Our next installment of Behind the Stationery takes us to Cleveland, Ohio to chat with Lora of Free Period Press. Bringing a different perspective to the stationery business, Lora works with different designers to make her creative ideas come to life while running the business and fulfillment side of things in her spare time. Here to share about how she ideates and works with designers, here’s Lora! —Megan Soh
From Lora: Hi there! I’m Lora, the founder of Free Period Press, based in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. We make nice paper things for a thoughtful and creative life, and I’m honored to share our story on Oh So Beautiful Paper today! The name “Free Period Press” comes from the free periods you get when you’re in school — those times when you can choose whatever you’d like to do. We want to create more space for adulthood free periods — and make them as fulfilling as possible.
I started Free Period Press a few years after graduating college, when I realized that I had a bunch of creative product ideas that I wanted to see in the world. I’m not a designer, so instead of going back to school for design, I asked my artist-friends to collaborate with me in the creation of Free Period Press’s product line. It’s been so fun to see how my buddies take my initial ideas to the next level, making them better than I could have ever imagined. Katie Daugherty is my most frequent collaborator and has illustrated our Self Care Zine, stickers, and postcards for writing elected officials.
Our first product was one of the first coloring books for adults. Adult coloring books may sound like a cliche now, but at the time it felt like a major innovation! Since then, we’ve evolved into making products that are more self-improvement focused. I love thinking about the aspects that make up a fulfilling life (nature, relationships, play…) and creating products that help you make those a priority. I’m constantly getting inspiration from authors like Gretchen Rubin, Cal Newport, and Adam Grant.
For example, in Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before, she talks about the power of tracking habits, which was a major inspiration for our Habit Calendar. And since I pride myself in being a master list-maker, I turned the way I prioritize my own to-do list into our Schedule Magic notebook and notepad.
Our most recent product is Come Over All the Time: A Creative Guest Book, which is all about capturing everyday moments with the people you love.
My favorite part of the creative process is that initial moment of inspiration when a new idea strikes. I keep track of new product ideas in a pocket notebook that I take everywhere. I don’t just write down my idea, I also note where I was and what I was doing when I thought of it. I’m a creativity dork like that – I try to see patterns in where I am when I have these moments of inspiration. In case you’re curious, most of my ideas come when I’m in the shower, washing dishes, listening to a podcast or audiobook, or in that right-before-I-wake-up dream state. I even keep a notepad next to my bed for those middle-of-the-night ideas that I don’t want to lose (most of those don’t make ANY sense in the morning!).
I often let my new product ideas marinate for year or more before I act on them. I pay attention to what ideas I can’t stop thinking about, but I also give myself room to see the idea from different perspectives and let it evolve. At the end of every year, I go through and rank these ideas on a bunch of factors: how much energy I have around the idea, profit margin estimates, ease-of-execution, and informal feedback from friends and followers.
This process helps me identify the products I want to develop the following year. By this point, I usually have an idea of the designer that would be the best fit for each product, so I’ll approach them and ask if they want to collaborate. Once we’re on the same page, I like to outline every little task that will go into bringing the product into the world. This makes the process seem a little less daunting and gives us a clear game plan of where to start. Then we just start chipping away! I try to spread out our product releases so that we’re releasing something new every quarter, but inevitably there’s a mad dash to get things released before the holidays.
We partner with a few different printers in Cleveland depending on the complexity of the project. When looking for a manufacturing partner, we have to find someone that has the capabilities we need (binding, finishes, etc.) but we try to stick with smaller companies where we can have a face-to-face contact. We’re lucky enough to have Jakprints in Cleveland, and have developed a great relationship with their team. We still use a couple of mom-and-pop printers for smaller projects like postcards and marketing materials.
Free Period is still my side hustle at this point. While there are days that I daydream about taking Free Period full-time, I love the freedom that my full-time job gives me – it allows me to experiment in ways that would be harder to do if I were relying on it to pay my bills.
Of course, this also means I’m living that side-hustle life, squeezing Free Period tasks into every spare second of the day. I’m a morning person, so I prefer getting up early to email stockists, fill orders, and work on new products. Having a home-office makes that much easier, especially now that my wife and I moved into a house and are no longer being suffocated by inventory in our one-bedroom apartment!
Since the time I have to work on Free Period is limited, I really have to stay focused on my goals and prioritize my to-do list. It’s a constant juggle between growing wholesale, branding directly to consumers, and developing new products. When looking at the tasks on my list, I find it helpful to think about which tasks could have the biggest potential to move the needle towards my goals.
That’s Free Period in a nutshell! Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about our labor of love. You can find us at freeperiodpress.com and on Instagram at @freeperiodpress – please come say hi!
Photos courtesy of Hilary Bovay Photography.
Want to be featured in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to Megan at megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com for more details.