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Meet Lauren Piel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Piel.

Lauren, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’ve always been interested in the creative arts – something I got from my Mom who owned a craft store in Kimmswick when I was a kid. I decided to pursue it professionally after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Maryville University.

I did what most do right after college – found a job in the corporate world and settled in. My best friend got married a couple of years later and being that I was burdened with student loan debt and no disposable income, I decided to make her something homemade for her shower gift.

It was a set of custom wine labels that I printed out on sticker paper and slapped on a bottle (probably a cheap Riesling). It dawned on me then – I could probably use my knowledge of design and print production to make these for other people looking for a personal, affordable gift idea. With that, I started Elleedees on Etsy in 2014. (Side note: Elleedees comes from my maiden initials…“L-E-D”.)

Working a day job and trying to start a small business on the side was a challenge at first. Many long nights in my little windowless room in the basement of trial and error to find the best label stock, shipping options, etc. plagued those first couple of years. I look back at it now and have several thoughts of “well, duh!” but some things are just better learned the hard way. For example, I was actually handwriting addresses on every package. Um… hello Microsoft Excel mail merge!

In 2017, the opportunity came for me to leave my corporate job and focus on Elleedees full time and I haven’t looked back. I’ve seen growth year after year, expanding beyond just custom wine labels to beer, liquor, candle, and even cigar labels. My online shop has hundreds of listings available for as-is purchase or customization. Some customers even come to me with an idea or form of inspiration that I use to create something 100% unique to them.

Happy customers and repeat customers keep me going every day!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In a word – NO.

The early struggles of balancing a corporate job and a new small business were real, but I knew I had a unique product to offer and could capitalize on the momentum Etsy was experiencing as a small business sales platform. It took time to figure out the best packaging options, shipping processes, and transit times (a lot of my orders are from people looking for last-minute gift ideas).

In the beginning, I was cutting each label by hand. Not only was I struggling to keep up but I developed some serious hand cramps. After a lot of research, I invested in new equipment and began automating my process. As a new business, it can feel risky to invest in process improvement so early, but it was what I needed to do to allow myself to take things to the next level.

Keeping up with demand is one thing, but the mental toll of small business ownership was just as intense. I found myself having a hard time “turning off.” My office was my home, so it was easy for me to sneak down after dinner and knock out a few orders. My brain was constantly overloaded with new ideas and things I wanted to try, but when it led to 18-hour workdays I knew it just wasn’t sustainable.

I had to create boundaries for myself to somehow get into a regular schedule and make time for myself outside of Elleedees. And about the time I figured that out, we found out we were expecting our first child. Being a working Mom has been its own struggle, but I wouldn’t change it for anything!

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I specialize in custom labels for all occasions. Wedding showers, engagements, birthdays, bachelor(ette) parties, baptisms, pregnancy announcements. If you can slap a label on it, I probably have one for you – wine, champagne, beer, liquor, candles, cigars, candy bars, gift boxes, etc.

What sets me apart is that my labels are customizable. Have a funny quote or photo you’d like to use? Want to include the wedding date and names of the happy couple? No problem. I’ll customize your label(s) and will send you digital proof for your approval before production. Orders are generally processed in a day or two, or I can even have your order delivered the next day for an extra fee.

I design, print, and fulfill all orders myself so customers are only dealing with one point of communication. Sure, it may be cheaper to work with a third party for printing to save money with bulk pricing, but I take pride in having put my hands on every customer’s order. It is the only way to ensure the quality and accuracy they deserve.

Starting a small business and working for myself is something I’m very proud of but also just genuinely love doing. While a scary proposition at first, it has given me a new perspective on what it means to “work” and what life is all about. I love being my own boss, making my own hours, and to be honest, not having to talk to people face-to-face every day has its perks.

My husband has always been 100% supportive of my business and had no hesitation when I wanted to take that leap of faith after leaving my corporate job. In the end, life is about people. Making people happy and spending as much time as possible with the people you love. I’m thankful every day that Elleedees has given me the opportunity to do both.

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