Erin Condren Gets Candid On Building A $40 Million Dollar Brand
Alright prepared to be inspired! I've been eager to share this interview with Erin Condren. You probably already know her name, because of the amazing LifePlanner™s her brand creates among hundreds of other beautiful products! Like any great entrepreneur Condren started small. She went from printing things at her home to selling over a million LifePlanner™s! In a world that's gone digital, and has lost touch with the sentiment of hand written notes and writing things down, Condren has found her niche! For those that doubted along the way, Condren's numbers alone prove the critics wrong. Just last year, Business Insider noted that it's a $40 MILLION dollar brand! Not only is Condren a successful entrepreneur, she's also a wife, and a mom, balancing it all. We dive into those first steps creating her business, the challenges along the way, how she balances everything, and gives some of the BEST advice I have heard for dreamers out there. Plus so much more! Check out our interview below, as well as an opportunity to win a $50 Erin Condren gift card!
If You Can Dream It Do It: You actually started in the apparel industry, then opened your company in your house, can you talk about those first few steps?
Erin Condren: "Yeah, it was kind of a bizarre reality to be in the apparel business, working in a sewing factory, where you have hundreds of employees. We hit this time where domestic manufacturing was in trouble, and it was hard to make things in the U.S. Then 9/11 hit, and we had a line that was just taking off, and the orders got canceled."
"I found myself at home with new babies, a new mortgage, and needing new ideas."
"I was terrified to be traveling, and in the forefront of fashion at that time, and my priorities had shifted. So, here I am, printing from home, just me, which was kind of nice, to have this control. I could control everything. I could control the design, the printing, the production, the packaging, and the shipping. It was a very different space for me to be in, but I kind of liked it! Not having employees at the time.
If You Can Dream It Do It: Where did the idea really come from?
Erin Condren: "It started with anything that I could print from home. I had new babies, so it started with, 'hmmm I could print my own birth announcement,' and then it was the holidays, and it was a Christmas card. Then, everyone was giving baby gifts, and it became friends saying, 'hold on, I'd pay you to design my holiday card, or I'd love to give those as gifts.' It started with home shopping parties, which was awesome!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: When did you know it was time to move out of your house, and was that decision scary?
Erin Condren: "Well part of it was the city, saying, 'excuse me you're not allowed to do this,' which I didn't even know. It just started to grow. Paper is so viral, at the time it was my AOL email address printed on the back of every single card, on every single thing I made. So, if I shipped a pack of 100 Christmas cards, I would give her 150 Christmas cards, because my customers were actually the ones helping market the product. If you think about it, she's putting the stamp, she's addressing it, and she's sending it out. She told two friends, and so on, and so on. We just started to grow, it started to snowball, and I needed a full time employee, and to find an office."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Speaking of the designs, they're so colorful, and all over Instagram and Twitter, where do you draw your inspiration?
Erin Condren: "I think I've always been this sort of colorful personality, like you said, I come from fashion. So, I love seeing your nails, I love seeing that! I've always been sort of that DIY gal that loves to design and create. Not really any formal background in design, just more so something I was passionate about. I'm still drawing from interiors, home designs, textiles, and prints. My daughter, I have twins, that are fifteen. My daughter, just things that she says, or does, or trends that happen. It's just so fun to interpret that into a LifePlanner™ cover, as well as stationary and designs, and keep it relevant for all ages!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: You're a wife, an entrepreneur, a mother. What do you feel like is really the key to balancing it all?
Erin Condren: "There is no great balance. There is no magical answer. There's days when I have the balls that drop. I think it's sort of understanding that we all have goals and expectations, but if they don't happen today, shift them to tomorrow.
I was laughing on the way here, I got a text from my son, 'did you register us for school?' I looked at my husband, and said, 'did you register them for school?' I didn't want to stress him out, so I told him, 'we're on it!' It turns out I have two weeks, so it will be fine, I'm good!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: Was there ever a day when you thought to yourself, 'I don't know if I can keep doing this, I don't know if I can keep going?'
Erin Condren: "Oh for sure, I think we all have those days. I think as women we do take on so much, and there are those days where you think, 'well, gosh maybe I should just be at home.' It wasn't a option for me. It really wasn't just a hobby, it was a passion, but we needed two incomes, we live in Southern California, and we have a mortgage! So there's days where yeah, there are places I'd rather be, or things I wish I could do, but I love what I do. I think that's part of what keeps me going, but some days are harder than others."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What do you love most about what you do?
Erin Condren: "I love that it's inspired so many other people to be successful. I think this idea of stylish organization has turned into critical time management, and like you said, balancing. So, if you're a student and you've got an internship, or you have two jobs, or you're a busy mom juggling career and families, to see what people are doing with these products is far beyond what I dreamed to be happening. So, to me it's so gratifying to see these stories, and have them flip through pages that show their life story, and their success, or whatever it is to see people using them for so many different purposes is amazing!
If You Can Dream It Do It: You make it so fun with all the stickers, I love doing that! Color-coding for different businesses...
Erin Condren: "I'm telling you some of those are things even, like I said I have these twins, and somehow a math exam, once my daughter puts a colorful sticker on it, it's like 'math exam!!!'
Then you go into his room, and he's saying, 'ugh I've got a math exam, what do I do?'
You never knew stickers could be de-stressing. It's kind of funny to think about that, we all lead busy lives, and if you have a dentist appointment, but if somehow it's a pink sticker that says dentist appointment we're not angsty in that moment."
If You Can Dream It Do It: The ordinary moments, making them extraordinary!
If You Can Dream It Do It: You're company is now thirteen years old, which is amazing! What do you wish you would have known when you started, or what would you go back and tell yourself?
Erin Condren: "So much has changed since I started when I think back. We were talking about this on the way here. We weren't texting. We certainly weren't using social media.
Social media is a blessing and sometimes a curse.
It's a beautiful thing, it's a wonderful way for people to share their ideas, inspire each other, and collaborate."
"I love that part of it, but it's super critical. I never realized, and I say this all the time, I'm a printer. I didn't know that this would be become this brand, and I'd be criticized when I cut my bangs, or when I tried out blonde. So, those are things I didn't realize the thick skin I would need to run a business of this size, and that there'd constantly be a critic waiting with something to say. Usually it's positive, I've learned to manage it. I've learned to embrace it, but I think that's something I didn't know would come my way when I started this."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Speaking of that, you had some naysayers who said the world is moving digital and print is dying. We were talking off camera, and printing actually is a booming business for you. How did you deal with those naysayers?
Erin Condren: "That part is amazing. I think when I first became business partners with my partner Al Marco, he was in the printing industry, and I was leaving my house with these ink jet printers and going into this state of the art facility. He looks at me and said, 'what's this white space? What does the world need?' I said, 'give me a week.' I came back with this coil bound book that I had designed, and he said, 'okay, tell me more.' He pulls out his Iphone, and said, 'it's 2007, the whole world says that it's digital apps," "and we're going to be running our lives through our phones, so tell me more."
"So, I explained, I get that. I'm a tech gal, I'm a graphic designer, but I love paper, and seeing that, smelling that, and crossing things off."
He's actually so amazing and always has been. He said, 'let's give it a try! Let's make it personalized. Let's make it beautiful.'"
"We sold a thousand that year, and we've sold over a million Life Planners™ now, which is nuts!"
"I'm seeing younger, like you said, the gals that grew up on technology, and the internet, and never had experienced the hand written note. It's coming back!
They're showing that millennials love the smell of a book now. How many people love getting a birthday card in the mail? Anyone can post on Facebook, but when you open that mailbox and get a note from somebody, that's a true friend. I think it's really creating more intense friendships, and a passion behind paper again, which is really cool!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: One of my favorite products you make is the compliment cards. How did that idea come about?
Erin Condren: "I love those! You know it was just that, and there were several different reasons. I remember being in a hotel, and we had been there for a week. We were with the kids, it was a mess, and I thought, 'okay we're leaving a tip for the staff, and I wanted to leave a little note. So, I was trying to find something to tear off, and I was looking in my wallet, and I thought, 'wouldn't that be amazing if there was something I had that I could say, 'thank you,' or 'you made my week amazing.'"
"Then you realize there are so many reasons to tell somebody that, and leave a note on their dashboard, or leave a note on their keyboard, 'hey I'm thinking about you today, I know you've got a big interview.' Or leave a note in my kid's lunch. Just drop it in, and say, 'I know that exam is stressing you out, you've got this.'"
"Just little notes, and it feels good to give them!"
If You Can Dream It Do It: This is a website all about chasing your dreams what's some of the best advice you've been given about following your dreams?
"I think it doesn't always happen when you want it to happen. I see some of these gals, that are graduating from college, and they're all brilliant! Everybody's got a 4.5, everybody was the president of ASB, and everybody was Homecoming Queen it seems like these days, and then you sort of hit reality, and your dreams might not happen. I think I read somewhere that Vera Wang was 40 when she started her brand. It might not happen right away. So, take that job. Take that paycheck. I mean, I remember my parents saying, we're done. 'It's your car insurance.' You take that job, and whatever it is, there's nuggets of experience you can pull from it. I hated one of my first jobs, but that's where I learned about cost sheets, profit margins, production, design, and product development, and you take that all with you. You build these ideas that you can maybe use later."
"So, you can use your hobbies more at night or on weekends, or now there's so many webinars. Or, go to a TED Talk, and put it to work later, it might not be immediate."
If You Can Dream It Do It: It's an exciting time with the new LifePlanner™ rolling out, can you talk about that new product, and what you're most excited about?
Erin Condren: "It is so exciting! It's the tenth edition of my LifePlanner™! It's crazy to think it's a tenth birthday! This decade has gone by so quickly. I think each year we listen to our community, and what are they really asking for, and I think for me, more important than ever is we're keeping it made in the USA! So, our coil bound book is made here. We have a beautiful facility in Austin. We've partnered with a mill in New York who has the most beautiful paper I can ever describe."
Thank you Erin for sharing your story with If You Can Dream It, Do It!
Comment below with why you love Erin Condren's products, and you'll be entered to win a $50 Erin Condren Gift Card!
Order your own LifePlanner™ here: http://bit.ly/1S1CIVd
Use code SOCIAL15 for 15% off ErinCondren.com
Below is a gallery of some of my favorite products (just swipe to the right) Erin makes! Obviously my LifePlanner™ pictured earlier as well as the compliment cards, and here are a few more.
Flair Pins- Perfect to spice up your denim jacket game. Love mixing 3 of them together, like the flamingo, cactus, and star! Seriously they make everything you can imagine!
Cactus Phone Case- It's no surprise that I miss my Southern California home, and this bright print reminds me of So-Cal's beautiful landscape.
Well-Kept Wipes- Always on my phone. Can you relate? I read once our phones have more germs than a toilet seat (ew)! These wipes are handy, easily packable, and keep your screen germ-free!
Dual Tip Markers- I'm a pen-aholic, and I'm always buying new pens to find the perfect writing tool. What I love about Erin's markers is they have dual tips, so no need to swap pens if I want a finer print, all I have to do is flip the pen!
Stickers- As Erin said, there is something about stickers that's theraputic when you're stuck on organizing the mundane details of your life.
Jot Your Thoughts Journal- I'm an idea girl, and always using up scratch paper in my purse. I now carry this with me everywhere I go, and it's so useful for those last minute reminders, ideas, or additions to my calendar.