Parcels of Inspiration: Art Project Turned Small Business
Thanks to Miranda Smith, you can receive a beautiful package in the mail with inspiring mementos and unique pieces of art. She began The Love Parcel as an art project with the intention of connecting with strangers around the world, but due to its popularity, it has now become a small business. Miranda shares her insights on creative endeavors and running her small business while staying true to her original ideas.
Name: Miranda Smith
City: Severn, Maryland
Store Owner Since: 2012
Opened on Storenvy: 2012
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Teleportation. Nearly everything about having to drive a car is incredibly frustrating.
Storenvy: The Love Parcel is a good reminder of connections and thoughtfulness. What is the most thoughtful experience you have had as a business owner?
Miranda Smith: To be completely honest, every single moment of running The Love Parcel is the most thoughtful experience that I could ever dream of. When I first began the project, becoming a business owner was the furthest thing from my mind. My one true goal was to create an art project that would allow me to interact, in some sort of hands on way, with strangers all over the world. However, one of the first things you learn when trying to do anything in life is this:
Living is e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e.
I introduced The Love Parcel shop on Storenvy as a way to keep the project running financially, but I really didn’t want to stray away from my original intentions. Therefore, even to this very day, you can pretty much own everything I make for “free,” just by trading your own art for mine. I didn’t expect any success with this business model, because in my mind I thought, why would anyone pay for something when they could have it for free? Much to my surprise, there are plenty of people who are willing to purchase something from my shop because they know that the proceeds are going towards a bigger picture. It’s keeping my vision alive. I can’t think of anything more beautiful or more thoughtful than that.
What is the most challenging aspect of running your own business?
I can only compare it to the difference between high school and college. When you’re in highschool, you live at home with your parents and there are rules that force you to go to class or you won’t graduate. When you get to college, you experience your first sweet taste of freedom. There’s no one to tell you what to do, you haven’t seen your parents in months, and the school really doesn’t care if you go to class or not.
When you run your own business, you don’t have a boss or a company manual to follow. You make the rules. That being said, it can be really hard to feel motivated sometimes. Maybe you have a huge stack of canvas that needs to be painted but you feel a little tired. There’s no one monitoring you and forcing you to complete your tasks. Personally, I also have a “bill-paying job.” More often than not, I spend the entire day working, just to come home and work some more. It can be tough!
What do you think has been the most interesting experience you have had through The Love Parcel?
I’ve been really surprised to see how much people can open up to a complete stranger. I’ve received so many letters and notes from people who share their growing pains. A lot of these people say that they don’t require a response. We all have scars. I think sometimes we just want someone else to see them. The ability to share a piece of yourself with another person like that is extraordinary.
What lessons have you learned being an independent store owner?
There was a period of time where every single thing I produced was either for the shop or to be sent out to a stranger for the project side of The Love Parcel. By the end of a few months, I was incredibly burnt out and ended up taking a hiatus for a few months. There’s a delicate balance when you’re turning something you love doing hobby-wise, into a profession. You don’t want your passion to feel too much like work. I felt like I was losing myself and drowning in this black sea of deadlines and expectations.
After much thought, I decided to dedicate one or two nights a week to myself. I spend this time working strictly on projects that have nothing to do with anything I make for The Love Parcel, as well as making art in a personal journal. This is really important. Having this time for myself actually helps spark new ideas and inspirations without forcing it. Make sure to dedicate time for yourself in your art.
What advice would you offer other store owners with creative ideas? How can they measure their success?
Never underestimate the kindness of strangers. If you have a story to tell, someone, somewhere is always willing to listen. We live in a big beautiful world filled with so many different people with so many varieties of interests. There IS a market, somewhere, for whatever it is that you want to do. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to other artists or ask for advice. It’s a cliché, but we all had to start from somewhere.
Personally, I set the bar really low for what I define as a “success.” I like to take it in steps so that I don’t ever feel discouraged. Creating a website for a project was a “success.” (Even if nobody else but me knew about it.) Talking to a stranger for the first time about my ideas was a “success.” (Even if they didn’t think I was serious.) Making a store on Storenvy was a “success.” (Even if I hadn’t sold anything… yet!) Selling my first item was a “success.” (Even if I only made $5.)
If you’re living your life doing things that make you feel happy, you are by every definition of the word: Successful.
What is the best love parcel you ever received? What made it so special?
I get asked this question a lot and every time, I try to pick one but I… can’t. I’m really not just saying that either, I swear!
A few months after I started the project, I began to receive quite a few parcels from various people who would just send me crafting supplies and a note saying that they just wanted to help out and they didn’t need anything in return from me. It actually still happens every so often! Is that not one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever heard? There’s nothing more magical than humans helping humans. I also really appreciate it when artists send original work. I know how much effort goes into original pieces and it’s very dear and special to me.
Read more about The Love Parcel and shop the store here.