Hi! My name is Elizabeth Rees and I am the founder of Chasing Paper, an innovative wallpaper company. Nearly 8 years ago we started with a single product in a single size - thoughtfully designed removable wallpaper.
Today we have product extensions, different sizing, and substrates. We sell to women 25-45 living mostly living in larger urban cities with a love for design, interiors, and creating memorable spaces.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I am the third generation in my family’s printing business so it was a very organic path that led me to Chasing Paper and really came out of necessity and wants to feel personally connected to the work I was doing daily. I wanted to create a business and product that could be seamlessly manufactured through our family business so that I could be connected to the generations that came before me and also have something to pass down. I wanted the brand to be something that spoke to me as a consumer and allowed me to connect with women like me in different phases of their lives.
You have to continue to get in front of people organically and thoughtfully, and that is an incredible amount of work.
In the early days, it was a sheer hustle. I hand wrote letters to hundreds of editors with a framed wallpaper sample, talked with everyone I could about what I was doing. I even carried wallpaper around with me in NYC so that I could show people when they asked questions. Mostly, I said yes to everything. Each opportunity was a chance to succeed or fail – which were both driving me further into understanding my business and customer.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
I grew up in Milwaukee, just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. I spent my 20’s working in DC, backpacking Asia and living in Europe before setting into New York six years ago. Obviously, I have moved a lot in the past 10 years and each time I would get the keys to a new place I would always be excited to decorate and make space my own, and Chasing Paper was truly born out of that passion. Wallpaper is an extraordinary way to transform an environment, but who wants that commitment? Not me, that’s for sure. From the basic to bespoke print, it was important for me to create a product that was accessible and easy. Chasing Paper is a beautiful, thoughtfully-designed innovative wallpaper solution.
I have spent the better part of the last decade working incredibly hard to find my way not only in the entrepreneurial space but also to grow a company in a way that felt organic and true to my values. We have grown an average of 75% YOY since Chasing Paper’s inception, partnered with incredible artists, and have lots of exciting plans for the future.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We have been running a profitable business for years and I think that is in part due to my Midwestern upbringing. I have never been one to overextend myself, in life or business, and perhaps that means our growth hasn’t been the hockey stick trajectory we so often read about, but we have also continued to invest in the company and our people.
We have plans to continue to broaden our product lines into spaces beyond walls in 2021, I think we are ready and primed to try new things and have the audience to test things in a meaningful way. We want to create more products that have different audiences, different margins, different production processes, and just generally diversifying our business. With the world changing so much this year, it seems like an important time to invest in new ideas.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think the biggest thing I have learned is that everyone is going to think that they know best. I cannot tell you how many people start sentences with, “Do you know what you should do…” upon hearing that I run Chasing Paper. Many times it's innocent, but the fact is, so few people actually start a business, and even less make it past a year - so to persevere successfully, rarely happens.
I recently read a Forbes article that said less than 2% of female-run and backed businesses ever make more than 1m in revenue. So I feel very lucky and grateful but also self-assured that my vision and instinct has made this into something valuable and that in the end, people can give all the advice they want, but everything is in the action. Doing the work.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We built a headless API on Shopify. We use a lot of high-resolution images to sell our product so a cloud-based website is essential for load times. We are also a Shopify Plus partner and use it for shipping + fulfillment management, which has been great.
Shopify has become so much more robust in the past 5 years and truly has been such an incredible tool for us to understand our growth and look ahead.
We use Klaviyo for email marketing and just recently started using Gorgias for customer service. We invest in paid social, Google ad words/SEM, and are about to kick off a new SMS marketing strategy which we are very excited about.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Books: Good to Great, Contagious, No Hard Feelings
Podcasts: How I Built This
Magazines: Inc, Forbes, Fast Company
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
One thing I often see is all the excitement about an idea but the misconception that telling people once about your idea, product, service will be enough for them to get it. You have to continue to get in front of people organically and thoughtfully, and that is an incredible amount of work. Finding where your audience hangs out online and how they best digest information and content - then crafting messaging and visual communication accordingly.
Where can we go to learn more?
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