Here, the CEO and founder of the elevated stationery brand shares how her business sources locally to limit waste and partners with social causes close to the company's core to help support communities worldwide.
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portrait suann song at desk
Credit: Courtesy of Appointed

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

If you yearn for paper and notebooks with just the right quality and design, you're not alone. Suann Song, the CEO and founder of Appointed, an AAPI-owned, American-made paper products brand, had the same feeling before establishing her own stationery company. She wasn't always in the paper business, however: She started out as a marketing and public relations professional before her first son was born in 2006. While Song always had a general understanding of the stationery art form, she wanted to learn more. After welcoming her little one, she decided to take a letterpress printing class on a whim. "Within the first 30 minutes of the two-day class, I knew I wanted pursue letterpress printing in some form, whether as a hobby or a business," she recalls. "Over the next several years, I honed my printing and design skills, beginning with letterpress wedding invitations, and eventually made my way into branding and collateral for small businesses."

During her decade in the design space, she realized her love for print (think packaging, paper products, and printing methods), and made it her mission to create her own signature, elevated, eco-friendly line of paper products that give back to social causes along the way.

appointed notebook details
Credit: Courtesy of Appointed

Securing the Funding

After seeing a need in the market for well-designed, functional, American-made paper products, she designed, planned, and prototyped for months leading up to Appointed's debut on March 1, 2015. "I launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise seed capital for the first production run of our flagship product—The Notebook ($24, appointed.co)," Song says. This decision came after she weighed the pros and cons of different types of funding (personal investment, taking out a loan, and raising capital) and calculated how much she would need to start the company and begin production on her brand's first product line. "I chose Kickstarter because it was not only the lowest risk, but it would also help validate my concept—if the Kickstarter didn't succeed, it would have been a sign that I needed to rework my concept presentation," adds the entrepreneur. She had a goal to raise $25,000 in 30 days—and ended up meeting it within the first seven days. By the end of the campaign, she secured over $50,000.

appointed notebook bts details
Credit: Courtesy of Appointed

Keeping the Environment in Mind

While developing her own paper products line, Song observed the large amounts of waste created by the paper industry. It was a trend she wanted to break. "Our aim is simple: to create products our customers will use well and hold on to, while prioritizing sustainability in every aspect of our production—from raw materials to packaging," Song shares. "We also partner with vendors and suppliers who share these values, source locally to lessen our carbon footprint, and choose 100-percent curbside-recyclable packaging." Through her work with local manufacturers, she is able to keep her production entirely in the United States, which she hopes will inspire others in the paper products category. "Importantly, we are able to support local and U.S. suppliers and manufacturers while also reducing our carbon footprint, as well as oversee quality control from beginning to end," Song says.

appointed notebook natural linen color
Credit: Courtesy of Appointed

Giving Back to the Community

At the root of Song's Appointed business is service; she makes it a point to support social causes that the company's team members and customers value, feel passionate about, and impact them personally. "In 2016, we decided to launch the Appointed Gives Back Program with our very first D.C. Workbook ($24, appointed.co)," she shares. "Since then, this program has expanded year after year to include limited-edition notebooks, workbooks, journals, and notepads—each benefiting a unique organization striving to make a difference in our own backyards." By manufacturing their own products, the founder notes that she and her team are able to respond quickly in times of need. Purchases from the Appointed "District" Notepad ($18, appointed.co) go towards Kids Connection Haiti, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that supports orphaned young adults to build a brighter future for Haiti through education, community service, and career development. The Appointed Journal for Change ($22, appointed.co) supports three organizations that fight for equity and racial justice: BEAM, The Loveland Foundation, and The Conscious Kid. The Appointed Notepad for Peace ($18, appointed.co) helps World Central Kitchen provide meals to Ukrainian families in need.  

Taking Note

Throughout Song's growth as a business owner, she always tries to remember "the why"—which is a piece of advice other entrepreneurs can relate to, as well. "I regularly remind myself of why I started and what I set out to achieve," the CEO says. "This helps me reset in times of challenge or uncertainty, imagine new product design and development, determine the direction of the brand, and more." Moving forward, Song has several methods in place to continue blazing a trail as a leader in the paper goods category. First and foremost, she communicates with her team to make sure they are all on the same page when it comes to the company's vision. From there, she is working to expand the paper goods and tools that will contribute to her customers' work. "We believe the tools you surround yourself have a direct impact on creativity, productivity, and organization—including the everyday items in your work environment," Song shares. "This year, we are so excited to expand our product collection to include tools for the workspace, including a brass ruler, document folios, and more—[all of which are] American-made."

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