Designer Kirstie Wang started her company, A Jar of Pickles, as a small side business in college where she found herself having more of a passion for design work than coursework. It took Kirstie a few more years to establish A Jar of Pickles as an on-going business while she pursued a full-time job as a designer. Today she works as a UX designer for KiwiCo, but that hasn’t stopped Kirstie from growing A Jar of Pickles. This small business has doubled in revenue each year since its beginning by selling on multiple online platforms, wholesaling to brick & mortars across the country, and engaging in notable handmade craft fairs.
One of Kirstie’s goals when she created A Jar of Pickles was to bring back the lost art of letter writing. In an age when emails are used to invite friends to parties – even weddings – and to thank hosts for their hospitality, Kirstie noticed that people still appreciate the gesture of a hand written note.
A Jar of Pickles offers everything that card and letter lovers need to send the written word, and Kirstie is constantly expanding the inventory. For the fabulous gifters that put together presents too pretty to unwrap, A Jar of Pickles offers gift tags to complete their packages. For a truly custom product, Kirstie has an address stamp that personalizes envelopes, or even a hand-lettered cloth banner to brighten up any space. Just in time for wedding season, Kirstie is expanding A Jar of Pickles to offer custom wedding essentials, including invitations, RSVP cards, and thank you cards.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
While I was in college, I found myself not paying attention in any of my Public Health classes and teaching myself Illustrator and Photoshop instead, designing logos and flyers for various student groups. My roommates convinced me to start an Etsy (which was decently new at the time!) and I opened a shop for fun, thinking I’d sell maybe 1 or 2 cards— when I got my first couple orders, I’d print them on cardstock at Kinko’s! But my true “trigger moment” was when I began to get a consistent number of orders per week— the number wasn’t huge, but it made me realize people might actually like and want to share my stuff! I started to fully invest in growing Pickles, and the rest is history!
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I love having a creative outlet that’s fully and completely mine. While I love my full-time day job and I do get to design at work, it’s truly awesome to own something 100% and get to see fruits of exactly the effort and labor I put in. It’s really fun to explore different growth opportunities and products and I can’t tell you how many invaluable lesson I’ve learned about myself and running a small business!
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I never had any formal design training, but I had learned Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator from my high school journalism program. From there, I looked up a ton of tutorials online and to this day, I’m Googling 5,000 “how to’s”, daily.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
I love how supportive the creative community is. You’d think that since a lot of us are targeting the same audience, using the same social hashtags, etc., people would be stingy sharing resources or quiet about their insecurities, but in every creative group I’ve been a part of, it’s been really opposite— people are super engaged with each other and always rooting for each other. I think we all know how exciting running a small business is and want to celebrate, but also can share in the challenges when they come. I’ve found that the most discouraging voice when starting a side hustle or creative business is going to be your own- with social media, there’s always people online to compare to and “better lives” out there, but it’s so important to understand this as a journey and celebrate small wins.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
I wouldn’t say there was a tipping point in general, but every couple of months, when life is full of social events and work has crazy deadlines that exhaust all my emotional and mental energy, and I don’t seem to have time to work on Pickles, there is a question: do I want to stop pursuing Pickles on the side? As Pickles reaches its 5th year, I’ve really understood that this isn’t something I want to give up anytime soon, and I’m starting to be braver about ordering more inventory and investing more back into the business to see it grow.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
Constantly setting goals and sticking to them. It’s easy to start a side project and have a million things come in the way: “I’ll never be as good as that,” “This is taking longer than I thought,” “Actually, this probably isn’t going to work so I’ll stop”— nothing will happen if I don’t complete anything. I’ve learned a lot from working in fast-paced tech mindset of Silicon Valley— go fast, and done is better than perfect.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I let myself invest $500 to begin, which I earned back much faster than I thought. Since A Jar of Pickles began, we’ve doubled both revenue and profit year over year, constantly growing by outsourcing and investing back in the business.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
Your business does not define your life. Knowing a greater life purpose, goal, and something to reflect on before bed & have it be the first thought that you wake up to— it makes a really big difference. There are times when I forget that and negatively obsess over sales numbers and regret some Insta-posts, there’s no peace in anything I’m thinking about— it’s super draining. But when I remember my faith in the Gospel & that I am made for something greater, every part of life (especially Pickles) becomes much clearer and more exciting!
Find a Jar of Pickles at a number of boutiques around the country or you can buy directly from Kirstie’s website www.ajarofpickles.com.