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Season 1 Ep 44: Chat With a Card Maker: Carley Hussain of Parcel Island


This week on the xoxo, jess Podcast I’m talking to Carley Hussain of Parcel Island. Parcel Island is a stationery and lifestyle boutique based in Philadelphia. Carley has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design and almost a decade of experience in the print and design field. Her designs are contemporary, bright, and hilarious, and I can’t wait for you to meet the woman behind it all.Listen to the episode above, on iTunes HERE, or read the transcription below.


Episode Transcription:


Jessica Walker

Welcome back to xo xo Jess, where we dive deep into the world of greeting cards, the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and the mindset tools needed to start creating the business of your dreams today. I'm Jessica Walker, your host here with another Wednesday episode and this Wednesday I'm talking to Carly Hussain of parcel Island. parcel Island is a stationery and lifestyle boutique based in Philadelphia. And Carly has a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in graphic design and almost a decade of experience in the print and design field. Her cards and her designs across all of her products are contemporary, bright, and they're hilarious. And I cannot wait for you to meet the woman behind all of it. So welcome, Carly. Hi there. I'm so happy to be here. So happy to have you. I have been admiring your work from afar. And this is our first time actually virtually meeting and I'm really pumped to dive into all things parcel islands. So let's get started with kind of your background. I know you do have that design and art background. But what got you into the world of greeting cards?


Carley Hussain

Yeah, so I'll just kind of dive right in. So I am a graphic designer and I actually work both a full time job and balanced parcel islands. So I have been designing for about 10 years now and I goes by so quick, basically so when I first graduated college, I went to Montclair State. I graduated in 2013. I almost forget at this meeting. Oh, nice. There we go. So my first job out of college was a role in the stationery industry, I worked for a small stationery boutique out of Hoboken, New Jersey called perfectly invited and I was their wedding stationery designer. So as their designer, I really have first hand look into all the processes involved in owning and operating a stationery boutique. Everything from customer relations, vendor relations, printing processes, industry trends, and all of the above. So the knowledge and all the hands on experience that I ended up gaining while working in the stationary field is just ultimately what help me drive to the beginnings of horse Island. So like most positions that I'm sure most people have faced, while I loved my time there, I definitely felt this roadblock of being able to really express my creativity. And I'm guarantee most creatives felt this way.


So when working wedding stationery, there's typically like a lot of constraints that you may not think about. There's usually formal processes like wording, you need to only use certain fonts, certain colors, you also always need to adhere to a bridezilla, you do not want to make them angry. So there was definitely a lot of constraints kind of when working in the wedding field. And so I kind of felt this need of wanting to express my creativity while still honing in on stationery. And so between that and then my love of humor. Like I said, it's kind of just what drove me to start porcelain. I love that I feel like we actually have kind of a similar I mean, yours is much more like an in depth. Mine was more of a crash course. But I kind of got that sparked by working at a greeting card gift shop in my neighborhood as well. And seeing just the orders coming in how they communicated with customers. And it really was I was like, Oh my gosh, these are real people behind these brands. Wait, could I do this? Like that's, that's so cool.


Jessica Walker

So when did you have that? That moment that you decided to start doing your own thing kind of walk us through what that looked like? Did you just start doing your own designs and put them up on an Etsy shop? or How did you start printing your cars? Just what are those early steps like for parcel island?


Carley Hussain

Yeah. So when I first started I of course launch within Etsy, which most people launch with. But the way I started is definitely a little unconventional, I guess for in the stationery field. So at the time that I launched my Etsy shop, something that was really popular just amongst Etsy was digital downloads. And I don't really know if it's like that now just simply because they don't offer it. But at the time, it was a huge offering to be able to publish a design. And either somebody be able to download it right away or you customize it but then send them the printable file. So when I first launched my Etsy I literally had $0. But so I went into it with the idea of I'll just do digital downloads, and I'll commit my design time and that's one of the customers paying for. And it ended up doing really well I ended up getting it was like multiple orders a day, sometimes a couple of dozen in a week. And all of them involve me having to design something and then produce a digital file. And all of that had no overhead it was all digital. So all the profits I was making went right into an account. I didn't really notice the profits I was making because I was so busy trying to maintain the workload. But then it got to a point where I kind of looked at the revenue I was making an understanding like oh, I could definitely make more if now I offered printing services. So then kind of after a year of offering digital I then offered printed, but even with print it actually still didn't have overhead I ended up researching different vendors that I could simply do printing with, and then they could dropship the orders to the client. So even they're the only overhead was now the idea of like me working with a vendor, but still, I never actually had any tangible goods in my store or in my house, I should say. And then from there it every assumed like every step led me more and more into like, what led to the obviously, parcel Island. But it ended up becoming like most things in the wedding industry a little bit hard to balance, both working full time, and also balancing all the client work I was getting from the wedding stationery business. So I was really lucky where because the business did really well, I had a good enough kind of money saved away in the bank, basically, where I was able to kind of start and venture into something new. When I was doing research of what are the kind of stationary candidates, or what is something that I can do that maybe isn't so labor intensive, or so client focus. And then ultimately, just my research led me into greeting cards, I found out about it, you always knew about it, you always see them at stores. But you I didn't typically think that there was a whole industry behind it, I just found out by researching. And so once I saw that there was like such an untapped creative market for that, that really, I can kind of do what I want or have fun with it or do ideas that make me happy that ultimately would make the client happy. It's kind of how I stumbled into it. And so what I was lucky with, like I said was I had all this funds from all my digital wedding assets that I was creating in the past. And that really is what funded my fir