I don’t even know where to begin this story, much in the same way that I can’t find the words to explain how full my heart is right now. But the story starts sometime back in 2010, when Emily went to a Making Things Happen session and then came home to blog about it. I’d been following Emily on twitter, took the link to her post, and started reading, or watching (I think she was video-blogging!) and then, I did something I rarely do: I emailed a complete stranger out of the blue.
And that was the beginning of Emily and Whitney. She had some questions, I had some answers. She had a vision for her authentic brand, and helping her grow that brand fired me up. We met officially at the National Stationery Show in 2010, where she shared a part of our English Paper Company booth and sold the heck out of her gorgeous wedding album.
And then, at some point in time, one or the other, or both of us, said, “We should start something. Something that answers questions about the invitation industry. Something that clears up myths. Something gives people direction.” And the Stationery Academy was born.
I’ll be honest, in the weeks that led up to the event, I was in total panic. I thought we weren’t going to have enough content. Then I thought we’d put in too much. And then it wasn’t organized enough. And then it was over-planned. And was this Lara Casey chick even going to like me? And who the heck were all these people, who wanted to listen to Emily and I blab about our stationery industry experiences for two days? I tend to be a more private person, so being stuck in a room for two days and having to be the one to talk, well, it just flat freaked me out.
Then, all of a sudden, I was standing in a reception room in Pensacola, Florida, welcoming attendees with our signature PinkINKtinis. (Which were delicious, by the way.) And then, the next day, we were talking about branding and authenticity, and strategic planning, and I started to relax a little bit. And on the next day, I hit my stride. We were talking about the industry that I LOVE, that I’ve known and followed and obsessed over since the day I started working at a paper store in 1994. (Yep, that’s 18 years.)
Emily had been challenging me for weeks to uncover my fears, and tell my story, and I’ll admit, I was dragging my feet. I was trying to figure out how to get out of it. But at the very end, we had a few minutes left, and everyone said they wanted to hear it, so I decided to spill it. And I cried. No, I bawled. As I talked about the people who had believed in me along the way, and had given me the courage to jump off the cliffs. The funny thing about those people is that sometimes they didn’t give me what I thought I needed. Sometimes they just gave me encouragement. But sometimes, that’s all we all really need.
Going forward, the Stationery Academy will be an integral part of that story. The women I met, who probably came to find inspiration and encouragement from me, left me with THEIR inspiration and encouragement. The visions and dreams exchanged and discussed in that room gave us all a newfound sense of mission, purpose, ambition, and possibility. I am proud to now be able to call each of them dear friends, and am beyond thrilled to see where they take it from here.
(Above photo: Stationery Academy speakers and leaders: Lara Casey, Whitney English Kolb, Emily Ley and Natalie Chang.)