This is part of an ongoing Maker Mentors guest blog series that features interviews with established makers. Join the updates or recommend a maker for the blog.
What does your business do? I teach calligraphy online at calligraphy.org – we will be offering many different types of calligraphy workshops soon. Right now you can learn proper theory to create your own modern pointed-pen calligraphy. We provide personal coaching and complete beginner kits with our workshop as well.
When did you start your business? Calligraphy.org started as istilllovecalligraphy.com back in 2011.
What kind of work were you doing before you started your business? Life story in a paragraph: I didn’t know how to use a computer until late 2003, but I’ve always loved type and design so I would hand-letter church programs, posters, etc. I learned the basics of the creative suite in 2004 and worked tirelessly after-hours (I was a secretary at a design firm on campus) to learn as much as I could. The designers in the office mentored me as I practiced. I supported my way through college and beyond as a graphic designer. In 2009 I decided to get back to my hand-lettering roots and picked up the pointed pen. There weren’t very many resources for learning modern pointed pen at the time, so I started a class in 2011 with the help of my darling developer husband. Now we work together full-time.
What was the biggest challenge in getting started? Approaching tasks according to their importance. Chris always says, “Do the hard things first.” We have a content-based business, producing good content is not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight, either.
What product are you most proud of? Teaching calligraphy has pushed me to learn more and has given me more discipline.
How did you find your first few customers? Through my blog. I was very fortunate to have a very supportive community to help me start. HOWEVER, when I pushed “publish”, the customers didn’t flood in all at once. I got one new student every week. Then every other day, and so on. Patience and a good hustle is a must.
What marketing tactics have been most successful for you? Email blasts. It’s very targeted and it’s not filtered quite like Instagram or Facebook. Instagram has been a great tool to build my community because what I do is so visually oriented.
Who are three creatives that inspire you? Only 3? There are so many! I find Instagram to be a great resource for a daily dose of inspiration from fellow creatives in and out of the calligraphy field. Leslie Duke’s birds are breathtaking, Satsuki Shibuya’s minimalist watercolor washes are mesmerizing and Madarasz’s effortless flourishes are unreal.
What does a typical day look like for you? On a good day: Wake up at 4, work on coursework, prep things for photography, no email. Get the kids ready for the day at 7. Photography around 8. Juggle kids and email until (sometimes Chris takes the kids so I can focus – depends upon the hierarchy of our tasks for the day). Then a long lunch at noon. Naps for the kids (or school now) and work time until about 4. After that is mostly ruled by family, dinner and bedtime.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your business? Get a clearer vision of what I wanted from my business. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve realized and understood my brand and focus. With so much saturation in just about every field, focus differentiates one product from the next.
You can get $10 off at calligraphy.org when you use the discount code “MAKERMENTORS.”You can follow Melissa Esplin here: