Most of you are already familiar with Maureen and her super cool craft projects. She is a monthly contributor here on our blog, and we love that her craft ideas are always fun and simple at the same time — very fitting coming from this sticker-loving busy mum of four! Maureen is also the founder of Pipsticks, a subscription sticker club that she she runs from a cute little studio in her back garden. I met her when she was just starting the Pipsticks business, and it’s been such a joy to watch it grow from strength to strength over the past few years.
We thought it would be fun to share an inside peek at the Pipsticks headquarters, to hear how she manages the work/family balance and to discover why life is just better with stickers! Here are five questions with the talented and always cheerful Maureen:
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and about your gorgeous family.
I am a 36-year-old graphic designer, who has bounced around the world and am currently living in California with my husband, Nathan, and our four kids, Atticus (6), Eleanor (5), Ike (3), and Indiana (1). I was born in Belgium but grew up mostly in Seattle, WA before going to university. After school, I spent my time between London and NYC for Nathan’s job (and learned that I’m definitely an east coast girl at heart).
A year ago, we were living in London where we’d been for the previous year. I had launched Pipsticks the previous September and Nathan’s project at work was shut down before it got started. We were looking at moving back to NYC so he could find another job in the financial industry. With all that was going on though, the idea of bundling up four kids under six through another NYC winter was too much for me to handle. So we decided instead to take a leap of faith and move somewhere where life with kids would be easier. We ended up in San Luis Obispo, CA – where I had attended Cal Poly University 15 years before – and Nathan joined me as COO of Pipsticks!
Nine months in, life is just as hectic as ever, but SUNNY. Nathan gets to see the kids much more than he used to, and our tendency to want to spend most of our time side by side before this arrangement has proven to work in a business setting as well. We still really dig each other and, luckily, have the perfect complement of skills. We work hard during the week and have a weekend beach ritual with the kids. They talk about missing the funniest things in NYC and London (the elevator in our apartment, wearing wellies and riding the bus in London), but they love the ocean. And, while I desperately miss urban life, I love not having to find socks for six people every morning ☺
2. Tell us about Pipsticks and how you came to set up a sticker subscription service.
Pipsticks is a subscription sticker club. We’ve got thousands of subscribers of all ages in over 50 countries! We find the coolest stickers from all over the world and put them in a pack for our subscribers each month. We have a Kids Club and a Pro Club for sticker loving adults.
I’m a child of the 80’s and lived for sticker collecting as a little girl. As a mom living in NYC, we could never had enough stickers. When I bought them, they were expensive, and usually more than we wanted of a single design (ah, the attention span of children!). The ones that came in books of 1000 wouldn’t stay stuck, or the arms ripped off of the characters. I longed for a sticker solution that was truly kid friendly.
Kids will do anything for a sticker and as a mom I always held on to stickers for those times when I needed an instant win – or a minute to myself. I know how great it is to get snail mail (definitely a dying art!), so the idea of stickers + mail was my attempt to create something amazing out of two of life’s simplest pleasures.
I researched the idea and set up the company in my “free time” – nap time and after the kids were in bed for about six months. Nathan’s work took us to London right when Pipsticks was supposed to launch, but I decided to move forward for fear it would never get off the ground otherwise. That same month, I discovered that I was pregnant with Indiana. At that time, I had a 1, 3 and 5 year old… Surprise 🙂
2014 ended with a bang, what with the international move, business launch, and pregnancy. I’m happy to report however, that while I wouldn’t recommend so many simultaneous transitions, our time in London was grand, Pipsticks is growing at a fantastic rate, and Indiana is the perfect (final) addition to our tribe. ☺
3. Describe your workspace and your work schedule.
We have a cute little craftsman house in town, and all of the lots in the neighbourhood are small but deep. The houses all look cute and small from the front, but most have another house on the property. We have an amazing cottage behind ours, which we’ve turned into the Pipsticks HQ. We have offices and a kitchen upstairs, and our fulfilment space downstairs. The space is perfect for photo shoots and craft nights. Pipsticks is really all about FUN, so it’s been amazing to make our workspace reflective of that. Nathan and I tend to decorate our homes with solid, nostalgic pieces – lots of steel, weathered wood, and leather. Pipsticks has allowed me to indulge a completely different aesthetic that I didn’t even know I loved: white and bright with lots of cheeky personality.
My alter ego has taken over the decoration of the Pipsticks HQ and it’s favourite details include 8-foot poppy wall stickers, beaded curtains, and an abstract mural that we painted on the wall of our fulfilment space. It’s fantastic to be so close to home, but not AT home (home offices have not been successful for me in the past). We do all the drop offs and pick ups and nip in and out of the house to say hi to the baby or make lunch. It makes the work / kids balance a lot less stressful. That said, I usually wear headphones from 4-6pm as I’m easily distracted by the sounds of outside.
I work every day but Wednesday. Nathan or I drop the kids at school in the and the other goes to work at 8:15. I have a coffee – which I look forward to from the moment my eyes open in the morning. We both try to stay on track and leave each other alone while we handle emails, customer service, and urgent matters in the morning and then pow-wow over lunch. Lunch ranges from a walk to our favourite sushi spot (rare) to frozen chicken tika masala or leftovers. There aren’t loads of great lunch options nearby (oh how I miss the city!), so we usually eat in. As with any small business, my day varies a ton depending on what’s in front of me. I constantly pledge to get more organized in terms of scheduling my to-dos, but often can’t find the time to make that schedule!
My days include lots of tasks such as producing, styling and photographing all of the creative work needed for our social media, advertising, and general marketing; posting to all social media accounts; curating and ordering all stickers for our two subscription packs; designing all the packaging and collateral in each pack; networking with bloggers, social media influencers and potential collaborators; writing and posting to the Pipsticks Blog; writing and sending email blasts…
In the afternoon, I usually sink my teeth into one or two projects (after another coffee!) – new ads, an email blast, a photo shoot. Every day around 1pm I think “great, I’ve got five hours left” and by 5:45 I don’t know where the afternoon has gone! Nathan usually does pick-ups in the afternoon and I have a quick catch up with the older kids when they get home. It’s always tricky to keep it short and get back to work. They’re generally receptive to the “off limits” rule of our office, but every now and then I’ll look up to find four little faces glued to the window.
I leave the office at 6pm sharp to finish the kids’ dinner, do baths (once in a blue moon) and bedtime. The kids are down at 7:30 and I usually have a beer cracked open by 7:35. Come Tuesday night, I really miss my kids. Having the day on Wednesday is not the most productive in terms of consistency in my work projects, but I’m glad I don’t have to go more than two days at a time before I get a day “off” (haha) with them.
4. What do you love most about your job?
With all that we’ve had going on over the past two years, I can definitely say Pipsticks would not have survived if I didn’t truly LOVE it. I’ve built Pipsticks to be a complete reflection of myself and the things that I love. It’s this perfect circle, encompassing so many aspects of my life: my childhood sticker obsession, my belief in the power of simple pleasures, my love of connecting with people across the world via snail mail.
The Pipsticks brand allows me to express myself through design, writing, and DIYs and gives me a platform to connect with my subscribers as a mother, crafter, and sticker lover. I feel so lucky to have a job where I’m able to execute my own vision.
And finally, stickers may seem small and inconsequential to some, but I love just how much a little envelope full of gorgeous stickers can truly brighten someone’s day. I receive loads of emails from sticker lovers around the world thanking me for starting this sticker club. These make all late nights worth it!
5. Which stickers in your collection are your current favourites?
These sparkly rainbows by Mrs Grossman (who invented stickers on the roll thirty years ago) is my all time favourite. It’s so simple and happy – and definitely would have been prized in my childhood sticker book. I also LOVE the stickers coming from Japan and Korea at the moment. They’re definitely on the cutting edge of stickers and I love that we can bring these hard to find designs to sticker lovers all over the world each month!