Who are you?
55 Hi's is an online collection of design driven greeting cards, prints, and all things stationery. We specialize in hand made goods produced in the USA .
Why Did you start your business?
I was working at the Advertising job and the majority of my days there were 8 in the morning until 7-10 at night and some weekends. And then of course, I was salaried, so I never received overtime or any additional compensation for 80 hour weeks. I was constantly frustrated. I was frustrated with clients, the people I worked with, the drop shadows, the logos that couldn’t get big enough. I never had enough time for anything. Nothing ever got created. I would spend all day and night on these designs for people, who for the most part, either didn’t get it, or were unimpressed, or just basically want what they wanted because they wanted it and they were paying me. I think most designers can relate to this.
So, after many months of doing work like this I was really bummed and I started emailing other designers asking for guidance and their thoughts until one day while sitting in my chair frustrated, I came upon an interview that Dan Stiles (an uber talented poster designer) did on Grain Edit where he talks about this concept of “Design As Art vs Design as a Service.”
Immediately after reading that article. It became clear, that I personally wasn’t ever going to be happy designing for someone else and I needed to start something of my own and that was when I started 55 Hi’s. To have a creative outlet that I could control and push and love. I stopped really caring so much about the work I was doing during the day (since I was basically a pixel pusher) and concentrated all my energy into designing and printing at night. I was able to leave that advertising job after about 9 months to the job I’m at now and that was when I really kicked 55 Hi’s into gear. The reason I still have the day job, is so that I can pay people the money I would normally pay myself to do things better than I can. Printing, illustrating, taxes, etc.
What makes your business unique?
Well, everything is printed by hand in the USA and packaged with butterfly kisses.
What's the biggest mistake you've made with your business and what did you learn from it??
Oh, am I ever willing to share. I’ve had so many failures but many of them boil down to trying to do too much. I think it’s really important as a brand (at least in the beginning) to be extremely specialized. For instance, in the beginning I was dabbling in products like Bookends and T-Shirts and although some people can make the multi-product store work, I felt like it was confusing to customers and my brand to expand in that fashion.
I couldn’t really call myself a stationery company anymore cause I was selling T-Shirts, so what was I? And the T-Shirts weren’t the best they could be cause I didn’t specialize in T-Shirts. Customers couldn’t really define what I was offering cause it was a grab bag. The saying ”Jack of All Trades, Master of None” comes to mind. So, since then I have really taken to heart that just because it’s a good idea, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to make every time. I specialize in paper and I try my best to make the absolute best paper products I can. Maybe one day I will expand, but my soul is in paper products.
what big goal do you have for your company and how do you plan to achieve it?
To be honest, the only goal I have for 55 Hi’s, is to be able to do it full time. I still work a day job to pay the totally insane NYC rent and I invest all the money 55 Hi’s makes right back into it. I realize that’s not technically a BIG goal, but it’s the one I want the most. I just want to make enough to pay myself, not be stressed all the time, enjoy life outside work, and continue making things that make people happy. To me, that IS a big goal.
what advice or tips do you have for people wanting to start their own business or follow their dreams?
Well, I don't think I'm quite qualified to answer this question yet, but I think everyone should follow their dreams. I am very afraid of one day looking back and realizing that I spent the last 30 years making someone else money and spending 3 weeks out of the year on vacation doing what I want.