Friends, I want you to meet Lacy Stoneburner! Lacy is the owner of Stoneburner Bookbinding out of Boston, and her business focuses on handmade journals, custom books, and digital file portfolios. She’s been operating her company since 2010. If you search through her shop on Etsy, you’ll find that many of her items are customized linen CD/DVD cases—and as a result, about half of her business comes from wedding photographers who deliver their clients’ photos in these special cases.
I love Lacy’s perspective on running a business that serves her own clients as well as someone else’s. She values the relationships she has built with other women who run their own businesses and is able to reach more people than she ever imagined. I hope you enjoy our conversation about how she turned her passion into a business!
Your business is so unique. I don’t see a lot of other people selling quite the same things you do. How did you get the idea for Stoneburner Bookbinding?
I have always loved making books! When I think about it, I realize, Oh yeah, I really have been doing this all along.
But Stoneburner Bookbinding really began while I was still working full time as a preservation librarian. A preservation librarian works to preserve books, maps, and other library materials. I have a great passion for historic items, but after working with brittle and yellowed items for eight hours a day, I wanted to work with fresh and new materials that were supple and colorful!
I also knew I wanted to raise a family, so I wanted to create a business that would allow me to stay home with my children when they were young.
Now that my sons are a little older, they will wander into the studio to see whether they can make anything. While I usually think about my business in terms of what I (as the sole proprietor and sole employee) am doing, I sometimes look around my studio and realize that perhaps I am building something that will be a legacy for my children—and that is a pretty amazing feeling.
That just gave me goosebumps, I love it! So what equipment and materials did you start out with, and how has that changed over time?
It started as a hobby with a small cutting mat at my kitchen table. When we moved into our first home, I bought my own table to work on. But I was still keeping my materials in a big cardboard box.
I started small and bought the materials out-of-pocket as needed. For the first couple years, I put all the profit right back into the company. It was a very natural and organic growth.
Now we’ve moved again and I have my own studio! I have a standing workbench that my husband and I made together and a big wardrobe where I keep my supplies and finished products. And I hope, at some point, to get another big table in there.
That sounds amazing! So if this just started as a hobby at your kitchen table, at what point did you realize people would actually buy your journals?
I was making journals all the time, and at a certain point it was like, I don’t need 40 journals for myself! I opened my Etsy store in 2010 and was surprised that within the first couple days I made my first sale to someone I didn’t even know. That’s when I really saw it as a business.
Every business goes through five distinct stages. Find out which stage your business is in with our free assessment.
Soon after, I began making the CD cases and was getting orders from Australia and the U.K. I remember thinking, Wow, someone is going to keep their cherished wedding photos in this. I’m not just making a product, I’m making something that is personal to someone.
I love that. Okay, so tell me what your schedule and process looks like, day to day.
In the early days, I would only have a couple hours in the middle of the day to get my work done when my son was napping. I’d have to sneak in some more work after my son went to bed. As he got a little older, he had his own play area in the studio so I could get some things done then. But now he’s in school so my schedule is much more open to get work done. (Hurray! – CW) I currently work about four hours per day and take the weekends off to spend with my family.
I really take pride in that I’m not only making something that reflects my company, but also reflects these other small businesses. They trust me to make something that’s going to represent their business. So it’s about being very particular and cutting each piece to the right measurements and using just the right glue . . . I feel happy passing it on to another business owner.
I can tell you’re really passionate and care a lot about what you do.
I put my love, energy, and creativity into this. I’m creating something that ends up being very intimate to someone. With the CD cases it’s usually someone’s wedding. My journals will hold a person’s most intimate thoughts. Or maybe it will be used as a notebook to keep their grocery list in, but it’s something they carry every day. The pattern of the paper might signify something in their life.
I love paper, and I just think it feels great to hold something other than a phone or a computer mouse. So this is what I do. I enjoy making these things and hope other people will also see the value in it.
You can follow Lacy on Instagram: @stoneburnerbooks.