309: How Ashley Reynolds Created The Most Sought After Stationery Brand, Cloth & Paper

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309: How Ashley Reynolds Created The Most Sought After Stationery Brand, Cloth & Paper

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This week in the guest chair we have Ashley Reynolds, Founder of Cloth & Paper.

Established in 2015, Cloth & Paper was birthed from necessity! Ashley left her corporate finance job of 9 years and needed to devise a plan on what her next career move would be, while fulfilling her dream of being an entrepreneur. While on the hunt for a new planner, she noticed that there weren’t any on the market that quite fit her minimal aesthetic or needs. It was at that point her journey down the paper trail began.

She then spent endless hours and days designing planner inserts from scratch with no previous background or education in graphic design. Shortly after, a stationery business blossomed and the line grew to offer leather planners, luxury pens, and more quintessential styles. She ran C&P alone for the first year and a half, testing her true abilities as an entrepreneur. Today, she is still head designer, AKA mastermind, behind it all, growing Cloth & Paper into a brand with over 40 employees, 100K Instagram followers, and thousands of passionate customers.

 In this episode she shares:

  • What inspired her to start Cloth & Paper
  • How she created her first planner insert on Microsoft Word!
  • How her organic approach to marketing supported the growth of her business & so much more!

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Cloth and Paper- @Cloth_and_Paper

Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02

You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host, Nicaila Matthews Okome. So let's get started. So, guys, this year has been all about getting back into a rhythm to finding success on my own terms and making it happen, how and when I can. And I know I'm not the only one with this renewed sense of determination to go after it. Keep pushing, and give myself grace in the process. And today's sponsor, US Bank is here to help us meet our milestones and thrive while we're at it. This is the time to take the leap, start your side hustle, pick your side, hustle back up and start working towards success and making your dreams come true. US Bank is unique in its support of side hustlers, and business owners. The combination of their humaneness, helpfulness and friendly expertise makes them stand apart. They are in your corner to help you master your finances and take the leap towards thriving. Visit us bank.com For the tools you need to make your business boom. If you've got goals, hopes and dreams, visit us bank.com To make them happen. US Bank isn't equal opportunity lender and Member FDIC. Hey guys, hey welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Makayla here with another episode of side hustle Pro. Today in the guest here I have Ashley Reynolds, the founder of Cloth and Paper. Ashley has been a paper loving pen hoarding notebook collector for as long as she can remember. In fact, her collection had become so overwhelming that at one point her now husband Ryan requested that she sell some of her stash off before they moved in together when they were engaged. Little did he know that his life would be filled with pen, paper, gold foil and all things planner related. Seven years later, established in 2015 cloth and paper was birthed from necessity, Ashley left her corporate finance job of nine years and needed to devise a plan on what her next career move would be while fulfilling her dream of being an entrepreneur. While on the hunt for a new planner, she noticed that there weren't any on the market that quite fit her minimal aesthetic or needs. It was at that point that her journey down the paper trail began. She then spent endless hours and days designing planner inserts from scratch with no previous background or education in graphic design. Shortly after a stationery business blossom, and the line grew to offer leather planners, luxury pens, and more quintessential styles. She ran cloth and paper alone for the first year and a half, testing her true abilities as an entrepreneur. Today, she is still head designer, aka mastermind behind it all growing cloth and paper into a brand with over 40 employees over 100,000 Instagram followers and 1000s of passionate customers. Let's get right into it. So welcome. Welcome to the guest chair of side hustle Pro. Thank you. Thank you, I appreciate it. Yes, yes, I'm glad we're able to do this. Now I find your background. So interesting. You prior to launch in cloth and paper, you had a career in corporate finance, right? So what led you into corporate finance, and then what inspired you to leave corporate finance,

Ashley Reynolds 3:28

it was kind of well actually started off as my first like real big girl job. So I started at the company when I was 19 years old. And from that point on, I was just like, you know, can I kind of make this my home and kind of see how far I can really push myself in the company. So probably at least once a year, I got a promotion at that at that job. Because I was always like my manager, I was like, Okay, I see that a lot on your plate. What can I do for you? Like, isn't anything I can take off your plate? Yeah. So I was always really moving really fast in any department that I went to. So I mean, that's what kept me there is that I was always constantly getting new projects, promotions, they had great benefits, they have lots of good company culture. And so that kept me there. And then the thing that made me leave is my husband actually got a job opportunity that kind of forced us out of where we lived. And so it required me to relocate and that kind of

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:21

pushed me out. Okay, so when you got that job opportunity, what did you do next?

Ashley Reynolds 4:26

I was kind of stuck. To be honest, for a second. I was like, I cannot believe like everything that I've known is about to change, right? Because I had really hung my hat on a career there. And I really thought I was gonna be there forever and ever and ever. Like they I mean I had no reason to really leave they it was a fortune 500 company, great benefits like I had at that point I had build up to where I got like 240 hours a year of vacation. So there I mean, I had some flexible working then before even remote was a thing I had some remote work opportunities within that job. But it wasn't like they didn't allow me to do like full time remote. But I still have like a couple of days like where I could really flexing. Be outside. But so

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:11

when did planning come into play? Like when did you start to explore this love for stationery and planners,

Ashley Reynolds 5:19

when I did not have a job, nothing new after we made that move, and I had nothing, no job, I had to figure some things out. And I started, you know, really kind of figuring out what direction I wanted my life to go in. So that required me to start planning. And I'm kind of in the midst of that and trying to plan what my future would look like I couldn't actually find a planner that suited my needs. And so that's kind of when coffin paper started, like, Okay, I know the direction that I want my life to go. I know the end goal of like, this is what I want my lifestyle to be. And so I was trying to work backwards from that. And there was no planner that kind of fit my aesthetic and what I needed to really get to that end goal of where I wanted to

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:57

be, because what was the aesthetic on the market at the time? Like, was it floral? It was on unicorn. It wasn't this. You still see you still see some of that today, you know, especially targeted at women. And by the way, Ashley when she said this, like we are remember this podcast is on YouTube, too. So you know, this is good. I want everyone to remember like, and if you check it out on YouTube, you will see her beautiful home, which reflects like, well, not the whole home, but it reflects actually the offense offense, okay. Like I want I want the microphone, the white Yeti, she's recording. So let's talk about this aesthetic. So you don't have a background in graphic design. Right. So how did you start to create that first prototype?

Ashley Reynolds 6:46

Wow, the crazy part the gag is like I started designing in Word. Our first inserts were actually I did them in Word designer would crazy thing today, like, you know, I did not know Adobe was a thing. Like I didn't know illustrator was a thing. And I was literally trying to manipulate Microsoft Word to the best of my ability to make an insert. And so really like, we really kind of catapulted forward with those Microsoft Word inserts that I made, like it really like shifted the direction of the business.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:18

Now, what did you do with those inserts like you? What year was this? 2015 or 2014? This was 2015 2015. So who did you offer it to?

Ashley Reynolds 7:27

I made them for myself, okay. And then I started really just really using them and maximizing their use and showing online how they could be used. And then people started reaching out to me as like, Oh, what are you using? Where did you get those from? Can I have them? And so that's really I was like, oh, there's something here. And that's what I saw that other people need it the system that I was creating for myself.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:47

Gotcha, gotcha. So when you say online was that Instagram at the time, or Etsy where it was Instagram and Facebook at the time? Okay, so how long did it take you to go from that prototype, to actually creating the cloth and paper brand.

Ashley Reynolds 8:02

I feel like I I, early on, I feel like day one, I established the brand, okay, because it was so different than anything that was out there, I quickly was able to carve out my my niche because there was nothing, not anything that was exposed to me at that time. If there was something there, like, there, I didn't see anything else like that in the marketplace. So I feel like that's why there was such a big rush to kind of support what I was doing, because there was that gap in the market. Yeah. And that's why I kind of like to explain to other people, like, a lot of people like to use our business as the blueprint and try to duplicate and emulate and do similar things. But it's really when you're doing something that the market doesn't have. That's when you really find successes, because you got to find the gap. You can't, you shouldn't try to reinvent the wheel and do what people are already doing. You got to find the gaps in where what's missing.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:02

So I mean, were you thinking this would become your business or something that you would just kind of do on the side while you look for another corporate finance job.

Ashley Reynolds 9:12

I'm very business confident, very confident like it myself and I write always says, Hey, you never bet if if you know you're not going to win, right? And that's definitely something like I was going to work my hardest to make sure that I was going to be successful. And at that time, that was I was working probably 1819 hours a day like trying to make stuff happen. And so I was if it was within my grasp my control, I was not going to let it not be successful.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:41

And so I know that a lot of people who are creating planners kind of themselves, they start it at home, right? They start doing the printouts and everything themselves. Was that your experience were you literally creating everything you were shipping.

Ashley Reynolds 9:54

Absolutely I'm only on that because we weren't finding some success. And I had zero real steady income coming in, like I tried to hold on to as much of that margin as much as possible so that there was constant like, revenue building, and there were savings coming in and stuff like that. So I definitely found it beneficial to operate a very lean business. And that required me to be doing a lot of the things myself. So when I did have recruit Ryan, of course, that was free labor. We did operate a very lean business for the first three years, we did everything ourselves.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:32

And I understand you read it alone for the first year, right? Well, Alone.

Ashley Reynolds 10:37

Alone alone, yeah, well, I was doing all the designing. And I was doing all the marketing, I didn't even know that I was really marketing at the time, I was just showing what I love and what was working for me. Yes. And I feel like that authenticity is what resignated with the community that we've now built? Absolutely.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:51

So during the pandemic, I discovered that there was this whole world of planning, you know, I've always gotten planners here and there, but I wasn't committed to the process, right? I wasn't getting the inserts and the stickers, I was just getting whatever I got from the store, but but when I discovered this whole world of planning, and came across coffin paper, I would go to your page at the coffee paper brand page on Instagram. And everything you were doing was just talking your, you were just talking like, here's what's coming in, here's what I like. And it was just so it was almost like talking to a friend. So I really love that about your marketing, you know, but it's so organic to you. It's so natural to you. Did you start to do anything else on top of that, like ads or trade shows or anything else to build up their awareness of your brand?

Ashley Reynolds 11:40

Yeah, it's crazy that like everyone calls it like me talking to the customer marketing, because it really didn't feel like I felt like I was talking planner, girl to planner. Okay, right. Okay, like, I'm just talking with my homegirls. Like, we're all into this so hard in real life to find someone that's in the planning. Yeah. And I was just so pumped to be able to have the access to talk to people that so many people that were into the same thing I was into, so it didn't feel like marketing, but I can see why someone would say that that's marketing, but I was truly, you know, sharing with them things that I love. Yeah. We, I would say we we didn't actually do our first paid marketing, until year four, or five in business. So it was a long time. Everything was organic. All of our marketing was all organic until year four, year five. Okay. And even then I think the most of you would spend in the year is like $1,000, on on advertising. Now, it's kind of crazy. Now it's like, a couple of 1000 a month. Yeah,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:41

what shifted to cause you to start to invest more in paid advertising.

Ashley Reynolds 12:47

Um, I think it was just seeing though the reach that we could have, and that we weren't quite doing, like, there's people outside of the planter community now that gravitate towards our product. And we were able to kind of reach out to them with with paid ads.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:02

That's so interesting. And one of the things I want to spend a little bit of time on is this planter community. Because for those who don't know, who are not in it, can you describe a little bit about this, you know, this particular community and why it is so different than any other customer base?

Ashley Reynolds 13:21

It is? The community is very, it's a supporting community, you will see, nearly anyone that tries to do anything within the community is supported, if they're, you know, not a crazy person. You know, not talking right, right? Oh, crazy to people or anything like that. But it's a very supportive group of, of, I will say women, because it's predominantly women, I would say it's about from the data that I have, it's about 96%. But I will say, planner, people, in general are very welcoming people. And they really want to see a lot of people succeed. So if you, you know, put up a shop today, chances are, you're probably gonna have somebody that buys a sticker or insert from you within your first couple of weeks in business, because they really do want to support and explore and try different things. They are passionate, that's for sure. They know what they want. They know what they don't want, and they will let you know. And they're a very engaging community. I have talking to some people since like, day one that I still talk to on a regular basis on Instagram. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:29

that's so cool. And you know, it's interesting too, because what I learned about this community is that people often have more than one planners here. I was thinking I just need to get my planner for the year. That was what I've always done. And then as I was falling off and paper I started to realize people have planners for different things. Oh my How can you have different planners? How do you know what's going on? But it's a whole thing, which is more business for you. Yeah. So how do you plan for that like the different type of things that people need for their planners. See, I

Ashley Reynolds 15:04

resonate with that, because I'm that girl too. Like, I don't have just one planner, I like to, you know, dabble in different sizes and kind of restructure how I'm planning throughout my year, I'm always trying to figure out what is the most beneficial system for my life. And so I feel like sometimes that, you know, will cause you to go over here and make a personal planner, if you've been in the, you know, HP Mini for a little bit, I think it's just curiosity in general, and everyone wants to kind of maximize their planning and maximize their productivity. So they'll, they'll try, and they'll shift from time to time to try to figure out what they can do to really optimize that. So I mean, I don't you know, everyone can do their own thing. I do that I probably have three planners going on right now. But um, yeah.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 15:55

It's every everything physical product with cloth and paper, or did you start out with any digital,

Ashley Reynolds 16:01

everything was 100% like product to consumer, like tangible product. We are kind of dabbling. Now in some digital things, we've done some printables, and things like that. But we're figuring out the core customer of ours really just loves that tangible analog that comes with planning, you know,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:20

and I've heard you say that the worst advice you've ever gotten was to not create physical products in this digital world. Why did you defy that advice?

Ashley Reynolds 16:30

Because I'm hard headed. And I'm just that, that is just my nature. I'm a very much like, I'll, I'll show you that I can do it. Right? If someone's coming at me, and they're saying, You can't do this. I'm, like, I'm gonna show you. Yeah. And that's just part of my personality. And I'm glad in that situation that I was a little bit hard headed, because, of course, like I wouldn't have alongside my husband built the brand that we we have today, you know, and now we employ, you know, 40 plus people. And, you know, we have a 12,000 square foot warehouse, like, this wouldn't be a thing if I didn't, wow, you know, test that theory a little bit.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:04

So how did you once you stopped creating things yourself in Microsoft Word? How did you?

Ashley Reynolds 17:11

You were trying to carry me a little bit. By the way, you were using one she was using Word. If

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:21

you look at the products today, I need to know how that transition happened. How did you go about finding designers and manufacturers and you know, growing the business,

Ashley Reynolds 17:30

it just no longer was efficient. Because I wasn't as proficient with doing that, like someone that can that does graphic design for a living. So it was taken me a long time to do a lot of the things that I need done. And with growing, you need a certain pace to the work, you're you have certain deadlines and deliverables that you need to meet. And, you know, I quickly found out that I needed a real designer that knew how to navigate and design efficiently. And yeah, and definitely need to do that in order to grow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:00

And then how was the manufacturing process for you? Was that something that you found domestically? Or did you have to go looking over? Yeah, so

Ashley Reynolds 18:07

we actually in the beginning, it was all domestically when I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, I actually found someone local, that could print the inserts for so all of that was done there. And in the beginning, we actually did do a little bit of wholesaling with existing stationary retailers to help kind of grow our business. So, you know, we were wholesaling. And those were us distributors, we did kind of get some access to some UK distributors that really gave us a leg up and on our people that were selling retail products, but a lot of it was domestically. And it wasn't really until probably a year and a half in that we started to look for manufacturing overseas.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:45

And when you say wholesaler, do you mean that you were allowing other retailers or other planning companies to use your designs at scale? No, we were

Ashley Reynolds 18:54

actually sourcing products at wholesale from retailers that already exist. So we did our subscription box early on. And we were actually like kind of wholesaling those products from other retailers. And in today's time I would I it's not a lucrative way to do a subscription box. doing wholesale. So I would I would definitely wouldn't Yeah,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 19:15

so talk to us about this subscription box, because I actually thought that was something more recent. So when did that begin? It sounds like did you start and stop and then restart.

Ashley Reynolds 19:25

So we started a little bit early and early on actually in business was it within the first year. And it's because we actually had because we were wholesaling products, we had kind of like this surplus of products that we just could not get rid of. And I'm like, I just need to get these out of the living room and be able to walk around the living room. So we're like, oh, let's just put them together in a box and like sell them at this discounted price to kind of get rid of everything. And so it actually was developed out of need just to get rid of surplus products. And it kind of evolved from there. And once we found out that that's really not a profitable way To organize a subscription box, we quickly transitioned to doing it, you know, with our own product.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:05

Got it? Got it. Got it. So, you know, not only are you creating physical products, but now you're upping the ante, you are creating a whole box of products. Yes. Oh my gosh. And you know, what I love about you is you don't seem intimidated by any of these, these new ideas that you have. So when I think of subscription box, and when you know, some of the listeners, you might be thinking this too, like, it sounds expensive to ship to put all those things in a box and make sure nothing breaks or whatever. Because now I see I saw you do some champagne or wine glasses several months ago. So how do you manage those margins?

Ashley Reynolds 20:44

So yeah, as your listeners probably don't know, but we have a weekly launch of products called Happy Hour. And so it kind of fit into our marketing efforts of happy hour with having like a champagne situation, a box. But yeah, early, I've just very have had close relationship with business margin, okay. And I'm like, I am on it, like, I know, like, where we need to be like, as a business person, everything that you do should have a budget, right. And if you know, like, hey, at the end of this quarter, I want to have this amount of money, you got to figure out what I need to do to keep everything at a certain point. And so I was very good at that early on. Because because of my situation, I didn't want to go back to not having a job. And I wanted to make sure that I can continue to provide, you know, money to live off of

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:32

right. And speaking of money, so of course, a lot of new businesses lose money, or you know, breakeven in those first few years, what was your experience? I was I was holding

Ashley Reynolds 21:44

those numbers Tight, tight. Um, no, we were profitable our first month in business. And that was also because we were running such a lean business. It was it was me, me, me, me. And so I didn't really, I had groceries, a cell phone bill, at that time. And because I didn't have a job, I wasn't using my car to go and get gas and all that stuff. So my expenses were really low. And so every excess dollar of what I needed to pay for, you know, with bills was going right back into the business. So I wasn't like greedy and saying, Hey, like, oh, this business made X amount of money this month, I can take out 75% of that I was putting 75% of what I made right back into the business so I could continue to see it grow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 22:29

Got it. And were you limited by the fact that you are creating a product that had an existing pricing structure in certain levels, right there tiers to stationary? Did you feel hindered by that at all, at wanting to come in at a premium? Or how did you navigate that?

Ashley Reynolds 22:47

I knew my just my personal tastes and real life. Yeah, I'm very, I gravitate towards the shiniest. I just like if if there was a rack of shirts, my eyes naturally gonna gravitate to the one that cost has the biggest price tag, I just have my my eye and my taste for quality. I knew where I wanted the products to eventually be. And I had it to kind of start early on and getting people used to this new price tag in the community and show them why the price tag was warranted. So early on, I was using a lot of gold foil, I was using a lot of printing techniques that weren't really used in the planner community yet. So I was able to really showcase like, Okay, this is why my price point is this is because I'm actually using methods that haven't been used before. And so people quickly adapted I mean, once you kind of explained in your in their getting the product in their hand, and they can see why there's that price difference. I never really gotten much feedback on pricing or anything like that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:54

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So let's talk about the pandemic boom. So, all of a sudden, everyone's home, and you would think, you know, they don't have anywhere to go, there's nothing to plan. But we experienced the shopping boom, during the last two years. And all of a sudden people like me, who you know, weren't in the planning community, but like the plan are discovering your brand, or shopping more. How did you manage this influx of attention? Traffic, and customers?

Ashley Reynolds 25:56

That was intense, because especially in March of 2020, like when everyone just didn't know what this meant? And what was going on? My husband and I, we were like, okay, are people going to be able to work because you know, the emergency stay at home orders and all that we're like, what does this mean? Like, are people not gonna be able to come into work, Ryan and I, we literally went to Walmart and created like this emergency preparedness kit, like with tents, and like canned food, because we're like, what we're going to do is if nobody else can come to work, we're going to work all day, all night, and we're going to sleep in the office, and we're gonna get these oars out because the horse has started to come in. And like we're like, we were kind of shocked. But yeah, we were prepared. Like, if no one can work, we are going to work. And luckily, our team was very willing. And we had a very, very tight knit close knit team at home at that time, we're kind of all kind of stuffed into the smaller office, because we were we were forced to deal with each other on a daily basis, that everyone was just, you know, want to rock it out and make it happen. But we had to quickly pivot and hire very fast. We went from 11 employees to 40. That's in Jake, like, a little bit of time. And then we hired HR, like it was all these new processes and elements that we were adding to the business that we had never had before. And so it was it was a learning curve. For everyone

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:14

else. We have to talk about this because, you know, hiring you make it sound so easy. But I know that hiring is one of the most stressful and sometimes intimidating parts of business. So how did you go about that? How did you go about becoming good at hiring?

Ashley Reynolds 27:30

I hired an HR that was better at hiring and has an expertise. How

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:34

did you find that HR?

Ashley Reynolds 27:36

We actually, that was one of the first real positions that we like, one of the first like salaried positions that we hired for, we actually just posted a job on indeed and said, Hey, this is what we need. This is our budget, can you help us out? And luckily, we were able to find someone that was kind of just starting out trying to make a career out of HR, and was able to work within our budget. And then she kind of nurtured us and got us to the point that we are she kind of set things in place for our HR people today. Oh, that's awesome. And so did that person help you to determine what were the roles you needed in your business to make it flourish at this new level? I think it was a tag team effort. Both Ryan and I are always kind of analyzing what the business needs are what's going to take the business to the next level, we always say, hey, we want to make revenue generating positions, and we want to hire revenue generating people. So we always, you know, would have our own plan and strategy in our head. And we would always go to HR and say, Hey, what do you think of this? Is this necessary? And you know, she would kind of tell us, um, I don't think that's necessary at this time. But what we do need is this person over here. So it was it was all hands on deck. It was strategy, we leaned on HR a lot, because again, that was not our expertise. My specifically, my husband did come from a like a sales management background. So he did have a little bit more people management than I did. But yeah, it was attacked him.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:03

Yeah. And what about customer service? Do you find that because the planner community is so passionate that you really need to have a really beefed up customer service team? Or is it something that was always kind of manageable?

Ashley Reynolds 29:18

It became unmanageable real quick. Before before, when Ryan I first started, I started and I was handling customer service. And just with me creating the product products too. And packaging and products and shipping the products, I cannot not give customer service, the attention that I really needed. So Ryan started, the first thing he took on was customer service, and that it just becomes so overwhelming with all the needs and the questions and all of that. So that was another enroll that we hired for that was big for us and we have a fantastic customer service manager named Cheryl and a great customer service team and I feel like we're pretty well known for our customer service. So that's a it's a very, it's kind of like the heartbeat of of our operations here.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:04

Yeah. That's amazing. And now you have, you're generating so much buzz like I see, you've been featured in Forbes. You mentioned that you touched on this briefly. But I'd love to know, how do you deal with imitation? Especially by I want to say maybe big box brands, like how are you dealing in navigating that?

Ashley Reynolds 30:34

I, it used to bother me a whole lot, especially early on. Yeah. And you're doing everything yourself. And you're like, you know how hard I had to work for that product to come out? You know, and the blood, sweat and tears that went behind that. But now it doesn't bother me as much. I can see something, scroll past it and move on. I do know that. If I'm being looked at as this is the person to copy than I've won, right, then, then that's it. So I don't I don't really look at it anymore. I don't, it doesn't bother. Yeah.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:06

Because like, they're always gonna have to look to you first to figure out their next product.

Ashley Reynolds 31:12

You're always gonna be two steps behind. That's why we say that all the time. But it's always that's why it's always great to focus on where the gaps are. So don't try to keep up with me and say, Oh, what's cloth and paper doing? Like, you got to figure out okay, what can I do that coffin papers not serving? Yep. You know what I mean? And and come up that way. But you don't want to be always waiting for me to give you direction, right? I'm not your employer. Yeah, right. You're supposed to be your own employer and you're supposed to be driving things forward. You got to figure out what's going to be the thing. So at

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:47

this stage is coffin paper. Can it be purchased inside or online? anywhere besides cloth and paper cup?

Ashley Reynolds 31:54

There are some online retailers we have we do some wholesaling efforts. These are kind of some smaller boutique online shops. We're on we're in person and Downtown Disney and Anaheim, with post 21 is the first African American owned retailer and post 21 in Downtown Disney. So we're in smaller boutique operations hoping to make some big bucks insurances.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:21


So before we jump into the lightning round, I'd love to know, you know, what are you thinking of next for cloth and paper? You know, what exciting things are you workshopping right now that you can give us a sneak peek and share with us.

Ashley Reynolds 32:40

We are definitely trying to polish and make it a clean transition of being more lifestyle brand. That's really where we know that we can be we know that's where, you know, our revenue goals can take us. And so our goal is really to just be more of a name that is rolling off the tongues of everyone. That is definitely a big goal for me whether that be or it may not us being in retail or like a target or something like that, that gets us there. Maybe it's something that we just build on ourselves. And we amplify our own work through social media, because that's free.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:17

Right? Yeah, the

Ashley Reynolds 33:18

goal is definitely to become a more lifestyle to offer our customers more of the things that they need outside of planning.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:24

And at this stage, can you share a little bit more about some of the full offerings on coffin paper these days, so they're obviously planners, but there's so much beyond that?

Ashley Reynolds 33:34

Yeah, so we have, we have bound planners that are already ready to go that you order them, and you're ready to start planning. We also have our ala carte planning. So you pick your binder, you pick your inserts that you want, and you pick any other accessories that you want to kind of jazz it up. And then we also have three subscription boxes. So we have one that is designated to pin lovers called our inspiration box, we have one that is dedicated to our diehard planning community that is a planning and stationery box that is geared towards that ala carte customer that loves getting customized inserts specific to their planner size. And then we launched almost a year ago. And a steep box is called a seat by cloth and paper which is a lifestyle box curated for people that enjoy the finer things. So want to it and actually grew out of customers always asking me, what is that by seeing your background on your desk? What does that nail polish that you're wearing? Yeah, I say you know what I need? I should just get everything in one place so that I can share with them, the things that I'm loving and the things that I'm wearing and using. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:37

yes, yes. And I want to make sure people know that you didn't start off with all of this. And again, you keep a close eye on those margins. So what's your process for making sure you don't have too many skews, you don't have too much inventory you for analyzing what's working, what you can stop selling and so forth.

Ashley Reynolds 34:57

So we do have a procurement team that kind of keeps an eye on everything, we have an inventory team that let us know, hey, this isn't really working that well. So maybe don't do any more of these things. We do have a good team in place that kind of monitors those things and let us know what we should do more of what we should do less than what you know, to say.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:17

And how often do you assess that? Is that like a monthly thing, or, Oh,

Ashley Reynolds 35:20

it's like a weekly thing we were looking at, we're looking at things very, very often, especially as more so as you move into Black Friday, because you you want to be able to kind of generate revenue so that you can be preparing and buying products for Black Friday. So we look at those things very

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:36

often good to know. Alright, so now we're going to jump into the lightning round. You just answered the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready? I'm ready. Okay. Number one, what is the resource that you can share with a side hustle pro audience that has really helped you in building cloth and paper?

Ashley Reynolds 35:57

This sounds cheesy, but it really there's just so much free information out there like podcasts, like when I'm in the car, I'm not listening to music. Most of the time, I'm listening to podcasts because I just like to any idle time that I have, I like to be learning and seeing how I can be better business person. So podcasts, YouTube, you know, there's just a wealth of information that you can get for free. Yes, yes, yes, I've never paid for a six figure course. By the way. Everything I have learned has been through just trial and error myself, or those free those free resources out

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:31

there. And this WESA has a pro exists, you know, to share as much as we can. So number two, who is a non celebrity black woman entrepreneur that you would trade places with for day to get some intel.

Ashley Reynolds 36:43

I'm really admiring how the big businesses that these YouTubers are creating like they're creating like multi site multi multimillion dollar empires, just by them be themselves online, right? And so there's just there's this one girl that I really love. She kind of has a similar vibe very like kind of luxury, but also very down to earth. Her name is Alia, space. Follow her. Yep. Yep. I love her so much. I feel like I would love to have her as like, oh, I would love to have drinks with her. I would love to, you know, do something with her. I would love just to hang out with her. You know, one time Yes. Just to get some insight.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:21

Number three, what's a non negotiable part of your morning routine?

Ashley Reynolds 37:25

Silence quiet. I definitely have built in and have learned over the past year, year and a half that I need, like 20 minutes to myself, whether it's just to read a book, either to listen to some meditation, just just sit in silence, and just really set the tone for the day. I 100%. need that now.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:48

All right, number four, what is a personal habit that you think has significantly helped you in business?

Ashley Reynolds 37:55

As cheesy, but it's planning my day, right? So having a structure because being an entrepreneur, especially early on, yeah, you're in charge of your schedule. And if you have that kind of procrastination, personality, like things can kind of get away from you really quickly. So definitely, having a structure to my day is something that I need.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:17

Alrighty. And then finally, last question number five. What is your parting advice for fellow Black women entrepreneurs who wants to keep pursuing their passion project, their side hustle, but are worried about not having a steady corporate paycheck?

Ashley Reynolds 38:32

I feel like you should, if you're concerned, like I need the soft cushion to fall back on. Okay, maybe that's not the right time for you're not in the mental headspace to be an entrepreneur, because there's a lot of give and take and sacrifice of being an entrepreneur. I feel like if that's your concern, keep on doing your nine to five until you're in the mental headspace of like, I'm ready to give it up all and I'm ready to focus 100% of my time and energy on on my business. Yes,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:56

that's real. That is real. And I think you know, on that note, we're going to transition and end the episode. Ashley, thank you so much for being here. I you know, it's funny, because it seems like we didn't chat that long. But I feel like you've done so much. And so where can people connect with you and cloth and paper after this episode

Ashley Reynolds 39:17

on Instagram at cloth underscore and underscore paper and that's a indie spelled out. You can shop our products online at www dot cloth and paper.com. And yeah, we're all over the place, Facebook cloth and paper CO and YouTube.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:33

And we'll link to all of that you guys. And with that, there you have it. I'll talk to you next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter. At side hustle pro.co/newsletter When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up, talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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