Traci Bixby founder of Mossy Blue Paper Studio. (Credit: Courtesy of Mossy Blue Paper Studio)

Traci Bixby finds inspiration for her art in the nature she grew up around. The Kenmore, Washington artist and entrepreneur incorporates the beauty of the Pacific Northwest – the “mossy trees and sailing blue seas,” as she puts it – into each of the greeting cards, stickers and prints sold through her company, Mossy Blue Paper Studio. She launched in 2021, but admits to sales-related struggles during the first two years of business. She is finding support in online groups for creative entrepreneurs while increasing brand awareness by attending trade shows and adopting new SEO practices. 

Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.

Tell us more about why you started your business.

Painting is my joy and my life. I wanted to share my creations in a meaningful way, where people can pass them on and make each other feel good. We share so many special moments with our loved ones, and to be a part of those moments through greeting cards and gifts featuring my art means so much to me. 

How is your business different from others in your industry? 

My use of color and my artistic style. I’m so proud of the fact that every single greeting card or sticker I create starts with my watercolor paintings, drawings and hand lettering. Each of my designs is truly a little piece of me and my heart.

Tell us about your biggest success so far. 

I’d been trying to license some art to one big company in particular for years! When I went to my first in-person stationery trade show in San Francisco, said company came into my booth – and immediately licensed three images on the spot! I freaked out and did a little dance when they left. It was a huge day!

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

Sales. I’ve been working really hard to learn more about how to drive folks to my website, while also making sure that I have a beautiful and easy site to navigate. I’m focused on the retail side with my own site as well as wholesale relationships in other places. For the wholesale piece, I’ve signed up for two new trade shows this winter. In-person shows are the best way to get to meet shop owners and talk to them about my work. 

Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?

Severe health issues have impacted my business and my life for many years, but I’ve learned how to advocate for myself with doctors. I’m so lucky to be able to keep my conditions under control and still live a very full life. I have ups and downs, but I have powered on and pushed through.  

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs? 

You cannot and should not attempt to be a solo entrepreneur without community support. There are so many art and business groups for women – generous souls out in the world who are sharing resources and helping each other grow. I’m a part of three major art groups and I never would have been able to get where I am without them. Through these groups, I’ve learned about everything – product sourcing, making a business plan, filing my company’s taxes, implementing customer management tools, website design and so on.

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

My two lovely daughters, my husband, my mom, my dad – and of course my dog! They are always here for me and help me every time I’m low, or feeling like I’m not good enough. It’s hard comparing your journey to others but leaning on my family and getting their reassurance that I’m right where I should be has been an amazing blessing.

What is your go to song to get motivated on tough days? 

Lizzo’s, “Like a Girl!”

Who is your most important role model?

I look up to so many women artists who are making a “go” of it on their own and finding success. One in particular would be Lisa Congdon. She is so extremely generous with her time, which she often uses to teach other artists.  She stands up for what she believes in and really puts herself out into the world. ◼

Instagram: @tracibixby
Facebook: @mossybluepaperstudio
Pinterest: @tracibixby

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