philoSophie's for Growth

The creator of a stationery and greeting cards company discusses a typical day developing her business

Upon graduating from Boston University's School of Management in 2003 with a degree in business and management, I worked in advertising for close to two years. During that time, I developed the creative idea of philoSophie's ( The concept is based on a fictional character named Sophie and her philosophies on everyday scenarios and special occasions. The business plan concentrates on stationery and greeting cards, with products for birthday, bridal, baby, and everyday sentiments.

I started the company after working on the idea as a hobby while in the advertising world. After completing a business plan, developing and selling through a Web site, and testing the greeting cards in stores in Boston, I took money I had saved and a Small Business Administration loan and launched the business full-time in May, 2005, at the National Stationery Show in New York. Later that year, I was named by as one of the best entrepreneurs under 25 (see, 12/1/05, "Best Entrepreneurs Under 25").

Joanna Alberti

Founder/Creative Director, philoSophie's Social Stationery and Greetings

BS, Class of 2003, Boston University School of Management

As the founder and creative director of a startup company, I take on many roles and adjust my day to the needs of the business. Hence, a typical one varies greatly. But here's a recap:

7:00 a.m.—I wake up and go for a quick run. I work out in the morning if I'm not too tired from a late night on my computer researching new business opportunities.

8:15 a.m.—I head to the studio in Boston and read my e-mail. Next, I check the admin (behind the scenes) and company Web sites to make sure everything is running smoothly. I follow up with any business leads and prioritize projects and store orders. I revise this list daily to make sure I'm up to speed with deadlines and meeting company and personal goals.

9:00 a.m.—I'm still at my desk. Now, I'm drawing and scanning in new designs for Holiday 2006.

10:00 a.m.—Part-time help (whom I call my teammate, not employee) arrives to work on store orders and custom cards that need to be manufactured for delivery this week. I have the cards in order for embellishing and packaging before my teammate arrives to move along the process and get the most out of the time and budget allocated for assistance.

10:15 a.m.—After reviewing what needs to be done with my teammate, it's back to working on illustrations and layout for the holiday line.

Noon—Lunchtime! I take an hour to step away from my desk and go for a walk. I use this time to think about concepts for additional greetings and corporate holiday card projects I will be pitching next week. With a small studio space, I keep limited inventory and enjoy the fresh air to move forward with the second half of my day. I think of my most creative concepts when not stuck at my desk.

1:00 p.m.—I see how my teammate is doing with the orders needing to be fulfilled, and then I'm back to my desk. I'm preparing last-minute sample sheets for a pitch at a corporation interested in custom philoSophie's thank-you notes. Then it's time to put together a presentation and gather my thoughts for what questions I hope to have answered during the meeting. I have sought out business with this company and strategically looked to them for their parallel niche market. Winning this account is great for both exposure and sales numbers.

1:45 p.

m.—Off to the meeting.

2:30 p.m.—It's show time.

3:30 p.m.—I leave the meeting confident and with a definite "yes" for the concept proposed. Because of this, I'll travel back next week with additional illustrations for holiday cards. Though the company wasn't originally interested in holiday greetings, I went to the meeting with additional samples and ideas to gain more share of their budget.

4:30 p.m.—My teammate is just finishing up with what's ready to be sent off and what still needs to be finished later in the week. I pick up and finish packaging.

5:00 p.m.—I collect my thoughts from the meeting and continue working on files for the holiday line. I need to send current stores and rep groups new catalogs by early next week. I'm comfortable with the new concepts and hope to beat the deadline and get things off by the end of the week so ordering and selling can take place faster.

7:00 p.m.—It's time to start cleaning up. I sharpen pencils, clean up my desk, and straighten up the mess of papers accumulated. And, of course, there's one last refresh click on the e-mail account.

7:30 p.m.—Before an order ships, I review it one last time and write a thank-you note regardless of whether it's an individual or store order. Customers appreciate the little things a company can do to show gratitude for their business.

8:00 p.m.—Back in my apartment, I plop down on the couch. I relax with my newest read, The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart, by Maxine Clark, founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop (see Video, 5/4/06, "Bear Necessities"). It's a quick and insightful read into the little details that can develop your company and make it stand out among the competition.

My mother is a preschool teacher who takes her class to one of the Build-A-Bear Workshop locations. She's a loyal customer and a brand enthusiast. After casually speaking to her about the company and her excitement for it, I had to read Maxine's book. Maxine now ranks on my "Top 10 Women Business Owners I'd Like to Meet" list.

8:30 p.m.—Shoot, I forgot to eat dinner! I love delivery.

My undergraduate business experience is utilized daily. I have taken many of the concepts surrounding team learning and business development and incorporated them into philoSophie's. Although I'm not able to have a full-time person on staff, I do have part-time employees. However, they aren't considered employees, but teammates. We work together to discuss product development, order fulfillment, and basic business practices that can differentiate philoSophie's from the sea of competition.

Since I label myself as more of a "creative" type, it's easy to get sidetracked from business needs to draw and write new concepts. With my education from BU's School of Management and continued guidance from professors and staff, I have been able to keep a balance that has led my business to faster growth.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.