Getting To Know: Pei Sim of The Paper + Craft Pantry
When you think back to starting your business, was there a place that you remember being your safe space? Your home away from home? Your spot where you met some incredible people that became biz besties and IRL besties? For me, that place was The Paper + Craft Pantry. I started coming religiously to their Open Studio Hours every Friday afternoon, and I met so many incredible people, especially female, creative business owners. (In fact, that's where I met Denise from Love Ding.)
Pei has done an incredible job of cultivating a community of like-minded business owners, and it's refreshing to have a space to commiserate and celebrate with people who understand what you're going through. I am amazed at how much Pei juggles on any given day, and she's been able to keep such a singular vision and positive attitude through it all. She truly believes in fostering community and supporting small businesses, so that's why you'll see an expertly curated collection of 50+ independent stationery designers, and a packed schedule of creative workshops.
She is a true inspiration, and one heck of a business woman. Pei has a sixth sense of knowing whenever I need a pick-me-up, and always seems to gift me a gluten-free brownie on the days I need it most. I am honored to know her and to be a part of her team. Keep your eye on this one because she is just getting started!
Tell us about how The Paper + Craft Pantry came into being.
I’ve always had a love of paper and stationery for as long as I can remember. And to be honest, this whole small business journey started out as a hobby and creative outlet that I needed to balance out a not so fulfilling career.
I started doodling and slowly taught myself how to turn these doodles into designs I could produce on paper. For 2.5 years, I owned p.s. Paper Shoppe - an online based, stationery shop. I always thought it would be a temporary “job” until I figured out what my next career move was. But after year two, I decided that this was more than just a hobby, and I finally sat down to evaluate what I had done over the past couple of years to make plans on how to grow my business.
I realized that it wasn’t my dream to turn this little business into a brand, or to wholesale to large accounts but what I did LOVE was the people I had met along the way. I wanted to create and direct my small business and evolve it into one that would blend my love of paper, the people behind the paper, and allow me to build a community all at the same time.
That’s how The Paper + Craft Pantry was born! Part paper + stationery shop and part workshop studio that everyone in the community could be a part of!
What aspect of your work is the most life-giving for you?
Planning our community events and growing our community initiatives bring me the most joy, even if it seems frivolous to the business as all our community initiatives and events are complimentary. It’s a core value of mine and The Paper + Craft Pantry to maintain an accessible and welcoming environment for every single person who walks through our doors. I love that no matter anyone’s financial situation, they can find multiple ways to get creative and be a part of our community.
Was there ever a time when you happily ignored external validation or outside advice about your business so that you could follow the True North that you created for yourself? If so, how did making that choice to follow Your Why impact not only you, but your business?
Before I opened up our physical space, I toyed around the idea of having a partner. It seemed less daunting and scary to take on everything that comes with a physical space if I had someone like-minded by my side. I also briefly considered seeking out an investor or taking out a small business loan after consulting with several other small business owners on how they got started.
My gut was telling me I only felt like I needed a partner because I was afraid. And that’s absolutely not the right reason to have a business partner. And I knew deep down I didn’t want to start the business in debt and take on the stress of “digging” the business out of the red each month. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a new business!
So it may have taken a little longer, and it definitely has been a lot more work than I had imagined, but I am so proud that I get to make decisions for my business without having to consult with a partner or investor. I am also so glad that I never took out a loan!
I know that you a firm believer in setting goals. What can you tell us about your 5-year vision for The Paper + Craft Pantry?
My five year goal for the P+CP is for it to be THE go to spot in Austin for all things local, paper and workshops! I’d love for us to be able to reach a community that spans beyond Austin via our online shop, potential online workshops and our blog!
Speaking of goals, and having taken one of your goal setting workshops before, I know that you believe in the Law of Attraction. Would you please give a quick summary of what that is and how it informs not only how you set your goals, but always how you conduct business?
The Law of Attraction is REAL you guys! In a way, I believe that relationships (in business too) should be organic. I believe that by being a kind business owner who works hard, I’ll attract fellow business owners who are the same. I’m incredibly lucky I get to work alongside so many different small business owners who are like-minded and it makes it so easy to decide who to form partnerships and collaborate with!
You recently launched your online store (congratulations, BTW!). I’d love to hear more about your decision process for getting to this point. More specifically, how did you know that this was the right next step to grow the business?
Our online shop has been a work in progress for quite some time. My main goal of the online shop was to serve as an education piece for folks going to our website to let them know that we are in fact a retail shop in addition to a workshop studio with lots of great classes. As we’ve grown in the past year and a half, we’re realizing (through emails and messages we receive) that a lot of our following includes folks outside of Austin! We wanted to be able to share a little bit of our shop with them and continue to make our space accessible, even if it is virtual.
What is your marketing strategy for The Paper + Craft Pantry? Is there one element that has been most successful for you?
I’m not sure if this is necessarily a strategy, but I remind myself and our team to consider themselves in everything we do and put out there. From the product we choose to stock our shelves with to the workshops we host and the blog posts we write to the events we have in our studio, we need to be excited about all of it. If we aren’t just giddy over these things, we don’t need to be doing it. Period.
You and The Paper + Craft Pantry are a source of creative energy, inspiration, and community for many. Where do you find inspiration?
I think my inspiration comes from thinking long-term. What do I want people to remember The Paper + Craft Pantry by? What do I, as a business owner, want to be remembered by? I’d like to think that years from now, even if this business didn’t exist anymore, people would remember it as a place where they were welcomed, treated kindly and have fond memories of their time in our space.
Switching gears to something less serious - you have hosted over 100 workshops in the store since you opened, so you are no stranger to DIY and getting crafty. Do you have any favorites? And if you sometimes get the pleasure to play for work, what craft projects do you enjoy in your spare time?
Ah! This is tricky! When I first started collaborating to host workshops in our studio, I was scheduling workshops I personally was interested in and wanted to take :) So I’ve actually taken 99% of all our classes we’ve ever hosted! I’ve been really into hand stitching (embroidery) as well as stamp carving. These are two workshops we host in our studio and have been ones that I have picked up during my free time!
I know you have an affinity for face mists, essential oils, and houseplants. Will you share some of your favorite resources, recipes, and green thumb tips with us?
Hahaha! I think my love of face mists come from the fact that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been more aware of how I am taking care of my skin. I love all natural face mists that hydrate my skin in addition to giving me that boost that I need. I LOVE anything lavender to start my day or to unwind. Anything citrus for an energy boost. And I carry around a roller ball bottle of pure peppermint oil to help with my bouts of headaches!
And as far as my green thumb goes, I would honestly say it’s only a very light shade of green! I’m still learning! I think I just lucked out with having insanely good lighting through our skylights in the studio where all our plants just seem to thrive. But a tip would be to track a watering schedule and learn what your plants like. I’ve had plants before that for some reason were always droopy and unhappy even though I was taking good care of them, and all it took was moving them to a new spot for them to thrive! (p.s. We have a free downloadable plant care guide on our blog!)
Want to know more? Eager to connect with Pei? Here's how:
Shop & come hang at The Paper + Craft Pantry:
Fun little extra:
I'll be speaking on a Marketing + PR panel that Pei is moderating on Tuesday, April 18. Word on the street is that we're working on offering a live stream option, so keep an eye on their Instagram to stay in the loop and tune in if we can make that happen!