Cocktail napkins take front stage and are an important accessory when complimenting your favorite beverage at a party.
I have collected pretty pieces of linen for years and was thrilled when I found Lettermade, a successful brand, known for extraordinary linens. Malia Dreyer is the owner and has pursued her passion to create custom decor to last a lifetime.
I asked her to share the inside scoop on her business and some tips on starting your own.
How did you first decide you wanted to start this business? What year and what was the motivation?
I started Lettermade in February of 2014. After graduating from college, I worked in Development for a small private school. I would come home from the office and spend hours on embroidery. It was my creative outlet and something I’d do for friends who were getting married.
Who are your role models and where do you find your inspiration?
My grandmother! Her name was Mary Jacqueline; she represents the second “MJ” in the Lettermade logo (I’m Malia Jacqueline.) She was the quintessential hostess and always had cookies and brownies ready for us when we’d go visit her house. The Lettermade mission honors her legacy of great hospitality.
My inspiration seems to come from everywhere, anything from vintage hand embroidery to heirloom linens. I have my great-great grandmother’s top sheet, which was hand embroidered with a really beautiful floral monogram. I used various flowers from the design on her top sheet in Lettermade’s floral collection earlier last year!
What is your favorite piece(s) of linen?
My favorite keepsake piece is my embroidered Christmas handkerchief my grandmother gave me when I was in elementary school. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was young, and the importance of keepsakes became more and more important to me as she was fighting her battle against the disease. I always keep the handkerchief with me to remember her sweet spirit.
I love dinner napkins and cocktail napkins for a lot of reasons too. Embroidered napkins are the backdrop to celebrations with family and friends.
What three tips would you give someone starting out on their own?
- Make a mind map. First, I did a super simple version of one on a piece of paper and hung it on my wall. I wrote down my goals, my vision for what I wanted Lettermade to be, values I wanted Lettermade to stand by and words I wanted my brand to be associated when people talked about it. It’s really fun to look at it almost four years later and see where things have come.
- Find an accountant (or set-up QuickBooks). The numbers side of the business is not my forte, so finding a firm to help me with QuickBooks and taxes from the start has been so helpful. Setting this up from the start has made life much easier.
- Go with your gut. Since it’s your business, you know it better than anyone else.
What is your biggest seller during the holidays?
The holiday cocktail napkins are a big hit during this season. They make a wonderful hostess gift for holiday parties and are something the hostess can keep using after the party is over. I’m really excited about two of our holiday designs this year. We teamed up with Kara McKean Designs, a local artist here in Winter Park, Florida to create holiday designs based on her watercolor paintings. Our collaborative “Reindeer Couple” cocktail napkin will be my go-to hostess gift for Christmas parties!
How did you choose orange – my favorite color?
I love orange. It’s my favorite color- happy and bold. I have these great orange lacquer bamboo mirrors in my house, and the orange makes everything in the room feel like sunshine.
Is social media important to the business? Which platform works best?
Social media has been extremely pivotal in Lettermade’s growth. Since we don’t have a brick and mortar store, Instagram has been important as the primary outlet to share new styles and showcase table settings, dinner parties, and our everyday “embroidery life.”
If you weren’t doing this – what would you be doing?
I would be working for a women’s apparel or accessories brand. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) my first year of college and had this awesome internship during my first semester with an apparel brand. Every Tuesday or Thursday afternoon I’d go to Barneys and Bloomingdale’s to merchandise the line. It was so intriguing to see a brand come to life from season to season.
One last word of advice to give anyone starting out, besides the great information you have already offered?
Ask questions! Starting a business (and the journey of growing a small business thereafter) can be very overwhelming. Initially, it was a little bit difficult to ask lots of questions (and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.) I soon got over that and asking for advice was instrumental in taking next steps! I have a business mentor here in Winter Park who I meet with quarterly. Other friends and creative entrepreneur mentor I look up to (like Roxy from Society Social- she’s wonderful!)have given me words of wisdom I’m incredibly grateful for!