Ok ladies, its time to meet my friend Erin McManness. From being featured in home décor magazines like Domino to slinging her designs on Minted, this product designer/solopreneur is making MAJOR moves. Erin is the owner of Paper Raven Co. and this month’s featured #girlboss.
For this interview + shoot I came out to the home that Erin shares with her beau Dan and her dog Patty, who has been recently renamed to Patty Melt She loves her new home because she now has enough space for a home studio which makes every boss lady feel like a business-running queen. We made some coffee and then made ourselves comfy in her design lair while we had a fun chat about all things illustration and hustle.
When Erin first started designing out of college she wasn’t sure what to name her brand so she called it McManness Illustration…to which she quickly learned that people couldn’t find out about her as easily as she would’ve hoped because nobody was going to take the time to spell her name correctly in a google search. She wanted a brand name that was a little more 'stationary' so she fused her love of paper with her spirit animal, yes you guessed it, and Paper Raven Co. was (re)born. Erin’s spirit animal is a raven for a few reasons including her growing up in Baltimore and her childhood obsession with Edgar Allen Poe. And who didn’t love that week they got to read Edgar Allen Poe in middle school, I mean really. As Erin had hoped, once the name of her company became more easily identifiable, business opportunities started pouring in, even some she had missed out on in the past. Because of the name change Erin says, “My IG following grew, and I felt like I was taking myself more seriously. In the end, it was a really good move for me.”
Erin didn’t always plan to own her own business. She went to grad school and just knew she was going to be a digital painter and a concept artist for video games. Then she took a class at SCAD called Retail Markets in which she learned to use illustration to design packaging and create patterns and video games became a distant memory. Once she realized surface design could impact people on a daily basis via cards and art prints and calendars, she was hooked.
“Illustration is so powerful in that way. You can really bring joy to people. And I think I really fell in love with that concept. And its just so freakin’ cool to see your stuff in the world.”
FYI, how Erin found her way to illustration is a great example of how to hone in on your passion. You don’t have to know it right away, just try something, anything. Erin started out as a theater major and wanted to be on Broadway. Broadway! Then she took a scenic painting course which steered her in the direction of illustration. She went from theater, to video games, to illustration without missing a beat. Don’t know what you want to do? Just start with what you like and it will lead you to what you love.
Undeniably soon, Erin will be traveling all over the world on a regular basis. It's a huge priority for her to be able to jet set. She’s just come back from Scotland and plans to visit Italy next year. Patty groans as we start talking about travel, most likely because she cannot come. Sorry Patty. Erin knows she will hit every goal she sets up right out of the park because she has what all entrepreneurs need to have: “I’m a great self starter. I don’t have trouble finding things to do. I always seek things out.”
And the best way to do this is to utilize the resources around you. The internet makes it almost impossible not to be able to self-educate yourself. You also need an extra dose of discipline, especially if you are working a full-time job while trying to turn your side hustle into a bread winner. “If you want to be your own boss, you cant just wake up in the afternoon, put in 3 hours and then watch Netflix. A lot of running your own business is taking the initiative.”
Erin loves to listen to podcasts and take classes online to expand her boss babe knowledge. One class in particular she recommends is How To Make a Living Selling What You Make by jewelry maker, Megan Auman via CreativeLive. One of Erin’s favorite nuggets of gold from Megan’s class: When you wake up in the morning you need to ask yourself “What can I do to make money today?”
By the end of this year Erin would like to double or triple her amount of retail clients. So she needs to add 20-30 more people to the wonderful world of Paper Raven Co. A great piece of advice Erin gives on goal setting; “Pick a number. When you have a number goal, you can know exactly how much you need to sell to reach it.” So no arbitrary goals ladies. Pick a solid, realistic number and do everything you can to reach it.
3 words Erin would use to describe herself:
Determined (majorly, I might add)
Resourceful (she was going to say Type A but didn’t want the negative connotation)
Artistic (“I feel happy and harmonious when the things around me are in line with my artistic self.”)
Advice Erin would give on getting your name out into the big, scary world:
“Originality, consistency and connecting with groups of real people and having real discussions. The more you’re active and engaged in those discussions, the more people get to know you and it’s authentic. Building your community is really important.”
Her final words for all the ladies reading this out there with a dream: understand inspiration’s role and know that sometimes you will have to eat shit sandwiches.
Ok lets back track :)
Recently entrepreneur and Host of MarieTV Marie Forleo interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) for her new book which I love love love called Big Magic. If you haven’t picked up a copy, you are under a rock. Please get out from under the rock and head to Barnes and Noble thanks. Anywho, during the interview Liz talks with Marie about some of her chapters, and what stuck out to Erin the most was Liz’s definition of what inspiration’s role plays in an entrepreneurs life and also that once you pick a passion, you must eat whatever shit sandwich comes along with it. If you choose not to eat it, this whole own-your-own-business thing ain't gonna work yall! To understand why Erin had an aha moment after hearing Liz, listen to the amazing interview here and for the love of unicorns pick up Big Magic!
Shit sandwiches Erin happily eats include emailing vendors, retailers, etc who maybe they’ll respond….maybe they wont. But its ok. Also, the work-current-life-future-life balancing act. She currently has a full time job, a boyfriend, a dog, a need for sleep, sometimes she needs to cook dinner, and she also has a huge dream. But whenever she thinks about catching up on the latest Netflix original she reminds herself, “I could choose myself or I could choose my dream. I try to choose my dream. The hustle is not as romantic as it seems. But I know where I want to be so sometimes I make the choice.”
To see more of Erin’s work you can always head over to her website, see her designs all over Minted, you can even order a phone case with her art from Castify. “For illustration there’s so many things you can do in that way.”
And she is working every way possible.