A graphic designer turns her passion into a business.

All photos courtesy Paper Bag Invites

In an age where sites like Etsy and Minted are making DIY wedding invitations more common than Mason jars and burlap, how can a traditional stationer compete?

By being not so traditional, it seems.

Heather Stoller, who runs Paper Bag Invites as a side job to her full-time role as a graphic designer for a local ad agency, is quick to admit that her approach to invitation design is not like most stationery design houses in the city.

"I really focus on the people," she says. "So it's not cookie-cutter designs or anything. I really kind of dig in deep with my process to try to figure out what the people actually want, as opposed to just giving them design options and saying, 'Pick one of these.' "

Stoller begins by asking her clients to choose 30 items that are inspiration for their wedding, creating a mood board of sorts; she then develops two to three potential designs based on those inspiration pieces. Couples often have a hard time choosing between the design possibilities, Stoller says, and she often works with them to combine elements of multiple designs into one final product.

Unlike Etsy and other DIY invitation sites, Stoller doesn't offer design-only services; that is, she won't give you a digital file to print yourself. For her, it's all about ensuring the original vision is perfectly executed … and about making sure the final design elements come together correctly.

"There's lots of different things that I do that you won't get anywhere else," Stoller says. "I sew my invitations sometimes. It's kind of old-fashioned, I guess, but I individually sew some of the invitations." Stoller also works with multiple textures and creates custom stamps to achieve the unique look and feel her invitation suites often feature.

All of this sounds like it would be a pretty expensive option-after all, it's not every stationer who offers hand-sewn elements in their work. But Stoller insists her prices are competitive with-or even better than-other design houses.

"I really work within a budget," she says. "If someone gives me a $600 budget, I love designing invitations so much that I will work within that budget." She charges $300 as an initial design fee, which includes two design options; pricing for the rest of the project depends on quantity, materials used and complexity of the design.

For now, Stoller limits her workload to about eight clients per year. "This is kind of my creative outlet from normal, day-to-day work," she says. But she's enthusiastic in her hopes to someday transition her passion into a full-time career.

And the name?

"When I was a kid, my Mom used to pack my lunches in brown paper bags. I used to think it was so neat to open up something so plain and find all the things that I love inside. I enjoyed seeing what my friends lunches had in them and how different they were from mine," Stoller says. "For the business, the paper bag is me and the contents of that bag are my clients. Individuality is revealed after talking to my clients and figuring out what they envision their wedding to be and what they would put into a paper bag."

Want to be featured in a Vendor Spotlight? Email editor Emma Frankart Henterly at ehenterly@columbusweddingsmag.com for details.