Friday, January 4, 2013

My story

 

It occured to me that most of you probably don’t know much about my career path and the daily struggles I had to face to be where I am today. So I decided to share my journey with you all. Woohoo! Ready to hop on board? Let’s go!

 

People sometimes tell me how lucky I am to have an online stationery shop, to design letter sets and to have a blog about penpalling. Yes, it’s true, in a way… I got to follow one of my dreams and kind of invent my own path, which is awesome! But does it have anything to do with luck? Not at all. Is it as fun as it seems? Probably not – it’s a lot of work. Is it glamorous? You must be kidding me.

 

I never really knew what I wanted to do or who I wanted to become when I was younger. Sure, I thought that I could be an elementary school teacher for a while, but after 3 semesters of studying education in university, I gave up. No, I couldn’t spend my whole days with kids for the rest of my life without attempting to strangle a few of them along the way. Sorry!

 

Julie 1999

Me and my perm, in 1999, when I wanted to be a teacher.

(Yes, I already loved cats!)

 

I also thought that I could study psychology and become a therapist. Yes, that was fun while it lasted, but did I really think that I could spend hours listening to depressing stories without eventually wanting to kill myself?! Next!

 

I studied communication in university for 3 semesters. I started a program in my early twenties to teach French as a second language, but never finished it. No matter what I did, it never felt quite right.

 

My real dream when I was a kid was to be a writer. I enjoyed composing short stories and they were quite good, if I do say so myself. However, they were all in French (my written English is so bad compared to my French) and sadly it’s kind of hard to become a best selling author in Québec. My dad was a writer and he knew how tough it was to make a living this way, so he didn’t really encourage me to follow this path. He later opened his own publishing house and at some point I thought that I could take care of it when I’d be older, but life had other plans for us.

 

I got pregnant at 23, gave birth to my son at 24 and lost my dad to cancer at 25. My priority at that time was to take care of my son and to raise him the best I could, so the decision to stay home with Louis-Justin was easy to make. However, our income wasn’t very high since Nicolas was the only one who worked outside the home. In fact, we could barely get by. That’s why I started thinking about different ways to earn a little extra money. I tried making letter sets with no prior knowledge in design and opened my first online store with no prior knowledge in business. We’ve Got Paper was born. I made a few sales every week, but nothing spectacular.

 

Cantaloupe

The very first letter set I designed and sold via We’ve Got Paper.

 

I sold my stationery on Etsy for about 2 years. By then Nicolas and I were no longer together, so I needed a much higher income. Around that time, I met my current boyfriend and in the summer of 2010, Martin and I moved in together. I had decided to close We’ve Got Paper and to open La Papierre for a fresh start, but it was stressful because I didn’t have any income for a few months and I spent thousands of dollars on inventory. Not long after that, Martin decided to go back to school for a second Master’s. So there we were, 2 adults living with a child, without any sort of income.

 

Fortunately, sales started picking up. But did I make enough to support myself and my son? No. In 2011, I earned around $5 000. In 2012, I earned about $8 000. How did I survive? Thankfully, I had savings. You see, I inherited a house from my grandfather in 2002. The house I lived in with Nicolas. When I moved out, I sold the house to him. I didn’t make that much money, but I made enough to start La Papierre and live for 2 years.

 

In September of 2012, all my savings had been spent, which meant that I could no longer rely on another source of income. So I crossed my fingers, hoped for the best and prayed that my revenues with La Papierre would increase dramatically in 2013. So far so good: 4 months have passed since September and I still have money in my bank account and food on my table.

 

But to be honest, I had to seriously think about this. Should I just drop everything, close La Papierre and quit blogging? Focus on something else, maybe get a regular job to support my family and stop worrying about the future? That’s not what I want. There’s a picture on my desk that sums it up:

 

Fortune Cookie

 

So when I hear people say that I’m lucky to have my own stationery shop, I stop and think. Yes, I’m grateful. I got to stay home with my son when he was growing up. I get to send my stationery to letter writers all around the world. I even get to blog about penpalling and post penpal ads on my blog, though I don’t get paid for this. I’m surrounded by an amazing community of people who cherish the art of letter writing. I know that some people even admire me. I’m truly blessed. But is it luck? Definitely not. I guess I’m just a stubborn girl with a dream.

 

I don’t usually talk about money. I’ve always been an open book with my friends and penpals, but I’ve more or less avoided the topic of finances over the past few years. Why? Maybe because I didn’t know what to answer when people asked me if I was able to make a living out of my stationery business. “Not yet” was what I wanted to say. “Not yet, but hopefully one day.”

 

What really helps is all the positive feedback I get from people who love my stationery and my blog. I know that I have hundreds of supporters. I get comments on my blog, emails and letters from people who thank me for doing what I do. I appreciate every single comment. Thank you for making me feel loved, for making me feel important.

 

Some people have suggested that I put ads on my blog, that I get sponsors or even that I charge for this service. However, this doesn’t feel right to me. I didn’t start this blog to make money. I started it to create a community of like-minded people who could share their thoughts and experiences about penpalling. I’m happy to do this and I want everyone to have access to it, so I couldn’t imagine charging for it. But it’s true that I spend several hours each week working on my blog, scanning the penpal ads, taking photos of the envelopes, sharing pictures of my incoming and outgoing mail, interviewing letter writers… So my boyfriend came up with a wonderful idea: donations.

 

At first I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. Accepting donations for my blog? Do I even deserve to receive money for something like this? I thought about it for a few months. Then came September, when all my savings had vanished. No, I still couldn’t bring myself to do it.

 

But now it’s 2013 and I want this year to be different. I don’t want to struggle financially all my life. I want to be able to proudly declare that I make a living with my stationery, that I’m an artist entrepreneur and that I can support myself as well as my son. So I’m going to accept the help of those who want to help.

 

Julie & LJ

Louis-Justin and I around the time I started designing stationery.

 

So now do you have to do anything? No, no you don’t. I’ll still post on my blog and I’ll still make letter sets. I’ll still love every single one of you even if you never purchase stationery from me and even if you never donate a cent to me. You’re part of this awesome community and I want to thank you for being there, by my side.

 

But if you’d like to do something, I’d certainly appreciate it.

 

So what can you do?

 

1. You can shop for stationery at La Papierre. That would be lovely.

2. You can tell your friends and penpals about La Papierre. That would be great.

3. You can spread the word about Penpal of the Week. I’d be happy.

4. You can donate any amount via PayPal to thank me for running this blog by clicking on the “donate” button below. I’d be grateful.

 





5. You can be a friend or a fan and let me know that you care by leaving a comment!

 

With all my love and gratitude,

Posted under Life

35 Responses to “My story”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing Julie! I love that you are following your own path… I hope I can give you as much support as you deserve in the future! Keep up the great work, I really appreciate what you do. =)

  2. Thank you Ciara Kay! You’re already doing so much… All the work you’ve done to help me & Laura out is incredible! xox

  3. I included your Etsy shop on my newly collected and published list of online stationery sources on my blog. : ) Can’t say it’ll drive much traffic but I wanted to make sure you were on this list!

  4. Thank you for sharing this Julie, I wish you all the best for your stationery shop! You sell quality goodies and I hope your business will increase to give you and family enough to live of.. I will spread the voice in my penpal facebook group!

  5. It’s great that you share this, I know from experience that this is the sort of post that isn’t easy to write and often even more difficult just to publish, but you did it anyway :) You’re very inspiring, going for your dream, and I really hope it’s going to pay off. I just made a purchase on your Etsy store, it’s not much but at least it’s something and I need more stationery anyway :)

    Have a nice weekend!

  6. Dear Julie
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. Your stationery is so gorgeous and your blog is fun, informative and just plain awesome! I really hope that you’ll be able to do this for a long time to come.
    You’ve probably already thought about this, but in case you haven’t: how about finding ways to advertise more? And would it be impossible to sell stationery from your house, to have an actual little store? I actually wouldn’t mind if you had ads on here, if it would make your financial situation better, I’d absolutely support it. But of course you have to do what feels right. I’m sure you’ll find a way. I’ll definitely keep telling my pen pals to buy their stationery at La Papierre :-)

  7. Hang in there! That’s what I keep telling myself, with our B&B dream providing a close parallel to your stationery dream. Let’s hope that one day each will make us enough that you can come and stay here and I can buy a big pile of stationery!! :-)

    I also wouldn’t mind a few ads on the blog, but I understand your thoughts on this matter, so (as in everything else) do what you feel is right for you.

    Until we’re both “comfortably off”, if not rich, please keep doing what you do so well. Your blog is absolutely gorgeous and, I know, hugely admired and loved by all your regular fans.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. It was a courageous thing to do.
    I love your blog and will definately buy something from your store! Your products are great!

    I don’t think advertising is a bad thing. You have a LOT of readers, so I think people would be interested to advertise here.

    A big hug from the Netherlands!!

  9. Thanks for sharing your story. It was really interesting to read and I find it really great, that you’ve always been following your dreams even if you must have gone through hard periods. I hope you’ll be able to continue this way for many many years again.

  10. I think it’s great that you are living your dream and that you’re doing what you like most. I hope you will be able to keep doing this, because i really love your blog!

  11. Allo Julie!

    I loved “We’ve Got Paper” and made quite a few purchases from that shop. I had that cantaloupe stationery set too!! I loved it!!

    With my sister having cancer and fighting for her life I have learned to live one day at a time and try to be happy. Even if it is only happiness from the Cardinal singing in my back yard, I don’t take one day for granted and live for today.

    I think that I own almost all of your paper and will definately continue to shop primarily from you. I love your little shop. I also think that ads are perfect! It’s a win win. They need you and you have the space to put the ads. (Not easy I know, but remember, it’s a good think for the person placing the ad as well!)

    You could maybe try to put your own ad in some of the free places like Kigigi. (Not sure if I spelt that right….) It certainly can’t hurt! Are you on Pinterest??

    All the best in 2013 and I will continue to support your shop.
    Chantal

  12. Practical me talking : Have you tried the search ads on Etsy ? I had a look at them, apparently the system’s changed ; some sellers don’t seem to find them useful in bringing more customers but perhaps it will be to you. Also, why not create limited edition letter sets ? You could find amateur designers or illustrators and make a deal with them. And I’m not against adds either if it can bring you some money.

    Emotional me : too bad you’re living so far away or I’d have drop by this evening lol. Well, as far as these things go, recieve a huge hugg from me and don’t loose hope. Where there is life there is a way and I’m sure you’ll find the support you need. After all, we need you !

  13. Hi Julie,
    Reading your story was inspiring, so thank you for posting this. It’s great to read that you keep doing what you do, but aren’t afraid to ask for help when times get tough. I will definitely head over to your Etsy and see what goodies need to make their way to me asap :)
    I have been lurking on your blog for quite a while now (and sent a penpal ad too), and I hope I can keep lurking for many more years to come :)

  14. Hello Julie,

    I’m one of your silent readers :) I often read your blog from work when I’m doing night shifts. Often, after reading your blog I want to sit down and write a long letter to one of my penpals :) Your blog is really inspiring to me! I also like the stationery you design and I have purchased from your cute little shop a couple of times.
    I’m touched by your life story. Thanks for telling us. I understand you better than you can imagine… I too had a shop and a dream. Unfortunately I had to give up my shop and my dream some years ago to make some more money and still today I miss my shop(even all the work. Believe me, I really know the amount of work that is involved with running a shop!)
    I so much hope you’ll find a way to continue keeping up all the good work you do, continue running your shop and living your dream!!

  15. Julie,
    Thanks for sharing your story and I wish all the best for you! I’ve been following you for years and feel like I “know” you! :) I stalk your blog nearly every day and love it all! Obviously I would understand if you didn’t blog anymore but I would really miss you. :( I love your stationery and whenever I want to treat myself, I buy a little something from your shop.
    I also understand what it’s like to be a single parent AND not having enough money for anything…and how scary it is to use up your savings and hope for the best. If I had money, I would donate tons and tons to you. Maybe someday we’ll both be filthy rich! lol!
    I tell as many people as I can about your site b/c I truly think it’s fantastic and really one of the most enjoyable and well-done blogs that are out there. I’m with the majority, I wouldn’t mind if you had ads on this site.
    Keep up the good work and know that you are not just doing this whole blogging thing for naught. I think that this blog means a lot for a lot of people…at least it does for me.
    Hugs from someone you don’t know very well,
    Jessica

  16. Awww Julie! you’re so awesome! i absolutely love your blog and your kind personality. I wish you’ll get all the help you need and that things will go well for you .

    Your blog is really interesting and I am happy I found it :)

    You’re an inspiration to us all <3

    Alecia from Jamaica~

  17. What a great story ^-^ I really appreciate it a lot that you work so hard on this blog and still don’t use all those nasty ads. I really love your blog.
    As to also do something for you, I told your story on my blog and will purchase some lettersets from your store ^-^ Wait for it :))

    Keep fighting and greetings to your two men :)

    xoxoxo
    Yoshi

  18. Done ^-^ Looking forward to the letter paper :)

  19. Thank you for sharing your story and thanks for doing what you do :)

  20. “Your path is the best.”

    VERY TRUE, INDEED.

    Even though I have just started in the ‘real’ world fresh from college and am working in a job that I am half-hearted about, I don’t want to ever give up writing. It’s what keeps me sane and maybe someday when I get to save a bit and have more time to write, I really hope I could be able to finish a full novel (and maybe have it published, one of my dreams, really.)

    We have to experience a lot of struggles and mistakes to get to something we want. For me, I just hope I am strong and firm enough to have faith in the path I want.

    Someday, I wanna be a full time author, even when I’m old and gray. That would still be cool! haha!

    Thank you for your storrryyyy :) Really inspiring!

    x
    Din

  21. Dear Julie,

    thanks you for sharing your story. I am reading your blog regular and love it. I posted your Shop on my Facebook-Page. The stationary you sell is so special.

  22. I could be effusive in this comment, but I think our extraordinary penpal mind-meld has already told you everything that I wanted to say. Instead, I’ll just add this:

    You are awesomesauce. And awesomesauce things happen to awesomesauce people so I have every faith that things will work out with your dreams.

  23. I don’t really follow any blogs… but yours! I look forward to all your Pen pal of the Week interviews all the time, and also the Top 10 quirks… and also your more personal entries. Please keep this blog going! I never thought I’d say it myself but I’ve started this year by saying (a lot) “Hay crisis!” (There’s a crisis on!) – We’re now trying to make a conscious effort of cutting back on unnecessary expenses.) However, once things are a bit better, I’ll make a small donation. I adore your stationery… but when I buy stationery I look at value X price relation and it’s simply easier for me to order it from somewhere in Europe (which is sad!). I wish you all the success in the world to make your venture much more viable, and I hope I can eventually contribute myself (didn’t even know that this was your full-time business, or your full-time aspiration for a business! Way to go!) and I am sure you have plenty of fans everywhere. Keep up the hard work!

    Nad

  24. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m new to your blog and love it. Sending in a pen pal ad is on my list of things to do. I wish you all the best and hope you are able to continue to follow your dream!

  25. Thank you for sharing your story Julie – it takes courage to open up like that. You truly are an inspiration for anyone who wants to follow their dream. I’ve only been reading penpalling blogs for a couple of months, and have about 12 on my reader. I want to let you know that your blog is number one right at the top! You have inspired me to get to know my relatives in Holland better, and I’ve start writing letters to them (I live in Australia). So I’ll need some stationery to go with the beautiful postcards I bought from you last month. =D
    I hope that 2013 brings you all the happiness and success in the world.
    xx Katie.

  26. merci d’avoir partagé ton histoire avec nous, Julie. Cette pression continuelle ne doit pas être facile à vivre et tu fais un travail extraordinaire avec ton blog et tes sets de papeterie !
    As-tu déjà essayé de proposer tes sets directement dans des magasins ?

  27. Pour continuer les sentiments de Melanie….tu pourrait essayer de les vendre par Amazon, Chapters/Indigo ou meme le magasin “Essence du Papier”. (Ils onts d’un magasin a Toronto et Montreal). Ou meme dans le vieux Montreal ou il aurrait peut-etre des magasins de souvenier etc…..

  28. One last comment, for any of you who may have hesitated to order paper from Julies’ shop, I want to let you know that you will not find better quality, nor a better price from Etsy. I own almost all of Julie’s paper and I will definately order more from her. Once you see these items in person you will be in love!!

  29. Julie,
    You blow me away, wow, you’re story was incredible and I’m so glad you shared. It takes so much passion and courage to just give everything up for something like this, and I really hope it all works out for you. I, like many, love your blog, the interviews and your interesting posts …and you’re a fantastic writer! I hope you never stop blogging and I sure wouldn’t mind a few ads either! But you need to do what you feel is best. Take care, all the best to you in 2013! Deedee

  30. Hello Julie,
    You sure do a great job, so best of luck it becomes even more a success! Ordering is way too expensive to Europe – it’s 10 Euro for one set for me (I just looked at an example) – but maybe my friends will find it good and order. Further more, I rather use selfmade collages and the like for my own letters. :-)

  31. Hi Julie,

    Thank you so much for sharing that. I would be happy to order some letter sets from LaPapierre and spread the word that it is the place to get some wonderful stationary.

    Tyler
    xoxoxoxo

  32. Wow, thank you so much for all the support, girls! I read all your comments and they warmed my heart! :)

    And just a note about wholesale: for stores to sell my letter sets at $8, I would have to sell them around $4 and then I wouldn’t be making a profit, so it’s not an option, unfortunately.

  33. This reminds me of how difficult it is to struggle with a child. I’m a single parent trying to juggle work, school and home life. I really admire you for following your dreams.

  34. Desirae, I didn’t know that you were a single mom! *hugs*

  35. Thanks for sharing JULIE! My family has similar struggles so I know exactly how you feel. I already had come to the conclusion that the LEP membership was incredibly cheap and now I am convinced! I wish you a very happy and successful year, you deserve it!

Hello!

My name is Julie and I'm 37.
I'm French Canadian and fell
in love with an American,
so I'm now living in Vermont
with my wife.

I write letters, I love stationery and I have a handwriting fetish. I often eat sushi, still feel like I'm 16 and only wear skirts & dresses (with colorful tights when it's cold).

I'm happier with a mind full of ideas, a mailbox full of letters from my penpals, a shop full of stationery, a house full of pens and a day full of hugs.

Read my Top 10 Quirks here.


This is me with my wife,
Denise. We met through the
League of Extraordinary
Penpals and are living
happily ever after in the
Stationery Kingdom.

Denise blogs here too and is
the one in charge of the
social media: Facebook,
Twitter and Pinterest.

She's 40 years old,
from South Dakota,
and in love with me, washi
tape & imperial rolls.

Send your penpal ad & top 10 quirks to:

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