Jamie Grobecker and Chelsea Shukov simultaneously found themselves in a similar position: unhappy with their jobs and looking for a creative outlet. But rather than start a blog, they bought a letterpress.
A slightly heftier investment but as they learned how to print, initially for friends and family, a company was born. Thirteen years later they are still running Sugar Paper, a trusted resource specializing in bespoke letterpress stationary.
“When I suggested opening a retail store to Jamie,” shares Chelsea, “she said I was crazy.” But in the age of digital invites and paperless communication, a brick-and-mortar location in the iconic Brentwood Country Mart, was exactly the right move. An IRL store for IRL paper.
“I grew up in a home where manners were required and traditions were valued,” says Chelsea. “I also grew up with a mom who taught me that I could do anything I could dream up.” Combining those traits and lessons was natural.
Sugar Paper began as a passion project. “We never intended the brand to be what it is now,” they both agree. “Growing a company, building a team, learning distribution, manufacturing and managing a brand requires knowledge, qualities and skills we’ve had to learn along the way.”
The only constant along their journey has been change. “It’s better to embrace it,” they say.
“When you are growing a business and running a household you are always letting someone down,” says Jamie. “The people that love you give you grace and cheer you on.”
It’s a mindset derived from Jamie’s favorite advice from her dad: “People that love you know the truth… people that don’t, screw ‘em.” The two go fly fishing when she has downtime.
The co-founders agree that if they had more time they’d focus on family first.“Becoming mothers significantly changed our relationship to Sugar Paper. Having kids while working full time has forced us to manage our time more effectively and wisely. It has challenged us to learn how to effectively give time to both work and family. Its a constant balancing act.”
One that has been bolstered over the years by a stellar team.“As founders, we understand that we need smart people to help us with specific pieces of the business.” But they still rely on “trusting our gut and remaining true to our core values.” That’s a “nonnegotiable.”
While they admit that “the amount of responsibility that you carry as a business owner can weigh you down,” they have “found that the positives outweigh the negative.
Thirteen years in and they still love what they do.
“Making beautiful things,” and “keeping the art of the handwritten note alive,” continues to motivate their entrepreneurial journey. “It’s incredible to see that something we’ve created has impacted so many people. Where there was nothing, we created something.”
Something that their loyal customers respond to. They remain loyal to their customer as well as other women. “This is a unique time for women,” they share. “There are so many female founders who are connected, whether by geography or social media. We are choosing to help one another rather than view each other as competition.”