It’s pretty common to see young children holding up signs for a neighborhood lemonade stand. Some of those stands are open once or twice, and that’s the end of the children’s short-lived business career. But not for Eliza Bishop. Her entrepreneurial spirit never dimmed.
Eliza was always looking for innovative new ways to make a couple extra dollars growing up, be it by selling her drawings to family members or making jewelry or wrapping Christmas presents. A South Carolina native, she even used the infamous pluff mud to make “pottery” and tried to sell it to fellow beachgoers. By third grade, she had started a camp for girls, which she ran all the way through her senior year of high school.
“If there was an opportunity to sell something or make something, I was always constantly (doing that),” recalls Eliza. “It’s been my dream to own my own business since I was a little girl. I just loved taking nothing and building it into a business. I loved that after my hard work there was tangible evidence.”
As someone who was always good with numbers and wanted to pursue a career in finance or marketing, Eliza “never set out to have (her) own stationery business.” It just fell into place.
And now her style of work—mostly created digitally with her iPad, Apple pencil and Adobe InDesign—is easily recognizable as the people she draws do not have detailed faces. Eliza says she started depicting people that way because she wasn’t great with details, but now that unique look, often paired with bold pops of color, has turned into her signature brand.
You’ll find it on her personalized stationery sets, wall prints, business card sets as well as her more recent custom wedding collections. Signage, seating charts, menus, place cards, RSVP cards, programs, you name it—Eliza creates it.
Each of her products comes with her “unlimited changes” policy too. “Something that is so important to Paper Eliza and so important to me is that the customer loves the product,” says Eliza. “Not only is it important that I’m proud of it because my name is on the back of it, but I want the customer to be so proud to give it to someone or hang it on their wall.”
Some of her favorite pieces to date include a boy’s stationery set for a fly fishing enthusiast, a print of a proposal speech and a series of favorite local places in which ideas were contributed by her Instagram followers, including Homewood favorites like Real & Rosemary, Nabeel’s Cafe and Market, Taco Mama and the Samford University football field.
You might think running Paper Eliza and studying full-time at Samford would fill up Eliza’s schedule, but remember her business drive? She also currently works as a strategic planning intern at Regions Bank. “I don’t think I could just work in something creative or just work in something financial,” explains Eliza. “It’s a great mix to be able to crunch numbers and have my drawing time. I get to exercise both sides of my brain!”
It was actually another internship that accidentally introduced Eliza to the world of stationery. After Eliza completed her freshman year at Samford in 2017, she worked for a local branding agency, Emily Wells Design, and ended up working alongside both Emily Wells herself as well as Homewood High grad Jess Hinton of Empress Stationery. Through that experience, Eliza learned more about social media marketing and branding, small businesses and, to her surprise, stationery.
“I got to see how Jess worked and interacted with clients, how she built out prints and proofs, what the process looked like of sending things to the printer and picking them up, paper types, really just the ins and outs of what it looks like to run a successful small business,” Eliza explains.
That same summer, one of Eliza’s friends was going off to camp and asked her to create some personalized stationery, as Eliza had previously made some for herself. Of course, she said yes and called up PrintsWell printers in Pelham. When they asked what company she was printing for, Eliza panicked and quickly decided “Paper Eliza.” And her business was born.
She first began selling to friends and friends of friends, but she now has clients in multiple states including Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Colorado and of course, her home state of South Carolina. Paper Eliza has been going strong for over two years now, and Eliza has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
As Eliza finishes up her double major to graduate in May 2020, she is also working to improve her business and take what she has learned through her past internships and classes and apply that knowledge to Paper Eliza. She runs her own social media account and website and is working on website updates and a set pricing model for her creations.
And while she herself is still an intern, Eliza has employed her own intern for this fall semester. From her Samford classes and personal experience running Paper Eliza, she already has a lot of knowledge to share.
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