Career 180: Chasing A Career In Home Decor

By Heather Senison
amNewYork, New York.

New Yorkers move around a lot. To make periodic redecorating less of a hassle, Elizabeth Rees created Chasing Paper, a stick-on wallpaper company.

Chasing Paper is printed on 2-by-4-foot panels that can stick to multiple surfaces, including walls, tables and shelves.

The panels are produced in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before launching her company, Rees worked in corporate partnerships at National Geographic from 2007 to 2009.

She went to the American University of Paris to get her master’s degree in communications before moving to New York and launching Chasing Paper in March of 2013. Rees is 30 and lives in the West Village.

Question: Why did you leave National Geographic?

A: I had an incredible experience there. I worked for really wonderful women and I saw women in leadership at National Geographic and always felt like I wanted to go out on my own and do something and be my own boss.

Question: Why did you go from communications to interior design?

A: I have a lot of incredible mentors that are all actually in the [design] space and I think New York is a perfect place if you want to start something.

There’s a lot of resources and a lot of people sort of in that same boat. And so I always felt very empowered and motivated to be able to start something on my own.

And once I had sort of done the original research and testing I just felt really confident that there was a place in the market for my product.

Question: How did you get the idea for Chasing Paper?

A: The opportunity first came up when I was in New York and I was asked to do a project for a friend. She was in a temporary workspace so I created a few wraps that went around these poles in her office and they just turned out really cool and I felt like there was a business idea there.

And I sort of started doing the research and I decided it was a business venture that I thought would work and that I was excited about.

Question: Where do you get your artistic side from?

A: I don’t actually have a background in design, but I always felt like I was able to curate things well, and my own personal style and aesthetics I felt like was relatable and focused on design.

So what I do now is we create our basics ourselves. I work with really talented designers and illustrators and artists to create really unique prints.

Question: What made you sure there was a market for this product?

A: My journey with Chasing Paper started out where most start-ups do?with an idea, backed up with lots of research.

In addition to looking into companies creating similar products, I also asked a lot of questions and talked with a lot of people. Moms, cab drivers, my family and friends — you name it. What I discovered was there weren’t many solutions for creatively and affordably transforming interior spaces.

The temporary aspect is another added bonus. People love to play with color and design, so a product that is removable and easy to install lends itself extremely well.

Question: What does your daily work schedule entail?

A: Every day is different, but that’s honestly one of the things I enjoy most about the work I’m doing.

From package development to website updates and collaborations with designers and media, I’m involved in every aspect of Chasing Paper’s growth. It’s been a tremendous learning experience and has strengthened my work ethic and passion immeasurably.

Question: Chasing Paper recently went from only-online to wholesale — what does that mean for the company?

A: We’ve had a lot of interest. I get emails from small boutiques to midsize companies that have multiple retail locations that are interested in carrying Chasing Paper.

The products will be there [in stores] in packaging for customers to buy. It will be sold in a box with one panel or a box of four panels versus online where you can buy one or 50 or anything in between. We’re really excited about this next step because I think people really want to experience it, touch the paper, feel it in the flesh when they’re purchasing it.

This next step is going to be really great for our business. We’ve already had a purchase order from Urban Outfitters, we have a deal for the holidays for West Elm.

Question: How does your degree help?

A: For me press and working with editors and being able to tell my story has been a huge part of it. I’m able to write really well, I write everything for my website, I write to my customers; I handle all of that myself. It’s a lot about storytelling and creating a brand and finding that person who you want to speak to. Creating that story and brand identity, my communications background has been super helpful with that.

Question: Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?

A: Being passionate is at the top of the list. Loving what you are doing and believing in what you are creating or pursuing is a must.

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