When Erin Condren created and sent out birth announcements for her twins in 2001, she had no idea it would lead to the birth of an incredibly successful business. From the outside looking in, Erin’s life, much like her designs, looks perfectly organized and full of everything wonderful, but building a brand isn’t all fun and games. While sharing some hard truths about being an entrepreneur, Erin tells us how she went from stay-at-home mother of two to managing a $10 million paper empire and running a business she loves.
Instagram Handle: @erincondren
Location: Los Angeles, California
Occupation: President of ErinCondren.com
Secretly Obsessed With: Entertaining! I have a passion for invitations, table settings, trays, florals and everything that sets the tone for a great party!
On My Nightstand: turquoise readers and an Island Fleur candle
Last Thing You Read: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
How did you get started?
I made the birth announcement for my twins when they were born in 2001, and designed our own Christmas cards year after year. In 2004, a friend of mine encouraged me to create a book of “samples” and sell them at a friend’s home shopping party. Paper, by nature, is so viral, and I printed my email address on the back of each design. It spread like crazy, and the website was born in 2005.
What key elements played into your success?
Coffee, a very supportive husband and many late nights! It really comes down to maximizing my time– many of my products are built around time management to hopefully help other moms with their hectic schedules!
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
The life of an entrepreneur can be grueling. I remember my business partner telling me that “many people can be entrepreneurs, but not everyone can make the jump to becoming a successful business person.” I’ve had to make tough decisions and many sacrifices along the way. The growing pains have sometimes been unbearable, especially when customers are disappointed and we can’t meet the demands. I always advise to stay true to yourself, and don’t ever lose sight of that. Most days I wish I could just clone myself, but instead I surround myself with other hard-working, talented, passionate people that are on this journey with me.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
Scalability has always been our biggest challenge, especially in the beginning. I started this business from my home office, and now we are gaining more than 1,000 purchasing customers every 2-3 days! This means adding new equipment, training more designers, upgrading technology and everything else it takes to grow a business at this rate. My business partner has always focused on long-term goals and company changes, while I focus on more of the day-to-day marketing and design. We have been layering in management roles and key decision makers that have really helped our growing pains this year.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
My mom. Hands down. Impossible to explain in a few words what an incredible role model and inspiration she has been my entire life. Her positive energy is infectious, and I was always told as a kid, “you have the best mom!” As a professor of early childhood development, she has been a plethora of knowledge raising my own children, but also a continuous stream of inspiration in my business, my marriage and everything I do.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am so proud of my business and the people that continually contribute to its success. Some have been with me for years, and others are newly on board. Although my name is the headliner, this is certainly not a one-(wo)man band! I work with the most talented, smart, driven and dedicated group of people and it is such a CHARGE to come to work every day. It is soooo validating to see that our hard work can simplify, “stylize” and organize the lives of so many. We get countless emails from customers that thank us for all that we do, and for this I am extremely proud.
When do you feel most successful?
While some of the TV press and endorsements by celebrities have been great for the brand, I must say that some of my most defining moments have been at speaking engagements to high school and college students, as well as other moms and entrepreneurs. I love the thought that my journey can possibly inspire others to accomplish their goals and chase their dreams.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
There is no “luck” in a successful business. It is endless hours with a business that never sleeps. It really doesn’t get any easier as you grow; the challenges change and new obstacles appear. I work just as hard now as I did when I was getting it off the ground from my home. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE WHAT I DO, but it is very difficult to make that jump from having an “idea” as an entrepreneur to becoming a successful business person. If you are going to make that jump, be ready to make many sacrifices to maintain a balanced work/family life. (Still trying to figure out that “perfect balance!”)