32 July 28, 2008

FAQ: How Did You Start Pink Loves Brown?

I get a lot of letters and emails from people, and I’m often asked the same questions. One question in particular seems to come up all the time…

“How did you start your business?”

I’ve been planning to write a series of business posts, so we will begin at the beginning.

I worked at Barbara’s Bookstore in Oak Park for six years, starting in 1998. Barbara’s was like the Empire Records of bookstores. Working there was fun, and everyone was amazing – we’ve all stayed friends and we still see each other all the time. I even married a fellow bookseller (Brandon started working there in 1999)!

Me, circa 2000

Brandon found another job shortly before we were married in May of 2004. After he quit, I decided that it was time for me to leave as well and I gave notice in August. Without another job lined up. That was incredibly stupid of me. I went on a lot of interviews and I was almost hired several times, but nothing was working out. I took a retail job at west elm to make money until I could find a “real” (office) job.

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law Portia and I had often talked about starting a business together. She loved the cards and invitations that I was always making for myself and others. I was going to be the creative one coming up with designs and she would handle the business and PR aspects. It was always more talk than action though (on both our parts), and nothing ever came of it.

T-Rex Birthday Invitation
A birthday invitation I made for Portia’s son James (my nephew)

In January 2005, a friend of Portia’s needed an invitation designed for her son’s communion. I tried to approach the whole thing in a professional, business-like manner, and I decided that I needed a business name. I hadn’t really planned on starting a business, and I certainly didn’t have any ambitious plans at that point. I just didn’t want to seem like I was the wife of a brother of a friend who was good at making cards and invitations. Even though that’s exactly what I was.

My first thought for a name was “Pink and Brown”. They’re my favorite colors, and I wanted a name that didn’t necessarily reflect what I was making. I wasn’t sure where this business would go, but I knew I didn’t want to limit myself by adding “Paper”, “Stationery”, or the ubiquitous “Designs” to the name. The website for pinkandbrown.com was taken (by what appears to be a rather nice furniture store in Montreal), so I decided against using it. I tried thinking of other names, but I didn’t like anything else.

I started thinking about “Lovely” (obviously I like that word), which then led to “Love”. I was going to offer custom wedding invitations, so I thought “[blank] Loves [blank]” would be a cute idea. Combined with my original idea, I came up with “Pink Loves Brown”.

I bought my domain name in February 2005, and I filed my DBA as a sole proprietor. I was officially open for business.

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    katelynjane
    July 28, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Wow, this is such a cool start to your story! I can’t wait to read the rest of your adventures (:

  • Reply
    amychristina
    July 28, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    i’m excited to hear the rest of the story… thanks for sharing, i’m already inspired!

  • Reply
    Laura
    July 28, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Oh, Nicole, you’ve read my mind! I’ve never had the nerve to ask you for a coffee date (am a Chicagoan, too), so this is great. I’m a burgeoning small business owner and am so glad you’re willing to share your story! Can’t wait for the next one!

  • Reply
    Casey
    July 28, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    i am excited to hear more of you and your business. Thanks for sharing, I really appreciate it!

  • Reply
    susan
    July 28, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I’m so glad you’re sharing this. You are someone whose expertise I really admire and its really interesting to see how you’re business developed.

  • Reply
    jayme lynn
    July 28, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    you make it sound so easy…perhaps it will be? i’m excited. i’m nowhere near the dba or domain yet…but eventually. =)

  • Reply
    jane
    July 28, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Oh, I am so glad you are sharing the story of starting your business! Can’t wait for more.

  • Reply
    Tracey
    July 28, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    It is always fun to hear how people select their names, and a true love story thrown into the mix- not bad!

  • Reply
    rifferaff
    July 28, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    I love this new feature. I greatly admire your work and business. Looking forward to hearing more!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    July 28, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Ooo, this is great! Tell us more!

  • Reply
    Nichelle
    July 28, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Definitely a great story. Reminds me of myself right now – going on a lot of interviews, almost hired several times, nothing really working out. I’ve been hesistant to pursue my creative business work in the meantime. Catch 22.

  • Reply
    laura @shore chic
    July 28, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    How great of you to share this! From reading your blog for several months I kind of thought you were at this for years and years. I am amazed at how quickly you’ve put together a fantastic business. I am very inspired!!

  • Reply
    nali
    July 28, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Great info. Can’t wait to hear the rest of your story. By the way, any chance you can share the type of printer you used when you first started out?

  • Reply
    Beth
    July 28, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Can’t wait to hear more! Thanks for sharing — you’re an inspiration to tons of people. :)

  • Reply
    Sam
    July 28, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    too funny…I just bought my domain name this morning..____design:) Oh well, at least the beginning is unlike anyone else. Looking forward to more of the story.

  • Reply
    Fiona
    July 28, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    I love to hear stories like this, so thanks! I could use all the inspiration I can get.

  • Reply
    megan
    July 28, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    i can’t wait to hear the rest of the story. yay! :)

  • Reply
    Cassandra Ellen
    July 28, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    And thennnn….??!

  • Reply
    JenQu
    July 28, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    oh, I was at Barbara’s Bookstore this evening with my husband and three kids, one of our favorite places…. I love your blog. We are neighbors- same village- and I love your aesthetic.

  • Reply
    Yesi Yesi
    July 28, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m trying to start my own business, and I really look up to you!

  • Reply
    jj4tlr
    July 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I had to laugh!!! My “self-proclaimed sister” and I did exactly what you shared you in your story. We started True Light Resources, a creative studio, and split the biz right down the middle. I do all the creative work and she does all the Biz development… and we’re having a blast! Thank you so much for sharing how you got your start. I think there are a lot of women out looking for work that helps them SHINE! I feel inspired and motivated when I read and hear how other women made a go of it. I believe I can do it too!

  • Reply
    jenni s-g
    July 29, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Love hearing about the birth of Pink Loves Brown! Can’t wait to hear more! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    amy purple
    July 29, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I love hearing how people got started in their business! I loved hearing how you and your honey met too, i never knew that before!

  • Reply
    pve design
    July 30, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Fantastic Story, I wait with baited breath for more, gimme more!
    I know you are on the road to such exciting things, all stemming from humble beginnings!

  • Reply
    kay*
    August 1, 2008 at 11:37 am

    very inspiring. i’m in the very early stages (just bought a domain!) of starting my own business – i feel like it has been a long time coming in taking the first step. i’m always interested in hearing how other young, successful, female business owners started out. i’m eager to read mor about your experience. thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    August 2, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, I can’t wait to hear more about your story. As someone who is just starting out in this process, this is very inspiring!

    Thanks!
    Jessica
    http://blackwhiteyellow.blogspot.com/

  • Reply
    Jerry
    August 8, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    First of all, I really dig the name “pink loves brown.” It’s fantastic, and interesting to read about what would lead to such a unique moniker…
    Secondly, I would love to hear more about the nuts and bolts of how you started your business. Such topics as marketing, insurance needs, your DBA, and other hands-on topics would be a great help to others thinking of starting their own type of business. Thanks for the cool story!
    Jerry

  • Reply
    Hooked on Houses
    August 19, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I always enjoy hearing how different women get inspired to start their own businesses. -Julia

  • Reply
    woodley park-zoo
    September 4, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Ah! This is almost like one of those thats-how-they-got-the-band-name stories where you think did they just make that up for interviews, but I believe you, I do!

  • Reply
    Making it Lovely | Transforming the so-so. » Blog Archive » FAQ Week
    July 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    […] How I Grew My Business (I already wrote the story of starting Pink Loves Brown.) […]

  • Reply
    becky @ farmgirl paints
    July 20, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Pretty cool. Love the name.

  • Reply
    Jaime @ A Place Out West
    July 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I loved hearing how you got started; I’m anxious to hear more!

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