This past week I got the opportunity to interview one of my favorite designers, Amy of Hunt Seat Paper Co. Hunt Seat Paper Co offers a variety of products from art prints to cards to wrapping paper to pins.
Photo by Kristin Lee Photography, LLC
Why did you start Hunt Seat Paper Co?
I’ve always been a creative mind and ALWAYS been a crazy horse girl. Hunt Seat Paper Co. was a natural marriage of my talent as a designer and my love for horses. It kind of started on accident. I would make fun little horse designs in my free time and had a folder of them saved on my desktop. I made them just for personal pleasure for about two years before my mom nonchalantly said, “You should put those on greeting cards.” My head basically exploded, and Hunt Seat Paper Co. was born!
What inspired your latest designs?
My horse, California Pie! I’m at the barn for about three hours a day, 7-days a week…but spend the other 21 hours daydreaming about horses. It’s kind of like those license plate frames that say “I’d rather be _____.” I sit at my desk and daydream about being at a horse show, goofing off at the barn…anything horses! Those things I would rather be doing, are usually what inspire my work.
What is your design process through production like?
The design process totally varies. Sometimes I make something in one night, love it, and send it to print the next day…and sometimes I have massive internal struggles and spend months developing a single product, haha! The problem with being creative, is sometimes you are, and sometimes you’re not. There’s no predicting it, forcing it, or scheduling it it…so a lot of times it’s just a waiting game to see when inspiration will strike. But when it hits, it HITS and I often sit up till 4am, blasting music and clicking around on my computer till it’s perfect. I love late nights and good ideas.
As for production, that is the hardest part for me. I hand package every product in my living room. For greeting cards, I’ll generally order anywhere from 250-1,000 prints and they ship flat. So I manually fold the cards, cut the envelope seals, slide them in a cellophane wrapper with an envelope and put a sticker on them. I’ve become super fast at packaging cards…but it is monotonous and I destroy my living room with paper…paper everywhere! For the gift tags, I count out 10 tags, cut 10 pieces of twine, put them together in a cellophane bag, staple the hang tag and punch the hole, those take forever. The least fun for me is the gift wrap. They ship in big, flat boxes, so I count three sheets, roll them by hand, slide them in a cellophane sleeve and use a heat gun to shrink wrap every tube one-by-one. I spend more hours packaging than I do designing a lot of times. My office has turned into a warehouse with shelves and boxes filled with packaged and unpackaged products. When orders come in, I fulfill everything from my office. It’s a lot of work, and I’ve given up a lot of space in my house to keep my inventory….and I love it and would have it no other way.
I think that’s one of the things that makes Hunt Seat Paper Co. so special to me. Each and every product shipped is touched by me, from beginning to end. When I see my products in tack stores, I just explode with pride. Each product is my baby, grown from my love and labor…every person who receives one of my products, gets a piece of me with it.
What is your favorite item to sell?
The Fall Off Club Pony Pins and the Thank You Notecard 10-Pack! The Fall Off Club pin is my favorite product because it represents strength and resilience. When you fall off, get back up…it’s nothing to be ashamed of. How can we learn without eating a little dirt here and there? Riders buy them to help them be brave, friends give them to friends to make them feel better about falls, and trainers give them to students to remind them to be confident. I wear mine pinned to my helmet harness and I like to point it out to my horse before a ride….no funny business dude, I’ve paid my dues!
I also love the Thank You Notecard 10-Pack, because I know with every set sold, 10 people will get handwritten notes of gratitude, friendship and encouragement. It makes me feel good to know that they will make other people feel good too!
What is the hardest part of running a small business?
The business part, haha! I hate book keeping, bills, taxes, paperwork….I just want to make art and ride horses all day!
What is your favorite part of owning a small business?
Freedom. I can do something I love, and spend time with the people (and animals!) I love whenever I want. It is stressful at times, but the risk is worth the reward.
Have any tips for our readers about building up a small business? Feel free to share!
Don’t stop. There will be times when you fail, when you can’t pay your bills, when your mom tells you to get a real job….but if you believe in yourself and stay stubborn (but flexible), you will make it work. Victory tastes much sweeter when you look back to when you were in your lowest points and how far you’ve come on your own. I’ve been self employed for nine years now. I’ve had some rough times, and I’ve had some big wins…but no matter what state I’m in, I never give up on myself. We make our own luck, so it is what you make it.
How long have you ridden?
Over 25 years! I had my first pony ride for my 5th birthday party and it was game over from there. My parents owned an equestrian center for 19 years so I grew up with horses in my back yard and was a total barn rat throughout my childhood. I rode as a competitive hunter until I was 18 and went off to college, now I’m 33 and ride just because I love it. I have no desire to show anymore, but love the culture and go to a lot of horse shows with Hunt Seat Paper Co. and to support my friends. It really is a lifestyle.
Tell us about any special horses in your life!
Regal Rowdy is my heart horse. It says at the bottom of huntseatpaperco.com “For Regal Rowdy” and that’s the truth! He was a dark bay OTTB who was my absolute soul mate. I loved him like I’ve never loved anything in my life. We lost him to colic last year, he was 29-years-old. I’m still having a hard time getting over him, and don’t think I ever will…he taught me so much not about riding, but about life. We had a very deep, spiritual connection. After Rowdy passed, I spent about six months in a dark depression. I decided to shop for a new horse to fill the void….I looked at literally over 100 horses and couldn’t find one who came even close to Rowdy. I was about to give up, and would have if it wasn’t for my friends who pushed me to keep looking. I am so thankful for them.
Then one day (thanks to my friends!), I met California Pie. A 17.2h bay OTTB gelding, green as all hell and larger then life. I fell for him the second I saw him standing there in his stall at the sale barn. We had a rough start. I found out after I bought him that the sale barn (who is very well known and reputable!) lied to me about the horse and his history. I went into detective mode and tracked down his entire life from birth. After the shock of the truth wore off, I realized how lucky I was to have a horse like him. I made friends with his breeder, trainers, people who knew him and loved him before he fell in bad hands. It turned into a blessing. Pie is tough to handle, and I go through lots of feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy with him…but when we click and have little victories, they make me explode with love and pride for my beautiful horse. He was meant to come into my life to challenge me, teach me, and we will spend a lifetime learning each other. I very much look forward to the future with Pie, and I love him dearly.
We can't wait to watch Hunt Seat Paper Co continue to grow!