Alex Choura and Erin Vaughan were friends and worked together in a studio as students at Biola University in California. They loved designing and working on projects together, and realized quickly that they enjoyed their collaborative style.
So when they graduated, they decided to open up a business together, and Golden Pines Paper Shop was born in August of 2012.
There were a lot of challenges right away, said Vaughan. She and Choura learned by doing, trying new approaches and scrapping what didn’t work out.
“Not only do we have to keep creating and making product, but we have to find ways to make money to be able to make the product,” said Vaughan. That’s in addition to all the administrative responsibilities required to market the products, comply with government regulations, and keep financial records.
Though the business is still relatively new, Choura and Vaughan have loved seeing what it has become already.
They’ve hosted community events to bring people together and enjoy art, and they stay involved with their alma mater, trying to encourage students to pursue the creative world when they graduate.
Golden Pines has about 90 products for sale right now, mostly cards and invitations. Vaughan is the illustrator, and Choura does the design and lettering. Together, they come up with beautiful designs that really set themselves apart from the standard cards on the shelves. It’s one way to get a Christmas card that stands out – for a price that won’t break the bank.
The collaboration of their lettering and illustration talents add a detailed effect that you can’t get with a normal mass-produced card. Vaughan said that people really like the handmade quality. You can tell they’re different.
Running the business is still a challenge. “Starting a business takes time – getting your name out there, creating products, finding your niche, establishing a following, and finding stores that want to sell your work,” said Vaughan. Over and over, people tell Choura and Vaughan that “it won’t work.” Even greeting card makers tell them that it is a hard business to break into.
But it hasn’t stopped them.
“One thing that has helped propel us forward is participating in our first trade show,” said Vaughan. “We are now selling in stores, and it has given us a drive to expand and get our work in more and more stores.”
In the future, Vaughan wants to be in over 200 stores. She hopes Golden Pines will someday have a steady income, employees, and its own studio or store front. It will take time and a lot of hard work, but she believes in the idea.
“I think despite some of the hardships of starting a business in America, I believe it’s still the best place in the world with the most opportunities to start your own business. A big part of that is the freedom we have, and I’m grateful for that,” said Vaughan.