Small Business No. 14: Pencil Shavings Studio

As summer is making it's appearance this year, I thought there would be no better time to share the SBS of the lovely Rachel Shingleton  of Pencil Shavings Studio. And I'm going to have to break my rule of doing only black and white photos for the series because, well, how can you take photos of Rachel Shingleton and NOT have some of them in color.  :-) Ely Fair Small Business Series | Pencil Shavings Studio | Oklahoma CityEly Fair Small Business Series | Pencil Shavings Studio | Oklahoma City

Name:  Rachel Shingleton

Business Name:  Pencil Shavings Studio

Favorite Dessert: wedding cake - or really, any kind of good cake and frosting. It's all about the frosting!

 Favorite Artist/Album:  right now it's Coldplay's Ghost Stories

When did you start your business?  I studied graphic design in college, and went to work for a small apparel company. Right after I got married, I started my freelance graphic design business in 2005.  When Jude was born in 2007, I had to take a big break from all things work related. I basically put a complete halt on my business, and felt completely adrift as I sat alone in my house with this teeny tiny baby. I wasn’t even sure I knew who I was anymore! As anybody who has had a baby knows, it takes awhile to shift into the new lifestyle that comes with a baby, not to mention the identity shift.  But that’s when my blog was born.  After several months, I was ready to start taking on some design projects again and I launched my portfolio website. The main page had a photo of colored pencils and the tag line “I’ve never met a color I didn’t love.” So naturally with the theme of colored pencils happening, it only seemed that the blog should be called Pencil Shavings. Blogging opened me up to a whole new world of creativity. Not only did I discover that there were other working-from-home creative moms out there, but it also gave me the opportunity to land some new projects by blogging about current ones. After three years of blogging, I launched the Etsy shop as a way answer questions, in a way, about the cost of custom invitations, etc. as I was receiving lots of inquiries and the time to reply to each email was consuming me.  I wanted a line of products that reflected my own personal style and personality. I also needed it to be on my terms and in my own timing, so I could be here at home with Jude and keep a flexible schedule. Within a year of  opening the shop, I’d had 1000 sales thanks to the amazing community of people both here on my blog and also at Etsy. I have enjoyed this part of my career far more than any other part because I’m designing the kinds of things that I would love to buy. It feels authentic and natural because it’s my own, and it’s exciting to me that there are others out there too that love it as much as I do.

 What inspired you to start it? I love design - plain and simple.  And I love working for myself and I love designing pretty, happy things. Having the flexibility to be at home and still create some fun things makes it a perfect fit for me.

What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome? The biggest challenge is balance. Figuring out how to put together all the puzzle pieces of life - motherhood, marriage, work - and making sure everyone gets what they need can be really challenging.  I'm still working on that!

Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why? Getting some really fantastic press early on once the shop launched was hugely encouraging. HGTV magazine and Country Living reached out to feature Pencil Shavings Studio in early 2012, and I was flabbergasted. I was also really encouraged by those early sales. It made me so happy to know there were people out there who loved what I was doing as much as I did.

What is your favorite part of your business: I love designing the product lines, but I also love styling and photographing all the items for the shop. It surprised me how much I really enjoyed that part of it - and it's opened me up to doing other styling jobs for other creative small business owners. Definitely a nice little perk.

If you had advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours? Image is everything, especially for an online business where there's no brick-and-mortar location for your customer to handle your product and see it firsthand. Excellent branding is essential as is having a specific spin on your product. What sets you apart and gives your line personality? Additionally, invest in great product photography. Your product photos will make or break you.


Thank you so much Rachel for being part of the series! You really have some wonderful insight and experience and I appreciate learning from  you. xoxo ely