Working Mom: Sommer Elston of Pretty Little Paper Co.

A fellow Renoite (we live in the same city!), Sommer Elston rocks the stationary design business.  I stumbled upon her business Pretty Little Paper Co., via Instagram and fell in love.  Go figure, she is here in my city, but I found her with social media.  Yay to technology!

Sommer is a wife, mother to a toddler and has a baby on the way.  She is also a #momboss over at Pretty Little Paper Co., a stationary and design shop she started from the ground up.  Her love for paper and the whimsical style is why I fell in love (not to mention she rocks her own business as a Mommy!)

Check out our little chit/chat and takeaways on how this #momboss runs her own business, where she gets her design inspiration and how she holds it all together while having a family.  I was inspired and I know you will be too!

Name:  Sommer Elston

Company:  Pretty Little Paper Co.

Family:  Mom, Dad, and baby with one on the way.

The Mommy Chronicles

Tell us about your business and your inspiration to start Pretty Little Paper Co.

Pretty Little Paper Co. is a stationary and design company specializing in custom design.  A majority of what I do is invitations but I usually always have a branding project in the works, whether it is a logo or business cards. There are a few local businesses in Reno that you have probably seen around town with PLPCo. work! (Salon Lux & Atelier Salon are two of the more noticed places!) I started Pretty Little Paper as sort of a side passion in between the time I graduated college and when my husband and I were planning on taking a 3 week trip to Europe. I figured no one would hire me and give me 3 weeks vacation in a 3 month time period.  I had always loved stationary and loved designing but knew things like web and advertisement design weren’t for me.

Sommer - Office Photo 2

What is a typical workday like for you?

I always have to giggle at this question because unfortunately I never have typical workdays.  I guess that happens when 1) you work from home and 2) you’re a mom.  I like to say usually I get to my computer around 8:30 – 9 and start answering emails paired with designing. I almost always have to take a break and step away from the computer screen around lunch time to sort of re-power and refresh. I will get back on and do any follow up work I can squeeze in after lunch but usually wrap up by 3:00 when my husband gets home from work (he works on the NY stock exchange hours 6:30 AM – 3:00 PM and my hours seem to follow).

What is your inspiration for your creativity?

I gather inspiration from people. Whether its other designers, friends, bloggers especially.  I see their work and their motivation and it really drives me.  I am part of a group here in Reno called “The Rising Tide Society”.  We meet once a month and they are usually the exact type of motivation I need! I love to see how other people design, or gather inspiration so following along on their blogs, instagrams or snap chat really motivate me!

Sommer - In Action

What sets you apart from other stationery design shops?

I think each stationary design shop has its own corks.  I know some offer watercolor art and calligraphy etc.  I tend to think the customer service and customization is what makes us stand out a little.  Other than on our very small Etsy shop, everything we do is custom down to the font of the invitations, colors etc.  In the past we have had a few customers ask for previous designs but 99% of the time each design is custom and brand new to the client.  Something you definitely can’t find on big box websites for stationary work.

What is your best advice to new working moms?

Balance, and ask for help.  I had this really great idea in my head that I was going to be a stay at home mom all while working from home and although some might be able to do it, for something like design that takes concentration, customer service and time – I just couldn’t do it with a little person at my feet.  I knew I wanted to spend time with my son(s) so we have a babysitter a few days a week (usually around 9 AM – 2 PM) and I am home with him the other days.  It allows me to get the work done while the babysitter is here, but I still get more time with him than if I was not at home.  It took about 6 months to find the right balance as far as how much time I allow myself to work and how much time I was with him without feeling stressed by unanswered emails or boxes of invitations piling up.

How do you juggle mommy hood and being a working mom?

My answer to this is also balance 😉 and a good teammate.  There have been times when my son is sick so the babysitter doesn’t work out and my normal work day is unavailable. It has been great having a good partner in this thing called parenthood, to tackle those days. Although most wedding professionals will tell you wedding season is May – November, for stationary it is usually February – June. There have been times where the normal schedule didn’t work out and my husband will tell me to pack up my computer and head to the local Starbucks for quiet time, a good coffee and few hours to design projects. Its really helpful having a teammate who understands, even if he is far from the stationary/design world.

Sommer - with Baby

What is your biggest obstacle as a working mom and how do you overcome it?

Time.  When I have time to work when my son isn’t around I always want to play mom and get all the house work done, chores, pick everything up, but then I have the stress of knowing projects aren’t done or emails unanswered.  Luckily I have had great clients who are totally understandable if things take a day longer (because of a sick baby) or an email hasn’t gone through (because little hands delete it).  I always try to be totally honest with my clients and have good communication.  If I know something might take an extra day, or one of my designated work days is now filled with doctors appointments, I try and send an email letting them know what’s going on.  I think the worse thing as a client is to have emails go unanswered or timelines be ignored so open communication has always been one of my top priorities.

What is your favorite part of the design process?

I think getting to know the clients.  I have some clients in Florida or back East that I will probably never meet in person, but we communicate so much over the process of a project I feel like I am chatting with a friend. I always do the unprofessional thing and throw in an emoji here or there but when I talk to these people 4 times a week, I feel like we are old friends working on a project together!


Favorite personal indulgence?  Netflix, Pinterest and Target trips.

Last book read?  Balancing in Heels by Kristin Cavallari – I’m always trying to learn how to balance life.

What don’t you leave home without?  My cell phone, and ice water (emphasis on the ice),

Favorite makeup item?  Bronzer, it can make tired mom eyes look alive again.

Baby item you can’t live without?  Is it really bad if I say a pacifier?

How do you unwind after a long workday?  My husband and I LOVE our shows, I’m not a big drinker as is – and being pregnant again really cuts down the wine nights, so certain nights of the week we have our favorite shows on and it is just so relaxing to have adult time to cozy up on the couch and watch a good show.


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