In this episode of the Tacoma + 253 Business Spotlight, we had the pleasure of chatting in the studio with Jenn Luna of Paper Luxe!
Jenn Luna owns Paper Luxe, Curious Bear Toys, The Crest Home, and Little Luxe Baby Shop.
She is a proud member of our local Tacoma + 253 community and we were thrilled to catch up with her about all things business and life. She told us all about her journey since opening her business in 2012, her ability to pivot and grow during the pandemic, and her unique path to finding her passion.
Mike Skiff: All right. Well, hey, welcome Jen to the program. Glad to have you here.
Jenn Luna: Thanks so much for having me.
Mike Skiff: Yes. And we'll take a quick minute before we dive in and introduce you. It's Jennifer Luna, and you were the owner of multiple establishments. So just why don't you tell us first who you are and what you do?
Jenn Luna: Sure. So my name is Jen. I go by Jen. And I started paper Luxe is our original business. And it started online as a website called Office Luxe. Out of my basement with my mom, we started together. And we started when we lived together in Gig Harbor, and then it quickly grew from there. And when I moved to University Place, when I got married, I kept driving by a storefront and just had to do it. Yeah, kind of something I've always wanted to do. So when we did that we transferred into more paper goods. So we need it paper Luxe. And we were in that location grew too much moved to another location grew too much. And now we're in kind of what I call our forever home on Mildred in Fircest. It's kind of where for crest University Place, and Tacoma all meet. So kind of all of those prime spot. Yeah, it turned out well, it was a big leap for us. But it turned out well. And then there were two empty spots next to it. So, as we kept staring at the empty spots, and no one was moving in, we knew our toy section was doing really well. And there wasn't there's some great toy stores in Tacoma, but none that service kind of that area. Yeah, so we made the farthest spot the curious bear toy store, toy and bookstore. We specialize in kids books as well. So that's a big part of it. And then the middle part was kind of where we did workshops, we tried a business concept there called the 19. But luckily, we decided to change our mind on an event rental space, literally right before the pandemic hit, which obviously would have eliminated anyways, I wish I could claim I knew that was coming but and we decided to turn it into our next best selling category, which was home goods. So now we've got Paper Luxe, we've got the curious bear, which is toys and kids. And now in the middle, we have our home store called The Crest Home. And then you can't stop me there. So then somebody approached me about a space coming available in Gig Harbor. So we opened Paper Luxe Part Two over there in the Uptown shopping area. We opened I think in September. And it's been phenomenal there, we took over a spot that used to be the garden room who moved across the street. And luckily, they had a lot of wonderful customers that share the same kind of taste. And so we've kind of had a built in walking customer base there. Yeah. And then, in true Jenn fashion, I was like what's our next best selling category and in the toy store, it was the baby section. So then we had an extra little room there. Off to the side of paper locks and made it Little Luxe Baby. So now we've got the five stores for brands, five stores
Mike Skiff: Okay, two locations. Well, I mean, multiple five locations, technically. Yeah, you know, that are right next to each other. I'm curious. I didn't know this about Office Luxe so when, how long ago was that first like the Genesis when it all started
Jenn Luna: It started in 2012. So we created the LLC put the website together, and kind of started that. And then I think a year later, we changed to Paper Luxe and kind of started that process.
Mike Skiff: How much of your business is online? I mean, you probably do a fair amount. I know your website. And commerce is really robust. It's very set up for that. So I imagine that goes to the roots of how you started.
Jenn Luna: I in a previous life, I call it I did a lot of website. I did a little bit of coding, and I handled websites for other clients. And so I was very comfortable in that arena. So we just started online, it's always been a strong part of the business model. I don't know the exact percentage, it's it shifts a lot, especially with COVID. But, you know, I know a lot of businesses struggled and COVID. We kind of thankfully had the opposite effect, because we were already set up online for in store pickup, like not one person I don't think ever used it maybe one lady, I remember pre COVID. But when it hit we were fully set up for that. And so people could just go online, buy it and come pick it up. And I think that really saved us and helped us grow significantly during COVID. Yeah. And we do a lot, a lot of store pickup orders and we definitely ship like today poor Kelsey, our shipping coordinator. She probably shipped out like 40 or 50 boxes, Christmas times definitely heavier.
Mike Skiff: So you do all fulfillment in house. It's not like drop shipping where there's some factory in China that's making cheap stuff and you're just fulfilling it.
Jenn Luna: No, we ship it all here and then we just this is like super exciting. We just leased a new warehouse. And it's 3000 square feet and it has a full shipping room has you know real looking warehouse roll up door Nice. So yeah, it's fun to grow by Now our year 2022 is all about making everything efficient and systematizing. And then we can look at maybe growing some more.
Mike Skiff: Yeah, kind of stabilizing getting everything, all the systems. Yeah. I love that. That's kind of what 2020 And a little bit of 2020 in most of this past year were for us. So yes, you got to do it. Yep. Got to do it. So, you mentioned getting married moving to University Place. I assume you have family. Tell us a little about your family.
Jenn Luna: Yeah. My husband and I got married in 2013. So we had a daughter from a previous marriage. So we have two they're 13 and 15. Now, and then together, we have Charlie who is turning six on Sunday. Mike Skiff Yours mine ours? Yeah. People assume that's how my wife and I are. Jenn Luna Yeah, yeah. A lot of children. Nope. Oh, yeah.
Mike Skiff: That's awesome.
Jenn Luna: they keep me busy having the kindergartener and the high schooler and a junior high. It just life's always interesting. Yeah, that many? Mike Skiff Yeah, no kidding. No kidding. I imagine that probably. Yeah. I imagine that probably ties into kind of your why behind all of this, right? Like, what is it? Why do you do this? That's a lot of work. Right? What what keeps you going and what fuels you,
Jenn Luna: I've just always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur and run my own business. I mean, I am a total nerd. In 10th grade, I won the state DECA competition for business plan. I remember I wrote a business plan, like looking back now it is so comical. But for a sports bar and grill. I don't know why as a 10th grader, why I thought that was great idea. But so I got to go to Florida and compete. So I don't know that part's always been exciting to me. But I didn't find my calling, or what I really want to do with that until much later, like in my 30s. And so it kind of all came out of like gifting and all the stores, our basis is around gifting. So even in the toy store and the baby store. It's all about things people would gift to other people and helping kind of my slogan now is helping people celebrate their people, like we just want to help people, you know, find unique gifts. And that stuff just really makes me excited and our staff to helping people do that. And I love being an entrepreneur because you know, it's insane amounts of hours and work. But you know, if you need to bring your kids with you one day, you totally can if you need to leave in the middle of the day, you can, you're in control of all of that. And I just love showing my kids that, you know, if they find a passion, they need to go after it and don't have not that there's anything wrong with a corporate job or a nine to five that fits some people really well. But if it doesn't, there's lots of options out there. Absolutely. Mike Skiff Yeah. So kind of a personal question. Did you did you go to college?
Jenn Luna: I went to USC. Yeah. I didn't know anything about USC. They sent a flyer with, you know, like, kids on a beach. And I was like, wow, that looks great. I grew up in Port Angeles. So sunny far away. So great. Yeah. And then I lived down there for 15 years before moving back to be near family.
Mike Skiff: Did you study business?
Jenn Luna: Yeah I was in the entrepreneur program. Yeah, as a freshman.
Mike Skiff: It's amazing to me. And the only reason I ask it's fascinating, like, how many entrepreneurs and business owners that never even went to college? Yeah, it's just like, it's an it's innate. It's ingrained. And I always like to mention to kids like, college is great. And most people probably should, you know, it's a good pathway to go. But you know, what, there's, there's other pathways. There's entrepreneurship, there's trades. I mean, there's all different avenues you could take
Jenn Luna: When I went to business school, but I would say that was more just to go to school and have fun. Yeah, I honestly learned everything by the jobs. Yeah, for sure. Like, I don't even know if I'd send my kids. I wouldn't send anybody probably at this point to business school, I'd say go, go get a passionate degree, if you're going to go that route, something you really love. And then the business stuff can easily be added or learned. Yeah, but like, it took me a long time to figure out what I was passionate about, like you can't just start a business. You have to love what you do to get you through the tough times. Right? Because if you don't then you're just gonna give up or throw it away and try something else. Right but if you're passionate about the why behind it, yeah, the night makes a lot of sense.
Mike Skiff: So let's talk a little bit more about the companies and who you who you really enjoy serving right so if you were to in your mind think of one or two of like your favorite top customers that come to Paper Luxe, come to The Crest Home come to Curious Bear and now, Little Luxe. what? Maybe we can do one at a time. But what what are those? What are they like and who? Why did they love shopping there, you know, and maybe if someone's listening or watching they've never been before, they'll get an idea of what you're all about.
Jenn Luna: Well, I think there's a lot of different kinds of stores that are in our genre, we are definitely not one of those stores very minimalistic and you have like a few things nicely laid out, we just joke about it, because we cram a lot into our store, because we like a lot of options. And we try to find really unique things. So the people we serve are people who really want to be a little bit more thoughtful about their gift and find, say they have somebody that's a horse lover, we've got something with a horse on it, or something with a cat or a music lover. Or basically you walk in and we can kind of guide you and help you find something for pretty much everybody was
Mike Skiff: I gonna ask your your staff is really good at like, I know, I've been in a, you know, stumped. Yeah, in the past, like, hey, what would you do for this? And they're very good at helping guide and find good stuff.
Jenn Luna: Just really Yeah, like trying to find something for that person. So that when you give that gift, they're like, Oh, you actually put some thought and care into this, you didn't just run to target and grab some chocolate, you know, it's gonna be chocolate, it's going to be like locally made or something unique or something with a flavor that you know, they like. And I think that translates to all the stores, Paper Luxe, a lot of people think it's just paper things we've really outgrown that title, I would really love to change the name someday, but it's what it is for now. Yeah. So a lot of different gifts. And, you know, it's kind of the same customer for all the stores. So it's great about the three that are like right next to each other and for crest. They're all primarily women, but like yourself, you can definitely come in if you're a man or older, younger, there's really something for everybody. And then in the toy store, we definitely cater to parents and grandparents, like grandparents come in, and they're like, I have no idea what the Hot Toys are like help. Yeah. And we really try in the toy store to find carry things that are how do you say like just not the electronics, we don't have a lot of licensed things like frozen will will find a special unique cool things that fit those like things that people love the kids love, but then it's something that parent or grandparents gonna be happy to give their child so just gonna be a million lights and sound and all of that. So finding something that fits the child that makes the gift giver feel good as well. That goes across all of them. Yeah.
Mike Skiff: Yeah, no, yeah, it's interesting. The point you made about not a lot of men but I think it that's true in all retail, right? Yes, retail women are the first in the door, but I will say I found all sorts of interesting yarns that I've gifted to guy friends or, or even clients of mine that are men that I wouldn't have found anywhere else.
Jenn Luna: I think the name and, and kind of our logos, a little bit more feminine that we maybe don't attract that. Like I think we really have stuff for everybody. And guys don't come in and be like weird, you know, sometimes stores too girly. I don't think that's our vibe at all.
Mike Skiff: Yeah, you have the very best birthday cards around. I mean, original. Like there's a Seinfeld card I buy in bulk from you guys, because I'm such a Seinfeld junkie. Like, I love having that birthday card. I think it's like, what's the deal with birthday?
Jenn Luna: Yeah! Greeting Cards are like what started at all, I think and that's always gonna be like my favorite part. And I specifically and my team, we try to pick the best cards. And we even have another company actually, I know I say about growing, but that's coming. We started it called kinship cards. Okay, and we started it and then Gig Harbor came along and that kind of sidetracked us, but it's gonna be an amazing big, it's all online websites, excuse me website, all greeting cards and all from independent artists. Because not just the Hallmark resell. Yeah, cuz there was a whole thing with Paper Source another company and they went bankrupt. And it just brought to light how many amazing small card makers and artists out there that this is their living. And so we're gonna highlight them, it's going to be a way for us to give back like most of the profits are going to go to a rotating charity. That's gonna be really exciting. So if you're integrating cards, stay tuned for that. Yeah.
Mike Skiff: So one of the things I love about your shops as well is it's very much like it's Tacoma. It's for Christmas University Place it's you've got all sorts of merch, if you will. That's branded and so what what do you enjoy most about doing business in this community, the greater Tacoma/UP/ Fircrest community.
Jenn Luna: There's so many amazing artists here. Artists have a hard time sometimes because they're so creative and they make these amazing things but then they don't know necessarily how to monetize that or get it out in front of more people. So it's been a definitely a process but I love bringing in some of those people who maybe were their first wholesale account that happens a lot. And kind of guiding them through that process too, because it's a whole different world selling wholesale to stores than it is, you know, in your Etsy shop or at a market. So that part from a business perspective, I really enjoy helping on that level. And then customers in Tacoma are just diehard local by local support local. So you know, the more we can bring in those vendors that make that stuff, sell it to the community, it just kind of goes in a circle. Everybody feels good about it.
Mike Skiff: Yeah. I mean, I think one of my favorite sweatshirts, it's my first crest. Yeah. Right. Because there's, I mean, I can wear it anywhere in the world. And it people have votes for that. And so it's a conversation starter, for sure. Yeah. And then you got the 25 mile per hour, you know, if you're familiar with Fircrest. Know, you know what that means?
Jenn Luna: Well, I love it, because my daughter was on a soccer team, you know, she's five, and they go to do the group picture. And the coach takes off his sweatshirt. And this is like, at the end of the season, and he's got on a free shirt that I designed. And I didn't even know it's like, I made that shirt. He's like, No way. What's Wow, man, we made that connection. So yeah, Fircrest. And that's where the first three companies are Fircrest is a whole nother world in itself. So that's fun being a part of that community within a community.
Mike Skiff: Right, right. Well, this has been awesome. Um, I'm sure we could probably talk for a really long time. But what are you if you were to leave our listeners or folks watching with kind of your, what you're most excited about, aside from the systems and things like business side? What, from what did it for the consumer that's listening? What are you most excited about going into this new year?
Jenn Luna: Yeah, it's a tired of talking about COVID. But it really changed so many things, in people's buying habits, for sure. So I'm excited because now we have more team members to we've grown to 24, I think is our current number. So in January, we're going to this huge market in Atlanta, and I get to take our two managers of Paper Luxe, Bree and Maddie, and they're going to go with us, and we're gonna don't normally go to Atlanta, it's going to be this huge market, we're going to try to find all kinds of new things to bring into the shop, because people come in so regularly now that they expect new stuff every time they come in. So it's kind of a challenge to us that we've really taken on and really enjoy is finding all these new things, new brands, and then presenting them to the customers and seeing what works and what doesn't work. So yeah, I think that's the thing I'm most excited about and just growing. The Gig Harbor community is going to be huge getting involved there, because we really want to be involved, you know, in all the communities we're in, so that's gonna be really fun.
Mike Skiff: Wonderful. Well, this has been awesome. I really appreciate it, Jen. And we, I know I can speak for the community at large. We appreciate all you're doing for the community as well. So thank you.
Jenn Luna: Yeah, thank you.
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