BREATHLESS PAPER CO
Jessica and Matthew Berinato started Breathless Paper Co. in 2008. Their story together began as they were introduced by a mutual friend over some beers one night. Matthew had just recently moved from New York City, thrilled to return to the tempo of life in Georgia. He'd graduated from The Savannah College of Art and Design years before, bouncing around the country as Art Director of this or that. Jessica already had entrepreneurship in her blood. She was already co-owner of Urban Cottage, a boutique in Atlanta’s Virginia Highland, at a young age.
The seed of the business was inconspicuously planted by a co-worker of Matthew's, who asked him to design her wedding invitations. Matthew obliged, surprised by the satisfaction the project gave him. His pop-culture job never afforded him the opportunity to display his passion for fine typography and graceful design. He'd been bitten by the creative bug. The persistent itch had him thinking. He and Jessica brainstormed about how a beautiful wedding invitation system to could be built and marketed through Urban Cottage.
They needed a name, and inspiration struck in the title of a French film, directed by Jean-Luc Goddard, titled Breathless. The word captured everything one could hope to do with a paper company; leave the viewer gasping from beauty or laughing till they can barely breathe. Ironically, neither Jessica or Matthew had ever even seen the movie. They still haven't to this day, as they are afraid of the disappointment if they don't enjoy it!
A few months later, they were up and running with a wedding invitation and baby announcement business. The emphasis on weddings and baby announcements was short-lived. They decided to try their hand at greeting cards with a short run of twenty designs. Jessica had enjoyed hand-making greeting cards in the past. Surprised by the positive reaction they received, and confident that they'd found a great aesthetic, Jessica got on the road to find independent shops willing to give a small company a chance.
The stores carrying Breathless Paper Co. cards began to grow rapidly across the country, as the business grew rapidly across Jessica and Matthew's apartment. Each night, they'd hand pack cards and envelopes into plastic sleeves while watching television together, barely keeping up with orders. Friends were recruited with the offer of free beers when the orders became overwhelming. Convinced that they'd be enormously successful if they could reach 50 stores, they'd never have believed that they'd be in over 1,000 retailers today, including Nordstrom, Papyrus, Urban Outfitters and Paper Source in the United States and the famous Fortnum & Mason and massive chain Paperchase in England. Orders ship to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and even Kuwait.
Jessica and Matthew have been stunned by their success and remain humble as they reflect on the long and difficult path it has been. After several years of shipping out of their own home, they were able to move into an office and hire help to keep up with orders. Breathless Paper Co. now has four different lines of greeting cards, coasters, prints, boxed invitations and more.
They attribute their success to their original vision of the company; to provide a phenomenal product at a great value and to have impeccable customer service. They credit much of their success to being aware of each other’s strengths. Everything is shared between the two, but final decisions are left to the person with the greater expertise in a given area. They enjoy the business, although they never intended it to be just a hobby. Their motivation comes regularly from seeing customers laughing at and finding joy in their cards.
They've won two National Greeting Card Association Louie Awards and received press in Southern Living, Country Living, Stationary Trends, Daily Candy, The Atlanta Journal and more.
The company has found a broad audience. The beautiful aesthetic for a low price has brought in as many people as the quirky jokes. There are cards for children and old folks, the traditional and the hipster. (Jessica and Matthew were surprised to find that the target market for their adult humor cards was initially women their mothers' age!) Ultimately, their success lies in the fact that we all find common ground in beauty and laughter. They'll leave you Breathless.