Appointed is an American-made paper product company, launched in Washington, D.C. in 2015. We sat down with designer and founder Suann Song to learn more about the business and her experience as an AAPI, female entrepreneur.
District Fray: What is Appointed’s origin story?
Suann Song: I started the company six years ago. (I am a self-taught graphic designer.) When I had my first child, I decided to stay home and forayed into making greeting cards and designing stationery, which eventually led to a branding and design studio. But I’ve loved paper [and] always loved journaling.
I prototyped for about a year. I raised initial seed capital from Kickstarter to launch the company. I [went] into this thinking we could eventually be a leader in our category, whether it took five, 10, or 15 years because no one was filling the space of American-made desktop paper products.
What inspired you to create a premium stationery brand?
SS: The tools you surround yourself with like your laptop, phone, notebook [and] planner have a direct impact on your creativity and productivity. We spend $1,500 on a laptop and a thousand dollars on a phone, but we also use a notebook every day. That’s how I came up with the concept of Appointed: [a desire to] fill a need in the market [with] beautiful, well-made, functional tools.
What’s your daily interaction with paper products?
SS: Whenever I have an idea or a thought, I always write it down. It’s scientifically proven that if you write something down, pen to paper, you’re 30% more likely to remember it. I wake up a lot in the middle of the night with ideas, so I keep a notebook on my nightstand.
One of our most popular products is called the Year Task Planner. It’s a notebook/planner hybrid, where you see your week on one side and then there’s a section for notes and a section for tasks. I use that daily and carry it to every meeting.
What are your favorite Appointed products right now?
SS: The toolkits because we’ve been dreaming and designing them for nine months. My Year Task Planner is what I take everywhere. It’s also our top selling product!
Starting and building a business isn’t easy. Have you ever felt like giving up?
SS: I wouldn’t even say giving up because it’s not in my nature. We’ve always been steadily growing. At the beginning of Covid, all of our B2B revenue completely dried up. I [thought], what are we going to do? Can I keep everyone on payroll?
That’s when the whole team — at that point it was just eight of us — said, “What can we do to drive as much traffic as possible to our website?” We all came up with the idea of our free digital download library. There was a meal planner and a homeschooling download [to name a few of them].
That was when we saw all this traffic start to come to our site. That was the only time when I [thought] I don’t know if I can actually do this. But thankfully we survived. We’ve seen really crazy growth; I still [keep] pinching myself.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to start a business, especially Asian American women (and women in general)?
SS: I always remind myself [of] my core values and why I am doing this. In those stressful moments or when you want to give up, go back to why you started.
I didn’t come into finding my own voice for a while. I think our culture tends to not always be supportive when [we’re] speaking up for ourselves. I’m no longer intimidated to speak what I think but it took me a long time. Maybe this isn’t even an Asian American thing but something many women feel.
I think being confident and trying to find that confidence [is also important]. I still find that hard. I’ve been learning as I grow.
Are you launching anything new in 2022?
SS: The notebook subscription starts in February. Every two months or whatever cadence you select, you’ll get a new notebook delivered to your door.
Paper will always be the foundation of our products but we are foraying into more desktop accessories. I’ve always believed the space that you’re in [needs to] have a place for everything. If your workspace is organized, it will increase your productivity and creativity. We’ll be introducing that starting in April 2022.
Visit their flagship store in Ivy City to make a custom notebook at The Notebook Bar™.
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