Elizabeth Rees is the owner and creator of Chasing Paper, a company that creates stylish removable wallpaper for the urban home. She grew up in the printing industry in the Midwest, so paper has always been a part of her life. Read on to discover what inspired Elizabeth to start her business, find out her social media strategy + marketing tips, and more!
Having a family owned business, you come from a long line of bosses within the printing business. What inspired you to break off the family business and jump into your entrepreneurial endeavors and start Chasing Paper?
It was a very organic path that led me to Chasing Paper and came out of necessity and wanting to feel personally connected to the work I was doing on a daily basis. I wanted to create a business and product that could be seamlessly manufactured through our family business so that I could be connected to the generations that came before me and also have something to pass down. I wanted the brand to be something that spoke to me as a consumer and allowed me to connect with women like me in different phases of their lives.
Your products are not only beautiful but easy, practical and user-friendly for all kinds of home decor enthusiasts and DIYers. How did your product idea come to you, and how do you come up with the designs that define the Chasing Paper brand?
The idea was born through wanting to find a solution to a problem. A friend of mine was building her company and in transitional offices; they wanted a removable/temporary way to brand and bring color and illustration into the space, and we came up with the idea of wrapping the support beams. It immediately transformed the space – immediately, I knew there was an idea here. When I started digging into the research, I noticed that most of what was in the market was either very low-design/cheap or very high design/expensive – there was nothing at the time that hit the sweet spot of thoughtfully-designed and accessible in price point. We think about this every day in terms of design. We want everything we create to feel special, and unlike anything you would find anywhere else. We like our wallpapers to have a feeling of time and place.
Your company has been around since 2013 and has continued growing to be the successful company it is today. How did you get your name out there and drive sales when you were first starting out?
In the early days, it was sheer hustle. I hand wrote letters to hundreds of editors with a framed wallpaper sample. Talked with everyone I could about what I was doing, I even carried wallpaper around with me in NYC so that I could show people when they asked questions. Mostly, I said yes to everything. Each opportunity was a chance to succeed or fail – which were both driving me further into understanding my business and customer.
Given that you get a lot of photos from your customers featuring your products, how has user-generated content played into your social strategy?
It has played a huge part! Learning how our customers have used the paper has been so exciting and is the best way to inspire and empower others to take on a project. We work with a lot of incredible people to create content that looks polished and aspirational – we like our social media pages to be a place for customers to get inspired!
Owning a business has so many ups and downs. At what point did you define your company as "successful" and what has been the proudest moment in your career thus far?
I am always talking to people about this – as I have a hard time defining success. I think for me, the success has not come so much from revenue but more from the level of partnerships we have been able to leverage. Getting to work with people and brands I admire so much makes all the hard work worth it. Working alongside teams of people that are the best in the business forces our team to step up to the plate, learn quickly and also to hold true to our values and brand voice. I think my proudest moment was buying my house in Milwaukee last Fall with my husband. As Chasing Paper started to gain momentum in 2016-2017 – I felt a strong pull to have its success live in the city that shaped and formed me, Milwaukee, WI. I want to help create more creative jobs in my hometown.
How has social media played a part in the growth of your brand? How have strategic brand partnerships (with brands or influencers) proven vital to the brand's growth?
Social media has been an integral part of Chasing Paper's success – and strategic partnerships is responsible for our continued organic growth on our channels. We work strategically with influencers, brands and other small businesses to serve as a continuous push forward to our growth goals.
Your Instagram is beautifully curated! What are your top 3 tips when it comes to marketing a brand and sharing content on Instagram?
- My first tip for Instagram would be to PLAY! PLANOLY is a great tool to try things out and plan for your grid to look great – try things, make mistakes, ask questions, and try again! I think some people take Instagram a bit too seriously, its ok to post things at the wrong time, or the wrong content – because all these failures teach you something.
- The second tip would be to stay consistent. It can be easy to get frustrated with the ever-changing algorithm but staying consistent will help you better understand your audience and truly create community.
- Finally, don't take things personally. Everyone gains and loses followers, everyone gets trolls from time to time, not everyone is going to love everything you do or put out – but having a healthy separation between the work you put out and you is an important one.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners?
Be relentless. One thing I often see is all the excitement about an idea but the misconception that telling people once about your idea, product, service will be enough for them to get it. You have to continue to get in front of people in an organic and thoughtful way, and that is an incredible amount of work. The strategic and consistent communication through social media and with a tool like planoly is so important!