You pick up your mail and begin sifting through it. Just as your eyes start to glaze over from bills and junk mail, you see an envelope addressed to you from a close friend. Immediately, a smile spreads across your face. You tear open the envelope and see a handmade card — not just some standard canned greeting card — to thank you for being there for them. All the happy emotions course through you because your friend took the time to send you a special greeting.
This reaction is why Taylor Van Bruggen is in the paper crafting business. She enjoys the art form of creating and designing cards, but most of all, she wants to make someone smile.
In 2008, Taylored Expressions was born from her garage in Southern California. Fifteen years later, her business has grown from three cupcake-themed rubber stamps to thousands of dies, stencils, cardstock, crafting supplies and more. Her company is now known throughout the paper crafting industry for its high-quality, American-made products. And Taylor still lives by her motto: to create and spread joy.
Crafting Early Beginnings
An interest in designing handmade products began when Taylor was a child. She would sit with her mom in the craft room and make anything she could out of scraps. She would sell those items at craft shows with her mom, not getting enjoyment out of the sale as much as the emotion of making someone feel special.
“My mom was a mentor to me, helping me realize that I wanted to make and give handmade cards,” said Taylor. “I wanted to connect with friends, family and even strangers to let them know just how special they were.”
As she got older, her passion for paper crafting grew. It became natural to turn to making handmade cards to stay in touch with friends and family. She immersed herself in her hobby, spending her free time learning new techniques and making connections with other crafters. After moving to Pasadena, California, in 2005 so her husband, Jon, could attend grad school, Taylor started blogging. She shared her projects with others and her hobby quickly turned into something more.
“I created a blog when blogging was new to the world,” said Taylor. “A year into doing that, I had over a million hits. I kept looking forward to the time I could spend crafting and blogging. It snowballed from there.”
Taylor quit her 9-to-5 job and began working for other companies. She enjoyed the excitement of designing samples and attending tradeshows to expand her craft. A handful of mentors helped Taylor learn how to run a business. That allowed her to gain the knowledge she needed to build the vision for her business.
“I wanted others to feel good about making handmade cards and take the guesswork out of paper crafting so anyone could enjoy the hobby,” she said.
Even though Taylor didn't have a business plan, she had a fearless entrepreneurial spirit.
“I leaned into my strengths of creativity and leading by example, making sure I didn’t ask someone to do something I’m not able to do myself.”
Creating a Community of Crafters
Taylored Expressions has a 2030 vision centered on helping customers and responding to their needs. One way they do this is by hosting live and virtual Stamp Joy events to bring fans together to craft, network and share creative ideas.
“We have a large following on social media,” said Jon. “All the growth has been organic. Our customers have appreciated us for treating them not as a number but as a person. We have thousands of customers now around the world. It's a wonderful community to get to be a part of.”
Taylor and Jon also collect handmade cards from fans who are interested in seeing them donated to organizations that benefit others. Taylored Expressions has collected and given away more than 10,000 cards to children's hospitals, homeless shelters, bereavement programs and retirement communities.
“We want to create a community of crafters, otherwise known as ‘agents of joy,’” said Taylor. “They are the ones who make cards and do awesome things in their community or the world. Our goal is to connect with those customers and build those relationships.”
Growing the Business with the Right Banking Partner
As Taylored Expressions has grown over the years, so has its employee base. It started with Jon, Taylor’s mom and a few friends who volunteered to keep up with orders. Then Jon came on full-time to help with customer service and finances.
In 2009, Taylor and Jon decided to uproot to Iowa to continue building their business and adding employees. They moved into their first office space, a 2,400-square-foot building, in 2012. Within two years, they took over the space next door.
Eventually Taylored Expressions was at a point where its employees and operations were in five to six different spaces. Jon and Taylor wanted to bring them all under one roof. They had previously worked with a local builder who connected them to Gary Presnall, mortgage loan originator at Northwest Bank on the residential side. When they wanted to expand Taylored Expressions, they contacted the bank to start the process. Cara Treybal, bank president at Northwest Bank Ankeny, helped them with commercial lending options.
“They gave us all the loan options and let us choose what worked best for us,” said Jon. “Everyone we worked with at Northwest Bank was highly responsive, upfront and kind. They were interested in our story and didn't treat us as another number. It’s nice to know that we mattered.”
With the help of the Northwest Bank team, Taylored Expressions was able to move into a commercial space in Ankeny.
“We want to grow something meaningful and impactful, and we now have a building large enough to house all our operations and employees,” said Jon. “We’re glad we partnered with a bank that aligned with our values and helped us expand. They continue to be a true partner to us.”
Today the company has 30 employees on their payroll along with many subcontractors and vendors.
Our commercial banking team helped Taylored Expressions grow its business and became a partner to the company. We can help you, too. Contact a commercial banker today.
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