I may have met my match when it comes to appreciation and letter writing in Kate Kellman (KK) and Isabel Bonenfant (IB) of Of Note Stationers. These two lovely ladies started a company that was specifically meant to bring back the slower process of letter writing and to help bring a better balance to their fast paced lives. The Appreciation Factor was fortunate enough to score an interview with these two.
Who is Of Note Stationers:
Of Note Stationers is a unique card/stationery company out of Amherst, MA that is focused on encouraging people to slow down and be mindful of the world around them through letter writing/sending correspondence. While they primarily produce cards they also create:
- Letter Writing Sets
- Gift Tags
- Art Prints
- Rubber Stamps
- Mini Notes
- Custom Business Cards and more
ONS cards tap into our generosity of spirit and include messages that emphasize the things that you may often think, but you don’t often say. Here are two great examples:
“You can and You Will”
“I think of you often and want you to know”
I think Kate and Isabel put it best when they say,
“We believe that letter writing is a mindful act.
It’s one that allows you to slow down, appreciate the little things in life,
|and share that appreciation with others.
We strive to keep people connected and deepen relationships through the written word.”
You can see why I/The Appreciation Factor fell in love with the company and these two women immediately!
Here are some highlights from my interview:
How it All Began
After meeting in the summer of 2012, Kate, at the time a Special Ed teacher, realized that she was living at a pace that was unsustainable. She wasn’t sure what direction she wanted to go in next, but knew something had to change. Isabel was also making a change, as she was moving from a position in industrial design to one in graphic design.
The two had become friends after living together for several months and learning that they both had a love of letter writing in common. “Letter writing was something that took deliberation took time and effort to complete,” Kate told me. “Our lives were becoming so digital, what with everyone primarily conversing via emails, social media and texts. Isabel and I both loved, and wanted to bring back the slow process of letter writing.”
The idea of possibly creating a business around this process was further sparked when Isabel and her fiancé were designing their wedding invitations. A friend of theirs from Mass Art printed the invitations on a letterpress and they fell in love with the [creative] process.”
KK: “We thought that starting a stationery/correspondence company would be a way to force us to slow down. Neither of us had a background in business, but we knew that if we went ahead with this kind of company that we didn’t want to be like everyone else; we wanted to make an impact.”
Kate and Isabel also knew they needed to do their homework before launching a business. She continues, “We spent a year doing market research on the card industry, visiting different specialty and retail card stores, attending trade shows, and researching the internet and social media. We found a huge community of letter writers who were so wonderful and supportive.
When considering what type of company we wanted to create, we decided that we wanted to narrow our focus. We were especially drawn towards the “just because” message. Both Isabel and I always enjoyed receiving and sending cards that conveyed a “because I’m thinking of you message.” We felt this niche supported friendship in a thoughtful, slow way.
We also knew that people often think [positive] things about their friends and family but that they don’t often say out them loud and/or share them. We wanted to encourage and provide a way for people to share these kind words.”
A Field Apart
Of Note Stationers products aren’t quite like everyone else’s out there. For instance their “tagline” says, “Specializing in meaningful correspondence.” Beyond noticing that almost EVERY CARD sparked a “YES! I’ve wanted to say that!” moment in me, I noticed that Of Note Stationers doesn’t include many images on their products. Most cards and other products only contain words.
TAF: I noticed that your cards, prints and stationery primarily only feature words. Is there a reason for this?
KK: “This was deliberate. There are two reasons for this.
- We wanted to honor the power of words we feature so that their true meaning is felt and heard. We felt that images would take away the focus on the words themselves.
We often look at words and think we know the meaning. Isabel and I found that when we looked up several words that we were considering for cards, the definitions went so much deeper
than we thought. We began to see the true meaning and saw that many would have a greater impact than we thought they would. For instance, our Magnificent card, it reads “exceptionally fine. Today was magnificent.” Think about how much that definition could resonate and mean to the person who receives it.
2. The second reason is that it allows the words inside, [your message/note] to have a greater impact. Your recipient can truly enjoy the sentiment and words that you are sharing.”
Kate added, “We are adding some illustrations to cards, but it’s done with intention. The images are minimal and we feel they add to the sentiments vs. distract from them.”
TAF: What do you like most about your business?
IB: “There are honestly quite a few things that I love about our business, but I will start by saying that having the freedom to make decisions that suit our vision, our lifestyle, and our goals is one of the privileges that makes this journey of owning our business well worth it. Since we started this venture, we’ve each worn many hats as we’ve learned the ins and outs of operating a business. From designing, to marketing, to figuring out production and packaging, to planning events, it’s quite exciting although sometimes overwhelming to be constantly learning. While some decisions have led us to success and others have been more of a learning experience, we have been truly lucky to have found a community of small business owners that have been both supportive and inspiring in our journey.”
KK: “Everything… I like going to work every day. We’re learning as we go, and there’s a constant variety to what I do. Isabel and I also love meeting people like you [The Appreciation Factor], who appreciate what we’re doing, the cards/messages we’re creating, and that they share our passion for letter writing. There has also been a good enough response so far for us to keep going. I don’t see a reason for us to stop. Overall it’s made us happier in life.”
TAF: What tips would you give my followers about sending correspondence?
IB: “To get a letter, write a letter. Sometimes, it takes writing a couple to receive one in return, but there is nothing more rewarding than coming home to a handwritten note in the mailbox. Whether it comes from a friend, a family member, or a pen pal, there is something really magical about sharing your thoughts in writing. One of my pen pals is actually a really good friend of mine from college. She currently lives in Brooklyn and although we exchange text messages and phone calls occasionally, I feel like I have gotten to know her more deeply through her letters. I have found that we’re able to connect in a different way. Perhaps it’s because of the state of mind we find ourselves while writing, but I know that there is extreme value in strengthening a friendship through the handwritten word.”
KK: “I know that stepping out of our normal [using texts, emails, and social media to communicate] can be daunting, but I’d like to encourage you to let go of the pressure of doing something different. The fact that you took time out of your day to buy a card, sit down, and write, is a gift in of itself. Don’t worry about saying something profound. It’s okay to keep it simple and just let someone know that you are thinking of them. I bet you’ll surprise yourself. It’s your thoughtfulness, the hand-written message, and your presence through the card that will further connect you with those people.”
I simply love that Kate also sees the card as a gift in and of its self. Truly, as I often say here, it’s the little things in life that can have the greatest impact. I can’t recommended checking out Of Note Stationers highly enough. They offer seasonal cards and likely will have that card that will have you too saying – “YES! That’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to say.” I also found these two lovely woman down to earth and just as kind as the sentiments that grace their products, especially after they so graciously agreed to an interview! I suspect we’ll see these two in the stationery and correspondence industry for years to come.
Many thanks to Kate and Isabel for their time, kindness when I was a bit of a fan girl when I met them for the first time, and for their patience while I got this post written. It’s true, this community of those who appreciate the handwritten letter and correspondence is strong and supportive. I feel so fortunate to be able to consider myself part of this “tribe.”
You can see more of Of Note Stationers line of products and can follow them at the addresses below! I really hope you’ll check them out!
Twitter: @ofnotestationer (note No “s” at the end)