To see the FULL list of SBA Finalists, click here.
1. Tell us your story of how your company got to where it is today?
15 years ago I escaped the marketing and advertising agency world in Chicagoland where I designed products and print layouts, art directed photo shoots, and helped produce millions of copies of catalogs for Fortune 100 clients. We hired freelancers, and freelancing looked like the perfect job. My boss and I approached the agency we worked for with the idea of taking our department out of the company completely and becoming an outsourced vendor. They accepted our proposal and we started StaJe Designs. Our contract ended with our past employer and short time later my partner took a full-time job. In April of 2007 I opened the doors of Paperfish Creative.
With the start of Paperfish I knew I didn’t simply want to be a freelance graphic designer: I wanted to create an agency that had more depth and offered more services. I added web and package design, formed partnerships with photo studios for professional photography, and with printers for high-end products. Web developer/computer programmer Brian DeAngelis was brought on board as a contract employee, to provide top-notch web services. Brian and I have been friends since the day I followed him home from kindergarten. He is my oldest friend, and truly a genius, coming from Boeing and Bank of America to work with me.
In August 2013 I relocated to Ashburn, Virginia. I am pleased to say that I now have several wonderful clients in Loundoun. With my programmer still in Palatine, Illinois, we are able to maintain strong relationships in two metropolitan locations. Paperfish continues to grow and change, working with amazing people along the way.
2. What would it mean to you and your company to win a Small Business Award?
I am coming up on my 10-year anniversary with Paperfish Creative, and even though that sounds like a long time — time flies! This award would make it feel like I’ve really made it, and that all of my hard work has been worth it. I love my job and knowing that others appreciate my work makes it all the better for me.
3. If you weren’t running your own business, what would you be doing?
There are so many wonderful things that people are out there doing — that’s actually the best part of my job, that I get to learn about all kinds of businesses. So, I have a list: a hairdresser, a photo stylist, a photographer, a set designer for stage, an author (my current goal), a coffee shop owner, and I’d love to be the person in the department stores that set up displays.
4. What book are you reading right now? / What is your favorite book?
I’m reading “Secrets of Successful People" by local author Katie Morton. It’s her second book and it’s fantastic. I am a serious Harry Potter geek. I’ve read all of the books at least twice — I re-read each book before that movie came out, and I always have one on my nightstand for the nights I have too much on my mind to sleep.
5. What is your favorite app (computer/phone)?
Instagram. It’s the one platform that I don’t feel too bad crossing over between business & personal use on one user name. Just PaperfishJen.
6. If you have 24 hours off, and your family was out of town, what would you do?
First a trip to Blend for coffee (I typically only go out for coffee for work meetings), a manicure, then shopping and dinner with friends. I’d finish my day at home with a bottle of wine and a rented movie that no one in my family would watch with me if they were around.
7. What is the smallest thing that has made the largest impact on your business?
Price sheets. Quoting a job can take hours — and there are proposals that still do — but for typical jobs the price sheet has saved me so much time.
8. What did you want to be when you grew up? / What was a childhood dream that you had?
I wanted to be an author. My first job out of college was actually to research and write a book on “The History of Transportation in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago.” That book was not exactly what I had in mind, but I do know a great deal about trains and buses in Chicagoland! I still plan to live that dream: I have two books outlined and I have started writing one of them.
9. Who is the one person that has influenced you the most in your career?
Stacey Nicholson. Stacey was my boss at my last “real” job. We owned my first company, StaJe Designs together. Stacey taught me basically everything I know about how to run a creative project: scheduling, quoting, billing and hiring contractors. And without her I never would have been able to — or have been brave enough to — leave my full-time job and take a chance at owning my own company. Even though that business ended, the foundation of Paperfish is built on what I learned from her.
But the most important lessons I've learned from Stacey were not about processes. The work-life lessons she taught me are to never take credit for work you didn’t do (this really matters in agencies), always remember our deadlines are not life-or-death because "we are not curing cancer here", and that family always, no matter what, comes first.
10. What is your favorite thing about living/running a business in Loudoun County?
The first thing that struck me about Loundoun County when I moved here is how green and hilly and beautiful it is! And, I have the most wonderful neighbors in the world.
What I love the most about running a business in Loudoun County is the small business culture: the owners of well-established businesses and the owners of new businesses work beautifully together here, helping each other grow. Because I feel like I am a little of both — 10 years in business but only three in Loudoun — this must be the best place for me to be!
Thanks, to Jennifer Andos, of Paperfish Creative, and congratulations on your nomination!
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