In Conversation with Kristen Stewart of Three Little Birds
Describe your business in a few words?
Three Little Birds is an award winning stationery store. We combine illustration, watercolor and graphic design with a variety of printing styles to create stationery for life’s most important events. From new businesses to weddings, to holidays and other celebrations, we love creating unique printed items that evoke great emotional responses!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I started my own business as a creative outlet and to build wealth for my family.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
For over a decade I worked in Corporate America for a Fortune 500 company. I was in the marketing and sales departments. In addition, I was a trainee recruiter, industry trade show presenter and mentor. I worked with multimillion budgets, team and individual projects, crafted first time programs and worked on cross departmental special projects.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No, I did not know I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was actually rather risk averse for many years. It was with the support and encouragement of family and friends that I took the risk that changed my life for the better – owning my own business!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My 2007 marketing strategy seems primitive as compared to today’s. Without the existence of social media, I had an email and mailing campaign. I ran advertisements in magazines and had booths at bridal shows. We had customer referral programs and networked with people in the wedding and special event industry. Typing this made me remember how different things were!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Wait, do others not have weekly or daily challenges? I never am one to say I have it all figured out. I make mistakes every week, sometimes, daily. I am constantly learning and acknowledging my growth. All of our customer policies came from less than perfect customer experiences. The way I train new staff comes from mistakes I made in past training. The way I communicate is based on lessons learned about customer interaction. We’re still here because of the hard lessons.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I am most proud of taking the leap to acknowledge that I could not make it through the pandemic without help! I applied for grants, wrote messages to customers and fought to advance when people and companies said no. Outspoken, but proud, this was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The rewards, however, were immeasurable! From grant awards to record sales in December, it made our worst financial year a year focused on hope and appreciation!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Hmmmm, I don’t have go-to-questions, I try to tailor my questions to the person and job. I have some bone fide statements; “laughter is required when working here”, “creativity and suggestions are encouraged”, “we take field trips”, “we will all make mistakes, but let’s try and minimize them”. Training is important. I am quite particular, so the process is slow and currently scheduled for six months. I indicate this during hiring so there are no surprises. I want my staff to be comfortable in a variety of situations and feel like contributors and not merely employees.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
With about 85% of our business being wedding related, COVID-19 should have been devastating for our business. Our revenue was down by greater than 50% but our asks for help allowed us to generate enough revenue to “keep the lights on” and be grateful for health, loyalty and opportunity.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Big, big things are what’s next for the little birds! We’re flapping our wings with excitement at our re-discovered potential and taking advantage of all opportunities put forth. Our five year goal is to grow to $1 million in annual revenue. Yes, just typing that gives me chills and makes me realize how beneficial even this opportunity is – thank you!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Appreciation is the biggest lesson learned. My entrepreneurial journey has been fraught with challenges and disappointments, yet I cannot imagine doing anything else. I love what I do, but in the comings and goings of daily life, I admittedly did not appreciate Three Little Birds the way I should have. I do now! it’s amazing what happens when what you love is at risk of being no more. I have a renewed commitment and so many ideas and plans – it’s wonderfully refreshing!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I know that prices are negotiable and that you don’t have to always take no for an answer. In December I sent a cake to my cake loving paper supplier. The cake said, “cut my prices like you cut this cake”. It was a hit with him and his whole staff – they even posted about it on Instagram! And I now have better pricing.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Laughter is the best way to stay grounded. I am fortunate to have some great family and friends who are pretty humorous and they have kept me laughing! I think I am pretty funny too, but my corny jokes go over like a lead balloon. Shrugs shoulders…
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
- Yes, I absolutely believe in work life balance! Family and friends, then fun and then work. You need the first two to be fresh, creative and inspired for work.
- Take time for yourself to do the things you love, even if it’s just one thing.
- Saying no is not a bad thing. If you find it too difficult to say it, write it!
- Find the good in all situations.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
OMG, where to start….I don’t like my food to touch, I only eat one thing at a time, I used to competitively ice skate.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Either work late or get up early. When it matters, do both.
- Make lists.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an entreprenista means I am savvy, unapologetically authentic and driven.