My connection with Lisa Krowinski of Sapling Press is a little different from my other maker friends here in Pittsburgh. I met her a few weeks after I’d moved back to the area in 2014 when a mutual friend introduced us. Turns out Lisa, a super accomplished and talented stationer with a line of snarky text-driven letterpress cards, was opening a brick and mortar shop in my town. We met up for coffee and I decided to be a part of it on the spot! These days I’m helping at the Sapling & Sons shop a few days a week as well as helping buy, which is immersing me in the stationery world that I’ve always been in love with. Lisa is a smart businesswoman who is also the most laid-back person I’ve ever met, a rare combo that she makes working the best way.
Tell us a little bit about how you got your start with Sapling Press.
I started Sapling Press while working as a graphic designer in Baltimore. I think I was destined to have a small business ever since I was a kiddo. I used to paint pictures and sell them door to door, and would sell candy instead of lemonade outside my house. I have a lot of hard working entrepreneurs in my family so starting my own thing never seemed undoable. I used to collect the old letterpress cuts because of the design element to them, but I eventually wanted to learn how they were used in practice. I found a woman in Baltimore with a press in her home, and she taught me how to print and handset type in a private 4-hour class. I was hooked. Within 4 months I found and purchased a press, rented a studio space with friends, and exhibited at my first National Stationery Show. I had no clue what I was doing and it showed. Fortunately I’m a big fan of the "slow and steady…" life motto and over time the business grew into what it is today.
What’s your favorite part of the process? Your least favorite?
My favorite part is the product development, designing, and the social media aspect of the business. Not too long ago it was putting on my apron and printing, but as we’ve grown I’ve slowly continued to take a step back from the production side of things. My least favorite part is anything that has me on a deadline. That sounds horrible but very true. My crew is fantastic at it, but personally I’m the wors. When I started the business I was drawn to being able to create anything at any time, and have it be a product almost immediately. In this industry especially, I’m having to design holiday cards several months out, create new releases for several trade shows a year, and so on. So yeah, I love designing, but designing on a schedule is not my thing.
What other makers inspire you most?
I’m inspired most by my local pals who run their own businesses, whatever they may be. I think it’s because I get to peek behind the curtain a bit and personally see how hard they work, how they react to failure, and what they’re hustling and aiming for. Folks like Commonwealth Press, strawberryluna,redraven studios, and so many more. The list of talented people in Pittsburgh is insanely long and it just makes you want to do better to earn and keep your place in the lineup.
Where do you see Sapling Press in 5 years?
No idea. Planning is also not my strong suit. I rarely look past what’s happening within the next 24 hours in both life and business, and that way of living always seems to pan out for me. Sapling Presshas grown in a way that I could have never planned in a million years, so I’m fine to continue to let it grow on its own in whatever direction it sees fit. In 5 years I see more of the same — a stationery company that continues to stay relevant, showcase clean design and clever copywriting, and gives folks a good laugh.
What makes having a small business in Pittsburgh so great?
The affordability and the local support. I don’t think I could have started my business anywhere else. When I left my design job in Baltimore and moved to Pittsburgh 10 years ago I never got another job.Sapling Press became my full time gig because my husband and I could afford to live off of one salary here. That’s almost unheard of in a lot of cities, and it played a big roll in allowing me to focus on the business. And Pittsburgh loves local. We’re fortunate to have a long list of clients that have been with us since day one, supporting what we do even when so many other business and online options have become available to them. I’ll never leave.