While looking at the beautifully creative cards, notepads, and inscriptions populating JJ Paperie & Co’s website, you may be shocked to learn that Johana “Jo” Gutierrez, the founder of the stationery brand and calligraphy & engraving studio, started the company with no formal art background.
“JJ Paperie & Co lives and breathes to inspire non-creatives to tap into their inner creative side” – Johana Gutierrez
The company started when, after getting engaged, Johana wanted to learn how to address her own envelopes and make her own designs.
“It became a hobby initially, something I could do for fun and for my wedding. As I got more involved in the calligraphy community specifically, I learned that you can actually do this full time and take it beyond weddings. I kind of just went for it. I’ve always wanted to work for myself, so I took an aggressive now or never approach,” Johana tells us.
But again, she was never a painter or drawer, or even an artist. Rather, Johana was working in an office at Refinery 29 as a member of their event team.
“Once I really immersed myself with other people who were doing [calligraphy] as a hobby or side business, I think I got tired of being in an office every day.” Johana continues —
“It sounds cheesy, but we only have one life, and you should pursue what you want.”
In January 2020, Johana took a leap of faith and officially launched JJ Paperie & Co. Although the catalyst for the company was her newly discovered love for calligraphy, after the pandemic hit, in-person calligraphy workshops were no longer an option. Johana quickly realized that she would need to create different revenue streams to keep her business afloat.
So she did what any non-creative creative person would do: she taught herself how to engrave and design products.
“[Take] the time to think about… are you doing it because you like doing it, or are you offering it because you see everyone else offering it? In the beginning… I was only doing wedding calligraphy because I didn’t know what else I could do with my lettering. Now, I don’t even offer wedding calligraphy anymore, really,” she laughs.
Johana is living proof of the mantra that a person can do anything that they set their mind to. But, with that being said, there were times when she doubted herself, and struggled a lot with imposter syndrome during her first year.
“Even today, I somewhat struggle with imposter syndrome. I worked with people who went to school for graphic design, so I still [grapple with] that comparison,” Johana tells us.
Imposter syndrome, described by the NY Times as “that nagging feeling that you’re not good enough, that you don’t belong,” affects women and women of color at a disproportionate rate. However, there are ways to combat it, and it all boils down to boosting one’s confidence.
“Do what you enjoy doing and don’t compare yourself to others,” says Johana.
She continues, “there are other non-artists like myself who are pursuing this [line of work] too. I want to be that positive light and continue creating beautiful things that make you happy and proud of yourself.”
Recently, JJ Paperie & Co launched a spring collection with new items including notepads, notebooks, and phone cases complete with Johana’s designs and positive, playful messages like “make it happen” and “don’t forget list”.
If you’re interested in a fun, low-pressure evening where you can learn the basics of calligraphy, tune into Johana’s workshop with Girls Nite Live on Tuesday, April 27th. Click here to sign up, and, to quote our personal favorite JJ Paperie & Co notepad: