowing that. It’s gonna take a lot of different ideas. Like not every product’s gonna be a home run and it just takes a lot of tries to like, find something that clicks with everybody.
Yeah. So when you were, I guess this is probably a question for now and before, but especially when you were. When it was just a side hustle, like how much time were you able to devote to it on the side of your real business? And like, was that exhausting? Was it thrilling? Yeah, I I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too, because there’s kind of this like wave.
The pendulum is swinging like against hustle culture and like working on nights and weekends and like, which I love by the way. Yes, I’ll do that more. but at the same time, I definitely wouldn’t have Free Period if I didn’t work nights and weekends on Free Period when it was just starting out. But it was, it was also just like the season of life, life I was in, like, I was in my twenties.
I didn’t have kids, I didn’t have a house. And so like, um, I still made time for my friends and made time for the things I cared about, but I also had a lot of down time and, you know, it was a fun thing. It, it was an energizing thing to work on. Um, I probably wasn’t like the most strategic that I could have been.
Like I said, like, I was always just like working on the next thing, like whatever sounded fun, but it, it was kind of like my creative hobby as well as a side business. So. I feel like the line is not always as clear as people make it sound like when they’re talking about like right side hustles and, and working well, I think it, it is super important to talk about like the, the season of life, because.
Sometimes we’ll catch ourselves comparing our business or, or where we are to where other people are. And it’s like, yeah, we’ll look at somebody else and be like, oh, they’re single they’re of no kids. And like, they’re way younger. And maybe they have like a ton of free. I mean, maybe they don’t, but like we could have a ton of free time and we’re like trying to pick kids up at daycare and I have a baseball game and everybody’s sick.
yeah, I think it’s also because we started talking about. This business so long ago that we were in completely different phases of life. And I think there’s the mental shift of like, wanting to be those people still with those responsibilities to be able to devote to this. And like, life is just so much different now.
Like we just can’t, it’s not the same. How much has it changed for you since becoming a mom? Which was how long. Six six months ago. Does it feel like longer or shorter? um, it feels like it’s been a minute. like six months no, I think it, it definitely has started to shift and I’m really, I’m like, honestly, just kind of getting back into, I still feel like I’m getting back into it, which maybe that’s a forever feeling of like a little bit.
Yeah. so how much time were you able to set aside for yourself to do maternity. So, or like what, what did that look like for, you know, because you, you were setting it up for yourself and kind of could, you know, like shape it, however you wanted to shape it and also needed money I’m sure. For a salary. Yeah.
That time. Yeah. Right. And so it was really interesting because I think as much as I set up be set up my maternity leave, it was still hard to unplug. Even I had this newborn baby and I wasn’t getting any sleep and my head was still in. My business. And so, and that could have been partly because I was just like looking for some semblance of like feeling myself, you know?
Yeah. And so I wonder if that was kind of part of it too, but it took me a while to like ease into maternity leave and just like, let it go. And like, actually. Put things on pause and say like, I don’t have to do this right now, but I would say for the first couple weeks I was still kind of checking in and responding to emails and like even trying to like do a couple, it also was timing because I had my baby on December 11th and obviously the holidays are like the craziest time for Free Period.
Right. And so. While that’s not a great excuse. Like it was just also a busy time in the business. And so I was just checking in more than I wanted to, but so it, it took me some time to like unwind and unplug from the business. But yeah, I actually ended up taking and I kind of eased back into things like my mom was watching the baby a couple days, so I, I really eased back into it, but I, I started kind of going back to work around three months and then.
More around five months. That’s really nice to be able to ease in a little bit versus yeah. When you go back at corporate and it’s like, today’s the day a hundred percent in. Yes. For sure. So, Gwen, you, it’s interesting for you cuz you had a baby while working in corporate and then you had a baby while owning your own business.
Yeah. Very different talks about how like you could just shut up when it’s corporate you’re just like, bye. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. When it was corporate, I was just like, sorry. I like, I felt like I. Had worked there long enough and I like earned my maternity leave mm-hmm so I was like, yep, Nope, not gonna check anything.
I don’t like, I’ll catch up in three months. Like whatever they have people there, other people are handling it. So like, I did not think about work at all. Wow. Until like I had to go back. But then this past time, like. I was like, okay, like I have to see what’s going on. Like, this is my business. Like, I, I can’t just shut off, but like, I also didn’t want to, like, I didn’t wanna just be like, okay, I’m just gonna take a, like a, you know, a couple month break and not check in.
Like I wanted to know what was happening. Yeah. Like I felt like I was missing out. Yeah. Also like, because Jess and I are business partners, I was like, I want you to know I’m still here. Like, and she wanted to respect my time, but I’m like, I’m still here and I’m not doing anything. One of the interesting parts about a partnership is you get so used to like doing everything together.
And then when she was out with Hayes, I was like, Like spinning in my own head. Like couldn’t like make decisions. And then one day I just called her crying and I was like, I just really need to talk to you for like 30 minutes. Oh, I can’t make any decisions. And I don’t know what I’m doing. And then I was like, why did you wait this long?
I didn’t wanna bother you. when like, daily, I was like, checking in. I’m like, Hey guys, how are things going? Like reading the messages, like, oh, this is what’s going on. So like, I was totally keeping up and I’m like, just waiting for like, does anyone need me for anything? Like, just, I can just like. Give some thoughts or whatever, I’m just holding a baby while she’s sleeping.
Right, right. Like, which, I mean, I love that part too, but yeah, it’s, it’s just different with your own business. Oh man. Having a business partner sounds nice. Sometimes I feel like you can come join another party in time.
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So when you moved from doing this as a side hustle to doing it full time, like, what was that change like? Like. I have to imagine that you would be so excited thinking like, oh, I’m gonna have like all this free time to do everything. And then like, kind of on day one, you don’t know where to start. Yeah.
Would be how I would be. Yeah. I, so it, it very much was like that. And you know, I think when it was the side hustle, it was. Working, just putting out whatever fire it was was coming, coming my way. And then I went full time and it was like, okay, I should be more strategic about things, but it, I don’t know it.
I also went full time in January of 2020 — 2 months before COVID hit.
Oh, we did that in February.
Oh yeah. Right
And so you guys know. I had all these grand plans and then COVID happened and it’s like, well, I’m a self-care company. There’s a big chance for us to show up for our community and help.
Help everyone through this. And like, as I’m figuring it out, like sharing what I’m doing and like, you know, it was just such a moment. And so it kind of like, all the plans immediately went out the window and it just was focused on like, how can we show up for our community? And that’s awesome though. Yeah.
So how did the channels that you sell your products through change over time? Like what did you start with, or maybe even think was gonna be your main way of selling and what is now?
Yeah, so the first few products that we launched, we launched on Kickstarter.
I forgot about that.
Yeah. Yeah. Back in like Kickstarters heyday.
Yeah. Does Kickstarter still exist?
I think so.
Oh my gosh, should we go start something in Kickstarter?
Maybe? I don’t know. I mean, there’s a couple of them. But my husband and my brother, they’ll find something and they’re like, “Hey, I’m gonna back this thing.” I was like, “People still do that?”
So, yeah, we launched our first few products on Kickstarter. I was very much assuming that we would be a direct-to-consumer company. Because that’s kind of all I knew. Like, you start a company, you create a website, and you sell your stuff on it.
You just have people get there. Like just the whole internet comes through. The whole internet shows up.
If you build it, they will come.
Uh, turns out that’s super hard.
I feel like that’s a lesson everyone in the world who wants to make a product or have eCommerce store needs to know.
Yeah. It’s really hard. It’s really hard. And, so, as I was digging into product businesses and different business models, and just learning through podcasts and blogs and all that kind of stuff, I learned more about wholesale and had like two stores reach out to carry our coloring books.
And one of them was this great store that’s now closed, but it was in Bath near Akron. And she was so kind to me. I just went there one day to like drop off my wholesale order, and I was like, “Can I ask you approximately 1 million questions about wholesale?” And she helped me set up like what stores are looking for and all that kinda stuff.
And the biggest thing about wholesale is that it’s very common to have a minimum order or requirement of $100 or $200. And so, all of the sudden, I was like, wait a second. I can get one sale for a hundred dollars, or I can spend all day on social media or writing blogs or emailing people to try to get website orders and the average order of value at the time when we were selling $12 coloring books, was about $15.
So you’re doing all this work for like one sale. And so, it became just where my strengths were and where I wanted to spend my time. And so wholesale kind of just made sense for that. Like, okay, I can do this. I can research stores. I can reach out to them. And it also helped direct our product line.
Like what are stores looking for? Where does that overlap with our interests of what kind of products we want to make. That’s when we launched stickers, and stickers have been huge for wholesale. And so that was step one. And then Amazon was one of those things where it’s like, Amazon is a storefront. Let’s just try putting something out there.
What did you put out first?
I think our Habit Calendar. We put that out there first and it did great. And we actually came out with our Habit Calendar pretty late in the year, so we launched it, and then that New Year’s Day, we sold a couple hundred in one day and I was like, oh my gosh, this is crazy.
Yeah. That was definitely like a peak moment of this.
And did you do any PR around that to get the word out, or was that just solely by being searchable on Amazon?
Yeah, so that was mostly just being searchable on Amazon, but I will say, as far as our website goes, our website’s there and we drive people to it. Like we’re slowly, we have an email list and we post on social media, but I don’t put a ton of effort behind that, except for PR gift guides.
So around the holidays, that’s where we’ve had a lot of success in driving traffic to our website is by getting featured on — we’ve been featured on The Skimm and a bunch of Buzzfeed lists around the holidays.
And so that has been huge for us.
Yeah. And each of those end up driving some sort of spike in sales, right?
I remember when we used to work on a brand while we were at American Greetings, called Paper Rebel. That was a big part of the strategy was to get into those gift guides. And some of them wouldn’t have any result, but then like a few of them that would get bigger, it would make such a big impact.
So, yeah, it seems like for those type of products, that’s such a good advertising tactic.
Yeah. It’s a really good tactic. And especially once you’re on their radar, you can get on their gift guide for back to school and for Mother’s Day. Once they like your brand, they’ll keep coming back, which is nice.
Yeah. That’s awesome.
I wanna go back to something that you said before. You were talking about talking to stores and knowing what they wanted. Was it something where you were having conversations with these stores to be like, what are you looking for? Or were you just like researching their products and seeing a hole? How were you determining what they were looking for? Was it something they told you or was it something you saw?
It was a little bit of that. It was a little bit of conversations, especially with local stores, just being able to go in and chat with them. We’ve only done one trade show. Like that is just a whole different world that I’m like kind of intimidated by and don’t want. If I can avoid it being a big part of our business.
It’s also really expensive to do those, right?
Super expensive. Yeah. It’s a big commitment.
Which one did you do?
We did the National Stationary Show.
The big one.
That is the big one.
Uh huh, and it is no longer. It merged with New York Now. But, oh my gosh. It was so stressful.
Was it successful in terms of getting new wholesalers?
Not really. That’s the other thing with trade shows. It’s it’s about relationship-building, and so you have to be in it for the long haul of like seeing someone at several rounds of shows before they place an order.
So, we got a few orders, and it was definitely a really good learning experience, but it wasn’t profitable on the next day.
That’s a scary thing to do, though, since it’s such a large investment.
For it to be the long game.
What about… I know you did some local markets. I don’t know if you still do that or not, but were those successful or profitable?
Yeah, I would say so. We pretty much stick to doing the ones around the holidays, just because again, I very much set up Free Period as a lifestyle business. I don’t wanna be sweating at a market in 90 degree heat every weekend.
So I just stick to the holiday ones. And, I mean they’re profitable, but I feel like more than that, it’s just so helpful to see people interacting with our product and seeing what they respond to or what they’re commenting on. So it’s almost like market research, you know?
Oh, that’s cool.
Because we don’t have a retail store. It’s pretty common for a brand to also have a storefront, and we don’t have that. So, it’s kind of our one opportunity to talk to our customers face-to-face and see what their reaction is.
So speaking of being a lifestyle business, we’ve talked a lot about this recently, because I think early on, the business is exciting, and what it can be. And there is a certain amount of hustle in it. And some of that can come from needing to, or just being excited. And then once you get to a certain point, it’s like, okay, now I really just want this business to work for all the other things I want to do in my life as well.
So, what does that look like today for you?
Yeah, I mean, going back to coming out of maternity leave, that has just become even more clear. If I’m away from my kid, and if I’m at work, I want to be doing something that I’m excited about.
And so it it’s very much has shifted from, you know, I think now that we’re in a more financially secure spot where it’s like, we have a couple of best sellers that we know sell consistently.
And so now we can think about, what products do we wanna make that are fun and contribute to doing good in the world? And so that’s kind of how I think about having a lifestyle business.
We have been feeling a lot more of that too. If I’m gonna be away from my family, if I’m gonna be away from home, I don’t want to also be miserable, because I already did that for like 10 years.
Like this is for something else.
The thing used to be the like goal post for us was like, let’s make more money, so that we can have bigger salaries. Not like greedy.
Maybe a bigger team at first.
Like have a bigger team, bigger salaries, just have a little bit more, and now it’s become like, well, yeah, sure. It’d be nice to make more so that we can travel more, or do more things in our personal life. But it’s actually more about supporting the personal life.
Like for me, in a couple years, I want to be able to be home when the kids get off the school bus, when they’re in school. Which means that my day needs to be done pretty early. And that was a scary thing to say, like, “Hey Jess, I wanna be done with my day at like, two.”
How fun is that though? Like, that we get to decide that. And I feel like it very much fits with the Free Period ethos. I view my whole life as an experiment, and I view Free Period as an experiment. And I have been thinking about that a lot, even before I had Arlo —
Arlo is your son.
Yes. Arlo is my son. Thinking about, like the union movement back in the day. Their slogan was, like, eight hours of work, eight hours of rest and eight hours of sleep. And that’s what they were fighting for. But that assumed that there was a woman at home taking care of the house and life admin.
And so I’ve just been thinking about like, how do we reinvent that eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure and eight hours of sleep for the modern day? And it’s like, life needs to fit in there, too.
So, I’ve been experimenting with that same schedule of nine to 2:30-ish, and then watching Arlo in the afternoons, and doing house stuff around then. And really trying to have the night to actually relax and spend time with my wife, and read and cook, like do things that are actually enjoyable, instead of squeezing all of the life admin stuff into those hours.
So I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking about, like, how Free Period can be this very tiny experiment in like a new way of doing stuff. And I think the same goes for you guys.
Yeah. It’s really cool.
That life sounds great. The thought of extra time. I’m currently in the phase of two little kids, where my evenings are just the kids, and then I’m like, I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed.
There’s no time for relaxing. It’s just sleep, kids, and work. It’s just a phase. I’m in a phase of life.
Yes, for sure.
But we were for a while, we were pushing ourselves to be in by eight or nine, and then work until five. We would sit here in the studio and just be at our computers, not even having any steam left.
I’m like, why are we sitting here pushing ourselves? Like, Hey, I’m done at three. I have nothing more to give almost every day at three o’clock.
Society told us.
And we worked in corporate for so long that we’re like, we didn’t have a successful day if we didn’t work until 5:00. Like, what? Why?
Or somebody was looking over their shoulder, like, oh, she doesn’t work as hard as everybody else does.
And so that, to me, is the biggest freedom. Getting to pick what we work on is also very exciting.
Yeah. And I’m sure getting to decide what you create is.
And just making the hours work and fit into your lifestyle.
Yeah. Breaking all the rules that we were taught and just being like, actually, this is how I want to do it.
Yeah. Also excessive emojis in emails.
All the exclamation points.
All the exclamation points. Signing off with ‘xo.’ Why not? Literally, sometimes I’m like, I have an emoji after every single paragraph. You know what? Sending it. That’s our brand vibe.
That’s great. Love it.
So, we worked together on a branding project last year, which was really fun, and different for us because we got to play with color and shapes and collages and all of these things that are so fun for us as artists. But how has your brand evolved, do you think, from where you started? Because I know we talked a lot during that process about just aging it up a little bit.
Obviously the consumer is getting older with you, but what’s that process been like?
Yeah, that’s been really interesting. I think it’s always hard to draw the line between where I stop and Free Period begins. And so I think a lot of it’s just been naturally evolving, like as my tastes evolve. And because it’s just been me so far, it’s all… I mean, I know it’s not supposed to be this way, because your brand’s supposed to be separate from you, but it’s always just been my voice.
Your brand doesn’t to been separate from you.
Mm-hmm. I mean you are your business.
Yeah. Right. So, sometimes we’ll be working with solopreneurs, and they’ll be like, I don’t know what my brand voice is. I’m like, it’s just your voice. Anything you write, you can check it off as your brand voice.
Yes, exactly. And that’s what people love about you.
So, I think that’s how it’s evolved is as my seasons of life have evolved. Like, I started very much in the living intentionally, but also wanting to be like very productive with my time and really focus on habits and productivity. And coming at it in a grounded way that that’s not going to lead to burnout. But over time, it’s definitely morphed into more of the community-building and different aspects of life, less work-focused and more life-focused, I would say.
What are you excited about? Looking forward.
You know, I think this is a lot comes from just coming out of the pandemic hopefully, but just being isolated for two years. I’m just so excited about like working with as many artists as I can. And just reconnecting, especially to the Cleveland artist community, because I think there are so many amazing, talented people here that I just want to show to the world. You know, just shout their names from the rooftops. And so, I’m so excited about the products that we’re working on are kind of with that lens. First, how many different artists can we work with on one project? One product that is kind of in the works right now is a Cleveland food guide.
Oh! Give it to me.
Yeah. So our our Cleveland Metro Parks Mini Guide was a big hit where we said, here are the 18 Metro Parks reservations in Cleveland, and encouraging people to go check out the ones that are maybe a little further out and haven’t they haven’t been to.
And so it’s like, what if we took that bucket list concept to Cleveland restaurants?
So I just hired a food writer to curate the list for us, to make sure I — because you know, I don’t know all of them.
There’s so many.
And so I wanted to make sure.
And then I think how we’re gonna do it is that we’re gonna have each page designed by a different Cleveland artist. So the pizza page is gonna be designed by someone who loves pizza. So we just did a call for artists, not just for this product, but for a bunch of other stuff that we’re working on.
Yeah, I’m just so excited to like, oh, that’s so fun. Kinda like spreading lunch, the like ETM that launch. I, I mean, hopefully. Before the end of the year. Okay. So yeah, shooting for this fall. I mean, I’m asking for like personal reasons. Yeah. For a friend, for a friend, but also, you know, cuz we’ll promote it on this.
Yeah. Okay. Yeah, for sure.
Can we talk about like, how are you liking being a mom? Like, do you love the baby phase? Do you, are you like, I love hate it. I don’t like it. What are your thoughts?
I think the, the best piece of advice that a friend shared with me is like, oh, no one likes the newborn phase. And I was like, oh, okay.
Just the, the newness of everything that the first couple months were like pretty rough.
But now that he’s like smiling and knows that I exist, you know, like that. It’s getting more and more fun.
The emotional return on investment.
I was just gonna say, that!
Jess told me that. I’m gonna give you credit for that.
Someone told me once that at about nine months, you get an emotional return on your investment.
I love that.
Yes. Well, just what you said, like he knows I’m alive. He like cares if I’m around. Yeah. Not just for milk and cuddles. Right?
If you could look back. From the beginning, say like of your business, you’re still working in corporate America and like tell yourself one thing, what would you tell yourself?
I think a piece of advice is just to try things. I mean, it’s such generic advice, but just like that whole start before you’re ready. Like you can, I’m such an over researcher, but I always learn more by just doing than thinking. And so. To, to not overthink things and just put something out there, I think would, would always be like that piece of advice.
And then, I think a big thing that has always worked well for me, to a surprising extent, is doing visioning exercises. Like writing what my life is going to be in two years, as if it’s already true and has happened.
And so I remember with Free Period, being like, I’m gonna work for myself, and I’m gonna have a kid, and I’m gonna work, but not too much. And, my personal life is gonna look like this. And it’s kind of bonkers how much that has come to fruition now. And so, I just think that’s such a powerful thing. To just imagine what could be, and just to put it out there.
If someone wanted some sort of book to do that activity, where would one go?
Well, we do have this Vision Board Book. And yeah, that definitely came out of that idea of vision boarding, like putting images around what you what you want your life to look like. It’s just so powerful. Because then you can put it up and see it every day. And it’s just this constant reminder of what you’re working towards.
And I knew you guys would be perfect to design that project. So I came to you guys, and said — not a lot of people have magazine subscriptions anymore. That’s what we used to do. I remember in college, my friends and I were big dorks and we would sit around and make vision boards on our Saturday night, flipping through Oprah Magazine and Real Simple and coming up with these, sometimes intentionally hilarious and sometimes like, you know, authentic collages, but it, it’s hard to find images that really speak to, to us.
So yeah, coming up with a whole book full of words and images that you know are meant to inspire and be put on a vision board.
It’s so awesome. I love it so much. I love that.
So many or maybe all of your products have come from something that you have tried. You’ll have an idea and then you’ll try something unique. Even the, the Schedule Magic you’re like, yeah, you put all of the things you wanna do here, and then you reorganize it. Like it’s just a smarter way to do things, but like something that’s worked for you and then putting it onto the world and making it beautiful.
Aw, that’s so lovely.
All right, friend, this has been amazing.
Ah, so nice. Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored that you invited me on.
Thank you for being here with us. If people want to follow along, where can they find you?
Yeah. Our website is freeperiodpress.com and we’re @freeperiodpress on all of the socials.
You’re so lucky you got all your socials.
You didn’t have to put any dots or underscores in there. We’re @heyhello.studio, FYI everybody. All right. Thank you so much. We love you. And we hope to talk to you soon.
Thanks guys. Love you too.
All right, bye.
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