When local mom Allison Roozen made the jump to marriage, motherhood and homeownership within a year, she wanted a way to stay in touch with the rest of the world – and found out other moms felt the same way.
“At the heart of things, I just want to reach out to other women like myself,” she said. “My life is not perfectly organized, and no matter how hard I try I send late birthday cards all the time.”
That’s why she founded Sentiment Supply, an online stationery shop that curates and collects packs of event-specific stationery for women on the go. The recently-launched business, run out of Roozen’s spare bedroom, aims to make keeping in touch easier – as the founder herself puts it, “it’s about having the tools to plan for life’s craziness and making the most of the moments that life is all about.”
Seattle Refined: Sentiment Supply - what is it, why did you start it, and what do you aim to do that other people aren't already doing?
Allison Roozen: Sentiment Supply is an online stationery shop that helps modern women organize their thoughts, express their feelings and add a little art to their everyday. I had made a pretty hasty transition into being a wife, mother and homeowner (all within the same year) and I had really struggled to stay on top of managing my relationships, my responsibilities at home and my own self-care. This seemed to be pretty common with other new mothers I knew and I wanted to be able to help other women who were feeling the same stresses and anxieties that I was. I am an obsessively organized person and I have a degree in urban planning - so it just seemed natural that I would help other women by sharing the tools and tactics that have best helped me in keeping up with life.
I think what makes Sentiment Supply different from other stationery stores is the focus on meeting the needs of modern women. On top of trying to make the shopping experience one that is efficient and not at all overwhelming, I really try to curate products that speak to who we are as moms, business women and ladies of the 21st century and that fit the lives we lead today. It may seem counterintuitive to be offering paper products to solve the issues of women with access to apps for everything imaginable, but I know for me personally, the act of emptying out my thoughts and feelings through writing is the best way to make me feel organized and ahead of the game.
What sort of research and background work did you do before launching the business?
I probably rushed into starting my business because I was so excited to get something going, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of business I wanted to create. For most of my daughter’s first year I was researching myself. Every day I would spend time honing in on my strengths and weaknesses, my skillsets, my interests, etc. - all to figure out where my sweet spot sits, so that the work was something I was excited to do and also the most helpful to other people. I basically spent a lot of time figuring out who I wanted to serve and why.
I made a stab at market research and basically just got as far as how much is spent annually on greeting cards. I could have definitely gone a whole lot deeper here, but I think because I felt like I am a part of my target market I naively made a lot of assumptions without backing them up with any real evidence.
Where do you source your stationery?
I’m able to source a lot of my stationery through Etsy Wholesale. I tried opening an Etsy shop just after graduating college, which was a total flop (I gave up super early on, and had to accept that I do not have the creative focus to perfect a craft), but it was a great experience in that it introduced me to the world of Etsy. I have actually been curating stationery unintentionally for the past 5 years or so through the retail site. I also buy from individual companies if they don’t sell on Etsy, most of which are larger brand names. I find new makers almost daily on Instagram and I really love that the stationery industry is dominated by small, female-owned and operated businesses, all making their goods here in the US.
How are you fitting in running the business locally with the rest of your life? Are you working full time, do you have an office, or are you working from home?
I work from home out of a small spare bedroom, usually while my daughter is napping or after she has gone to bed. Eventually I may need more space, but this works great for now. Stationery is ideal for a small space - everything is flat and stores really easily. My business is mainly online, but I am planning to host a few pop up shops, the first of which will be in my hometown of Mount Vernon. I’m really excited to get to bring my offerings up there and share them with the women who I grew up with. One of my main inspirations for starting my shop was the lack of availability of quality paper products in small towns like mine.
What was the launch process like?
Like I mentioned, I kind of jumped the gun a little on my starting my business. For better or worse, I just felt like I needed to get started and I could improve things as I went. Since I had been following and favoriting cards and stationery products for years on Etsy, it was pretty easy and really fun to select my first line of products. I launched post holidays, which in retrospect was silly for being retail, but the only real issue that created was that I was away from home (aka the office) for most of the month leading up to it. Thankfully my sister-in-law, Kelly from Rollick, had paved the way by launching in November and she was able to give me lots of tips, point me to great resources and set a really great example of how to run a launch on social media. Basically I spent about 2 months from building the concept of my store to putting it out into the world and I have just kept a super open mind that has allowed me to pivot and make some changes from that original idea.