Our interview today is with designer duo Anne and Colleen, a mother-daughter team bringing their creativity to Zazzle stores ForeverWedding and PerfectWedding. They even host their own site highlighting their favorite wedding designs from all over Zazzle, PrettyWeddingPaper.com.
Tell us a little about you!
Colleen: Hi! My name is Colleen, I’m from Kansas City and currently living there. But I’ve lived in New York City, Colorado, New Zealand, Seattle, Berlin, and I’ll be moving back to Colorado in the fall. My interests and hobbies actually run towards the outdoors, and also towards math and science with a bachelor’s in math and a master’s in theoretical neuroscience. So I might not be your typical Zazzler!
Annie: And I’m Colleen’s mom, Annie, originally from Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve not lived in as many places as Colleen but I do love to travel.
What is your background in art/design? When did you first start creating?
Colleen: My mom always encouraged me to express my creative side as a child (making up stories, drawing pictures). But it wasn’t until I was around 11 or 12 that I began to do graphic design on the computer. I started with PaintShop Pro, making these sort of fantasy photo collages of animals, mostly horses if I’m being honest, on cool backgrounds like outer space and waterfalls, and though it’s a bit funny to me now, I definitely had a knack for it.
Annie: Yes – I remember watching her create thousands of horse collages on her computer. I started my graphic design creations much later in life. Once I purchased the painter program (around age 40 or so), I was hooked. I’m mostly self taught but have learned a great deal from online classes.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Colleen: My background is more in math and science than in art and design, and I think it gives me a unique perspective on design aesthetics – I’m really interested in balance and symmetry. (Did you know many mathematicians, especially in the more abstract branches, think of math as, ideally, a beautiful, elegant and creative discipline?) Of course, I also get inspiration from the world around me – trends I see in other design work on the internet and in the real world, art I’ve seen in museums and my college classes, and nature.
Annie: I definitely find inspiration in nature – flowers in particular. I love the colors, design and artistry of a wide variety of flowers. If I could visit every botanical garden in the US, I would.
How did you get started with Zazzle?
Colleen: My mom actually got me into Zazzle. In 2009 I was in my last year of college and she had been selling on Zazzle for a few years and doing quite well with custom postage. She encouraged me to open a store and start making designs – I dragged my feet quite a bit so she opened one for me in January 2010, and got me started with a couple hundred products. I think it took four months but sure enough, I got $25 in Paypal and I was like, “Oh wow, I guess I should take this seriously!” So I’m really lucky I had such a great mom to encourage me in the beginning.
Annie: I did encourage her many times as I had such a successful start with Zazzle. I began back in 2007 selling designs but the product that sold the most was postage stamps. I enjoyed designing them because they were so unique at the time and I loved the thought of my stamp designs traveling through the mail. I even started my own website, perfectpostage, to showcase my designs. I also help brides and special event planners create custom postage that matches their colors and theme.
What is your favorite Zazzle product to design on? Any particular best-selling designs you have noticed in your stores?
Colleen: Easily invitations! I was always drawn to wedding invitations for some reason. Some of my best-selling designs have been really unusual ones, like my “spooky gothic” wedding invitation – I was meaning to make a pretty art-deco style black and white invitation, and then I did this strange effect where the frame looked all broken and I thought it looked really cool, so I added cobwebs and a sort of lightning-y background to make it all-out halloween style and it’s actually been one of my more popular designs – I think people overlook niches like this quite a bit. Another of my recently popular designs is a nerdy 8-bit save the date – since I’m kind of a nerd myself I just love that one!
Annie: Of course my favorite product to design is postage stamps. Like Colleen, one of my best selling designs was more of an accident when I created it. But the effect was very cool and my “Springtime in Paris” heart design has been a consistent best seller.
Have you tried out our new Collections feature? Any favorite Collections you’ve created?
Colleen: I have and I love it! It’s just what was needed (and I hope Collections become even more prominent on the public side of Zazzle as time goes on). Here’s a couple Collections I’ve made, one of a newer design (“Enchanted Fairytale Stars”…yes I really called it that!) and one of an older design (“Chalkboard Art Deco”, one of my bigger sellers):
Annie: I just started working with Collections and absolutely love the concept. One that I just created:
How do you get the word out about your Zazzle stores and designs?
Colleen: Well, to be honest this is really hard! Especially in the very competitive wedding invitation market. I’ve had a couple websites and my most recent project (even though I started it over a year ago!) is Pretty Wedding Paper (please visit and tell me what you think!) – I feature not only my own designs but also those of super talented Zazzlers. I built the website because I noticed it was often hard to find coordinating pieces and alternate colors in wedding invitation sets, so I wanted to create a system that would link up these products – I basically pre-invented the new Collections feature! But I also wanted a place that would showcase only the really best designs, a sort of little Zazzle wedding paradise. I developed my own content management system and coded the whole thing from scratch, so it was actually quite a large undertaking. But I’ve seen some modest success with it and it honestly feels gratifying to know that I’ve helped people find their perfect wedding invitations!
Annie: It’s nice to have a daughter that’s both a talented designer and a coder. Colleen redesigned and coded my website www.perfectpostage.com. I also enjoy social media … particularly blogging. It’s fun to write short topical blog posts and try to tie that to postage stamps. I also love to feature other talented Zazzle designers’ products – and there are a ton of them! If you would like to be featured on the perfectpostage blog, just let me know.
What would you like to see Zazzle add for new products?
Colleen: I think something like tri-fold cards would be good – that would be really great for programs and invitations! I also dream of Zazzle offering fancy printing techniques like foil stamping.
Annie: I think it would be fun to design socks – young girls would absolutely love these.
What advice would you give to a new Designer starting their own store?
Colleen: Be patient and give it time – and effort. First, try to make designs other people are going to want. Then, just be patient and keep at it – if you consistently make quality stuff and keep improving, the sales will start to roll in…eventually!
Annie: I agree 100% with making quality designs and have two additional pieces of advice. 1. Promote your own products either through your own website or social media. Don’t rely on hoping your products will be found in the marketplace. 2. Read the advice in the forums. There is a TON of great information in there and many helpful Zazzlers. If you have a question, just post it and you’ll get help right away. It’s a wonderful community and their advice is invaluable.