Jenelle Gartner was an artistic kid, happy when she was in her room, making crafts and creative things. After high school, on her mother’s advice, she enrolled in the Bachelor of Design program at the University of Alberta where she learned the fundamentals of visual communication (layout, colour, and balance) and the tools of the design trade. It was exactly the work she wanted to do. After graduating, she got a job in the design industry.
“I got to work with some awesome people on cool, inspiring projects,” Jenelle says. “But I always had a picture of myself as an entrepreneur. I didn’t see myself as an employee.”
In her spare time, she started doing design-based products for weddings — photo books initially, then wedding invitations and wedding stationery. She worked carefully with each of her clients to understand precisely what they wanted for their wedding. With a modern, fun, and playful style, she consistently delivered unique and memorable pieces that couples loved.
“Custom invitations aren’t for everyone,” she says. “It’s more work and they’re definitely more expensive. With weddings, some people put the emphasis on photography, some on flowers. A very small market loves paper. But paper is really quite interesting — to me anyway.”
“When the candy labels match the design of the invite, there’s continuity. It shows the bride and groom were careful and attentive with all the little details they put in front of their guests. It makes their wedding stand out — and it’s just really pretty.”
Jenelle launched Pinkpolka Wedding Design in 2009. Business grew through customer word-of-mouth and referrals from Edmonton wedding planners who loved her work and loved working with her. But, like many budding entrepreneurs, she was building her business while holding down a full-time job. She was working evenings and weekends, passing on social activities and time with friends and family to finish projects. Something had to give.
Couples love that Jenelle’s playful and memorable designs give their weddings that unique touch.
“I wanted to work on Pinkpolka full-time,” Jenelle says. “But I needed to be really cautious with my numbers. I did a forecast and determined what my monthly sales had to be to pay myself what I needed. When I hit my markers for 3 consecutive months, I knew I was making enough money to support myself. It was only then I jumped. It was a calculated decision.”
In November last year, Jenelle moved into a new office. In January, she had her first baby. “I love what I do, but being an entrepreneur does put a strain on your family,” she says. “It’s really important that the business stays feasible, that it grows, and, maybe one day, runs itself.”
She hopes to move from a service-based to a product-based business, with catalogs of designs that couples can customize and order directly from her website.
“Custom work is great. I get to work with awesome clients and do creative, rewarding work. But I’d also like to have more standardized designs to bring in more revenue and hire another designer. That’s the plan. If you ask any entrepreneur, it’s hard to get where you want to go; but when you get those small achievements, it’s… miraculous.”
“Accounting is really foreign to me,” Jenelle says. “Spreadsheets make me cry. I get overwhelmed. It’s not what I do. I work with visual stuff.”
“With my previous accountant, I felt I wasn’t getting answers to my questions or suggestions on how I could improve. On top of that, I had a bookkeeper. My bookkeeper would make notes for my accountant; I don’t know if he even looked at them. The whole thing seemed cumbersome and also quite expensive.”
“With Origami, it’s easier, way easier. Kris has been an awesome support. Having the reports and my cash flow every month will really help me stay on top of my goals and my targets. I could tell it was a forward thinking company: the whole process of sending in your envelopes.”
“You guys are doing a different spin on the traditional accounting firm.”