Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Crowell Astrella.
Jessica, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After corporate stints in Portland + NYC, I moved to Austin with my now-husband to pursue a lifelong dream of a creative career and started out as a freelance illustrator and calligrapher. It was rough at first living in a new state with no support system nearby.
Most of my jobs were coming in from friends and acquaintances, and I was doing my best to be an autodidact while still delivering professional level work (looking back, I’m not sure how well I succeeded!). One of the best things I did that year was take a part-time job at a stationery shop: it allowed me to get familiar with existing product offerings and pricing, gaps in the market, and what customers are looking for.
It was also a great place to connect with customers who needed calligraphy services – not something the store offered, so I could slip them my card and reconnect on my own time. Before long I was making connections with other young self-employed women in the wedding + event industry who proved to be an incredible network and regular clients.
Boarding School Collective was born out of a need to provide beautiful, functional, fully custom paper goods and signage to discerning brides (and grooms!) and wedding and event professionals wanting a cohesive aesthetic for the full life-cycle of their event: from save the dates to invitations, all the way through day-of-items and thank you notes.
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?
Owning a small business is never easy. Every single day presents new challenges! One of the biggest obstacles has been self-imposed, though: my husband and I never meant to live in Texas for more than a few years and in 2017 relocated to Portland, Oregon to be near family.
I run the business from here, and while the USPS, Facetime, and email are generally reliable ways to do that, there’s sometimes no substitute for being there in person to communicate with my contractors, to deliver goods to clients, or troubleshoot with our print vendors.
Scale is always a challenge with a creative business, too – how can we take on more clients and more events and more work while maintaining the integrity of our product?
How can I hire more contractors to be part of our Collective, but ensure that they’re delivering the standard of work that I require, and that our clients have come to rely on?
Boarding School Collective – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Boarding School Collective is a bespoke signage & paper goods design company. We work with clients to translate their unique visual identity for their wedding/event into the details leading up to, and then on, the big day. We provide hand-done items as well as print pieces ranging in size and scope from calligraphed place cards, through fully custom wedding invitation suites, all the way through the 9’x7′ multi-material guest seating chart installation we recently provided.
People come to us when they can’t quite connect with mass-market offerings and need a high-touch level of service to ensure that their wedding invitations + paper goods are truly one of a kind, that their guests feel informed and indispensable to the celebration, that the pieces are artful and high-quality, and that they can rely on seamless collaboration between us and their other vendors.
I started this brand with both my art and corporate backgrounds in mind, knowing that visually stunning, original work paired with clear client communication and consistency would be the key to success in the space. As with all creative businesses, part of our value proposition is my specific take as an artist on every project that clients bring to us, and my ability to communicate and delegate that to the other artisans on our team.
Calligraphy, specifically the styles of my hand, are a big part of our unique offering, as well as watercolor artwork and illustration. There are so many talented artists currently doing this kind of work, but I like to think that clients come to us because they like the way *we* do it.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It sounds ridiculous, but, any time I can file something properly and on time with the state – be it business licenses or taxes, etc. is a proud moment! I feel some imposter syndrome as an artist and designer because that side of the work comes so naturally to me, so for me the actual Running A Business part of my job feels like the biggest accomplishment.
Of course, any time I get a note from a client saying something like, “You captured my vision perfectly!” or that a guest made a point to tell them, “This is the most beautiful invitation I’ve ever received!” or any time I can solve a production problem before bringing it to the client are career high-points.
- Bespoke wedding invitation suites starting from ~ $2,000
- Website: www.BoardingSchoolCollective.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @BoardingSchoolCollective
Mint Photography; Brittany Jean Photography; Julie Wilhite Photography; Sophie Epton Photography; Jen Dillender Photography