Melissa Mika of PAGEFIFTYFIVE makes delightfully quirky greeting cards and other feel-good products from her home in Fort Collins, Colorado. Finding inspiration from friends, family and the world around her, Melissa is living the happy and creative life that she’s always imagined. Find out more about how PAGEFIFTYFIVE was born and how several meetings with a UPS delivery man changed the game for her business.
What’s on page fifty five? What’s the story behind your shop name?
Often when I’m trying to decide, I flip to a random page in a book or magazine to see what the universe has to tell me. When my partner and I were trying to make a big life decision, we flipped to page fifty-five in a magazine – and it was the best decision we ever made. I couldn’t imagine naming my shop anything but PAGEFIFTYFIVE.
How did your product line expand from greeting cards to buttons, notepads, and embroidery hoops?
I’m constantly thinking of ways to expand PAGEFIFTYFIVE and make it into the best business possible. I’m always creating things for my friends and family, so when I create something that my friends love I usually try to see if it can work in my shop. I made an embroidery hoop for a friend’s birthday and she loved it! It was patterned from one of my cards and I thought – that’s it! Maybe other people will like these too. Most of my line expansion happens organically like that.
How do you come up with the ideas for your cards? What happens when you get writer’s block?
I have the best friends in the world – most of my inspiration comes from them! I can spend a night with my friends and come up with 15 different ideas for greeting cards. I also love to people watch and often sit with a notebook and pencil at a coffee shop, jotting down ideas! Honestly, writer’s block doesn’t happen all that often – and if it does, I just enjoy the break and work on other things in my shop.
How long does it take you to make a new design?
It totally depends. Sometimes I can come up with an idea, sketch it on paper, draw it on the computer, print it out and post it all within a few hours; other times, I stew on a design for a week. I just go with the flow.
What does the shop local movement mean to you?
The shop local movement is near and dear to my heart! My family tries to purchase as much as we can from local shops in Fort Collins. It brings jobs to the community, saves the environment, recycles the local love, and makes a community stronger. We even shop within biking distance of our home!
Have you been able to sell locally? Can you tell us about how you were able to make those connections?
Yes, I sell at a few local shops and have a goal to grow this side of my business. I fell into a lot of the opportunities, so the next step in my career is to make more intentional connections with local shops. This side of my business is so important – I want to give it more attention. It’s probably the hardest side of my business as well. Putting yourself and your art out there, asking people to love your work as much as you do and sell it in their shop – it feels like walking around with your soul exposed. I’m getting over the fear and I’m ready to tackle this next step.
What local communities have you found helpful as you build and grow your business?
I volunteer at Wolverine Farm – they’ve helped grow my business exponentially. They’ve given me a chance to sell my cards at their shop, get published in their newspaper, and participate in their local craft fair called Freedom Market. With their help, I’ve been able to make amazing connections with the local community. It’s been one of the best things that has happened to me – both personally and with my business.
I also get together with other Etsy sellers once a month. It’s helped a ton and made me a better business owner. We talk about Etsy, our shops, what it means to be a business owner, hints and tips, SEO, etc. It’s been a big help for my Etsy shop.
What has been the most challenging part of selling on Etsy?
I love Etsy and everything it has to offer. It’s made me a real business owner, and given me both a platform to sell on and a base of customers. After two years on Etsy, I still get excited every time I get a sale. I feel so thankful to Etsy for the opportunity. The most challenging part is not being in complete control of my shop. The limitations made it easy to start out, but now it sometimes feels a little stifling and narrow. I don’t feel in complete control of my business and that is a bit unsettling.
I hear you had quite a time getting your own printer.
Haha, this story is absurd. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to print my own cards rather than driving to a printer and being forced to print a large number of the same card, and having to mess with colors printing right. What I didn’t think about was the stress that ensues when my printer, my only printer, decides to have a mind of its own.
My first printer was a cheap printer that only printed certain colors well, and sometimes gave a shaky line. So after months of research, I bit the bullet and bought an amazing printer. After days of experimenting, it just wasn’t working right so I returned it and the company sent me a new one. The UPS man came and left my house 3 times, each time with a 40 pound printer box, before the dust settled. I finally got to a good spot with the printer and my fingers are crossed that I don’t have to see the poor UPS man for a while.
What’s your studio work space like? You have an official studio puppy, Ellie – does she participate in the card-making process?
I work from home in a spare bedroom and it’s fantastic! I often pinch myself that I get to wake up in the morning and walk across the hall to go to work – in my pajamas no less. Ellie, our 7-month-old puppy, is a fantastic companion. She wasn’t so great at 8 weeks, but now that she’s older and knows the routine, she’s an amazing work partner and studio puppy. She helps me get up and outside for a walk every few hours.
You use Instagram quite a bit – do you have any tips for sellers looking to try it out?
I LOVE Instagram! With social media, use the platform you love and then it’s not a chore. My best piece of advice is to stay away from only taking photos of your products. If someone is only posting photos of their items, I get bored and don’t want to follow them. If your photos are of everyday life, friends and family, pets, where you live, or what you’re having for lunch – I’m all ears (err, eyes). To gain followers on Instagram, using hashtags is essential.
Lastly, take good photos! There are a lot of photo apps that you can use to adjust your photos and now Instagram has an editing tool that you can take advantage of too. Good photos bring followers and followers grow your business! You can find me @pagefiftyfive.