It’s only befitting that our very first Urbaanite business, Kimberly Washington of paperKuts studio, is also our first, Nashville business of the week.
Kim’s energy is infectious. This Nashville native is happy, has a beautiful spirit, is always laughing and clearly loves people…and paper. This year marks her 8th year in business and after several failed attempts at a dedicated storefront, paperKuts studio is a black-owned business to know. We’re glad she didn’t give up and are honored to introduce you to Kim, share her story and entrepreneurial advice today.
Urbaanite: It seems that I have known you most of my entrepreneurial life, so long that I’ve forgotten how you got started. What inspired you to start paperKuts studio?
Kim of paperKuts studio: I have always loved event planning. Years ago, I started planning events – corporate functions, birthday parties and with events, my clients needed stationery. I helped them find their invitations and fell in love with the pretty paper.
One day, I headed to a local stationery store and knew immediately that I wanted to specialize in invitations and stationery.
Urbaanite: The life of an entrepreneur follows no path, which is scary! We must leap every day and trust everything will work out when we often have no clue how it will. What has been your biggest leap of faith to date?
Kim: Fear of failure…again! I’ve always served my clients, from a small home office throughout my 8 years in business. But signing a lease and going full-time after failure was hard. With my first two attempts, I kept my full-time job. This year, I decided to give it my all. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I am glad the other failures happened.
I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I am glad the other failures happened.
Urbaanite: Wow! That’s every entrepreneur’s question – when and how do I leave my current job? When did you know it was time to go full-time?
Kim: I knew that to be successful, paperKuts studio would require my full-time focus and an inviting space. I knew what success would take but I wasn’t mentally ready for the challenge.
After many years of waiting patiently, I was denied a raise at my full-time job of 8 years. I resigned. I had to decide if I would look for another job or give my business another try. I looked but didn’t know what type of job I wanted to do. However, things were starting to align for my business.
I stumbled upon a great space that happened to be available. I developed a good relationship with the landlord and we kept in touch. Soon, family changes allowed more financial freedom.
This was the defining moment. I could always find a job but now was the time to give it another try.
Urbaanite: What do you find most difficult about owning a small business and how have you worked around these challenges?
Kim: Finances. Knowing what to do with your money and how to compete with others who have more resources. I’m single so there is only my income. For me, one of the hardest aspects of being self employed is knowing where to spend my business budget – on marketing, inventory, etc.
Urbaanite: There are hundreds of stories intended to remind us that failure is inevitable for entrepreneurs. We will fail many times before we succeed. But its still hard to get up, to take another risk, after falling. What advice would you give other creators who may struggle moving past failures?
Kim: Embrace the lessons of failure. I still do not have it all figured out. I still procrastinate. I do not do all the right things. My ducks aren’t all in a row. But, I let it go and move forward. I learned from my past and was determined I could do better this time around, like preparing financially to move from a full-time to a part-time job. I paid down my debt – reducing and eliminating my car note and credit card debt.
Keep your vision and plans to yourself or turn to others who understand the life of an entrepreneur. Everyone’s not going to understand. My family didn’t. But I kept the plan to myself. I didn’t tell them I was quitting my job until I did. I didn’t tell them I was signing a lease for my boutique space. I didn’t hold their caution against them because they only want to protect me. They don’t want to see my fall again. I didn’t tell them because I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. But, I did let all of that be my encouragement.
Don’t ever give up.
I also remind myself that no one is perfect and imperfection is not a reason to let my dream go. As long as a flicker of passion remains, keep trying. Don’t ever give up.
Urbaanite: When most people think of self-employment, they think of a flexible work schedule and being the boss. More often than not, it’s passion that drives us. What do you love about what you have created with paperKuts?
Kim: I love my customers! I love ensuring they are thoroughly satisfied with the product and service. They leave so excited about receiving their pretty paper order. When I am working at 3am, their thanks and hugs make it all worthwhile.
paperKuts studio is located in Donelson. Return later this week for more features on this wonderful, Nashville business. Or! Hop over to our inaugural list of black businesses that will power our Nashville City Guide App and to see paperKuts studio’s full profile.
Photography: A complimentary photo shoot with fellow member, Zipporah Photography, was included in Kim’s Urbaanite profile. These photos and more will appear in our upcoming Urbaanite Guide to Nashville. Learn more.