We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin McManness and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Erin, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I believe that the most important factor in the success of my business (or anyone’s business!) is the simple act of showing up. I believe that the idea of “showing up” is a way of running your business that you have to decide to embody; and showing up has a variety of meanings. 1. Show up to make the work every day, whether inspiration or motivation is present. Give every project your whole-hearted and best effort. 2. Show up when making investments in your business. If you decide to invest in a course or training that could improve an area of your business, be present and really soak up everything you can from it. 3. Show up on social media, again and again. Doing so builds a brand presence people know and trust. 4. Show up in your clients (or potential clients) inboxes. Outreach is incredibly important in my field (surface design and illustration), and not letting fear of rejection stand in the way of reaching out and showing up in the inbox of a new client is key to getting new work and running a sustainable business. 5. Show up for your skillset. I am a big believer in putting your whole effort into everything you do. You never know who is going to see that project, or stumble across your work. Make sure that what you’re putting out into the world is a quality effort on your part, and cultivate your natural talents by spending time in them. If you always put out good work, you’ll find that eventually you will be known for it. All this to say, showing up is consistency. And consistency is key. Clients like to know they can depend on an artist to deliver on time, quality work. Customers and followers like to know they can continue to count on products they love and imagery that is inspiring to them. As much as talent, resources and good timing can have a huge affect on your business, most of those things are not totally within our control; but our decision to continually and intentionally approach our work is wholly in our hands. I have found that showing up, following up and being present has been the greatest driving force in my business.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started Paper Raven Co. in 2014 while I was working full-time as a product designer for another company. It wasn’t easy at the beginning – I had to hustle hard to start my business while I was working. I listened to podcasts about personal and business finance while I was designing products at work; I would go to coffee shops on my lunch breaks and draw designs for my own brand; and then I would go home and work on Paper Raven Co. after dinner, and often very late into the night. In 2015, I was given the opportunity to go full-time with my brand, and I have never looked back. It was scary (and honestly, thrilling) at first, and I had laid a good amount of foundation while I was employed. I was determined to succeed – a lot of it goes back to showing up like I spoke about earlier. In my first 9 months of my business, I worked very hard and was able to completely replace my corporate salary. Fast forward 4 years, and Paper Raven Co. was able to hit the 6-figure milestone. For me, that is a huge dream realized, and something in my life that I am incredibly grateful for (because I wouldn’t be there without my wonderful clients, customers, partners and friends!). I am most proud of some of the clients I’ve had the pleasure to work with. In 2019, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Macy’s on 10 Giftcards for their nationwide stores. I loved working with them, and we combined my original illustrations and signature style of weaving illustrative aspects in and out of type into 7 Holiday Giftcards, and 3 Everyday Occasion Giftcards. The collaboration was so successful, we created an additional 7 Giftcards later that year. Later in 2019, I was also able to work with Publix Supermarkets to create original illustrations for their seasonal ice cream packaging, which was released in the Holiday Season of 2019. I got the Eggnog Flavor, which felt like a little bit of destiny, since that is one of my favorite flavors of all time! Finally, I am also very proud of our conservation efforts at Paper Raven Co. In 2018, we began printing all of our cards on 100% Recycled Paper (an continue to this day), and started our partnership with One Tree Planted, a reforestation organization that plants trees in different parts of the world. We have committed to their $1 for 1 Tree model, and donate $1 from every sale to them on a recurring basis. Next, I plan to examine how we can ditch our card sleeves for a plastic-free option, and replace our plastic boxes with paper ones. I have learned so much from my business. Paper Raven Co. includes a retail paper product line, a wholesale paper product line, licensing and freelance work. Having so many avenues of work has taught me to diversify my income, which has led to the most success and sustainability – especially during a pandemic when some of those sources were not as robust, and others grew rapidly. I have learned to multi-task, to think critically and prioritize projects, income streams and revenue. I have also learned how to lean into the parts of my business that I love, and step back from the parts of my business that are not my endgame.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Most of what I consider a good time centers around eating, haha! And I believe Atlanta has a ton of great food. A typical day would include taking a walk on one of Atlanta’s many trails around the city – we are over in Decatur, and love the Lullwater Preserve. Afterwards, we’d eat out on the patio at the General Muir (if you need a good Sunday Night dinner – they do family style spaghetti and meatballs that will blow your mind), and grab a few cocktails. Then we might check out the Grant Park Farmer’s Market on Sunday morning at Eventide Brewing, and hang out long enough for the beer and sitting in the sunshine. Then, a hop over to Big Softie for ice cream, or Hell Yeah Gluten Free for donuts.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
One of the most valuable things I have is a community of artists and small business owners whom I’m lucky to call friends and colleagues. I cherish those friendships immensely! One organization in particular that has helped me so much is the community over at Proof to Product (https://www.prooftoproduct.com/), which is run by the incredible Katie Hunt. I enrolled in Paper Camp in 2018, and learned so much about the ins and outs of running my product-based business – I can’t recommend it enough if you are a maker looking to expand your business! I also really love the community you gain access to when you complete Paper Camp. It’s so supportive. Finally, the Proof to Product Podcast has been an incredible (and free!) resource for me. Katie interviews creative professionals of all stripes about different aspects of running a business. I even have an interview with her about licensing artworks: https://www.prooftoproduct.com/podcast-episodes/moving-from-wholesale-to-licensing-with-erin-mcmanness-of-paper-raven-co

Website: https://www.shoppaperravenco.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paperraven.co/

Other: My partners/other places to find PRC around the web: My Fabric Collection: https://www.cottonandsteelfabrics.com/earth-magic-c-1_811_748.html?page=1&sort=3d My Art Books: https://www.amazon.com/Erin-McManness/e/B07C92SCMB?ref_=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

Image Credits
Photos of Me: Kelley Raye Photography

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