Photos by Nolan P. Schmidt
When people across the world create a business plan, it usually comes in the form of a “lightbulb” moment. One day, they wake up with a great idea and begin their plan of action. While it is by no means easy, it is a somewhat expedited process in many ways.
Sara Lien had the vision for Paisley & Dash long ago. She knew what she wanted the business to look like, what she wanted to build it on and what type of brand she wanted to create for the business. Rather than immediately act upon it, she tucked it away for some time. Much of this had to do with an already established career in financial advising. So this grandiose vision for what would eventually become Paisley & Dash remained in her head. Yet, it always found its way to the forefront of Lien’s psyche.
This led to a tough decision. Would she realize this vision in her head, but risk a well-established professional life? Or would that creative idea remain in her head forever?
Luckily, for her and all of us, she decided to act. The ensuing action became Paisley & Dash. The company, Lien’s two dogs, Paisley the Malti-Poo and Dash the Maltese, is centered around custom-made cupcake jars tailor-made for any special moment. Officially created in early 2020, Lien has spent the last year building up the e-commerce business and looks to continue building the Paisley & Dash brand.
“Making that decision was the hardest of my life. After working in the financial services industry for 15 years, the tug-of-war I felt in my head and heart to walk away from that, and follow my dream by jumping into an industry that couldn’t be more opposite, was something I thought long and hard about. I always jokingly say I went from a suit coat to a chef’s coat; and I’ve often thought about how I used to live and die by the opening and closing bell of the NYSE and now I live and die by my oven timers,” Lien said of her big jump. “But my former career trickles over into Paisley & Dash every single day, whether its time management, nurturing relationships or growing our customer base. There are definitely similarities that help shape the decisions I make when running Paisley & Dash, based on my experiences as a financial advisor.”
While Lien knew exactly what the Paisley & Dash brand would be, she was unsure what the business would do. It was not until she began posting various baked goods on Facebook did the idea come full circle.
“I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, but I’m going to have a Paisley & Dash something. Just shortly after that, I would post creative projects that I had done on my Facebook page. Whether it was baking, home DIY’s or whatever. I really put myself out there on Facebook. Somebody that I had known had asked me if I would make him some baked goods. Something that looked good and presentable that he could send to perspective clients,” Lien said of the beginning of Paisley & Dash. “For baking, I didn’t have any formal training, but I knew how to make things look pretty. So I took some time to put together a logo and a name that I already had. I also already knew the colors because I loved black, white with a little dash of blush. I had it all in the back of my head. Then I just put it together, and I pitched it to him. He immediately accepted and made an order.”
From a financial advisor to a business owner, Lien had to take it upon herself to learn every aspect of the business. With the plan to ship her cupcake jars around the country, shipping became a language she needed to learn and learn quickly. That, coupled with other challenges, made 2020 a learning year for Lien.
“Even for me, a beginner small business owner like I am, there’s so much that comes at me because as a creative person, your mind just never stops. You’re in this creative world and it just never turns off. I think prioritizing was a big challenge initially,” Lien said. “I mean, even shipping, right? That’s a whole industry that I’ve been so naive to before I started this. I needed a lot of sit down talks from the people at FedEx to help me understand that side of things. You really have to find your people. I had to figure out what tasks I could personally handle, but then proactively find the right people, resources and partners, like my shipping partners, website developers and other e-commerce resources, to help with the rest.”
The cupcake jars themselves are a perfect product for those looking for a new, fresh custom item. Not only can businesses get their logo placed on the jars, but they also make great gifts for anyone. “Something special and unique to Paisley & Dash is the ability to customize each jar. Whether it’s putting a company logo atop each jar to send to your customers or a birthday theme for your 5-year-old’s birthday, it’s very customizable,” Lien said of the cupcake jars. “In the extremely personalized world of today, it’s a neat niche. Of course with it being an e-commerce bakeshop, the ability to send a very personal gift to anyone, anywhere in the country is special too.”
The jars have become all the rave too. Lien has constantly gotten positive feedback from customers clamoring for more of her cupcake creations. “People are so dang wonderful. I mean, They go on Facebook and Instagram and post pictures, or even take it upon themselves to video themselves opening the jars. Every bit of feedback is just so rewarding,” Lien said. “When I see how happy people are when they get their custom gift box of cupcake jars, it makes my heart happy! is invaluable. I just love the impact that it has.”
While Lien operates out of Square One currently, she would love to see the business grow to the point where she could have her own space. “I see there being a kitchen area, and then also shipping and receiving. It’ll be an official Paisley & Dash Headquarters. Something I’m mindful of, is that while this is growing, it’s a highly personal gift and concept, so I want to make sure that I’m trying to build it in a scalable way, while maintaining the quality that’s expected at Paisley & Dash” Lien said.
Knowing that Sara Lien was able to create Paisley & Dash, it is not far-fetched to believe a Paisley & Dash headquarters is on the horizon. The business itself was an idea years in the making and now that it has come to fruition there are few limits on where Paisley & Dash could go in the future.
It’s been a long time coming. A lot of people have asked me if I regretted not starting sooner. I will forever say no. Because I waited so long for this and dreamed of it for so long, I appreciate it more than you can ever imagine, while never taking it for granted. I love the fact that I have my financial services background. It taught me so much about building a business and relationships. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.” Lien said. “15 years as a financial advisor was a wonderful, beautiful chapter. And this next one? Buckle up.”