Your #Goals Conquered

December 21, 2018

Katie Gastley and her company, Idlewild Co., are our favorite kind of success story. And her thoughtful business practices inspire the imagination about the impact that thinking globally and acting locally can truly have. With art and ambition, Idlewild has grown to be one of the largest independent stationery companies in America.

Gastley shares her origin story, “I started painting a few of the iconic buildings in Brooklyn and sold them at the Renegade Art Festival and a bunch of different shops in New York, and I started getting asked if I would do wedding invitations. I started doing that and got pretty into stationery — until I ultimately went to the National Stationery Show in New York. I was struck by the fact that 95% of the stationery companies were owned by women, who are independent and creative, and I just thought to myself, ‘OMG, I have to do whatever I can do to be a part of this world.’” With a knack for drawing and a desire to join a movement, Gastley had the vision to start a business.

“I started the company while I was working in New York as a designer for Martha Stewart. The great thing about working there was that virtually everybody had a side hustle, whether it was a cookie company, a design firm, or a furniture company — everyone had something they were working on.” The energy of the National Stationery Show and the creative hustle at Martha Stewart fueled the first line of Idlewild cards.

“I put together a line of 15 of my illustrations and I picked up a bunch of orders and retailers that first show. I turned my dining room into an inventory and fulfillment center, and eventually this business took off.” From her dining room, Gastley shipped orders across the country. “It grew really organically while I was in New York. I was still working full- time, until I realized that I spent all night preparing packages, I carried them on the subway during my morning commute, and mailed them from the mailroom at work on my lunch break. I had no life other than working and then working again, and it was time to quit my full-time job and do this thing for real.”

Katie took two major leaps towards realizing her dreams—she quit her job at Martha Stewart and planned a move from New York City to her husband’s hometown of Vero Beach, Florida where they could afford to live and grow a small business. With space and time to grow, Idlewild took off. She recalls, “I gave myself two years to make it work. It was super scary to leave the job security and social network I had in New York, but moving to a small town was creatively inspiring. I’m really inspired by the tropical landscape, and that shows through in my designs.”

As Idlewild grows, Katie has constantly expanded and improved the brand’s sustainability practices. Her thoughtful, creative approach to sustainability shows in every phase of the company’s business. Details that many people might never consider have become major instruments of change. “All cards that ship to retailers and boutiques have to be in a plastic sleeve. We switched ours to a biodegradable sleeve that’s made out of eucalyptus which makes a big difference when you’re sending out hundreds of thousands of cards per year.”

When Idlewild first started seeking sustainable alternatives to packaging and paper materials, they were difficult to find. And now, they can be hard to source for a much different reason. Gastley says, “I’ve noticed over the past few years that it’s actually gaining in popularity a little bit. We have a vendor who manufactures the plant- based sleeves, and they frequently sell out of them. It’s a bummer when you need those materials, but it’s a good thing when you see the world moving towards that.”

Katie’s creativity is not limited to on- paper designs. She explains a local upcycling program she implemented after noticing the flow of shipping materials to nearby businesses, “We have a guy who works at an oncology office in town and he receives all of this recycled bubble wrap with their supply deliveries, and now that’s where we get a lot of our materials from.” Small, thoughtful acts like this add up quickly. Combined with Idlewild’s commitment to FSC-certified paper products, high-cotton papers that are easier and more sustainably grown than hardwood, and post-consumer recycled paper goods, the brand’s practices replace existing products on the market with alternatives that look better and are better for the planet.

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John is the managing editor at CAUSEBOX and a traveling writer who lives on the road with his dog, Hank.