If you’ve ever received anything in the mail from Deborah Nadel you are very fortunate. Everything from the lettering to the actual paper in her designs is incredible. Her holiday card for 2011 made me stop everything I was doing and just stare for what seemed like eternity. It was incredibly beautiful. It’s no wonder that Deborah has done work for Tiffany & Co. (lettering on fine jewelry AND in promotional spots.) She’s been in business for over 20 years and I marvel at how she’s been able to diversify her services between event calligraphy, commercial design, and invitation design. I think this diversification has been key to her success.
Owner, Deborah Nadel Design
Why did you start your business?
I started doing calligraphy professionally in 1989, but prior to that I was an art director for an advertising agency in New York. I designed a promotional piece for a client that would feature hand drawn headlines. I did the headlines myself for the mock up thinking we would hire an artist to redraw them, but the client was happy to use mine. This definitely sparked my interest–I started learning more about calligraphy and letterforms, taking classes at the New School and joined the Society of Scribes.
I thought this could be interesting work that I could do from home (and spend more time with our daughter, who was two at the time). Eventually I was able to do that. I focused for a long time on calligraphy and some commercial lettering. Then I designed a Bat Mitzvah invitation as a gift to my friend for her daughter and the next thing I knew, I was in the invitation business. Now the three areas of work–event calligraphy, commercial lettering and invitation design keep me pretty busy, but I feel that it’s a good mix for me.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge as a business owner?
My biggest challenge is keeping the work from taking over every waking hour! I have some people helping me on a freelance basis, but I tend to micro-manage, so ‘part b’ of the challenge is to start delegating more efficiently!
How do you stay inspired?
I love wandering around Manhattan, looking at signage and window displays. And, since I’m obsessed with paper, I can literally spend hours in New York Central and Paper Presentation, two of my favorite paper stores in the city. M&J Trimming is another place I can get lost in! It’s filled, from floor to ceiling, with ribbons and embellishments and other wonderful findings that can become part of an invitation.
Online, I look at wedding and design blogs and, of course, Pinterest–an endless stream of design inspiration–especially for a wedding professional! Also, the New York Stationery Show, coming up next month, is Mecca for someone like me. It’s great to spend a few days totally immersed in everything stationery and, hopefully, connect with some new suppliers.
Do you have any marketing/promotional tips to share? Anything that’s really helped sell your product?
Of course, have some online presence–a website and/or a blog. And promote your work on larger wedding websites by advertising or joining their vendor lists. Style Me Pretty and Luxurious Wedding are two sites that I love, and they have been good sources of referrals. I have occasionally offered giveaways on Style Me Pretty–a hand drawn monogram was one and calligraphy of a wedding reading was another. Both of these paid off, bringing more attention to my work and directing brides to my website. It brought me business.
Connect with other wedding professionals. You can meet them at workshops and seminars. I am still in touch with people I met at The Simple Plan and at Engage. Thursday Therapy has been a great way to stay in touch and share ideas. I showed wedding planner Stacie Shea a vow book that I designed and it became part of an inspiration shoot she was working on. Wedding Chicks picked it up and it was win win for everyone involved.
Some of my favorite wedding business blogs, in addition to Sage Wedding Pros (!), are Think Splendid (Liene Stevens), Bride Attraction (Natalie Bradley) and Bride Appeal (Kathy Dalpra). All are good reads and offer especially great marketing ideas.