Sisters Sabrina and Eunice launched their letterpress and design studio, Hello!Lucky, almost a decade ago with a vintage press in Eunice’s garage. On a whim, they sent several cards to Kate’s Paperie in New York City, and the company immediately placed an order. Over the past nine years, Hello!Lucky has expanded on an international scope. The San Fransisco-based brand, which offers products ranging from note cards to custom wedding invitations to books, has been featured in publications like Martha Stewart Weddings, Real Simple, and InStyle. Here, the two sisters offer advice on running a small (but mighty) business, how they’ve grown and changed since launching, and what it’s like working with your sister and best friend.
Full Name: Eunice Moyle
Age: 39 (!)
Educational Background: Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pacific Northwest College of Art; Associate in Arts from Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising; mountains of french classes
Full Name: Sabrina Moyle
Educational background: Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Swarthmore College; M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Year you started Hello!Lucky: 2003
What was your first job out of college and how long did you hold that position?
Eunice: I started out doing freelance illustration work; my first big client was Disney, but I really bounced around between freelance design and illustration and various random jobs (like working at a boutique pet store, which is where I sold my first Hello!Lucky cards!) for years until we started Hello!Lucky.
Sabrina: Archives Intern at the Museum of Modern Art New York. The internship lasted 3 months and then I got a job at the Massachusetts Cultural Council funding arts education in public schools – I was there for about 2 years.
Does what you studied in school apply to your current job? If not, where did you learn the skills you use at work?
Eunice: Yes, but I majored in illustration and later discovered that what I really love is design with the ability to illustrate in any style that is appropriate to the design concept. I learned to be a designer on the job and thus learned the most valuable skills working with talented art directors and designers.
Sabrina: Yes, my art history degree is handy in drawing inspiration from different artistic trends, as well as critiquing designs and helping to develop aesthetically coherent collections. My M.B.A. is helpful in running the business: marketing, understanding costs and financial analysis, and running lots of spreadsheets to inform our decision making.
What is the best part of your job?
Eunice: Brainstorming new designs and ideas with Sabrina and the rest of our team—with the greeting cards it always gets hilarious—we’ve literally ended up crying laughing over our own punniness. For wedding designs, we get a real kick out of bouncing ideas off each other and coming up with new and inspiring themes.
Sabrina: Coming up with creative ideas, seeing them turn into products, and then seeing them make a difference in people’s lives.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Sabrina: Learning to be a technology and e-commerce company—working with programmers and developers, analyzing and interpreting data, and deciding where to spend resources to meet our business and creative goals.
How has working together affected your relationship as sisters and friends?
Eunice: It’s actually brought us much closer—running a small business has it’s thrilling highs and terrifying lows and it’s great to have someone there that you know that you can count on in good times and in bad, who shares your work ethic and intense passion for what you are doing.
Sabrina: We’ve grown a lot closer since we’re both constantly collaborating, sharing ideas, and working towards the common goal of building a creative business. There are also lots of ups and downs, so we have to support each other, which brings us closer, too.
Can you describe a little bit about what goes into your position? What is your day-to-day work life like?
Eunice: It’s super varied, which I love. I’m a jack of all trades, so I do everything from designing small stuff like banner ads and emails to illustrating and designing greeting cards, creating custom wedding invitation designs for our clients, working our website, crafting, researching, and looking for fabulous inspiration to pin on Pinterest (I’m a total Pinterest junkie!). My day-to-day work life is pretty hectic—I juggle work with taking care of my 2-year-old, Jude, so I’m often working late into the night and squeezing bits of work into every possible spare minute—but I love it! It really keeps me on my toes!
Sabrina: My day-to-day work life is hugely varied and changes every year! In the beginning, it consisted mostly of boxing and shipping orders and packaging cards! Today, it consists of working with our designers to develop new products, driving the development of our website, analyzing customer data and feedback, and working on marketing and outreach.
The following questions were answered by both Eunice and Sabrina.
Please describe the process of starting Hello!Lucky. What were you doing before you started the company? What led to taking the leap into the entrepreneurial world?
Before we started the company, Eunice was a freelance designer and working in a pet boutique on weekends. Sabrina was working as a non-profit strategy consultant, having previously worked in the non-profit arts sector. We were 29 and 31, respectively, when we launched Hello!Lucky. Eunice took the initial plunge by buying a Vandercook press on eBay, printing some greeting cards and sending them to Kate’s Paperie in New York. Sabrina was excited to help start a creative business, and wrote a business plan. It basically took off from there…
How did you learn the ins and outs of running a business? i.e. getting investors, finding manufacturers, writing contracts, etc.
We mostly learned by doing and through trial and error. Sabrina had some relevant background from business school, but they really don’t tell you how to run a small business. We networked with other entrepreneurs at trade shows, and tried things out. We were also lucky to get advice from financially savvy friends and family (including our husbands) along the way.
You primarily run an online business, but how did you go about having your products placed in stores like Paper Source? What are the positives and negatives of being an online shop?
We got into large retail stores like Paper Source via trade shows and our network of freelance sales reps. It happened over a number of years, as you need to have an established track record and a broad product selection (with new releases 2-3 times a year) to cater to big accounts. We started by selling to small independent boutiques, and larger accounts like Paper Source came with time.
We love the name of your business. How did you come up with it, and what does it mean to you?
Eunice came up with it randomly. It makes us happy and captures the vibe of our business. It reminds us of our childhood growing up in Asia—Japanese and Taiwanese pop culture had a big influence on us, and our mom is Chinese.
How did you market your company when you were just starting out?
We went to trade shows like the National Stationery Show, and we sent samples to major media outlets like Martha Stewart Weddings (that was before the days of blogs and social media). We also developed relationships with local wedding planners and started getting a lot of our wedding clients that way.
What advice do you have for women looking to go in to your field?
Start small and keep your overhead costs low. Don’t be afraid to be quirky—you need to find a distinct voice to stand out amidst all the noise online. Put yourself out there and let your customers and the media get to know you on a personal level. Look behind the scenes at your creative process, your studio, and the ups and downs of running a creative business.
What is the most important thing you have learned over the course of starting and running your own successful business?
Focus on your customers, think creatively, and adapt quickly. The business landscape and market changes constantly and at lightning speed—it’s basically unrecognizable from when we started in 2003 (pre-Etsy, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). Every day, new ways of connecting with customers are coming up, and you need to stay nimble to keep ahead of trends. Coming up with awesome, creative products is only about 10% of what it takes to run a successful creative business. The other 90% is about the nuts and bolts of creating a flexible, efficient organization to serve customers and continuously innovate.
Tell us a little bit about the letterpress process.
Letterpress involves pressing a raised plate into paper, leaving an indentation. One color is printed at a time. You start with artwork that gets made into a photo-negative film. The film is placed on light-sensitive plate material and the areas that are exposed to light in a plate making machine harden. The plate is then mounted to the printing press. The press is inked and the paper is fed through. To print a second color, you clean the press, switch the plates and ink and register, or align, the first print run with the second one. The paper is then trimmed down and every item is checked before sending to the customer.
How would you like to see the company evolve, if at all, in the next year?
We’d like to continue our artist collaborations and building our brand online, creating a really unique destination for people to get stylish and creative stationery and wedding invitations.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Focus and stay small and nimble until you have the experience, resources, and skills to scale up quickly. Once you decide to go for it, you need to scale up extremely quickly to be sustainable. Master online marketing—search engine optimization and Google Analytics are your best friends!