I recently was able to meet Eva and Kirk of Sycamore Street Press, and they are impressive and humble people. Eva is an artist and with the help of her husband they have created a successful company whose paper goods are found on the shelves of big name stores like Anthropologie. With their great taste, the powerhouse couple has curated the most lovely online shop selling chocolate, books, clothes, apothecary items, etc. And they just released a new spring line that's worth checking out. If you're a dream chaser their blog is also jam packed with good info that we have just lapped up. This is a true honor to introduce Eva and her words will definitely leave a mark. Enjoy! Photos by Chelsie Starley.
Get Eva's blush mat here.
-Tell us about Sycamore’s story--where it began and how it got to where it is today?
Even before I met Kirk, I lived in a place where girls liked to talk about their future weddings and engagement rings. I always said I just wanted a simple band and to spend the money instead on a drum set or a big trip. So when Kirk and I got married, we took off on a 3 month backpacking trip around Europe. (I wore a simple silver band my cousin made in his high school shop class, and I still wear it to this day!) One of the places we stayed was a little farm in the Danish countryside. We were so inspired by the young family living there. They grew or made much of what they needed, and chose to spend their hard earned money on a few well chosen and well designed items like a quality record player, a hand carved wooden table, and colorful kitchen curtains. Kirk and I wanted to make that kind of a life for ourselves -- working together to raise a family and support that family doing something we love. We just didn't know what form exactly that was going to take.
When I finished grad school in 2007, the economy was in a downward spiral. I had planned on getting a teaching position at a university, but they all put hiring freezes into place. So instead, I decided to put my printmaking degrees to work in another way by starting a letterpress business of my own. I also got a part time job at a stationery shop to learn the business from the retailers' perspective. I opened an Etsy shop and started exhibiting at all the craft shows I could. In the spring of 2009, we did the National Stationery Show for the first time, and Kirk finished up his degree and decided to join me full time. Today, in 2016, our goods are carried in hundreds of independent boutiques as well as major retailers like Paper Source and Anthropologie.
In 2014, we also started teaching online stationery business classes at ally.com, and it's been fun helping and seeing other designers go after their dream of having a stationery business. And then in 2015, we started carrying goods from other makers in our online shop, turning our brand into more of an overall lifestyle brand. Having a shop is something Kirk and I have always dreamed about doing. We're still not sure if the brick and mortar thing is something we want to commit to, but in the mean time, we're loving the online shop and our bi-annual pop up shops.
We'll be adding another aspect to our business later this year, and while I can't say yet exactly what it is, I will tell you that it involves travel. We've always wanted to involve travel more in what we do (like we did with the newlywed backpacking trip) and so we're super excited to be making that happen!
-Sycamore is an absolutely beautiful curated thing. What do you think has been one of your keys to success?
Thank you! Hard work, lots of prayer, and doing what we love. Of course, there are lots of people or brands who are a lot more successful than us. And it's easy to look at them and feel discouraged. But then I think of the wonderful life we've been able to build for ourselves. The kind of life that we talked about back on that farm in Denmark. And I feel extremely grateful.
-Business is hard! Do you mind sharing a time or challenge you’re proud of overcoming with Sycamore?
It's true, it really is! When my second child (Lars) was born, we had a really hard time of it. He was colicky, and had acid reflux, and I had to literally hold him and rock him and try and keep him from crying around the clock. And no one else was able to help. I couldn't work, really, for about 7 months. Which is a crazy long time when you're running a small, family business, right? I was so afraid that it was all going to fall apart. We talked about Kirk going out and getting a "regular" job. But we felt that we needed to stick with Sycamore. So we made some big changes with our business and got really strict about prioritizing and working smarter. (I wrote a whole blog post about it here.) Somehow, we pulled through, and came back the following year with a complete re-brand that our customers fully embraced and took us to the next level. What doesn't kill you... ;)
-What words of wisdom would you give to fellow business owners and hustlers?
Be intentional. Take a moment to focus at the beginning of each work day, read over your to do list, look at your calendar, and then really think about where you need to be putting your priorities today and right now. Often we are just reacting and putting out fires, and feel totally frazzled and like we didn't accomplish anything at the end of the day. But when I had a colicky baby and knew he might wake up at any moment, I really learned to cut through all the fluff and see what was the absolute most important thing to get done in the moment. It's hard, but I've tried to keep that mentality moving forward, and it really helps.
#gathreaway If you could escape on a dream vacation where would you go?
Well, as I mentioned before, I love travel! It's so hard to pick one place! We're going to Europe this fall because I always feel drawn back there and we negotiated a trade with a boutique hotel in Croatia, which I'm super excited about. But I've also been dreaming for YEARS about going to Japan. I've never been, and one of my best friends lives there. I know that when I do go, I'll be gaga over the food and the design.
-We love your lettering and design work. What are some of your sources of inspiration?
Right now, Kirk and I are working our way through all the Academy Award winners for Best Picture. (#SycamoreScreens) So far, I've loved almost all of them, and find so much inspiration! Travel, magazines, books, music, and walks around the woods where we live are just a few of the other places I go for inspiration. I've always really loved the 1960s for design inspiration, and I'm really loving the 1970s now, too.
-You have a gift to gather ______? What would that be?
People! At least, that's what I hope. :)
What does a day in your life look like balancing being a mother/wife and running a business?
Every day is different, but it's usually a semi-chaotic mix of hurrying to get ready in the morning, powering through some work, getting interrupted by little hands, slowing down for family dinner and bedtime, getting back to work in the quiet evening hours, then relaxing in front of the TV with Kirk, reading a bit, and bed. I'm lucky enough to be in an equal partnership with my husband -- both in work and in parenting. And we have help -- both at work and with the kids. It takes a village!
#gathrelove what is something you do to strengthen your family?
We make family traditions. I'll give you one example: every Friday night is Pizza Movie Night! We watch a movie while eating pizza. So simple, but we all really look forward to it!
-Can you share with us the best perks, payoffs, or most fulfilling moments for you in running a business?
I love creating and sharing beautiful things. I love collaborating with others to create and share beautiful things. And I love that my daughter sees me doing that, and feels proud and wants to do it herself. She tells people "I'm an artist, just like my mama."
-What could you gather and gather and never have enough of?
Snuggles and kisses!
-Nothing is better than hearing people talk about their dreams. What is your biggest hope or aspiration in life?