Growing up in Detriot, there was one thing that Kalyn Johnson Chandler always loved to do–write on stationery in her grandmother’s living room.
Because life has a funny way of making sure things come full circle, Chandler launched her passion project with an online stationery company called, Effie’s Paper and it was all inspired by her grandmother’s legacy.
“This journey started when I was probably 5 or 6 years old, and my Grandmother worked for a greeting card company in Detroit called Mitchell Greeting Card,” Chandler told ESSENCE of her road to building the brand that has a social media following of over 13,000. “My sister and I had a cabinet in her family room that just had stationary and note cards and wrapping paper. [Our grandmother] wrote notes and so we spent weekends over there and we wrote notes. I didn’t know to realize that having this cabinet was unique because that’s just what my existence was. And then, as I got older, I wanted to have my own special personalized stationery.”
The road to Effie’s Paper wasn’t easy.
Chandler left her corporate America job as a Lawyer, took a career detour as a fashion stylist for professionals and with no technical training in graphic design or knowledge about owning an online store, stepped out on faith and is building an empire that is dripping in Black girl magic.
Name: Kalyn Johnson Chandler
Current Title/Company: Founder & Creative Director, Effie’s Paper
Location: New York, NY
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Educational Background: BA, English – University of Michigan; MA, Public Policy Studies – University of Chicago; JD – University of Michigan
Twitter: Effie’s Paper
Facebook: Effie’s Paper
Instagram: Effie’s Paper
Her calling: “When I segued out of law, I became a fashion stylist for busy professionals. So, I was working with the people I used to practice with and anchors, physicians, news anchors. It was very high touch and dealing with these high network individuals who were lovely people. I had a contract with CNN, I was working with some of their bigwigs, and it was physically draining, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. I became a fashion stylist because, from a teenager, I was always the friend, cousin, a sister who people would come to and say, “I have this event to go to,” or “Will you go shopping with me?” And I loved doing it. I’m all about high and low. It doesn’t need to be ridiculously expensive to look good. So, I enjoy helping people feel good and look good. But, I didn’t enjoy when it was my job. And I would not have known that before it became my job. And, while it was my job, I was trying to figure out what the next thing was gonna be because I knew that that was not gonna be it for me.”
Her biggest influence: “My grandmother, Mrs. Effie Hayes.”
Her ah-ha moment: “So that’s when I had this ah-hah, “Oh I could have Stationary. Wouldn’t that be great? I have this widget that sells itself while it sleeps so I don’t have to do anything. But learning a whole new discipline is challenging. But this isn’t rocket science. So, I hired a graphic designer, a young woman who graduated from design school, and I art directed her. She just taught me how to use Illustrator and Photoshop. But it was one of those things where when the first order came in, I felt sick to my stomach. It was like, oh my God. Well, because I had to go in and personalize and I had just learned how to use these this software. I had all these notes. I was just like, “Oh my God, what am I gonna do? What if I mess this up?! But what if? So, after that, I probably took a month. And literally, every day, I sat at the computer for six hours. And, you know, YouTube is great and I taught myself how to use Illustrator. You have to choose one and just drill down. And get the basics and the fundamentals and all that. And then, I had been networking and just talking with folks. It was like, ‘oh my friend so and so is a graphic designer. Oh, my friend has a Stationary company.’ So, I just started talking with people. And anything I couldn’t figure out how to do, I had somebody that I could reach out to. And now, it is just what I do.”
The smartest advice she can give: “My advice to people is always to do your research, ask questions, google your best friend. As a matter of fact, I am getting ready to launch an Ebook called, “Real Talk 101: How to Start Your Own Online Store,” because I get so many DM’s and emails from young ladies who are like, “I wanna be just like you. I wanna have an online business. I wanna sell what you sell.” Like, okay, that’s great. But this is all like the final product. It takes a few things to get here. So, I just want people to go in with their eyes wide open and be realistic. Don’t quit your day job quite yet.”
The biggest industry misconception: “I would say the misconception, and I certainly fell prey to it, is having an online business is an easy thing. It looks easy. You see these websites and you don’t know to think about anything that goes on to get the website up and running. How do they manage where the product is? How do they know how much they have and what sells? And, you know, Instagram just makes it all look so pretty and easy and fun. My assistant always jokes and says, “You know, for people who don’t know you, I bet they just think you just sit in bed and drink coffee and workout and have this perfect life.” And I was like, I so do not wake up like this.”
What she never leaves home without: “Sadly, the same thing that has made writing ‘Thank You’ notes [somewhat] obsolete—my iPhone. It’s got my life in it! Because, I can take notes, I can take pictures of people I see who I find interesting or things that I wanna remember to use for inspiration, or to do an Instagram story. I can kind of do everything with that right there. I can communicate with my team, I can see what’s going on with the backend of the site. So, that is The one thing I don’t ever leave home without. I might leave home without my keys, but I do have my cell phone!”
Her favorite Effie’s Paper product: “Hands down, our Black Girl Magic products. Largely because, one, I love the font and the logo. I was just sort of thinking about products that I wanted to create and I wanted to have something that would resonate with my audience and I liked the whole ‘Black Girl Magic’ concept that was coming out and the phrase that was being used. So it was like, do something with Black Girl Magic. And it hit in a way I didn’t know it was gonna hit. It’s heartwarming to see people who wanna have it, use it, and buy it. It’s resonating with other people in a way that I didn’t quite know it would.”
What’s next for her: “We are segueing in to travel related accessories. African American millennials are disrupting the travel industry and African American female millennials are about a 60% of my online customer, so it kind of made sense to tap into what they’re headed towards. Plus, I’m an avid traveler. So, it’s something that I love to do. So, we’re gonna do cashmere eye masks, wet bathing suit bags, silk scarves that look and feel like bandanas that say ‘Black Girl Magic’ and ‘Badass’. travel wallets, credit card wallets that read, ‘Jet setter’, ‘Global Nomad’, and ‘Wanderluster.’”
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