It’s pretty obvious that we’re big fans of snail mail around here and we’ve found a cohort in crime. Brannon Addison, the designer behind stationery company, Happy Cactus Designs, included a cheery card from her Everyday collection in our July box and we’ve loved seeing subscribers use their cards to uplift loved ones. Brannon shares her story and inspiration behind her designs today. Love her inspiring words for small businesswomen out there!
Tell us a little about you and how/why you started Happy Cactus Designs.
Since I was young, I always found myself doodling and drawing as a creative pastime. I remember drawing greeting cards for my grandmother to give her during our weekly family lunches. While pursuing a career in education and nonprofit communications, I found myself relieving stress at night by drawing as a creative outlet. Friends and family kept encouraging me to offer my card designs for sale. Around the same time, I was able to connect with some strong mentors that helped me develop my business and first collection of cards and Happy Cactus was formally launched in 2011.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
All of my designs are hand-illustrated, either with pen or paint. I’m heavily influenced by the outdoors, especially flora and fauna, and by my travels. I’d describe my style of work as colorful, bold, and cheerful with a bit of whimsy and sweetness.
You made a big transition -- NYC to Austin to Durango. Tell us what you've loved about each location you've lived in.
Each place has had so much to offer! I’ve been fortunate to experience a variety of different atmospheres. With New York City, I loved being able to walk out of my door and visit the latest museum exhibit, try out a new restaurant or just hang out and people watch in a park. I grew up in Texas and loved my years in Austin. It’s a changing and growing city, but also has an awesome, laid-back vibe and remains a place where many of my closest friends reside. Living amongst the mountains in Durango is pretty magical and the transition to small town living has been easier than I expected. I love being able to walk outside my door and be on a hiking trail within a matter of minutes!
What inspired your move to Durango? What keeps inspiring your designs now that you are there?
My husband and I have always loved Colorado and we took advantage of the opportunity to move to Durango this past spring. It’s a gorgeous town nestled near the most spectacular mountain ranges. I’m outdoors daily, hiking or running, and find that I’m so observant of my new surroundings. The wildflowers are blooming right now and I’m taking in everything I see and transferring those images and ideas to my sketchbook.
I love that your cards are printed and produced in the USA. Why was that a priority?
As a small business owner myself, I really appreciate being able to support other small businesses here in the USA. I’ve spent time carefully sourcing each component from vendors here - from the card itself to the envelope to the clear sleeve it’s protected in. I like being able to develop personal relationships with my vendors who are just a phone call or visit away.
What have been some of the reasons you've been successful? Any big/small breaks?
I attribute my achievements so far to grit and determination! Running a business is incredibly hard work, but you get out what you put into it. And I love what I do - the ability to dream up and create products that end up in the hands of customers is an awesome privilege. Exhibiting at the largest industry trade show during my first few years in business helped elevate Happy Cactus to the next level because I was able to partner with retailers across the country. I’m so grateful for the relationships I am able to build with both retailers and customers.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start a small business?
Trust your gut and be willing to put yourself and your work out there. You can only gauge reactions and reception to your work by being open and willing to share what you’ve been working on. Seek out other small business owners who can be your support network. I don’t know what I would do without the other business ladies who are in my life that I can always turn to for advice. I have found that my colleagues in the stationery industry are particularly supportive of one another - we act as each other’s cheerleaders rather than competitors.
What do you want customers to come away feeling after visiting your shop?
I want my customers to feel happy and uplifted by my work. I love the idea that my customers will send the cards they purchase to friends or family who will hopefully find delight in receiving a good old fashioned letter in the mail.