Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We love discovering people who are just as passionate about reading as we are, and Matthew Richardson is one of these people. We learned about Matthew Richardson through his company, Gramr Gratidue Co., which helps people make gratitude a habit through the form of thank you notes. Amazing, right? Matthew’s campaign to start a cultural movement for gratitude involves encouraging others to send thank-you notes, articles on The Huffington Post educating people on how to incorporate gratitude into their lives, and by sending thank-you notes himself. This is exactly the type of campaign we can get behind 100%.

Matthew is passionate about his pursuits, and when he finds something that moves him, he explores it further. Case in point: Matthew took a year off during his studies at Claremont McKenna College to hitchhike across 14 countries after reading the works of Henry David Thoreau. Inspired yet? Even now as a busy entrepreneur, Matthew makes time to read, write, remain curious about the world around him, and express gratitude daily. And we couldn’t agree more with the advice Matthew would tell his 15-year-old self: “Read.”

Name: Matthew Richardson
Age: 25
Education: B.A. in Literature from Claremont McKenna College
Follow: Gramr Gratitude Co. / Twitter / MattRyanRich.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Matthew Richardson: I think that it means very nearly the same thing as “Seize the Day” — that is, for as long as you’re able to see the importance of taking ownership of your own life and circumstances, then you have that spark of youth in you… you have as much energy and passion as it takes to create something of value for the world.

Also, I may be biased but as an entrepreneur with an academic background in Literature, I can’t help but equate siezing one’s youth or life or day, with creating something artistic, something that wouldn’t otherwise exist if you didn’t step up and pull resources together to make it happen.

CJ: You majored in Literature at Claremont McKenna College. How did you determine what to study?

MR: Like most every undergraduate I changed my major a few times before hitting my stride. I started out as an economics major with a focus on finance… but really couldn’t get passionate about anything that I was learning. It seemed both overly practical and totally impractical. I saw the value of economics in everyday decisions, but that very fact seemed soul-less to me.

I took a course in Russian Literature, read Tolstoy; which allowed me to see the infinitely reaching application of classic literature and philosophy. This led to Thoreau, which caused me to leave CMC for a year and hitchhike/camp across 14 countries, and read everything I could get my hands on. I returned to school with a passion for literature, and I felt as if I had made up for some lost time by reading dozens and dozens of classic works during that year off. Without going into it deeply here, I feel as though Literature is the best liberal arts discipline if your interest is ultimately in becoming an entrepreneur.

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CJ: You are the Co-Founder of Gramr Gratitude Co., a company that helps people make gratitude a habit through the form of thank you notes. What inspired the idea for Gramr Gratitude Co.?

MR: In the beginning we wanted to shake up the greeting card game and create an alternative to Hallmark that was so cool and trendy that they wouldn’t be able to help but acquire it. Very quickly, Brett (my co-founder) and I found that we were trying to run before we could walk and that we also didn’t care much about greeting cards in general. One niche that was particularly compelling, however, was the thank-you note. It didn’t depend on a holiday or an obligation — it had the potential to suggest a lifestyle. Gratitude seemed very important to us, and often overlooked as a virtue because it had no tangible commodity to represent it.

Meanwhile every business under the sun was developing programs for social benefit — following the lead of TOMS shoes which gives one pair of shoes to underprivileged children for every pair of shoes they sell. Generosity, then, was booming, because you could wear it on your feet, or chest, or wrist. But gratitude didn’t have anything like that, and we decided to make a concerted effort at becoming the face of the virtue. It was a word and a concept that was up for grabs, and we were the first to market — now we are continuing to try to think of ways to cement our concept into the contemporary context that is consumed by technology and efficiency. It is challenging but infinitely rewarding.

CJ: What responsibilities do you have as the Co-Founder?

MR: I lead creative projects, design, and partnerships.

CJ: How do you and your Co-Founder balance the workload?

MR: My Co-Founder is in charge of operations and business processes. But there is huge overlap — we are both frequently consulting each other and helping carry different loads that fall outside of the bounds of our broad responsibilities.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

MR: It’s very hard and there are many hundreds of things you don’t think about or plan on when idealizing a company from the outside looking in.

CJ: What do you wish you had known before starting Gramr Gratitude Co.?

MR: That your website should be a minimum viable product because building something before you know how people will interact with it is a guessing game. We guessed wrong on several things, including our web host, and e-commerce platform. Both mistakes that are costly and time consuming to redevelop.

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CJ: What advice do you have on how to finance and budget when running your own business?

MR: In the beginning, ask people you know, who you trust, and who can give you more than just capital. We happen to have a very strong core of advisors, and that is more important than capital. We also raised 63k on Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is a good option for bootstrappers, but it also has scores of drawbacks that you can’t know until you’ve been hosed by them.

CJ: What can a teenager or young adult who wants to start their own company do now to set themselves up for success?

MR: Read.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

MR: Surround yourself with people who fit more into a day than you fit into a week.

CJ: You write articles for The Huffington Post about gratitude. What are your favorite ways to show gratitude?

MR: Writing thank-you notes, or Gramrs. Especially to people who wouldn’t expect it. One of my favorite thank-you notes I ever wrote was to the server at Dr. Grubbs, a year after I last went there, for being such a joyful and wonderful person over the few years that I patronized that incredible restaurant.

CJ: You are an avid reader. How do you fit reading into your day, and which book has had the greatest impact on you?

MR: When I am in a good rhythm I am getting up at 5am and reading for an hour before I start my day. This allows you to get through about a book a week. This is my favorite time of the day.

I recommend East of Eden by John Steinbeck to everyone I meet. Sometimes before I introduce myself. It is enormously valuable.

CJ: Describe a day in your life.

MR: Wake up at 5. Make coffee. Read for an hour. Write for an hour. Sometimes workout for an hour. Start trying to get through the three biggest priorities I’ve set for the day — try and finish this before 12. Meetings, calls, work from 12 to 6-ish. Wind down in a variety of ways. Drink wine and Yerba Mate. Try and read some more. Write down the three things I must get done the following day before noon. Go to sleep ~11pm.

CJ: How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

MR: This is something I constantly try and optimize — but OmniFocus is good, and Mailbox App keeps emails organized and out of the way. The best thing I’ve found is that figuring out what the three things you need to get done before noon are is the best way to get stuff done.

CJ: How do you like to enjoy your free time?

MR: I read, eat tacos, spend up to 10 minutes creating cups of single origin coffee, and tinker around with a handful of side projects.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

MR: Read.

Matt Rich Qs

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We first discovered Katie Leamon’s gorgeous luxury cards and stationery during a trip abroad. When we stumbled across her notebooks, we were immediately smitten. Based in England, Katie runs her own company devoted to making beautiful paper goods. Having studied art and design in school, Katie followed her passion and turned it into a successful brand. We adored learning more about the woman behind the stationery, and Katie is hardworking and very sweet. Katie shares a glimpse into her busy days, how youth interested in running their own business can set themselves up for success, and her favorite things to do in London.

Name: Katie Leamon
Age: 29
Education: Loughborough University Woven Textile BA Degree; First Class Honors
Follow: Katie Leamon | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Katie Leamon: Be open minded, try new things, challenge yourself every day, believe in yourself, and take the opportunities that life throws at you, and if it doesn’t then go and grab them yourself!

CJ: You majored in Textile Design at Loughborough University. How did you determine what to study?

KL: I loved art and design at school, and I concentrated on textile design throughout my foundation course so it was the next natural step. I then choose to specialize in woven textiles because I wanted to learn a new skill while I was at university which would not be overly accessible following my time in school.

CJ: You are the Director of Katie Leamon, a company devoted to making gorgeous luxury cards and stationery proudly made in England, which you launched in 2010. Where did your love of making beautiful stationery come from?

KL: I am a bit of a perfectionist and pay a huge amount of attention to the detail of a product, so when I set about starting my own thing, it seemed clear to me that it was going to be a high end product. Initially it was just about the design. I didn’t think about starting a stationery business, I was just building my portfolio and getting back into drawing. I have always loved paper products and stationery seemed like an obvious avenue to try and an accessible one for a young designer, so that’s where I started!

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CJ: What responsibilities do you have as the Director?

KL: I am directly responsible for the design and finish of a product, but as it’s my company, all major responsibilities come back to me. We have a great little team, but I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my work and I still take on a lot more of the daily responsibility than I should!

CJ: How did your education and past work experiences prepare you to start Katie Leamon?

KL: I worked in a small fashion design company for two years before starting up on my own and the experience of running a small company was invaluable. I did a lot of the wholesale side of things which helped when I first set out, and the design experience throughout education and work was all influential in my first collection, and continue to be.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

KL: Don’t try and run before you can walk. You can kill your company by moving too slowly and equally by moving too fast and making bad, ill-considered decisions. Things have a way of working themselves out so don’t lose too much sleep about things out of your control. Also, don’t hold back on making decisions. As long as you’re making decisions, they won’t be the wrong ones – the worst thing you can do is stay still.

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CJ: What is your design process? Where do you find inspiration?

KL: My design process is a little back to front… I tend to visualize a finished product and then work backwards to get it down on paper and make it a reality.

I am constantly being inspired, and normally have too many ideas, often unrealistic, running around my mind! I can be looking at patterns in the pavement to latest fashion trends, and think of something that could transfer to paper. Sometimes I don’t think we are even aware of many of our influences. I take intentional inspiration from vintage typography, I scour secondhand shops, and the images and style are always inspiring.

CJ: How did you go about the process of selling Katie Leamon luxury cards and stationery in high end retailers in the United Kingdom and across the world?

KL: I was very lucky in that my first stockist was Liberty of London; I was a successful candidate in their Open Call day in early 2011, and following that success gave me the confidence and money to try a trade show and I gained another few stockists, including Selfridges so it grew organically from then on. I think you need to know where you want to pitch your brand before you start, there is no point designing a high end product and targeting mass market chain stores.

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CJ: What can a teenager or young adult who wants to start their own luxury card and stationery company do now to set themselves up for success?

KL: Work hard. There is no way around it, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I think it’s also very important to experiment and know your brand identity and style before you pitch to the market, have a strong unique product, and target the right places.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

KL: I wanted to work for myself and I wanted to make beautiful things. It’s very hard at first, you’re on much less money, if any, than all of your friends, but the hard work is starting to pay off now and I would always recommend doing it if you can. I was working on such low money before I decided to start my own thing that I decided I had nothing to lose, I’d always wanted to do it, I am self-motivated, and I work hard, so I wanted to reap the benefits of working that hard for my own thing! I could get the same money from a part-time job initially, so I did that for the first couple of years while the company grew. I also had the support of my family, I shared my studio with my brother, and he paid the rent for the first couple of months and they were all so supportive. They helped me take that leap so I was very lucky.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

KL: That’s a hard one, I have a couple. My success at the Open Call day at Liberty was really the start of it all so that was a huge game changer and a huge accomplishment for me. Also, the building and opening of our production studio in Essex. We built the studio as a family, and now my mum and sister run all our production from there. It was a real “Wow, look how far I have come” moment for me.

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CJ: Describe a day in your life.

KL: My day varies largely depending on the time of year and on how close we get to a trade show! But generally speaking, I arrive at the studio at about 8-8.30am, and run through my emails while eating my breakfast. When my assistant Georgia arrives, we will run through our current projects and where we are with them. I will then catch up with my mum and sister who run the production studio in Essex and iron out any issues that might have come up and discuss any projects or new accounts that we are working on.

I then try to concentrate on the design side of things. Whether it’s working on new design projects, selecting and sampling colours and paper stock or actually getting my head down and doing some drawing. I always start with doodles in my sketchbook, then edit and try things on the computer. As to be expected with a small company, my day is interrupted with various queries, but I try to structure my day around our current projects and deadlines. Currently I’m trying to finish off our catalogue for Top Drawer, so I’m finalizing samples for a photo-shoot next week, and selecting some new envelope styles for a limited edition run of neon!

CJ: How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

KL: Luckily I am naturally organized. But as a company we plan our weeks with what needs to get done and other things we want to achieve with the tasks at hand. I think you need to be flexible, you can’t plan too far in advance or you might miss an opportunity. Up to now I have let the business dictate a little of its own path, stores have approached us which has led to new and exciting things, and we obviously have goals but I think they are constantly changing and evolving. We evaluate things as often as possible and try to identify as quickly as possible if we are going off course.

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CJ: How do you like to enjoy your free time?

KL: I am a bit of a foodie so I love eating out with friends and trying the wealth of London’s food markets! I also love being outdoors and keeping active so I love camping, going to the beach, and keeping fit.

CJ: Which book had the greatest impact on you?

KL: Gone Girl, I was thinking about it for ages after I read it!

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KL: Work hard but worry less. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Jane Park – the founder and CEO of one of the fastest growing beauty brands, Julep – is no stranger to seizing her youth. After studying Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton and then heading off to law school at Yale, Jane has always been a hard worker. After working as a consultant and at Starbucks, she then took a leap of faith to start Julep, a beauty company that tests new products on a community of monthly subscribers before it is mass-produced. Not only is this a smart strategy, but the products are quality. From nail polish to skin care products to makeup tools to hair care, Julep has your beauty necessities covered.

After having worked in both corporate and start-up settings, Jane is a pro when it comes to running her own business and getting things done. We are seriously inspired by her ability to multi-task, her passion for learning, and her advice to not be so hard on ourselves. She’s also generous with her time and advice. Jane is a true business and beauty rockstar, and we’re thrilled to share her story with you!

Name: Jane Park
Age: 43
Education: Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton University; Doctor of Law (JD) at Yale University
Follow: Twitter / Julep

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Jane Park: Seizing your youth is about finding the joy in things and having enthusiasm for the daily parts of your life.

CJ: You majored in Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton. How did you determine what to study?

JP: Public Policy and International Affairs was the major that enabled me to take courses in the broadest number of areas. I could take politics, economics, East Asian studies, and anthropology. It was an awesome non-major in a way.

CJ: After college you went to law school at Yale University. How did you decide to go to law school right after graduating from college and what was your experience like?

JP: I actually didn’t plan to go to law school right away. I applied as a backup idea. I wanted to go to India to work for an organization called Seva Mandir. When I told my parents my plans, they freaked out. I ended up applying to law school and planned on saying that I was going to defer as a way to get around actually having to go. In the end, my parents guilted me into going to law school. I had never seen them cry before!

CJ: What did you learn from law school that helps you as an entrepreneur?

JP: I learned the value of thinking through things and looking at situations from different angles. When you are creating legal documents, you have to think about what the future might hold and look at things from different perspectives. That’s probably the most valuable thing.

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CJ: If you could make the decision about whether to go to law school again, would you still go?

JP: If you are thinking about a career like law, you should spend a day with a lawyer and see if you like what he or she is doing with the day. A lot of legal work is actually not with people. It’s just paperwork and it’s not interactive with people, so it is a different kind of environment. Law school was super fun, intellectually rigorous, and we dealt with interesting problems and constitutional issues, but when you graduate, you aren’t on the Supreme Court right away. You are locked away in a room with boxes and boxes of paper.

CJ: After law school, you worked as a consultant and then at Starbucks. Please tell us about your experience working at Starbucks and your major learning experiences.

JP: It was great to learn about how brands are executed at Starbucks. We got to understand how you take a brand and make thousands of people who are trying to bring that to life meaningful to people. Seeing how that operated at scale was really interesting. It was all about people, as well.

One of the best weeks of that job was when I got to work in the stores. I realized how hard it is to be a barista. You think you can mark a cup, but it’s really hard to have a line of people and to remember how to put all of the ingredients in the right order. I finally ended up just cleaning the bathroom because it was something I couldn’t screw up.

CJ: You left your job at Starbucks to start Julep. Were there any skills you wish you had known before starting your own company?

JP: The thing about being an entrepreneur is that every situation is different so the most important thing is to have versatility and flexibility. The best thing to do to prepare is to really work with a lot of different people and figure out how they see the world and how you can influence them. At the end of the day, all an entrepreneur is doing is influencing your investors to believe in your dream and you’re influencing your team to come join you. In order to make that happen, it’s really an intellectual and emotional decision. You have to know how you view the world and understand how others view the world so you can communicate compellingly.

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CJ: How do you set goals?

JP: A lot of the times there are a lot of complex big picture dreams. We want to be a multi-billion dollar global beauty company. Life is just a series of days put together. I can do anything for a day and then do that one day at a time.

CJ: Starting and running a company is no easy feat and you are challenged on a daily basis. What do you do when you are unsure of something and experience self-doubt?

JP: I’m pretty transparent with people about things that I am unsure of so they know what I am grappling with and I try to ask for help. In almost every circumstance that I’ve used the words, “I need your help,” I’ve gotten the help. The thing to remember is that you’re not alone. If you start thinking about who you can ask for help, you can come up with a list or find people who will help you with the list. If you’re sitting alone curled up on your bathroom floor, there’s no one who can help you or no one who knows that you need their help.

CJ: You’ve worked in both corporate and startup settings. What advice do you have for a young person to thrive in those two cultures?

JP: Forget about the fact that it’s about you and how you are graded. It was true of me, too. For my first job, I wanted to do a great job. At the consulting firm I worked at, we were graded every three months on our projects so you really wanted to get the good grade. At the end of the day I realized that even in that context, the most important thing to focus on is how we are helping the clients and how you have impact. If you focus on making a real difference, everything else will follow. If you focus on how you are viewed and how your boss thinks of you or your promotion, nothing good comes out of that situation.

Figure out what the company’s goals are, and if you can’t see that far ahead, then figure out what your boss’s goals are. When you’re a junior in a company, you want to make a difference and have a voice, but that’s all “I” “I” “I.” Think about how you can be helpful and most useful. To get a promotion, it’s not about influencing your boss. It’s about influencing your boss’s boss.

CJ: Why did you decide to start Julep in Seattle?

JP: I decided to live in Seattle because of the city itself. I have two kids and Seattle is a great city to live in with kids. What’s great about Seattle is that there is quite an entrepreneurial network and there is also a strong venture capital community. Seattle is the perfect city because you’re close enough to venture capital to get financed but far enough away from the competitive environment every day.

CJ: What is your typical day like at Julep?

JP: There really isn’t a typical day. Today I had a couple of phone calls with prospective investors that were back-to-back. I made my kids chocolate chip pancakes for Valentine’s Day. I saw my kids off to school and made more calls from home. I came into the office and had a team meeting to address inventory questions.

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CJ: What has been the best moment of your career?

JP: One of them was when we did our pop-up store in New York. Meeting the maven customers face-to-face was amazing. There were women in tears who expressed their love for their monthly boxes. The level of emotional engagement has been amazing.

CJ: What advice would you give teenagers or young adults who are interested in being entrepreneurs?

JP: The number one question you have to ask yourself is “how do you deal with failure?” There are moments of failure every day and month. If you are somebody who always strives for perfection, this is not a good life for you because it’s really hard to achieve and hard to get there. Whether it is sports or doing something you are uncomfortable with, see how you handle those situations and how you progress. Being mentally strong is an important characteristic to have.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

JP: For me it’s all about learning. I want to always be learning about people and how to do better. If you want to be better tomorrow than you are today, quantify things in your life. Count and write things down. Whether it is exercise or in a business, if you can count it and measure it, you can make a difference. Instead of having a loose goal, measure it in some way. If you want to write a business plan, how many pages a day are you going to write? How many phone calls a day are you going to make? Break it down into something that’s measurable and you can have success.

CJ: What is the best advice you have every received?

JP: In every context you have to find your own voice and find yourself. When I started working, I had never worked in an office before and I thought there was a certain way I had to be. I was playing the role of a lawyer and wasn’t really being me. There’s no way you can be successful if you’re not being yourself in that context.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

JP: My overall mantra is to be forgiving when you make a mistake. Learn the lesson and move on. There is no benefit of raking yourself over the coals or rethinking again and again about how you could have done things differently. Of course there is always a better way to do things. If you’re frustrated and banging your head against the wall, it’s because you have an unrealistic expectation of what you should have been able to do. There is a lot of wasted energy on being too hard on ourselves.

Jane Park Qs