We always feel a surge of pride when we see local gals make good — and Washington has loads of smart, stylish, business-savvy women who are making a name for themselves as entrepreneurs. Because we like to tip a hat to all things (and people) awesome in this town, we had to give a shout-out to the founders of Haute Papier, who turned a college friendship into a successful small business. The charming duo of Sarah Meyer Walsh and Erin Miller spend their days creating beautiful letterpress stationery and paper goods, and their pretty creations are sold all over the country, and even in Australia. So, naturally, we had to ask: How'd they do that? We got Walsh and Miller to share their secrets for working together, turning a creative hobby into a full-time gig, and more — read on for their insider expertise.
Photographed by Marshall Johnson/The President Wears Prada; Photo: Courtesy of Haute Papier
How did you meet?
Miller: "We worked together while Sarah was in college — I was just out of college and we became instant friends."
How did you get into the stationery business?
Meyer Walsh: "Haute Papier came to be in 2006, when I was designing my own wedding invitations. One of my Junior League friends asked if I could do her invites, and I thought to myself, 'I could do this for a living.' The rest is history!"
If you weren't creating beautiful paper goods, what would be your dream job?
Miller: "I would run a grocery co-op. Though I know nothing about being a grocer, I do appreciate fine foods and a sense of community."
Meyer Walsh: "Do I have to pick just one? Let's see ... Restaurant designer, cookbook author, fabric and textile designer, photographer ... It changes daily."
What's it like being a young entrepreneur in a creative industry?
Meyer Walsh: "The stationery design industry is full of enthusiastic and inventive, if you will, individuals with a passion for their trade."
Miller: "There is a great deal of camaraderie and competition, which constantly keeps us on our toes. It's also nice that young individuals can bring a fresh look to the industry and get recognized for their talent."
Meyer Walsh: "For example, we were elated to win Best New Product for our Foil Stamped Enclosure Notes at the 2011 National Stationery Show, which is the industry event in New York City."
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business?
Meyer Walsh: "Be prepared to work hard and put in more hours than ever before. And remember that no one is ever going to work as hard at your business as you will."
What's the best part of your job?
Meyer Walsh: We feel so fortunate to do what we love everyday! I love when we get to design for a client who trusts our design ability and knows that we understand their personal style and vision — that allows me to be my most creative. I also love when I get to run one of our presses — either Gretel, our new Heidelberg Windmill, or Gertrude, our trusty workhorse Chandler & Price 8x12.
Miller: "I like when we get positive feedback from one of our over 200 vendors around the country, or one of our couture brides. Just a simple thank-you can really make your day!"
Photo: Courtesy of Haute Papier
What has been the biggest challenge that's come with running your own business?
Miller: "I think the biggest challenge is keeping up with the pace of the growth. We've been so fortune to grow at a rate that requires constant transition. Each step of the way has presented us with its own unique growing pains — that's when you come to appreciate adaptability skills."
Your biggest accomplishment so far?
Meyer Walsh: "The growth of our company in general is something we're very proud of. We just celebrated our fifth birthday with a big birthday bash, and look forward to many, many more years of growth, both here in the Washington area and nationwide."