We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Ward and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melissa, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When I was in choosing my major for college I was deciding between graphic design and becoming an elementary school teacher. Ultimately I chose graphic design for a couple of reasons: I wanted to have a job that was in some sort of creative industry and ( most importantly) I knew that one day I wanted to start a family and when I did, I wanted to have flexibility in my job so I could be home with my children at least part time. Graphic design was a skill that could potentially allow me both of those things. I worked in the non-profit sector right out of college but in a very creative role and then eventually moved into a professional career with a well known company that was small enough that I could learn many different aspects of the business including project management, product design, marketing, sales, operations and working with manufacturing partners in Thailand and China. The amount of experience I gained was priceless but I also found myself stifled creatively and working long hours to prove myself and to help the company in major ways only to continually be placed back in my box and under appreciated. I knew my potential and what I was capable of, and it was disheartening. So I started Whimsíque as a creative outlet, which I did mainly after work and on weekends. It started as just a small etsy shop that was mostly friends and family ordering small amounts of shower and birthday invites. I had no clue what I was doing so it was a fun challenge to learn how to start a business, and work on my own designs. When my husband and I decided to start a family I knew I needed to change things. I wasn’t happy at my job and I knew I wanted to be able to be home with my daughter when she was born. So, I rebranded Whimsíque to focus mainly on weddings. I loved that designing invitations and signage for people was always different and I loved that I was able to be creative and stretched with every new design but I also needed to make a profit that was worth my time. People spend more on wedding invitations (overall) than most other celebrations so I shifted and started trying to figure out how to break into that market. After maternity leave ended, I did not return to my corporate job, and I had my first “real” client when my daughter was 3 months old. That was almost a decade ago. I work harder with my own business than I ever did working for others but I reap all the rewards of seeing it grow and I also have the flexibility to be home with my children. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I create custom invitations, stationery and supporting items for weddings and events. I also do some branding and package design for other companies. All the items are made by hand and many of them include custom art or watercolor. I have always tried to stand out by creating pieces that are more than just paper. Most of my pieces have special touches whether it is different printing techniques ( laser cut, etching, engraving, foil stamping, letterpress) different materials used to create texture and interest ( wood, leather, resin, metal, concrete, silk, cork etc.) or using special techniques like pop up art, lighting, music, wax seals, layered acrylic, paper flowers or embossed leather. I truly feel that the sky is the limit and love creating new concepts. I have always wanted to give my clients the best experience I can and the phrase ” I cant” is not one I like to use in my vocabulary. I am always striving not to let comparison rear its ugly head because nothing can deflate a person striving to succeed more than that. Throughout the last decade of being a small business owner in the event industry I have come across many challenges. It was a huge challenge just to find a way to “break into” this industry and then I had to try and figure out how to differentiate myself from all the online and other local designers. There is never a point where I feel “Ive made it” I think once I overcome one challenge I find a handful more so its a continual process of evolving and learning and trial /error to help refine me and my company and I think thats an important lesson- to always strive to grow and learn, you have to evolve to stay current. I want people to know that we value each person, and each project and put our heart into everything we do. We want to be your partner and help our designs to truly reflect our clients and their event.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
San Diego has sooo many fun things to do and I love when people come to visit. I would suggest staying at the Hotel Del Coronado ( in the main building) where you get the iconic feel of the hotel. You can enjoy the beach, rent bikes and ride around the island to look at all the cute neighborhoods, eat lunch near the ocean, pop into The Henry for dinner and have S’mores on the beach for dessert. You can also take the ferry downtown- you can check out seaport village ( or have a taco at Puesto in the headquarters) I also love all of the fun speakeasy’s downtown and little Italy has some really amazing restaurants to check out( I love herb and wood, lion share ( they have amazing craft cocktails too) and Isola has an amazing happy hour ( $5 authentic margherita pizzas). Also venturing north to Torrey pines is one of my favorites. I love hiking and jogging around there before the crowds emerge. The views are so amazing and its a great workout. Celebrating with brunch at Clare’s on Cedros is always a good idea too. Venturing to La Jolla is always fun too-doing a kayak tour through the caves and walking along the coastline to seal beach is wonderful. The modern art museum is fun to check out and if you have kiddos venturing to Birch Aquarium above is fun too. The zoo and Safari park are also really fun and depending on the time of year- driving into the quaint town of Julian for hiking and apple pie is fun too.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh my goodness, so so many people deserve shout outs and have helped me grow over the years. Thomas Bui from Thomas Bui Lifestyle put faith in me and saw my potential before even I did I think. Sharon, from Organic Elements did too, both have always been so supportive and amazing friends and I am so lucky to know them. There are a lot of wedding and event industry leaders that took a chance on me or spent time with me to help me grow and the list would be very long because each of them has trusted me or believed in me in someway. But a few are: Christine Ong-Forsyth from Lavish Weddings, Victoria from Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Gina Hundley from SD Weddings by Gina, Amy from First Comes Love, Lauren from Sweet Cheeks, Liz from White Lace Events, LaVonne from Adorations Botanicals, Alex from Blush Bottanicals, The girls from Bliss Events, All of my “paper posse” ( Idea Emporium, Twinkle and Toast, XoWyo Paper, Cecils Paper & Co, Swell Press, Sweet Zion Paperie). The Youngrens, Van Hatten Photography, and so so many more.

Website: www.whimsique.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/whimsiqueinvitations/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissawardwoodruff
Twitter: https://twitter.com/whimsique
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whimsiqueinvitations/
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/whims%C3%ADque-san-diego?osq=whimsique
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkIlS5SLFepPjH_mMEPDSeQ
Other: I use Vimeo more than Youtube. Here’s that link: https://vimeo.com/user116752946

Image Credits
Social Studio V ( image of myself) Shay Studios for invite images

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