UC Davis – Textiles and Clothing, Marketing Emphasis
What started with a love of creating and a love of stationary evolved into a full-time job when Elizabeth Johnson left the corporate world after her first baby was born. Nearly five years later, Elizabeth now infuses her love of color, pattern and monogram into the designs of her luxury lifestyle brand, Pretty Smitten— from stationary to Lucite trays, coasters and custom iPhone cases. Her line features items all designed and crafted by her. In fact, every single item a customer buys passes through her hands first.
As talented as she is, she admits that balancing a job and three babies under five requires more than a little juggling. “I wear a lot of hats,” Elizabeth says of the act. And she advises others, “Make sure there’s some sort of hat rack to keep it all together. Everything runs much more smoothly!” We think it’s only a matter of time before she’s designing her own.
Don’t wait and save your ‘special occasion’ items. Set out your nice plates, drink champagne from your wedding glasses and wear your fancy lingerie. Today is special!
How did you discover your current job?
I always knew I wanted to do something creative and I knew that my “something” would be in stationery. I designed all of my own wedding stationery and social stationery for friends in the past—I was hooked. So, when I left the corporate world after the birth of my first child, I knew it was my chance to start something of my own. I literally sat down one day and wrote out a bunch of words on paper. “Pretty” and “Smitten” popped out at me and so, Pretty Smitten was born.
What responsibilities do you have in your role?
Pretty much everything! I have some help packing orders and I work with a fantastic publicist, but other than that, it’s all on me. I do all of the design work, order fulfillment, client communication and handle all of the business aspects of Pretty Smitten. You could say I wear a lot of hats!
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
Pretty Smitten is truly an extension of me. Designing and running my shop is integrated into every aspect of my life. I love it and can’t imagine my life without it!
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Most often, they’re new design ideas. I’ll dream them up and want to get them out before I forget! I have a notepad in my dresser drawer for these types of occasions. But generally, I sleep great—another happy side effect of three little ones under the age of 5 and my own business. I pretty much just pass out at the end of the day. It’s a happy pass out, though!
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I do my very best to separate my family time and work time. I have childcare two days a week, so these days are really focused on Pretty Smitten. Let’s just say I pack a lot in on those days! When I’m with my kids, I want them to feel like I’m present and not checking email constantly. It sounds cliché, but they really do grow up too fast and I don’t want to miss any of it. That being said, I do handle aspects of Pretty Smitten on a daily basis. There are always emails to answer and orders to fulfill. I try to do this during any downtime I find during the day and most often into the evenings. Luckily, it’s on the couch next to my husband. My biggest challenge is to not stay up too late doing it!
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
I think there have been many of these moments. I remember when I made my very first sale on Etsy and thought, “Wow, someone actually wants to buy my stuff!” I was so excited. And then hitting 100 sales was fun. And now at 2,000+ sales, the shop is going strong. It’s evolved and changed and I’m constantly setting new goals. I’m not sure I’ll ever think, “I’ve made it,” because there’s always something ahead. But that’s what makes it interesting, right?
What are some of the rules you live by?
No one is in charge of your own happiness but you.
It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
And don’t wait and save your “special occasion” items. Set out your nice plates, drink champagne from your wedding glasses and wear your fancy lingerie. Today is special!
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Perseverance: If it’s something you love, then you just have to believe in what you’re doing and keep going, no matter what.
Organization skills: Like I said, I wear a lot of hats. So make sure there’s some sort of hat rack to keep it all together. Everything runs much more smoothly!
A sense of humor: Being able to laugh at things keeps the stress level down!
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Live in the moment. I was always wondering what was ahead—career, marriage, babies. But really, I was 21 and had plenty of time! It all works out in the end. It really is better to just believe that and live in the moment.
What’s your current hope or dream for Pretty Smitten?
In the next year, one of my biggest hopes for Pretty Smitten is to open my own e-commerce site. My website just relaunched and I love the new design. Adding in the shop portion would be the cherry on top!
I'm also hoping to start blogging on a regular basis again. It's such a fun outlet to showcase what I'm “smitten” with ... interior design, fashion and food. And I'd love to share glimpses into Pretty Smitten and running my own business. I always enjoy reading the blogs of women-owned businesses; seeing how they manage it all, what their offices look like and learning about their creative process.