Friday, May 15, 2009

How we gathered insurance story

How often do you hear insurance stories? Probably not often. Or, I hope not too often. And you are probably wondering what insurance has to do with giving, inviting, gathering, or for that matter, stationery. Well, the beginnings of hen and barley press were in insurance--it's how Carolyn and I first got together, or gathered, if you will.

Back in 1995 both Carolyn and I worked as commercial underwriters for the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Chubb is one of those big companies you've never heard of, unless you have a lot of antiques or a major jewelry schedule, and then you've definitely heard of them because they are the last word in insuring all those kinds of goodies. Anyway, both of us were new to the Chicago office and we met there over production meetings, budgets and client calls. Fast forward a few years to motherhood, and we'd sort of lost touch. We'd both left the company to stay home with our kids, but in an odd twist of fate, wound up living around the block from each other in our North Shore suburb.

While we loved being moms to our young raucous boys, we both craved a little mental stimulation beyond debating the merits of preschool or various toilet training methods, and neither of us wanted to go back to insurance. Insurance is, in fact, generally boring, and beyond that, neither of us wanted to work in a big company atmosphere again. One thing insurance had given us, however, was insight into one another's work habits and personalities, so we knew we could work together.

I'd long had an obsession with stationery, and had foregone art school for studying Japanese, so starting a stationery company would allow me to indulge my obsession and my natural creativity. Soon it became too much for me to manage on my own, and that's where Carolyn came in. Her knack for numbers, marketing meant she could take over those tasks and direct our team in those areas, allowing me to focus on design and product development. She also has a great eye and classically good taste, so she can chime in on design decisions, too. It's a great match, and, I think, proof that you don't have to have only one profession in life.

More importantly, our company philosophy of give, invite, gather is more than a convenient branding tool. We really do believe in giving, inviting and gathering more. We really do love a good party, a great dinner, or a simple gift. We really do believe in giving back. And we love how stationery helps us to do all those things that are near and dear to our hearts.

On the eve of our departure for NYC and the National Stationery Show, here's what we're doing to give, invite and gather: Carolyn will be gathering with friends on the baseball fields for an evening of 4th grade baseball. I will be gathering with some friends over beer and pizza to celebrate the end of a long work week. What will you be doing?

Check back next week for our National Stationery Show posts. We'll be featuring our top 5 lists: top 5 trends, top 5 retailers, top 5 favorite products (and not just our own). Have a great weekend!


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