Modern, classy and minimalist in design, Wrinkle & Crease paper products encompasses these qualities however it’s founder’s life can look a little crazier than that. Shortly after having her daughter, Kayley Stenger started Wrinkle & Crease, creating luxury paper products that are high in quality and simple in design. Her mission is beautifully nostalgic, to have you write more and type less. We had to know how she does it, raises a confident and sassy daughter while running a successful business she started from scratch. Read on for inspiration, tips and a dose of reality from a woman who is living into her goals.
So you had a baby and decided to start up a home-based business. Some might call you crazy to juggle two major life events at the same time, we see it as inspirational. What led to you to take such an entrepreneurial leap at this time in your life?
Sleep deprivation. Just kidding...
As an entrepreneur, I find you tend to juggle a lot of things at the same time in general. I am always dreaming up new ideas and projects, and rarely do I start them one at a time. This was no different. As a new mom, there were a lot of sleepless nights, and lucky for me - my ideas tend to form in the middle of the night. I had the time to think things out, start researching and dream up a brand that I wanted to create. Having a child, you are reminded daily how fast time goes. And as I was sitting in the rocking chair late at night dreaming dreams for my daughter (Avalyn) I wondered how I could be a great mom for her, a mom that encouraged her to go after dreams, to take risks, to have courage in moments of fear and doubt and to live a life that is exactly what she wants. And I realized that the best way to help her do that is to go after my own dreams and to take big risks, and to have courage in moments of fear and doubt and to create a life that is exactly what I want. That ultimately gave me the courage and motivation to just get started.
"I didn't think about life being chaotic or busy, or the fact that I was tired, I just made the time to figure it out."
It's definitely a challenge and I don't have it all figured out. Switching on and off from mom to business owner is challenging at home, because you are kind of always on duty for both roles. But I'm adjusting as I go, I'm learning as I go, and I wouldn't change it for the world.
Articles have popped up in the last couple of years about child care becoming increasingly unaffordable in Canada, meaning women have had to make tough decisions about re-entering the workforce post-baby. What is your take on this, did it play a part in your decision to start a home-based business?
Yes this is tough. Child care is expensive and it definitely makes the decision to go back to the workforce harder for families. I'm driven and motivated to have a career AND I love my role as a mom. I knew if I was going to leave my home to go to work and pay someone else to look after my daughter, the trade off had to be worth it to me and that meant I wanted to be doing work that I really loved. Starting a home based business gave me the ability to spend time with my daughter and to work hours that are flexible which is something our family needs. I have been able to build a business that I'm excited about and that is meaningful to me and it allowed us to save on the expense of childcare.
What has helped turn you into the successful business woman you are today?
I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing business owners and entrepreneurs all of my life. My dad started his own company years ago and I grew up witnessing both the hard work that goes into that and the reward that comes from taking risks. I guess that gave me real perspective on what it takes to be a business owner.
"It's not all glamour, there's a lot of grit. I was prepared for that."
I know some amazing business owners and these friends and mentors have been such a valuable resource for me to look to with questions, with frustrations, and with ideas. It helps to know other business owners and to have a network or friends and colleagues that are honest with each other about the realities of business. Nobody is perfect, and no business is perfect and knowing that has helped me to try things before I'm ready, to launch without all the answers, and to be ok with failing along the way. I've put myself out there a lot, and that's been uncomfortable and scary at times, but it's paid off. I've worked really hard, and I've had an immense amount of luck to find people who like what I do and have rallied around me and supported me and my business and my products.
What advice would you give your past self before leaping into the world of entrepreneurialism?
Try things! I tend to overthink things. That's the introvert side of me that likes to process and figure things out in my head before I talk about it out loud or make a decision. I would say, when you have an idea - think about it, process it - a little - and then just get up and do something about it. So many of the entrepreneurs that I have met in this journey are people who had an idea, saw a need for something and then just found a way to make it a business. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't - but the magic comes in trying. Don't get me wrong, planning and strategy are an important part of the process, but obsessing over this step can also hold us back from getting into action.
Is there a secret to your creative process? Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Taking time off, ha! I do my best work and have my best ideas when I’ve recharged by doing something I love. When I get out to the mountains to hike, or go for a good long run and then sit down to work, I can have an idea out on paper in 5 minutes. I love this.
"It reminds me to stay balanced; because the less balanced I am the harder I have to work to make something happen."
My design aesthetic is very minimal, simple, with a lot of neutral colours. Nature and the outdoors play a big part in the inspiration for my designs, as well as Scandinavian Designers. I spend time following amazing bloggers and photographers from the Scandinavian countries (Sarah from @saramedinalind and Deborah from @apieceofcake82 are two of my faves) where the design is very minimal, simple - lots of white on white.
Describe your typical day, how do you manage your time/maintain sanity?
A typical day around here is that there are no typical days!! The past few months I really had to make some changes as to how I was managing the business and my role as a mom because there was no separation, I was both all of the time and I wasn't doing a great job at either one. Scheduling is a big thing for me, at the beginning of the week I schedule out what it’s going to look like. I start with what's most important, which is building in my time with Avalyn. That time that is just ours, where I don't respond to emails, I don't take phone calls, I don't work on orders. We do something fun, and all of my attention is hers. I love that time with her. Sometimes we drive to the mountains, sometimes we go for a walk, sometimes we just curl up and watch Netflix. I also put in my schedule all the most important things for my business, the priorities and the items that keep my business moving forward. This helps me stay on track and because I wear so many hats as CEO, designer, marketing director, and janitor it helps me to ensure I'm not spending my energy on time sucking, unimportant tasks but on the things that really matter. I also schedule in time for myself, that means my workout time, yoga classes, time with friends, time by myself. Whatever that is, I build it into the schedule because it's important for my sanity! That comes and goes sometimes, but honestly I try to roll with the punches and I have to be really adaptable. Sometimes I plan out a week and then something changes and nothing goes the way I thought. That's ok, we roll with it. But I do find a way to make the most important things happen. That's what helps me maintain my sanity in a busy life. If I let those things go, I end up feeling zapped, uninspired and unable to give the energy and effort I need to give to my family.
We hear you like to read, what is on your top 5 list right now?
I LOVE to read. I often have a few books going at once. I just finished a new book by Gretchen Rubin, an author I love, called "Better than Before" on the power of habit. I loved it.
Another recent favorite is "The Art of Asking" by Amanda Palmer.
"Rising Strong" by Brene Brown is all about vulnerability. A really great read for business owners but also just for anyone.
"E-myth Enterprise" - I read this book several years ago and I still go back to it and re-read snippets. It's one of my favourite books on entrepreneurialism.
"Everything is Perfect when You're a Liar" - by Kelly Oxford. It makes me laugh. It's real life.
Ok, you're constantly smiling and in great shape, how do you stay healthy & happy amidst such a busy lifestyle?
Well first - I'm not always smiling...You can ask my daughter or my husband that! There are plenty of freak out, hair pulling moments in my house both as a mom and as a business owner! You can't control everything that's going on around you and just when you think you get things figured out, life throws you a curve ball. 2015 was a big, tough, kind of crazy year for me and it wasn't all healthy and happy. But when I look around, I have so much to be grateful for and a million reasons to be happy. That makes me smile.
"Regardless of how busy I am I find the time to get a run in or a yoga class or a workout."
That is my stress relief, my time alone, my time with friends and it keeps me balanced. There's always time for that. Some days it may mean I'm running down the road with my chariot and a two year old throwing gold fish crackers at me and yelling the entire time, or it may be a sweaty dance session to Justin Bieber with some lunges around my kitchen island while I cook supper if that’s all I've been able to fit in my day. And this may sound cheesy but I look for moments to enjoy happiness. What I mean by that is even on the hardest of days when nothing is going right or when I'm driven to tears in frustration, there are moments, that if I stop, and look around and are willing to see them they can make me smile, and laugh and relax and enjoy the moment. I stay happy by looking for those moments.
I'll finish with a little story: Avalyn and I have something we call "shadow waves". It's where we wave to our shadows on the sidewalk. This started last year, on a day when I was in a rush to get somewhere and Avalyn was just wanting to dawdle and stop to smell every dandelion we saw and blow on it. I had told her to hurry about a thousand times and it wasn't working, so I tried to make it a game and asked her to stay in my shadow....and then I walked really fast. She tried for a second but then realized I was just making her walk fast and went back to dandelion blowing. As I sighed in frustration I looked down at my shadow and realized what a ridiculous game I had just created. While my beautiful, curious little wanderer was literally taking time in her day to "stop and smell the flowers" (even if they were dandelions) I was teaching her to rush along, hurrying her, and creating a game that kept her racing in mom’s shadow. I laughed at myself and decided to make a new game. So we hopped on the sidewalk and we sauntered as slowly as we could and we waved at our big slow shadows which instigated a fit of giggles and all of a sudden whatever was so important for me to be rushing to didn't seem that important anymore. It's something we do all the time on sunny days now. When I look down and see my shadow it's a reminder for me to slow down, enjoy the moments and smell some dandelions.