Happiness and endings in fairy tales usually only happen in novels, but sometimes they also happen in real life. Emily Cromwell knows this because she lived her dream as a small business owner and artist, finding her niche in whimsical and colorful book-related products.
Nearly 200 bookmarks and countless other products later, her Sutton-based company, Emily Cromwell Designs, was born out of her shared love of art and reading. Its bright and bold colors; scroll patterns and lettering; and cartoons and sayings related to the world of books – like overflowing TBR (“to read”) carts and shelves and charming bookstores – captured the attention not only of local readers, but of the whole country and even d ‘overseas.
“My inspiration is my daily life in the book world,” Cromwell said. “I love creating book designs that relate so bookworms can look at them and say, ‘That’s so me. “”
When she was younger, one of Cromwell’s favorite play activities was using her toy cash register and pretending she had a business, and she always enjoyed drawing and reading. In high school, on her free time, she read books about starting a business, and on weekends she took business classes at the Worcester Public Library and online. What she described as her “atypical” high school life paid off, as after graduating she got her first business license in 2011.
Over the years, her business changed direction and name – her first business name was Creations by Emily – but her determination remained the same. “I’ve always had this entrepreneurial spirit,” she says.
While a student at Framingham State University, Cromwell worked part-time in her business, putting on exhibits at art markets and craft shows, selling handmade jewelry and bookmarks. hand and even dog treats. In 2017, a year after graduating from college, she started focusing on party supplies, such as cupcake toppers and personalized party favors. It wasn’t until 2019 that Cromwell came up with an idea that would change his business for the foreseeable future. After she finished reading the “Fallen Crest” book series, she wanted to connect with other people who loved her as much as she did. She found this on Instagram, as well as an entire “bookstagram” community of people posting reviews, photos, and suggestions.
“I had an idea: why not just combine my love for reading and my love for art with my business? Once I found the book world, it really clicked. It’s skyrocketing, and that’s the best thing ever,” Cromwell said.
Her first product was a sticker, and after printing a sample she designed five more, followed by her traditional bookmarks and then her magnetic bookmarks. She began promoting the products on her bookstagram account on Instagram, eventually creating a separate business account as her followers and ideas grew.
Since then, Cromwell’s product list has grown to include not just bookmarks — magnetic ones are her bestsellers, she said — but also mugs, keychains, coloring books, blankets, t-shirts, planners and notepads, book sleeves and other reading materials. Related articles. Her inspiration comes from bright colors, flowers, friends and people from the world of books, and her own reading habits. Once, she was awake several nights until 2 or 3 a.m. reading a book she loved, and it inspired her to create her “Late Night Dreamer” collection.
Cromwell also likes to hear suggestions from his clients. Recently on her Instagram and Facebook pages, where she personally responds to comments and questions and often shares stories from her personal life or glimpses into her daily work routine, she asked what products and designs they would like to see for Halloween, her favorite season. .
“I always want to make sure my clients are happy and get what they want,” she said.
Once Cromwell has a design idea, she decides what kind of product it will be, then draws a rough outline on paper, though she does the majority of the work on her iPad using a drawing pencil, working in layers and adding the bright colors. . If it’s something she’s created before, like a bookmark, it’s easier, but if it’s a newer item, like paint-by-number kits and the puzzle she recently created, “there’s a huge amount of trial and error that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t see,” she said. “It’s a long process of making a new product, especially when you’ve never done it before.”
Cromwell must also work against the schedule. Right now, for example, she is thinking about ideas for Halloween and Christmas, as her products are also tied to seasons and holidays. When winter comes, she works on spring and summer models. And, she said, it can often take a long time to complete a finished project — her coloring book “My Weekend Is All Booked,” which is one of her bestsellers in its own storefront in online, its retail stores and its wholesale. orders, took over six months to create.
But, Cromwell said: “It’s always exciting. I’ve been doing this for a long time and that excitement never goes away. Even the week before a launch, I’m all excited and giddy. I love the buildup.
Although most of its products are outsourced in order to meet demand – with the exception of magnetic bookmarks, art prints and planner sticker sheets, which it produces in-house – Cromwell is a one-woman show when it comes to everything else about her business. From checking product samples to calculating how much to order, taking and editing photos of her merchandise, adding everything to her shop, packing all orders, and signing her name on the thank you cards that she joins, and by maintaining her social media accounts, she is constantly busy. Photo shoots alone require at least a day, with her taking over the kitchen table or living room floor with all the new products ready to launch.
“Even through this, I still love him more than anything. All that hard work is very rewarding when the launch is live. It’s a nice and rewarding feeling,” said Cromwell, adding that her mother, Kristi, is always very excited when a launch goes well or when a new order pops up on the live stream.
His mother sews the book sleeves printed with Cromwell’s drawings; the product is so popular that it often sells out quickly after being added to their website. Cromwell said she enjoyed working with her mother on the project, adding, “She has always been my biggest supporter from day one and my best friend throughout the process.”
In addition to its own storefront, Cromwell sells its products wholesale to more than 200 bookstores and stationers in the United States and United Kingdom. She has personally shipped to all 50 states, as well as New Zealand and Australia. And, two of his products are available under art license, a notebook at Barnes & Noble stores and a doormat at Home Depot.
“It was incredibly surreal,” Cromwell said. “It’s something almost every artist dreams of: going into a store and seeing your product in a store you shopped at.”
She added, “My ultimate dream goal is to have a flagship storefront. I would like it to be part of my products and independent books, to give them space to have in a store. Hopefully that will happen one day. »
Other future goals are to launch a quarterly subscription box, based on the success of its hugely popular monthly bookmark and sticker clubs, and it will also launch a weekly planning journal, shelf puzzle autumn and her very first set of pajamas. for readers.
“My biggest piece of advice would be to not give up,” Cromwell said. “Keep taking it one step at a time. You’ll always feel like you’re climbing a hill. If you keep showing up every day, if you keep making products that awaken your soul, people are going to see it. If you allow yourself to be drawn to what appeals to you in your niche, that’s the key to success.
“There is only one you, and there is only one you who can create what you create,” Cromwell added. “The world needs what you have to offer. Don’t be afraid to share what you have to offer. People like to buy from people who like what they do.