Cards With Humanity – Behind the Business with Melodie Burns from Art of Melodious
When I was a kid, my job around the house was to cut the grass. It’s not that I was particularly good at it, and though I actually did end up doing it for a summer job during University, I didn’t think it would become a career. For Melodie Burns, however, skill with a pen and paper led Melodie from de facto card maker for her family, through to starting Art of Melodious, a stationary company where she produces beautifully handmade cards and prints.
We interviewed Melodie as part of our series on small businesses using Shopify for ecommerce, and spoke how the company started, what it takes to stay focused and creative, as well as what the future might hold for her and Art of Melodious.
So tell us about Art of Melodious. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
Art of Melodious is a Canadian stationary company that creates fun illustrated greeting cards that suit any life path. Mainly featuring animals (cause they are the best), our delightful cards are printed on recycled paper and are guaranteed to bring a twinkle to your eye.
How did you decide to start your own stationary business?
From a very young age writing notes was kinda a thing in my family, love notes, I’m sorry notes, to do notes, we were really good at putting things in words and showing we cared through them. Note writing mixed with me being a little artist, naturally I’d doodle a little something along with my note and that’s where something sparked. Going forward when a birthday, Christmas or wedding card was needed, I would always be the designated card maker. Than college came along and I decided to take a Bachelor of Illustration from Sheridan College, of course continually making cards along the way. At this point I had never thought of officially creating greeting cards as a product until my now husband encouraged me to put some of my illustrations on cards and that spark just grew and I than realized… Whoa I love this! And it didn’t hurt that others’ loved them too 😉
I think you just answered this – but do you agree that to be successful you have to be passionate about what you’re doing?
Creating cards that people respond to and have fun with, encourages me. I’ve tried different avenues for my art and what I’ve discovered in cards suits me so well. I feel it’s different than doing a gallery show or book illustrations (not that I don’t like either) but cards gives me a platform that allows me to be me. What’s great is that different passions of mine meet in the form of illustration, like my love of animals, horses and helping people. I just really love the freedom of coming up with new ideas and creating illustrations for my cards, I do not grow tired of it and it fills me with energy.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get to this point?
It is said that we are our own worst critics, I’ve have to personally learn to not compare and to focus on my craft. It’s so easy to look at other people’s success and then look over at our own and see less. The grass is always greener, but if you go to the other side, there will be another lawn you like more a couple houses down. So I’ve had to really grow in embracing the art of being content with what I have and pushing myself to be better for me, not in a selfish way but in an genuine way.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
Well I work from home so things can for sure get crazy in my house, once I was sitting at my desk minding my own business and all of a sudden my fish jumped out of it’s bowl and yelled ‘HOLA!’. Wait, no that actually never happened but if it did that would be pretty crazy. Honestly I can’t say anything really crazy has happened but I am very open to crazy because I love adventure and spontaneity. I can’t wait till I have a real story to tell!
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
Before I met my husband I worked ALL the time, I never took breaks physically and mentally, which led to life being pretty overwhelming. With his help I’ve now learned to work more scheduled hours and take my evenings and weekends. During my week days I take small walks breaks with my dog, without my phone (most of the time) and just soak in being outdoors. I’m a country girl and I love nature/being outside so no matter where I’m living I take time with nature, she’s a good companion. This time spent outdoors actually helps me feel more on top of my work and more creative when I get back to my desk. It’s something I try to consciously do, even when lots is going on.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
I was actually thinking the other day about advertising and how much it’s evolved through social media. Before Facebook, Instagram and so on it seems like the only outlets for getting your word out would have been expensive and time consuming (newspaper ads, billboards, etc…). Now social media has become an affordable outlet for small businesses like me, we don’t have to spend a bunch of money to find our audience and can better connected with our customers. We are able to develop a little bit of a relationship by showing behind the scenes, new products on the rise, and engagement. I am very thankful for how social media has been a valuable tool in my slow by steady growth.
Why did you realize that you were going to embrace ecommerce?
Ecommerce was the only way I was going to get my products out to people, it was my first thought.
How did you find Shopify and why did you decide to try them out?
I know people who work at Shopify, and not only do they have a great product but they treat their employees really well which is important to me because I’ve experienced some not so great workplaces. If people working for a company are happy than the product will keep getting better and they will want to help you succeed as well as a merchant. Another reason was that I wanted Art of Melodious to be its own brand, being able to direct people to my own URL for my store is pretty cool and I didn’t have to learn code or pay a load for it.
What does Shopify enable you to do as a small business owner?
So much! Starting with inventory, Shopify has made it a breeze for me, I really didn’t have a good system in place and it’s just changed the game for me (now there’s actually a game haha). I do a bunch of craftshows and having Shopify’s POS system is easy and helps me make sales where ever I go. My Shopify store also tracks everything like best sellers, add to carts, etc… I now have data to analyze and help create a better store experience for my customers, which I would never have had without Shopify. It’s helped me become a better merchant and more aware of the online shopping experience.
Do you ever find time to get involved in your community?
We just moved to Ottawa, but we are try to get out to local events as a business and a customer ourselves. We personally regularly donate money to the local food bank and local charities. Since my cards mainly feature animals, I’m working on creating a card where dedicated proceeds go to the local humane society.
What does supporting local mean to you?
Supporting local has become very popular (which is great), I grew up in the country and I feel like we always ‘supported local.’ Buying veggies from roadside stands, hay from the farmer, going to the local corner store and so on. We did it because, for one, it was convenient and two because you made relationships with people and you wanted to support one another. It’s a community thing I think, and everyone really has something to offer, no matter how small your role.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
I plan on continuing to create great card designs, increase where my product can be found and I’d love to attend the National Stationery show in NY as a vendor. One day my husband and I plan on owning a hobby farm and having little kiddies, this has always been a dream and I can’t wait to see what these experiences will bring to my card designs.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
I do for sure. 1: Don’t compare, it sucks you dry of any creativity and is a waste of time. Look at other businesses for motivation and ideas but be true to yourself, don’t try to be someone else. We were created unique so let that show. 2: Even when things are slow keep creating, don’t let it get you bummed out. Slow times are perfect to add a new line or product, brush up your site, take new photos or decrease that ‘to do list’. 3: I heard advice recently to ‘pick your battles’. It’s the same in relationships, you can’t always be right. Sometimes you need to let things slide to maintain a good business relationship too, life has bumps and sometimes people make mistakes, we all do… Have a little grace.