Walking away from a more lucrative career in medical device sales, a local first-time entrepreneur is looking to make an imprint on the stationery market.
Former UR student Beth Harris has launched Pretty Girl Paper, a line of stationery, note cards and envelopes that feature gold-embossed designs and messages.
“I feel like there has been a resurgence of letter-writing and sending notes in the mail, and gold foil printing is so popular right now,” she said.
The line’s initial offering of a dozen cards has been picked up by six stores in Richmond and another in Georgia. Local carriers include Mongrel, the May Fair House at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Quirk Gallery, Strawberry Fields Flowers & Finds, and the recently opened Gilt and Ash at Patterson and Libbie and Dear Neighbor in Church Hill.
Harris launched Pretty Girl Paper in June after bidding adieu to a career in medical device sales for such companies as CardioNet, LifeWatch and Tyrx. She said a lifelong love of paper and stationery, as well as an apparent lack of the gold-embossed designs she prefers, drove her decision to start her own business – a risk she took without lining up commitments from carriers in advance.
“That probably would have been a good idea to go around to stores ahead of time, but I didn’t,” Harris said. “I just decided that the product I was going to have was beautiful and would be of interest – that people would see it and really like it.
“I love gold studs – on shoes and handbags and jewelry – and I couldn’t find any stationery that has studs on them, so that was one of my first thoughts in my head: there needs to be stationery with studs on it. Of course, that’s like the most expensive thing to print.”
With each notecard featuring that expensive gold foil, Harris said it cost about $15,000 to get her business off the ground, printing runs of 1,000 copies for each of her designs.
She orders the paper she uses through national manufacturers such as Mohawk and local shops such as Paper Source in Carytown. The stationery is then printed by Worth Higgins & Associates, a locally based sheet-fed printer.
Cards vary in price from $6 to $28, with designs varying from traditional “Thank you” cards to edgier messages such as “Love you, mean it” and “Bitch please.”
Harris formed her LLC in Henrico County, where she resides. She said the “Pretty Girl” name comes from her mother’s nickname for her when she was growing up.
She worked with Brian Boggess of locally based Epiphany Studio to design her website, which includes an online store, and ventured reluctantly into social media with pages on Facebook and Instagram.
“I’ve never been on social media,” she said. “I don’t like it. If I had my choice, if I had not launched my business, I would not be on it.”
While her business is currently online-only, Harris said she is open to establishing a brick-and-mortar presence someday, so long as it focused on more than just paper.
“There are plenty of great stationery stores and gift-stationery stores like Mongrel and others in Richmond. If I opened a brick-and-mortar store, it wouldn’t just be focused on stationery, I wouldn’t think,” Harris said.
A North Carolina native, Harris came to Richmond to attend UR before transferring to the University of Georgia, where she received a degree in fashion merchandising. She later worked in London and New York, booking models for print ads, before switching careers and coming back to Richmond, selling medical devices while working part-time at former Carytown retailer Pink, which closed in 2014.
Since launching her line in June, Harris said she spends the majority of her time marketing her business and pitching her line to new stores and other potential carriers. While the venture is not as lucrative as her previous career, at least not yet, Harris said she is pleased with the response received thus far.
“I’m not making what I did in medical device sales. I didn’t anticipate that,” she said. “It has gone up every month, so I am having a good response and am making money, but it’s not necessarily paying my mortgage.
“I just really love paper, so I don’t know why this idea didn’t come to me sooner.”