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Conversations with the Inspiring Nicole Ritterstein

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Ritterstein.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
After graduating from college, I got a job working in reality television as a freelance camera assistant. I traveled to some of the most amazing places on earth and met a ton of wonderful people. One minute, I was part of a crew filming an adventure travel show on a tropical beach in the middle of nowhere, and the next minute, I was filming a live performance of a celebrity supergroup surrounded by thousands. My freelance jobs lasted anywhere from one day to a few months, and after about ten years, I was ready for a change.

I craved a steady schedule and a solid home base, so I shifted gears away from the field and into Post Production. I liked the newfound stability, but it still didn’t quite feel like it was the right path for me. On a creative whim, I entered a contest with a company called DreamJobbing to be a Photo Journalist in Norway for two weeks. I had to submit a video application and then get people, via social media, to vote for me in order to win this amazing opportunity. So, I joined twitter, I upped my Instagram game, and I posted daily on Facebook. I needed to ask people to vote for me once a day, every day. As I began this journey, I thought, “How can I grab people’s attention without being too obnoxious?” Well, I got creative and starting putting all the info I needed to share in text on my photographs and then posting them. That way I could get the point across, ask for votes, and showcase my photography all at the same time.

I didn’t end up winning the contest, but that journey ultimately led me to what is now Avant Card Studio. I started printing and selling cards with my photographs and instead of asking myself “How can I grab people’s attention without being too obnoxious?”, I asked myself “How can I make people laugh AND be a bit obnoxious?” I ventured into the greeting card game… these are not your average greeting cards!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has been an interesting journey, that’s for sure! I don’t have a formal business background, so each step is one I had to take largely on my own, such as locating a printing house, deciding on the specific paper, finding the right envelopes and packaging to fit my square-shaped cards. How do I sell these? Where do I sell them? How do I get the word out there? I had so many questions, so many details to figure out and learn! So, I hit the ground running. I created and built my own website, I designed my own logo, the list goes on. I reached out to friends, and friends of friends (and friends of friends of friends), to guide me along the way and luckily that’s worked in my favor.

When you’re just starting out, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to ask for help. No business is run alone and you’d be surprised just how supportive others can be. For example, at craft fairs and markets, there is a strong sense of community between vendors. Even if we might be selling similar things, we all want to help each other out.

The most important piece of advice I can give anyone is: trust your gut. Taking chances can be hard and scary but it’s exciting and rewarding at the same time. I truly believe in my product. I love photography and I love making people laugh. And I figured out the perfect way to combine the two.

What should we know about Avant Card Studio? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I make funny greeting cards using my photographs. My cards are square-shaped and come in two sizes (I’d like to think the mini ones are slightly less offensive, ha!). I also make magnets, trucker hats, baby onesies, tote bags, and candles coming soon. Some of my cards are sweet and some are sassy, just like my customers. I absolutely love seeing people smile and laugh when they read my cards. To me, that’s the best part of all of this. And the fact that I can make money doing it, blows me away.

There are a lot of talented people out there who make really funny cards and accessories. I’ve seen calligraphy, plain text, illustrations, etc. What makes me and my products stand out is that everything I sell features my original photography. I’m most known for my mini greeting card that says ‘Go F*ck Yourself.” I love the juxtaposition of a rude phrase that looks really pretty. I always carry them with me to hand out to people that I meet. Their reaction when opening the tiny envelope is priceless!

I travel as often as possible, to get inspiration for my photos and because I just love it. I love to photograph a city, take in the vibe and create an image that reflects that feeling.

I do custom work as well, anything from Halloween party invitations to Prostate Cancer Awareness cards… that one read: “Fear Not the Finger.”

As I continue to grow my business, I’d love for clients around the world to commission me to make custom cards and accessories for them… especially if those clients own a vineyard… and perhaps need photos of their grapes to put on cards and then sell in their gift shops. I’m open to traveling to a variety of destinations… as long as they involve vineyards. Or at the very least… wine.

Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
Two women who have inspired me most are Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, hosts of the popular podcast, My Favorite Murder. They are relatable, empathetic and hilariously funny women who always present their most authentic selves. It’s truly refreshing and a great reminder that it’s ok to be vulnerable. Not only are they an inspiration, but they are also a virtual support group.

These amazing women have built an enormous fan base, fans that have gone on to start clubs, groups and meetups of their own. One in particular, that I’m so proud to be a part of is Murderino Makers – a group of small business owners who are also Murderinos (that’s what they call us fans!). We’re creatives who support each other and our businesses. We host a Giving Week each month, donating a portion of our sales from that week to a different charity or organization chosen by us in the community.

I never expected to find such inspiration and support from something so unrelated to me and my business, but these two women have impacted my life in extraordinary ways. (Karen and Georgia, if you’re reading this – hi and thank you!)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Scott Fleishman & Myself – Nicole Ritterstein

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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