National Hispanic Heritage Month at The Greenhouse
In 1968, National Hispanic Heritage Month did not exist. What was once a week-long celebration has evolved into an annual, month-long observance. Today, Americans celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month each year, from September 15 to October 15, to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans who inspire others to achieve success. The theme for 2023 is “Todos Somos, Somos Uno: We Are All, We Are One.”
The Greenhouse joins in the national effort to acknowledge, appreciate, and uplift Hispanic business owners in our community. For National Hispanic Heritage Month, we are excited to highlight Hispanic business owners who have worked with the Greenhouse.
Meet Vikki Gutierrez Isaacson with Playa Paper
GH: Tell us a little about yourself and your business!
VI: I am the owner of Playa Paper, a Latina-owned card and stationery shop, based out of my home studio in sunny St. Pete. I make colorful, cute, and clever handcrafted greeting cards, boxed notecards, letter writing paper sets, original art prints, custom pet prints, custom house art prints, postcards, vintage postage, mini-cards, invitations, and other paper goods for everyday occasions and holidays with postage provided. My collection includes traditional cards such as birthdays, sympathy, and weddings, as well as hard to ﬁnd greeting cards designed for local St. Pete residents, snowbirds and tourists, pop culture lovers, sports fans, pet owners, the LGBTQ community, Latinos, Spanish speakers, our military, and couples in interfaith relationships.
“Playa” means beach in Spanish. My paper goods are inspired by our beautiful Florida beaches and my passion for pretty paper, postage stamps, and snail mail. I work with my husband on the business. We sell directly to customers through our online Etsy shop and our business-to-business platform, which focuses on real estate, insurance, medical, dental, and ﬁnancial services customers.
GH: What inspired you to start your business?
VI: I have been making cards and have been passionate about paper and postage stamps since I was a little girl. I was always writing letters to extended family in Mexico and pen-pals. I could never resist visiting a stationery shop. I did not study to become an artist or go to art school, but I always had a passion for art and design and loved making cards, stationery, and paper goods for my family and friends. When I went to college for my undergraduate degree in marketing, I did my senior marketing project on opening a greeting card company. When I was in graduate school for my MBA, I always had the idea of opening a stationery shop in the back of my mind. When I worked as a food and beverage marketing executive, I was the “card girl,” acknowledging birthdays, work anniversaries, and thanking my employees, coworkers, and customers. One day, I made a custom Mother’s Day card for our grandmother, whom my husband referred to as “Mom Mom”. It’s hard to ﬁnd a Mom Mom card in a traditional retail store, so I made one. Later, friends asked me for personalized cards for their Mother’s Day cards. The business just evolved naturally from there.
GH: What advice would you give to others who are looking to grow their business?
VI: Go for it! If you have a product or service you believe in or see a gap in the marketplace, figure out a way to make your business happen. Do not wait for all the stars to align or for everything to be perfect. Get comfortable asking for help. As you start your business, be flexible, open to improving your business continuously, and look for ways to make it even better. Try to understand your customers and what drives them. Know your financials, including your price point elasticity, margins, and costs. Never stop improving, and if you really believe in your business, do not ever give up on it.
GH: Please describe your experience with The Greenhouse.
VI: I moved to Florida with my husband 6 years ago, and The Greenhouse was one of the reasons we chose St. Pete. As entrepreneurs, we liked that The Greenhouse was set up to offer resources and services to support small business owners. I feel it is very important to continually expand your education and business skills. I have enjoyed taking the numerous courses offered by The Greenhouse. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine who is setting up a nonprofit shared that she needed help. I recommended she visit The Greenhouse, and she was very grateful for the support she received. I am glad we have this unique resource that helps local business owners with the challenges they face.
GH: Why do you think National Hispanic Heritage Month is important?
VI: As a Latina, I feel National Hispanic Heritage Month is important because it recognizes, celebrates, and amplifies the many contributions the Latino community has made to America. It is also inspiring to show the impact our culture has made in the U.S. and globally. National Hispanic Heritage Month is also a way to recognize and give attention to businesses such as mine, that sell or promote Hispanic goods or services. Personally, I feel it’s important to honor my culture and Mexican-American upbringing at Playa Paper every day, not just during Hispanic Heritage Month. Whether it includes naming my card and stationery shop “Playa” which means “beach” in Spanish, designing Spanish paper products, offering Spanglish messaging, or pairing my art with bright and colorful envelopes, I add my Latina-ness to all my paper goods.
GH: What are your future goals/plans for your business?
VI: Although we were successful in selling our cards and paper products at local markets and building our brand over the past six years in Tampa Bay, the pandemic, and an auto accident my husband was a victim of, resulted in severe and lengthy business interruptions which we are all trying to recover from. In addition to this, St. Pete has become much more expensive for business owners due to rising rents, and we have seen many fellow business owners relocate their businesses out of the city. My husband and I love St. Pete and our goal of setting up a brick-and-mortar retail shop has not changed. We will continue to explore every opportunity we come across as we pursue our goal of opening a brick-and-mortar stationery shop while reminding ourselves to be resilient and never give up. We are both excited and optimistic about the future of Playa Paper!
MORE ABOUT PLAYA PAPER
Playa Paper is dedicated to offering the high quality greeting cards, boxed notecards, letter writing sets, vintage postage, invitations, and other paper goods. The owner designs, creates, and prints all of the products from her home studio.