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Meet Lizzie Greco of Craftbelly in Lakewood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lizzie Greco.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Lizzie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Craftbelly started back in 2011 as a creative outlet for me while I was living in Chicago. After studying graphic design in college and working as a designer for a little while, I realized I did not actually enjoy sitting in front of a computer every day. I escaped to a retail job at a stationery store where I could work more hands-on with products and customers while learning that I had a passion for paper. Decorative, patterned paper to be exact. I began decoupaging wooden picture frames with the gorgeous gift wrap that we sold in the store and was even able to sell my creations in the shop, a perk of the job! Another perk was getting to work with other artists and designers who were successfully selling their goods while running their own businesses. These talented folks proved to be quite the inspiration and helped me realize not only that I wanted to do the same, but that it was possible.

After selling my decorative frames at craft fairs and online for a few  years in Chicago as a part-time gig, I became inspired to design an original line of patterned paper to use for my frames and other products like stationery and journals. This next step came naturally as it satisfied both the designer and the craftswoman in me. A successful Kickstarter campaign and 2,000 screen printed sheets later, I had a brand new business which I was ready to fully commit to. One would think that this would have kept me satisfied, but during the same time I was planning a move to Colorado! In July 2014, I made the move west to start fresh in Denver. I had an awesome studio space and was absolutely delighted by the creative community that I found here. Some of my closest friends and supporters are fellow creatives whom I met that first year in Denver,  and we continue to inspire and support each other today.

At this point, I was selling my products via wholesale and retail while making every single product that I sold in my studio. I was running Craftbelly full-time, and to be honest, I was getting very burnt out and not making much money. At that point, I realized I needed to shift things a bit, and I started looking into getting my products manufactured by someone else. It was very important to me to keep my production in the United States so I found a few domestic suppliers that could print my designs for me. This was really fun because I was able to expand to new items like mugs, notepads, tea towels, etc. On an even larger scale, I started to work with a national company based in Denver, Deny Designs, which licenses and prints artists’ designs for a large array products such as bedspreads, credenzas, pillows, shower curtains, just to name a few. I continued to create my picture frames because that was the one thing I still really loved to do.

Around this time, I also took on a full-time job designing invitations at a stationery store to help pay the bills. I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself to make Craftbelly be profitable and it was having a negative effect on pretty much everything. I scaled the business back quite a bit, stopped selling at markets, and most importantly, gave myself time and space to think about what I was good at and what I actually wanted to do for a living. I realized that I actually wanted to be a professional surface pattern designer, so that I could sell my designs to other companies that produce things like fabric, wallpaper, gift wrap, apparel, stationery, home decor, etc. This takes us right up to the present, as I am currently in the process of designing new pattern collections which I will then try to sell to other companies. I also launched my own wedding invitation business so that I can still use my graphics experience to make a living,  and I’m getting to work with clients while creating my own schedule, something else I realized I greatly enjoy. I fill in the gaps with part-time work for two other local businesses. Every single day is different and I love it!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh heck no! One of the main things I have struggled with over the years is the business side of running a business. There are SO many different aspects of being your own boss and most creatives who start their own business have to just figure it out along the way. If I could go back I would have taken a business or accounting course for sure. I have definitely leaned on friends and family over the years, asking for advice about things that I really had no clue about, such as taxes, marketing, and accounting!

Another big challenge I’ve struggled with is just having confidence as a designer and artist. There is so much amazing work out there in the world and thanks to social media, one deep dive can lead you down a path of “wow, I suck” very quickly if you’re not careful. I have found that surrounding myself with a group of strong and supportive female creatives helps keep my head up. We help each other with the hard stuff and celebrate the wins. It’s so much easier and fulfilling than trying to go it all alone!

What do you do? What do you specialize in?
I am a graphic designer specializing in surface pattern and wedding invitations. Throughout the years, my products have included picture frames, invitations, journals, stationery, t-shirts, tea towels, calendars, notepads, and mugs. I am known for creating modern geometric patterns with bold color combinations as well as for honestly sharing  my creative journey. I am currently focusing on designing a new fabric collection and collaborating with other artists.

What I am most proud of is staying true to myself as a designer and not giving up. I could have thrown in the towel so many times—and have come very close in doing so—but thankfully I have gained some perspective over the years. I know now that failures are inevitable when you take risks, and choosing to learn from them, instead of running from them, makes all the difference when figuring out your next move.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
A college photographer professor who didn’t use a traditional grading system once gave me the highest marks for persistence after a particularly challenging semester. I have never forgotten this lesson on the power of persistence, but on the other side of the coin, another essential quality to success is knowing when to call it quits. Sometimes you have to move on from certain things to make room for the next, bigger project.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Deny Designs (bedspread, photo 5), Jennifer Olson Photography (photos 4+6), Everything else: Lizzie Greco

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver 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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