Where did you get the inspiration to start your own stationery company?
As a trained copywriter and wordsmith, I’m obsessed with crafting clever copy that questions the everyday mundane and gives it a quirky and often strange makeover.
I worked as a junior copywriter for one of Australia’s largest shopper docket companies, and spent my days pushing the boundaries of advertising speak—literally testing just how much I could get away with, using unusual depictions of everyday words and playful copy.
After about a year of keeping a diary of one-liners and flashing it to friends in dark bars (“Hey Inga, wanna see my brain?”), I finally figured out where my words belonged - on cards! And so, Things by Bean was born.
Your cards are so cute! Do you have a background in art and design?
I felt like card designing fraud for so long as I had no background in art and design. I was a wordsmith, not a designer— but I was hyper aware that there are so many cards on the market with an incredibly strong design game. I’ve always been a drawer, so I taught myself how to use Illustrator and Photoshop and married my sketches with the technology I needed.
If you had to start again from scratch, what's one thing you'd do different?
Good question! Hard question. My main regret is how I handled Things by Bean’s US debut. Just a couple years after launching, I booked a space at the National Stationery Show in New York City. Between the exhibitor space itself, flights, accommodation, etc, it was a huge investment for someone my age with a business my size. At that time, my range was tiny and my sales acumen was super-underdeveloped, so the show was a bit of a flop for me. If I could do that over, I would have waited at least 3 more years before debuting there. The lesson carries through to heaps of other areas though; that failure helped me learn to take my time with things and do them right. I’m intensely productive and sometimes I bang things out because I like ticking them off my list. Now I know it’s okay to sit back and think about things for as long as you need!
What's your favorite part of running your own business?
Oh man, guys. I love it! I love so many things about it. I love the creative freedom and the complete lack of boundaries for experimentation. I also love the incredible sense of fulfillment I get when I realise how much I’ve learned since day one. I also love how proud it all makes me feel; before I had a real baby, the business was my baby and the business it is today is almost unrecognisable from what it was back in 2011 when I launched.
If you had to give a mom considering starting her own stationery line 3 pieces of advice, what would they be?
Utilise your time. Starting a new business is a pretty big energy and time suck so it’s important to make time work for you. Honour your commitment to your business and your vision of full-time freelance— if this means late nights, early mornings and during nap times, so be it.
Take advantage of the support around you. Lots of us try to do it all and, although we may just be able to manage, why do it to yourself? Ask your friends, neighbours, family members or partner to handle the el-kiddos for a few hours so you can get your stuff sorted. Use your connections, too, and ask your friends for help in their areas of expertise in exchange for a coffee, or skills-swaps for bigger asks.
Put plans for perfection aside. Waiting for the perfect moment won’t work. Jump in, head first. Having a child and trying to manage a full-time role in part-time hours, I learnt really fast that "good enough" is really just good enough.
What's next for Things by Bean?
Moving into the future, I’m looking to make Things by Bean my full-time gig. At the moment, I still work as a freelance writer on the side. After 6.5 years, my time is finally skewed in Things by Bean’s favour, but I would love to fully base myself in to most creatively satisfying, juicy and fulfilling part of my career, which is Things by Bean.
I’m working with a business coach (shout out to Warren at Howard Co!) to refine my business strategy and processes to make this possible. We’re mostly working on providing better wholesale options for new stockists, maximising sales with existing stockists and also providing incentives for these stockists. It’s going really well, and I’m finding innovative ways to maximise the great relationships I have with people and stockists to help grow the business.
Things by Bean cards will be on shelves of a big USA/UK retailer in January and I’m very close to teaming up with one of my favourite Aussie brands, who have over 100 stores nationwide. This could mean big changes for the way Things by Bean operates day to day, but I’m just taking it as it comes. It’s overwhelming but SO exciting!
I’m also in the process of reformatting Things by Bean’s podcast, Happy Birthday Podcast, after my amazing co-host, Jeremy, had to bow out due to growing work responsibilities. I have an idea for the new direction, but I need to play around with it a bit more!
Jo Power brought Things by Bean to life in 2011. Jo's collection of cards for all occasions, non-occasions and made-up occasions began as a stack of ten cards in a biscuit tin and since then, Things by Bean has grown into a brand stocked at more than 60 retailers across Australia. It's taken Jo to New York City for the National Stationery Show once and down the road to the post box thousands of times.
Things by Bean cards are always cheeky, sometimes creepy and usually quite cute! If they make someone happy, they've done their little job well.
In 2017, Things by Bean expanded to become a one-of-a-kind e-place for outrageous cake recipes and DIY party ideas. Poke around the blog and you'll feel all kinds of inspired to throw together a shindig for your pals!
There's also a podcast because why not! Hosted by Jo Power and Jeremy Gay, Happy Birthday the Podcast is about all things birthday. It's a gift for the ears!