ll archives: Paper Raven Co.'s Erin McManness
Name: Erin McManness
Current location: Atlanta, GA
Where are you from? Baltimore, MD
Education: I have my BA in Studio Art, and my MFA in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Business & Formal Title: Paper Raven Co. / Principal + Designer
Tell us about Paper Raven Co. How did it come to be?
I graduated with my MFA in Illustration in 2014 and was branded under my own name. I had been creating designs and selling on Etsy, but with no real cohesiveness or branding and business goals. Paper Raven Co. was an idea that was brewing for several months before I decided to take the plunge, call it a business and rebrand. The name comes from my hometown of Baltimore, my childhood love of Edgar Allen Poe, and that my spirit animal is in fact a Raven.
What is your company slogan/mission? Beauty, Elegance & Elevation.
What did you do before opening Paper Raven Co.? At what point did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur (if you weren’t already)?
I had been working several different full-time jobs since the crash in 2008 in the design and advertising fields, with contract work peppered in while I was working on my graduate degree. I have learned through my work experience that I hold personal freedom in high regard, but also have the proven capabilities to be a highly prolific self-starter. My own design work became a huge priority in my free time, and it was what got me excited to get up in the morning. Not only creating work, but learning marketing, branding, and business strategies is fulfilling for me; I realized that my end goal always was to have my own brand, even if I needed to be present in other endeavors as I traveled there.
Whenever you decided that it was time to take the leap, what were your next steps?
The next steps for post-launch Paper Raven Co. was a pretty technical list: shooting photos for the website, setting up payment options, switching over accounts, etc. One of the most helpful resources was a class I took on CreativeLive from Megan Auman: “How to Make a Living Selling What You Make”. While launching a business is exciting - and, let’s face it, fashionable - the behind the scenes “Function-of-Business” tasks are the most important.
What is the biggest, scariest thing you overcame launching Paper Raven Co.?
Honestly, getting out of the Etsy game was really scary. I had known for awhile that it was not the best fit for my business, but leaving that safe, built-in network to a stand-alone webshop was difficult. In the first few weeks I wondered if I had made a mistake; but although orders were slower than normal, I found that licensing and partnership opportunities started knocking at my door and grew exponentially after making the break from Etsy.
Would you describe Paper Raven Co. as your “dream job”? Why or why not? What constitutes a dream job for you?
Paper Raven Co. is in the process of becoming my dream job. Right now it is my after-work love affair.
Are you working on any other projects or have a side hustle? Tell us about it.
I actually work a full-time “9-to-5” as a Product Designer for a private label here in Atlanta. We work with national clients like Universal Studios, Paula Deen, and Coca-Cola. My job typically consists of creating illustrations and designs for client needs, prepping and specing artwork for production, and guiding the design process through to mass production. A lot of what I do as a Product Designer informs my skillset for Paper Raven Co., especially in a business sense.
Entrepreneurs live and breathe their businesses. How do you balance work and life? Do you think that’s even possible?
This is the hardest question to answer because answering honestly is pretty embarassing… I don’t know if I have a work/life balance. It’s definitely possible, but I’m convinced it takes years of trial and error and some (unfortunately) painful lessons to get it right. One of my professors from SCAD said something in one of my final classes that always stuck with me: “When the fire is hot, go as fast as possible for as long as possible.”
What does your daily routine consist of?
Hah, I wish this was more romantic and interesting like all those lovely people out there walking their dogs and drinking coffee and reading the paper! My routine consists of getting up at 6am, working from 7-4, and then somehow morphing into Speed Racer so I can get home as fast as possible. Once I’m home, I walk my dog Patty and follow-up on emails. From there it varies between producing and packing wholesale orders, working on sketches for freelance clients (right now I’m working on woodland wedding invitations!), and developing new products and ideas. When my boyfriend Daniel gets home, we make dinner together and relax for a bit. I try to get some work done before bed at 11 (I’m lying, it’s usually 12.)
You have to do it and you hate it – what is your least favorite task(s) to do at Paper Raven Co.?
Weirdly, editing photos. I worked for nearly 2 years as a Post-Production Assistant to a local photographer and learned so much about those technical aspects. I love styling my Paper Raven photoshoots, but sitting down to edit is time-consuming and tedious.
You’re on the verge of a business-lady-breakdown. How do you unwind?
A large glass of wine and at least 2 episodes of Ghost Adventures.
What did you think you’d be doing now at age 10?
I knew I would be doing something with art, but I also thought I might have a family at my age. 29 seemed so mature back then. If only my 10 year old self knew I still ate waffles for dinner sometimes. (Also, I’m totally cool with just having a furbaby right now!)
Top 5 favorite cities? New Orleans, Florence, Cinque Terre, Savannah and New York.
Red, White, Sparkling or stronger? Red!
Tell us the best place to eat in Atlanta. If it’s your kitchen, share your best recipe.
The General Muir in Emory Village; my boyfriend Daniel and I have started to make it a weekend tradition (Psst - the Avenue A with Latkes).
Words to live by: “Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.” -- Gustave Flambert
In the next year you’ll be: Hopefully finding that work/life balance! My goals are to travel more and have more freedom to do so, cultivate more license and partnership opportunities, and grow Paper Raven Co. to the point where I can have more personal flexibility and security in all aspects of my life.
What advice would you give to budding ladypreneurs interested in your industry?
Do your homework and know your industry. Be honest and kind with yourself. Be original and honorable in your pursuits. And above all else, you are your greatest business asset and self-care is just as important as any other task in your biz.