DIY is not for everyone. Not everyone is crafty or has time to make all the cute ideas on Pinterest. That’s where Sarah Jelgerhuis comes in. In 2011, Sarah started her tissue pom business Paperwhite Designs when she realized there was a demand not being met.
Sarah explains, “Out of college I dabbled in the world of event planning, but eventually got tired of the long hours, so I quit and found myself doing sales for a special event rental company. Part of my job was to keep the showroom up to date with the latest trends. Pom poms were big that year (thanks to Martha Stewart) so I decided to make a few to put over one of the tables. I would have brides asking me all the time if they could rent them, buy them or learn how to make them.” For a few weeks Sarah was holding pom-making sessions with bride after bride, sharing her secrets for the perfect pom.
Launching an Online Tissue Paper Business
She quickly recognized a business opportunity and decided to put her tissue poms on a new website called Etsy. “I had a sale my very first day,” she says. Orders continued to roll in, and when she moved from Chattanooga to St. Louis so her husband could start graduate school, Sarah decided to take a leap of faith and make Paperwhite her focus. “Within 4 months I was able to quit my day job and devote all of my time to creating tissue lovelies in my basement workshop.”
Initially she purchased tissue paper from a craft hobby store and began making pom moms at her kitchen table, but with many more orders came the need to purchase wholesale tissue paper. “I found Nashville Wraps after a Google search for ‘tissue paper suppliers‘. I had reached the point where I needed to start buying in bulk, and Nashville Wraps made that simple with their different quantity options.”
Tissue Paper Supplier of Choice – Nashville Wraps
“I remember ordering small amounts from several suppliers and what ultimately won me over with Nashville Wraps is they were the only company to say yes to my request for samples of each color so I could order with confidence. Their quick deliveries and customer service are still what keeps me coming back!” Nashville Wraps sells 100% recycled tissue paper in solid colors and printed designs – all made in the USA.
“I have also loved their continually expanding color palette. When you work with the same colors over and over as often as I do, it puts a real pep in your step to see something new come onto the scene!” The bread and butter of her business is still pom poms and pom vines, but she also sells raindrop garlands, tissue fringe, paper confetti and paper sprinkles. Poms are boxed up and shipped flat all ready for blooming, as Sarah calls it, by the end user. See her how-to video below.
The Melanie collection is her most popular because it’s full of scrumptious blush and gold tones with a vintage tinge. Her creations are most commonly used at baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, and as baby/kid room décor. “One of my favorite things I’ve seen done over and over is the host of the baby shower will order the pom poms for the shower, but then gift them to the mom-to-be for later décor in the babies’ room.”
It’s More Than Paper – It’s Celebration & Connection
Sarah handles everything, from the production of the pom poms, ordering, inventory, social media marketing and email correspondence to the printing of the shipping labels and daily post office runs. “It often feels like a circus around here, and the floors of my workshop look like Time Square after midnight on New Years Eve, but that’s what makes my job the best. I’m surrounded by color and creativity, and there is always something new going on.”
Many of Sarah’s customers appreciate the creative, handmade look, but don’t want to think through all the details of planning a party to make sure everything is color coordinated. Ordering Sarah’s products take something off their plate. She explains, “My ultimate desire is that my products aid in the creating of space for celebration and connection.”
The majority of her sales comes from Etsy, which now has over 50 million registered users. In the beginning she would have to explain to customers what Etsy was exactly. These days it’s rare to meet anyone who hasn’t heard of it. “Just the other day, we had a repair man come out to the house who was in his 70’s. After going into our garage which is our Paperwhite workshop, he asked me what was going on in there and I told him I have an Etsy business. He said, ‘My wife LOVES Etsy’.”
Simple Products = Beautiful Results
To aspiring creative entrepreneurs, Sarah says, “Just start somewhere. Sometimes the biggest hurdle to overcome is your perfectionist tendencies and it can be paralyzing. I remember when I started (and even still now) I wanted everything to look just right before I debuted it to people. Had I waited I would have NEVER gotten my shop up and running. It’s constantly a work in progress…and that’s the fun part!”
With trends in party and wedding decor always changing, Sarah says it’s always a challenge to stay relevant. “I know that tissue pom poms won’t always be popular. But that’s part of what I love about what I do. I’m always playing with something new. I like to challenge myself to think, ‘What else could I make out of tissue paper?’ I’ve always strived for simplicity of material. It’s how I’m able to keep my overhead low. I don’t have lots of different products made from lots of different materials; I have lots of different products made from about 3 materials.
“I’m constantly inspired by the creativity I see from so many of my clients in the ways they implement my products into their parties and celebrations. I’m so thankful for all my wonderful customers for enabling me to support my husband through graduate school, all while doing something I love!”
You can purchase Sarah’s products at Paperwhite Designs or visit her Etsy store.