Silhouette Entrepreneur Vana Chupp Turns Paper Into Cash

Posted by on Mar 17, 2011

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Silhouette art entrepreneur Vana Chupp built Le Papier Sudio by taking a distinctive idea and making it marketable. In her papercraft book “Silhouette Art,” (Chronicle) she shares her technique for creating hand-crafted silhouettes and applying them to heirlooms and everyday household items. Here, she sheds light on her experience growing a craft company. “I feel blessed to be doing what I do,” says Chupp.

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At what point did you decide to take your craft commercial and what did you need in terms of capital, organization and resolve to do so? 
Six months after I started my business I quit my architectural job and decided to give growing my company a my full attention. I used some personal savings to fund my business — close to $1,500 — and purchased a printer, a nice paper cutter and a moderate stock of materials. I created a few product samples and listed them to see people's reaction. All my work is custom, which allows for payment to be received prior to making the product. This helped keep my overhead cost to minimum, which helped me grow my business organically.

How did your architecture background influence your work with crafts and with opening your business, Le Papier Studio? I've always been passionate about handmade things. Having trained as an architect earlier on helped me streamline my creative ideas and find a focal point on my craft.

What tips would give for starting and promoting an online craft store? 
Be present. You should be present every day, promoting your business and engaging with your target audience. This back and forth will build a positive image for your business and encourage customer loyalty.

Build your brand. Now that you're online, you need to make your brand recognizable. Referrals go a long way. Keep your content fresh and make sure your efforts are working in harmony. Everything, such as your blog, website, and email campaigns, should link together, and the message should be streamlined and consistent to get maximum exposure and see results.

Become part of craft communities. Use the new social mediums as a platform to promote and gain sales, but make sure it's not "all about you." This can be an immediate turn off. Be relevant and be of value.

You’ve created a brand for yourself with Le Papier Studio that is based on doing one thing well and using it for a lot of different applications. Do you think this focus and consistency has helped market your products?
Earlier on I created a niche, offering my service of not only creating custom silhouettes, but also applying them on various products, such as stationery, prints, jewelry, housewares, etc. This helped me determine my brand's identity. I quickly found out people loved the idea so I continued — and still do — to develop it.

Your business, Le Papier Studio, does a lot of customized silhouette design. What is it like building a clientèle base and growing as a company?
I enjoy seeing the reaction on my customers' faces each time they get to approve a proof. Interacting with them has helped me understand what they want and learn how to address their needs accordingly.

In your book "Silhouette Art" you list two ways of creating silhouettes, digitally and hand-cut. Are there certain crafts that call for one technique over the other? What are the advantages of each style?
Both techniques are great and give wonderful results. I personally prefer and use mostly the modern [digital] way. The advantage is that once a silhouette has been created, it can be applied to various surfaces and products fairly quickly, such as invitations, stationery, prints, jewelry, fabric, and so on. They both require a unique craftsmanship.

Are you following any current craft blogs or sites?
I follow a few blogs which inspire me daily including subjects like photography, cooking and traveling. Although, I pay frequent visits to the craft blog

Photo credits: All Images from "Silhouette Art" except the picture of Vana Chupp by Imaginative Studios.

Learn how to make silhouette wrapping paper and other stylish projects in Vana Chupp's new book, "Silhouette Art." You can also browse her projects at Le Papier Studio.

Stephanie Cain is a freelance writer and photographer who enjoys all things kitschy, golden, or enriched with David Bowie's visage.

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