Host: Matt Hall
Guest: Cheree Berry
Matt Hall: 00:07 Welcome to Take the Long View with Matt Hall. I'm going to start calling you all who are listening my Long View partners, because that's what you are. You're partners in this mission to take a bigger, broader view. As you know, this is a podcast to help reframe the way you think about your money, emotions, behavior and time. The goal, helping you live richly. We're going to talk with the best thought leaders we know to learn from their meaningful experiences, and we're going to bury the vegetables of world-class thinking in stories and conversation, helping you put the odds of long-term success on your side.
Matt Hall: 00:41 Okay. Quick note before we get to our guest today. I have had some feedback, thank you by the way for all the reviews on iTunes and everything, some feedback that people want clear takeaways early on. I don't love this idea because I want you to listen to the whole thing and decide for yourself. I don't want to make this too prescriptive, but I'll meet you halfway. I'll start giving some more explicit takeaways as we go, and I'll start right now. Today, one takeaway for you is I'm introducing you to the best paper resource you can ever find. You don't know Cheree Berry Paper. I know Cheree Berry Paper. I've looked all across this place. I haven't surveyed all the paper companies in the world, but this is it, so there's your takeaway.
Matt Hall: 01:22 When you need fine paper, this is it, and this is not a sponsored thing. I'm just telling you because that's what's in my heart. Cheree Berry is my friend and a total beast. I mean this in the best way possible. I love and admire Cheree for so many reasons. Let me give you three right now. Cheree is from a small town, but made it into big city. I love that about her. She's a business owner, employs humans, and knows the entrepreneurial struggle, and she is wildly talented and successful, and yet still humble with a capital H.
Matt Hall: 01:48 Here's a bonus reason. She's in paper, and everyone says the world is digital, and I love that contrarian drive. Cheree Berry Paper is an award-winning graphic design and social stationery company, known for creating unexpected event, invitations and collateral. Cheree Berry is at the helm of the company as its Founder, CEO and Creative Director. She oversees a talented team of more than 25 full-time employees with a range of specialties and design niches. CBP has received numerous accolades for its work, including 28 American Institute of Graphic Arts Awards, notable partnerships, including occasion-focused retail stationery line for Target.
Matt Hall: 02:26 Yeah, Target, the big retail giant. Yeah, that one, digital invite designs for Paperless Post, and a set of 56 U.S. State theme snowflakes that grace the east hall of the White House. Berry serves on the board of the Saint Louis Fashion Fund. She lives in Clayton, Missouri with her husband and three children. Cheree, I am so happy you're here, and I don't know if people will get this. There isn't a direct connection with your business and the investment world, but we have a connection. You've done lots of cool things for me, and I want to start by sharing a quick story with our listeners. When we have an event that we want people to attend, we feel like we have to grab people's attention.
Matt Hall: 03:07 One of the ways we use your company is to help grab the attention of our potential guests, and it's a very crowded space. Today, I feel like we're overwhelmed with information and things to do. And so in this sort of attention economy, how do we grab someone? One of the best compliments I think I can give you is one of our friends said to us, a stack of mail was sitting on their kitchen table, and they have teenage kids. It's very hard to get the attention of a teenager, especially if they have their headphones on. Their 18-year-old son was walking through the kitchen, headphone's on in his own world, and he stopped dead in his tracks, took his headphones off.
Matt Hall: 03:49 And you know, if you stop an 18-year-old and the headphones go, something's going to happen. He said, “I don't know what that invitations for, but I would go to that event just because it's so cool.” Then he put his headphones back on and kept going. I thought that's precisely one of the objectives we have at Hill Investment Group and working with you is to help us grab the attention of some of the hardest people to grab. You are a true pro. We're going to talk about celebrities you work with and your industry and I'm going to make some connections to my investment world, but I'm glad you're here.
Cheree Berry: 04:23 Well, thank you for having me Matt. I should first say that was the nicest introduction anyone has ever made for me. I've never been called a beast before, especially at my 5'2" stature. I'm so happy to be here and I love what you just really expressed about the emotion behind what we are trying to do at Cheree Berry Paper with that 18-year-old that really got our mission.
Matt Hall: 04:45 Well, you know what's funny is when I go back to how we met I know your older sister, Mindy, who is also a beast in her own right and one of the fastest talkers I've ever met in my life. She said, “My younger sister's moving to St. Louis from New York. She makes expensive paper. You're going to buy it and you're going to love it.”
Cheree Berry: 05:04 That's accurate.
Matt Hall: 05:05 That's true.
Cheree Berry: 05:06 Well, I remember you guys were at a wedding together, I think. You guys, not as dates, but attending as guests at a mutual friend's wedding. I think Mindy said something to you like, “Matt, you have got to meet my sister Cheree.” My sisters, both of them, Mindy and Brittany are both my biggest cheerleaders and I am so thankful that she introduced us.
Matt Hall: 05:28 Okay. Cheree, so you're a designer, but you are a paper person. How'd you become a paper person?
Cheree Berry: 05:34 Well, I've always loved paper and designs since I was knee high. My favorite place in the world was the McDowell's Hallmark Store in Farmington, Missouri, which was the big town 15 miles away from my hometown of Bonne Terre, Missouri. I could spend hours there and I just felt like there was not enough time to touch and feel and open up every single greeting card that was offered. My mom was also very much into stressing the form of communication, of written communication with my sisters and me for not just for thank you letters, but just because.
Cheree Berry: 06:09 And so I think the combination of written communication, my love of design of all these cards that I would find at Hallmark and the surprise elements that could pop out from some of those tactile nature on some of those cards, such as velvet accents or cards that might sing to you. I just loved being around that, probably more so than being at the roller rink. I mean, I loved being around anything that was stationary or design-related.
Matt Hall: 06:39 You go from small town Bonne Terre, Missouri to eventually New York City and working for Kate Spade. How'd that all come about?
Cheree Berry: 06:50 I moved to New York City so that I could start a career in graphic design. I had actually written and designed a book at my time at WashU called Hoorah for the Bra, which is a-
Matt Hall: 07:00 Yeah. You are an author. You didn't mention that.
Cheree Berry: 07:01 I am an author. Yes, it's a vintage book now. It's been out for probably over 12 years, but it was a combination of all my loves that I just mentioned in terms of writing, designing and sort of these fun engagement pieces. I chose to do a pop-up book. I took this book with me and my portfolio and I moved to New York City in hopes to find a job that would allow me to do some of these things that I did with my book. I tried a couple of places. First was Pentagram design, which is just probably one of the largest design agencies in the world.
Cheree Berry: 07:37 They're responsible for the MasterCard rebrand, Hillary Clinton's campaign logo. I mean, anything that you see in the everyday world, Pentagram is probably mostly responsible for it. Then I switched attention and moved over to do some advertising design, which was not for me, but that's what you're supposed to do, right? You're supposed to jump around and see what really makes you tick. Then I ended up landing this job. My third go around was at Kate Spade.
Cheree Berry: 08:05 I had no idea that a graphic designer could get a job at a fashion accessories company. Little did I know that it was the graphic design department under Kate Spade, actually her husband, Andy Spade's direction was really critical to all the things that were creative and developed in the lifestyle aspect of Kate Spade. It was there that I spent four years as a designer and art director.
Matt Hall: 08:31 What do you remember from that experience and obviously with Kate Spade's passing what are some of the things you hang on to from either Andy and Kate or your overall experience? And they're mid-Westerners or at least Kate-
Cheree Berry: 08:49 Yes, they are. Kansas City.
Matt Hall: 08:50 Kate was a Kansas City person.
Cheree Berry: 08:51 Yeah, yeah. Gosh. So many memories have resurfaced just from my time at Kate Spade. It's always with me, but especially since Katie's passing a year ago. But yeah, if it weren't for Kate and Andy Spade, I would not be doing what I'm doing today. It was there that I realized that I could actually make a go at designing stationery for a living. Kate and Andy were really such pioneers in the fact that they decided that as they were going to develop and move beyond handbags such as I wear or China or bedding or stationary, all these other sort of entities that they were going to let other people that were masters in production of those categories of those licensing departments produce those things. The last year that I was at Kate Spade, we partnered with Crane & Co. Crane who makes our currency. We developed this large mass album that all couples across the country-
Matt Hall: 09:47 Hang on one second. Crane who makes our currency. I didn't know that. Crane-
Cheree Berry: 09:49 Prints our currency, yes.
Matt Hall: 09:50 Crane makes our money?
Cheree Berry: 09:51 They do. They do.
Matt Hall: 09:52 Wow, I didn't know.
Cheree Berry: 09:53 In fact, they have gotten a little bit out of the social stationary division, but are still making all those Benjamins that are in our wallet.
Matt Hall: 10:00 Wow.
Cheree Berry: 10:00 Yeah. So, it was there that last year before I ended up moving back to St. Louis that I was really behind the creation of this stationary album. A bride or a groom could go to their local stationary store and they could pull off out Kate Spade wedding album. They could peruse through these 20 different designs that I was behind and feel like they had a slice of Kate Spade even on their wedding day that could define the couple in terms of if the couple were they more modern, were they more Bohemian, were they very classic. Like what style were to define them and ideally we had an option for most, everybody.
Cheree Berry: 10:41 I took my love of developing this album and at the same time was designing invitations for friends who were getting married because that was my wedding gift for them. I ended up coming back to St. Louis for love, for my now husband, Jeff. And decided that there's no jobs comparable to Kate Spade at all in St. Louis, so I am going to just have to freelance and try to use this network that I've built in New York City and expand upon that.
Matt Hall: 11:10 You're so humble because you're the kind of person that when you decided to start your business or leave Kate Spade, I mean I'm sure there were times of struggle, but you just mentioned going from Bonne Terre, Missouri to New York City. Not many people just make that leap without some level of anxiety or fear or caution. How did you do that and then you just jumped here and started your business as if that were nothing? Where's this confidence come from?
Cheree Berry: 11:37 Well, I had, I would say maybe a close eyed tiger mom who was really good about sort of pushing my sisters and me, both Mindy and Brittany to see beyond small town horizons. I think that instilled in me that I was maybe never going to come back to that 63628 code like a lot of my friends in St. Francis County. Yes, being the middle child and my older sister, I say being the leader of the pack, she was, I would have to give her credit. She moved to New York City first and I think that sliding doors, had she not been there, I am probably a little more anxiety ridden of the three of us. I think her being there enabled me to make that leap. What a good leap it was.
Matt Hall: 12:24 You come back from New York and you start Cheree Berry Paper. Is it an easy beginning? What happens?
Cheree Berry: 12:31 I would really say I started freelancing when I first came back. I mean I was taking this Rolodex that I had created in New York and as I mentioned, I was working with brides on a custom level simultaneously at the last year I was at Kate Spade. Keep in mind that those brides that are sending out say 150 invitations, chances are they're going to have a handful of friends or someone on their wedding party that's going to be engaged or is engaged. The work was just coming in sort of from all over the place, mostly on the east coast. I really was just taking business as it came in.
Cheree Berry: 13:07 I mean, I would say I was the antithesis of the name of this podcast. I was really taking the small view and the fact that I was just thinking about the work coming through my inbox and getting lost in the designs as opposed to thinking about sort of what did this mean beyond Friday. Then about a year into things, that's when I really had to evaluate the ball started to be dropped and I started not getting back to people fast enough and I was missing deadlines. I had to think about how can I stay solo or do I want to actually grow a team?
Matt Hall: 13:38 You've got 25 people now, you've worked with everyone from Chelsea Clinton to Dylan's Candy Bar to, I don't know. Drop some names, Cheree. Tell us more. Can you talk-
Cheree Berry: 13:50 Gosh, yeah. Yeah.
Matt Hall: 13:51 I've turned the television on and seen you on Martha Stewart's TV show.
Cheree Berry: 13:55 That's right. When I was pregnant with my daughter, Vis. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, in terms of celebrity clients, of course there are some I can talk about and there are many that I can't. That's what I think is what has allowed us to get those types of clients is because we do take the privacy of these very intimate moments very seriously. I think that people respect that. I think one of my favorite celebrities … You mentioned Chelsea Clinton, and it's for sure that Chelsea Clinton put us on the map.
Cheree Berry: 14:24 We worked with Chelsea and Mark on their wedding about 10 years ago, and that really allowed us to be able to say her name and really give us that reputation. But one of my favorite weddings was the wedding of Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his now husband, Justin Makita. Because at the beginning that I started CBP, we had very few same sex weddings. Justin and Jesse's wedding in 2013 was really still the forefront of the same sex wedding invitations that now we get much more common than it was in the beginning.
Matt Hall: 15:00 Let me back up a second though. You do way more than weddings. You do a lot more than weddings. You do all kinds of parties. I've heard some stuff, some party invitations that like have coconuts in a box and little mini bottles of champagne and things being hand delivered to people's homes. I mean some of the stuff you do is super fancy and then some of the things you've done have been in Target.
Cheree Berry: 15:23 Yeah.
Matt Hall: 15:23 I had a friend who said, “Man, Cheree's stuff is so pricey. I don't want to ever send the notes out because I think I'm sending like a $10 note to someone.” Let's talk about two elements here. One is what do you do beyond just weddings? Then two, what do you say to people who are thinking about the price of the kind of correspondence you create?
Cheree Berry: 15:45 Right. Yeah, I mean we are graphic designers, first and foremost. I think you mentioned in terms of the price of paper and what we do and also is it still relevant today? I mean I think I'm constantly thinking about if paper were pulled out from underneath us, is Cheree Berry Paper still relevant? That is something that when I think about the future of CBP is I'm constantly thinking about not so much how can we be innovators in print and paper design, but how can we be at the forefront of design as just graphic designers? There's a time and a place for that $10 a piece correspondence card.
Cheree Berry: 16:22 I think it wouldn't be something you'd want your child to write thank you notes for their birthday party, but it would be something that maybe you would send to a future employer that you just had a great interview for and you really want it to make an impression. I think we're constantly thinking about a time and a place for not only the form of communication, whether it's digital or it's print, but then the cost behind it. You mentioned we do things beyond wedding and that is accurate. We just recently did a very lavish European birthday party where they were wanting all their friends to take the trip to Tuscany.
Cheree Berry: 16:59 We felt like because of the volume of communication and the amount of communication that they had to communicate to their guest list, that we should do something more electronic in terms of doing something through more paperless post, where there could be active links that you could look at all these excursions or look at the villa in which they were renting out for everybody or be able to click to see which airport would be the best one to travel to. That was the right choice for them because of the amount of touch points they needed throughout this nine-month planning process. But then they followed up with a beautiful bottle of Chianti and a gorgeous custom box that they had hand delivered to all their guests to help them pull the trigger to commit to coming on this trip. It's really about thinking about what it is that someone's celebrating or marking and how the best way it is to communicate those details and the emotion behind it.
Matt Hall: 17:59 Okay. But as the paper queen yourself-
Cheree Berry: 18:03 Yes.
Matt Hall: 18:03 … how many notes do you find yourself writing each day?
Cheree Berry: 18:08 I actually at the beginning of this year, had to actually challenge myself to write more notes. There's that saying that the cobbler's kid has no shoes. I think what happened to me balancing the creative and running the business is, in 2018 I did get a little behind on that, what I'm preaching in terms of keeping written communication alive. Really what I do now and what I tell other people to make it much easier to write letters is to keep letters. When I say letters, let's call them note cards, Because letters, no one's really writing those eight and a half by 11 letters that they would write in the olden days when you know, your husband went off to war.
Cheree Berry: 18:49 I mean this is now a more manageable size. It's that four by six-ish size that is more about the gesture and a few sentences. It is about asking questions and expecting to get those answers returned to you via mail from the recipient. For me it's about keeping note cards in a little pouch in my bag. If I'm at the doctor's office and waiting for my child to leave an appointment, I can scratch down a just because note to somebody or leaving a big stack at my desk or some at home, so the accessibility by my bedside table. Being able to keep it there and keep it just less intimidating, and making sure that I don't feel the need to go on and on and on because that's really what emails for. But the written communication is about the gesture, your handwriting coming through on that note card and really stopping someone in their tracks, getting that letter from the post man and remembering that that made more of an impression than it would have if it came through your inbox.
Matt Hall: 19:51 Okay. Cheree, what's been the most vulnerable or challenging moment for you in starting or running CBP?
Cheree Berry: 19:58 It would definitely be balancing the creative and running a business. Since I was never somebody who has always been excited to like start a business and a business of any sort, it was really just me taking this passion of my trade and just sort of morphed into a business. I think it's being able to stay innovative and fresh, but also really keeping my team motivated and incentivized. There are days I would love to just go back to just doing design and snuggle up to my computer and get lost in Illustrator and just eight hours later, I can't even believe where the time went and, and feel excited about the evolution of what I'm designing.
Cheree Berry: 20:37 But now it's much more about the evolution of my team and developing them. I think it's just always that balance of the creative and the business. I think probably my biggest hang up on the business side is just being decisive. I think I'm definitely somebody that overthinks things. My mother is an overthinker. There was actually a really great meme that came through Instagram like a year ago and I have it saved in my phone. I always look at it and chuckle because it says, “Oh wait, let me stop and overthink this.” I think that looking at that is just a reminder that to grow a business and have a healthy business, I need to be more decisive. That is something I'm working on daily.
Matt Hall: 21:18 Who are the people who you get inspiration from either as designers or other business people? Who fills your inspiration tank?
Cheree Berry: 21:27 Yeah. There's this American writer and designer named Debbie Millman who has this amazing podcast Design Matters, if anybody's looking for another equally great podcast. She is somebody who is just a critical thinker and thinks about all sides of design. I love reading her books and listening to her podcast. In terms of, in my industry there is a stationer, her name's Emily McDowell. She has a greeting card line that has actually morphed now into other stationary and gifts. All of her writing is about relationships. She has such thoughtful moments that come through her words. She's one of those people that if you've ever gone to Hallmark and you've pulled out a card and you're like, “Oh my gosh, it was totally written for my dad.” She's one of those people that in sort of this modern era is able to keep up with that in a way that I don't think anybody else is doing like she is.
Matt Hall: 22:19 You can help us and our listeners by telling us what are the cringe worthy paper communication things that you see people doing? Yeah. My guess is because of the parties you're involved and the invitations. What are the mistakes are the faux pas that are most common?
Cheree Berry: 22:36 On a stationary level, I think one thing that's cringe-worthy from me is I've gotten in the past typed up thank you notes. I would much rather someone just send that through me through email. There's something about the combination of typing out a thank you note and still printing it and putting an envelope. That to me is just a really bad collision. But that may be just a personal hangup for myself. In terms of the invitation world. I mean I think some cringeworthy moments would just be not thinking about more invitations in general for weddings would be not looking at the guidance of Emily Post and thinking about not, getting too wrapped up in the design and forgetting about the wording, which is just as important. Even though we do love to be unique in our designs, that there is some of the past that we think and specifically some of Emily Post's teachings that we think should be considered. If not, could be something that people regret 10 years down the road.
Matt Hall: 23:28 Is St. Louis a good location for your work? I mean, if you wanted to grow your business at a faster pace, would a different location provide better opportunities? You came here for love as you said before and have succeeded, but you have clients all over the world. How do they find you and does location matter?: Does it help or hurt?
Cheree Berry: 23:48 Yeah. I mean, I think most of our clients, we use the percentage 80%. We think that's pretty accurate of our clientele is not here in St. Louis, so it's a lot outside. You would think that maybe that would make sense to be closer to where our clients are and that would be more the east coast, New York City, DC, Boston. But because we have a product that can easily be shipped, we are able to be where we would like to be and still be, I think successful. We've really perfected that long distance relationship, which I think had we not perfected that, then that couldn't have some hangups on how we can work with people overseas or on the coast and make it work.
Cheree Berry: 24:27 Certainly my business partner, Kristen Armstrong and I have thought about, “Should we be in New York City?” But I think by the time you get the cost of rent, you pay the people of a certain salary that you need there and totally different infrastructure that I think it almost could be a bit of a wash to be able to live and work in a city that I love and raising my family and being able to still make it work.
Matt Hall: 24:50 What are the unique, either challenges or advantages you think you have in being a female entrepreneur? I mean, I don't know many people like you who have 25 employees based in the Midwest, clients all over the world. You have 25,000 Instagram follower. You have a presence and you've had huge success. Do you find that your position lonely? Are there certain advantages you think you have having the perspective that you have as a woman? How would you comment on your role?
Cheree Berry: 25:29 Yeah. I think in terms of my industry, my gender makes sense. In terms of not graphic design, but more the stationary side of it. I think that part makes sense, that I'm maybe a female entrepreneur in that sector. In terms of being a female business owner of the size that we are and growing, I definitely feel that it is a little bit more still a man's world. I mean, I think right now is a really good time for women and especially female business owners with everything that's going on in the world. I definitely try to surround myself with mentors who are women.
Cheree Berry: 26:08 Diana Coleman Lovett who is a design legend in town is somebody who I meet with. I'm so happy to make her company because she really inspires me to be a better leader and not just because I'm a female, but just because we have a lot of great shared experiences that maybe only two women could have together. I don't think of it so much as the gender. I mean I'm really happy with how things have been shaking out, but I think of it more that, “Wow, this is intimidating, exciting and thrilling,” but probably is for men and women alike.
Matt Hall: 26:41 Do you find though that as you think about the paper world, this is an element I think I really want to talk about, this idea that everything feels like it's going digital. There's some … It's got to be lonely being a paper maverick in a world that is either talking about going digital because it's faster and more convenient or because people are trying to use less paper. What do you do to combat that? Because there can't be … Do you have an association of paper people you hang out with?
Cheree Berry: 27:15 No, I don't. I mean, yes, I guess you could … Lonely is an interesting word. I hadn't thought about that. I mean being lonely though can also be exciting. There's a spotlight on you in some ways. Again, we are continuing to think about, as I mentioned earlier, the relevancy of what we do and what we make and create and the medium in which we use it. I think that we mentioned paper and just terms of the idea of maybe people still want to do paper, but they're like, “Oh my gosh. Should we do it? Can we recycle it?” And all those situations that come to those topics, we are always thinking about that and thinking about how we can still be sustainable, but still smart about the way in which we produce things.
Matt Hall: 28:01 Well, let's talk for a second. I want to give you an example of two things we do with paper that both come from you, from your company. I think by the way, a number of people who are in my industry who are advisors listen to this podcast and are friends of mine. This is a takeaway for the people who are in my industry, I think. But I think for a regular person it is too. I like to mark anniversaries or special milestones. In my work we're sort of helping people along this path and helping them plan for some bigger, better future. As they reach certain milestones we like to mark it or commemorate it and we don't like to do it via email. We have stationary with a cute little quote on it and it's high quality paper and it looks really nice. It's a way to say, “This is important, this matters, this milestone matters.”
Cheree Berry: 28:47 Yeah.
Matt Hall: 28:49 I am the one who does most of that note writing. I just finished a few that were one, three and five-year anniversaries. One of the things we like to do is tell people when we think they've taken the long view. Even at 10 years we're like, “You still got more time to go.” In the beginning we say, “Welcome to Taking a Long View.” And as we go, we try to keep marking these moments. I really enjoy taking the time to slow down and write these notes and recognize each family we work with. Another example is we do a holiday card that you help us with and we try to make a different and creative every year. Even if the receiver doesn't necessarily, I think a lot of people love it, but even if they didn't love it, it's an awesome exercise for my team to sit down.
Matt Hall: 29:38 I have insisted that we continue to sign them. Each person who works at my company, they all sign it because the thing I don't want to ever have happened is, I don't want us to ever lose sight of the fact that every single family who works with us, their trust matters. Don't ever think that just because we could print our signatures, if you did that you could lose sight of the sort of delicate nature of the relationship. It's not a machine. In the service business there is a trusted relationship there. I think the act of having to slow down and take a longer view.
Cheree Berry: 30:20 Yeah. If everybody would have just an ounce of the passion you have behind those projects that we do together, it's thrilling to see how excited you get about that. Exactly what you just said. I remember one of the, actually the very first one, it might've been the first project that we did together was the, we should talk cards. I remember thinking just being mind blown that a numbers based company would think about this card, which was just so your audience knows, it was a blend between a business card and a correspondence card, but it was very, very simple.
Cheree Berry: 30:54 It was this little like two and a half by three and a half card that had an old fashioned telephone in engraved in gold foil on the front that just had, we should talk, next to it. I think you've just had maybe just even your phone number, maybe your email. But the idea that you wanted to end a conversation that you might have had with somebody for the very first time, to end the conversation with this card so that you knew you wanted to continue this relationship, just thought was a genius little product. Not product, but way to continue the conversation.
Matt Hall: 31:27 Yeah. Well, someone, I don't know where I read this or heard this, but someone said a long time ago that if you're in an intangible business, your tangibles are hugely important. One of the reasons we invest a lot of time, money and energy and thought and appreciation and respect for a good design work, especially when it is something a person can feel or touch, is because I think you're sending a signal to the person, you're sending a signal that says either you matter or this topic matters or this thing that you're holding is more important than the flimsy thing that came in the mail next to it. We love to send thoughtful signals to people that says, “They can count on us, they can trust us. We get the details.”
Matt Hall: 32:11 I have had a few people who have said to me, “You guys spend too much money on paper.” And that's probably true. But we love, we see value in it. I wonder sometimes if in this like, and especially in my industry, there's this huge drive and push. We talked about it in one of the last episodes with my guest, Joe Saul-Sehy [inaudible 00:32:33] about there's this insane push towards lower fees, lower fees, lower fee. People are so obsessed with lowering the fee that sometimes they lose sight of the value. I wonder if you in your own world have to fight some of that fight on a regular basis or do the people who come to you, they already are sort of opting in and they say, “There's a unique thing here and I'm willing to pay for it.”
Cheree Berry: 32:56 Yeah. I think that people coming to us, they're already sort of there. I mean we certainly get a handful of those inquiries that we write back and share our portfolio samples and give them budget ranges. Some of the language that comes in those emails is like, “Wow, they're just, they're just shocked.” But what you said earlier in terms of that it makes a difference, I mean I think absolutely the people that come to us want to have that same impression that you want, Matt, in terms of getting that letter in the mail, knowing that someone took the time out to pick up a pen and write it. Put a stamp on it and drop it in a post box, is so much better than sandwiching that correspondence in between an email that you might've sent to your child's teacher about something at school and book ended with an email to an employee. That there is that thoughtful gesture that went into it.
Cheree Berry: 33:47 During the recession, even our clients who could spend the money on very fancy paper wanted to dial things back because you certainly want a balance of, as I mentioned earlier, I wouldn't let my daughter write a thank you note to a friend for her birthday party invitations on three color engraved card with a beveled edge and a a fancy tissue liner. That would not be appropriate. We're also thinking about, even if someone has the budget, sort of what's appropriate but still very engaging and thoughtful, but not overly fussy.
Matt Hall: 34:21 Who would be your dream client? Who have you not worked with where you said, “Oh my gosh, I could nail that project?”
Cheree Berry: 34:28 We always say we would love to do the invitations for the Oscars. Would that not be so much fun. We don't really have like a wishlist of who our clients might be. But the Met Gala, we tried to get the Met Gala for a few years. They do a lot of their invitations in-house because in addition to doing invitations for our private clients, we do a lot of invitations for nonprofit and corporate events, just like Hill Investment Group. I think we're too busy to even think about like, “Who would we want to work with?” We're just thrilled when we do get these bites that, “People really want to work with us?” We still feel like we sort off just started out
Matt Hall: 35:09 Give me a sense for what you're doing at work, when you really are feeling your best. What's happening at Cheree Berry paper when you're really lit up?
Cheree Berry: 35:20 I love it when the office is just, there's a little bit of a buzz going on. There are days where everyone's just sitting at their station, their desk and everything is so quiet. When that happens, I have to kind of get up and like go out and chat with a couple of people because there's something a little bit unnerving about just the quiet nature of our studio. A good day for me that feels like everybody in the office is energized is when there's communication happening in the studio. When it's not, that just feels just unnerving. We have a lot of great brainstorm sessions that happen. My design group, which is a team of seven at the moment, we get together and we start with one idea and we see where it takes us. It's amazing how when we all come together. It's just all inspiring to see what we end up with in an hour's time.
Matt Hall: 36:07 What's the future look like? I mean, things like 25 people, is it going to be 50 people and you're going to be in every store in the country or you're going to do 50% of the weddings in the world? What happens in the future?
Cheree Berry: 36:23 Well, I think we talk again about St. Louis and can we continue to grow here in St. Louis? I think yes, we can. But I do think having more visibility in other cities in terms of, account managers. I have an account manager in New York City now, which allows us to get more business than there are … Because there are people that are nervous about you not being in their backyard. We have another account manager in Miami. I think being able to place key people in relevant cities will allow us to grow in a way that doesn't necessarily mean I have to grow my staff with the flagship here in St. Louis. But it's about placing people strategically across the country, so there is a human there to meet with and have those relationships that even though we've perfected them over email and phone, there's so much better in person as you know.
Matt Hall: 37:12 Okay. Cheree, so I bet you can help me and our audience by helping us break down the components of a great note. What are the three, four or five things that a great handwritten note has in it?
Cheree Berry: 37:23 Well, let's see. I mean, even though I have no formula of course to write thank you notes, I do think a lot of people want that guidance. I would say my takeaways would be not to be afraid of your handwriting.
Matt Hall: 37:35 I am afraid of my handwriting.
Cheree Berry: 37:36 Are you afraid of your handwriting?
Matt Hall: 37:37 Yeah.
Cheree Berry: 37:37 Why is that?
Matt Hall: 37:38 I don't know. It never … I think yours suits you. It looks very nice. It has a touch of whimsy to it.
Cheree Berry: 37:46 Yeah, maybe it's because I write more notes than you do.
Matt Hall: 37:47 Yeah, that could be. I do write a lot of notes, but they-
Cheree Berry: 37:50 I know you do. I'm kidding.
Matt Hall: 37:53 I try to make the sentiment lovely.
Cheree Berry: 37:55 Yes. Yeah. Well, so yeah. That was going to be my second part. It's just I think probably this guidance would be for people that are writing notes for a purpose. I think if you're writing notes for our purpose, try to go off that path. If you're writing, say a thank you note for a gift, try to not make the note all about the gift, but talk a little bit about the future in terms of maybe a past engagement you had with them or where you might see them next. I think go beyond what that note was originally about and add a little extra. Then I personally love to add a little PS. I like to intentionally leave something out of my note, so I have this one little postscript at the end that is just again, makes it feel a little bit less structured.
Matt Hall: 38:45 You know what's interesting, I found that people sometimes love to know that you heard them, that you listen to them. Sometimes if I am writing a note to someone, I always try to think back to something only the two of us know because the person said it to me in a car ride a long time ago. The fact that you held something that they said, I've found that there's really two big reactions I've had when I've written a note to someone. One is if I write a note to someone and they weren't expecting to get a correspondence, it always is like a bigger impact. The unexpected like, "Oh, I didn't know you were thinking of me." Then two, if you can say something to them that is specific, something the two of you experienced that only the two of you know, I think that seems to have an added punch.
Cheree Berry: 39:31 Yes. For me, those are the ones that either go on my refrigerator or they go in a box to keep. The other ones go in the recycling bin and that's okay. You can't keep everything. I mean Marie Kondo is say, “Throw those letters away.” We say, “Be selective.” I think it's those moments you're talking about that just if you could watch someone opening your letter, you would probably most likely see a smile on their face because of those either insider connector moments or like, “Oh my gosh, I can't believe they remembered that.” Or the emotion behind it.
Matt Hall: 40:05 Yeah. Oh my gosh, you just triggered something. I used to give a talk that I did for the Red Cross, not nationally, but I did do one that was for some national Red Cross volunteers. I said, “Getting blood from people is such a thankless thing.” You work so hard and you go to these blood drives like in Missou or a big school-
Cheree Berry: 40:24 Right. Oh my gosh, yeah.
Matt Hall: 40:24 … or some place where it's just like a factory and they're getting the blood. People are passing out and they're given raisins and such or I don't know, whatever. They're working and working and they never get to see the beneficiary of the work. I had as you know, a health experience where I ended up having transfusion and it was so beneficial to me. I started as a way to kind of try to do something nice, I started giving these little pep talks to blood workers at the Red Cross. The title of my comments was, “I am the thank you note.” I found that people really because … What my point was is like in a perfect world you would take the blood and then a little person's face would appear on the bag or you would get a note almost instantly saying, “My name is so-and-so and I benefited from the work you did.”
Matt Hall: 41:06 A lot of that work goes without thanks. When someone throws a party and you write them a note and say, “What a great time I had. Thank you for creating something really special. It really meant a lot to me.” The amount of effort that goes into that is so small, but the impact is so huge. I think, not to go too far down this path, but I'm so big on gratitude. If you want to have a positive focus in life, not just like rose colored glasses, like trying to taint reality, but really be grateful for how many advantages and what lucky people we are to live in this country, live at this time, have all the advantages we have. I have found that one of the greatest things for me, even though I'm the one doing the work is to write a note or to say to someone, “Thank you.” I think I'm always looking for low cost, high impact ways to affect another human. I think that's it.
Cheree Berry: 42:05 Yeah, that is, you're right. As I mentioned earlier, it does signal to people that you've taken the time, but it is little effort. Really in the scheme of things this little effort, it starts to be more of a day-to-day, week to week thing and you don't put it off like eat that frog or whatever that book is. Right, about sort of doing the things that are maybe are a little bit discomfortable to you at some point and then getting more in this routine event and then you'll realize really how easy it is. As you mentioned with sort of big impact.
Matt Hall: 42:36 Yeah, I think you can really train yourself to look for places and ways to be grateful. And then I think it's contagious and infectious.
Cheree Berry: 42:45 That's right.
Matt Hall: 42:45 One of the ways I use the … I have personal personal stationary of course from Cheree Barry Paper. One of the ways I like to use it is to do exactly what I'm saying, where you write someone a note and all you're really saying is, “Thanks a lot. You're awesome.” Now, this won't be a secret, but I have a special thing I do at the end of my notes when I really feel connected to the other person. I write respect or I write your friend. If I write you-
Cheree Berry: 43:09 Oh, for your close?
Matt Hall: 43:10 Yes. If I write you-
Cheree Berry: 43:11 Nice
Matt Hall: 43:11 It doesn't matter to me that the other person doesn't know that that's super significant to me. If I write respect or your friend, that's a way for me to market for myself that this is really meaningful. It really matters to me and I don't know when or why or how that came. It helps me market as super special.
Cheree Berry: 43:30 Yes. I love a signature close. I have to look up the letters I've saved from you and evaluate that. I definitely think that especially if you start to write more often, having those little consistent signatures is really especially, I'm geeking out on that, is really a cool thing to me. I mean, I'm an XO girl at the end. A lot of people are. I've actually done some research on authors and famous people who have had sort of signature closes and I think that's so special. I love that about you, Matt.
Matt Hall: 44:04 Okay. Cheree, as we wrap up, I want to know what are the things that you wish more consumers understood or appreciated about correspondence, communications, paper, your world?
Cheree Berry: 44:18 Let me just emphasize that. I think it's about that engagement that is behind it. It's about stopping people in their tracks because they get something that is not the ordinary way in which people get things today. It is not lost in a crazy inbox. You can touch what we create, you can engage with it, you can save it. You can't really save a tweet or anything like that that we might be seeing on social media. It's getting people out of their comfort zone in a way that delights and excites them. That is really the message that we hope people hear from us.
Matt Hall: 44:57 It occurred to me, we didn't touch much on your experience being in the White House. What was that like?
Cheree Berry: 45:05 Oh, that was amazing. So, yeah. We helped decorate the White House during the Obama administration. We were actually invited to go see some of the decorations that we created. We created this series of 56 state and territory snowflake that were hung down the east hall, it's just larger in life. Then Michelle Obama had asked children around the country to make paper snowflakes that sort of intermingled with our gigantic acrylic snowflake and walking down that sort of snowflake and crusted ceiling hallway was just a moment that I can still feel today.
Matt Hall: 45:44 I feel badly we didn't touch on some of this, but you do a lot more than, I mean, if you're making snowflakes and party stuff, there's more than just the invitation. There's more than just note cards. What's all the other stuff?
Cheree Berry: 45:56 Well, again, emphasizing the fact that we're graphic designers. Even though we love paper and print and we want people to keep that alive, we want to work in other ways. We want to work with acrylic, we want to be able to do installations. We want to be able to think large scale, small scale. It's that combination of design and the form of communication in which we choose or our client chooses, is that great collaboration between those two. You're probably not going to work with us if you just hate paper and communication and design, but you might work with us because you love design. We can do something outside of a paper medium. You might come to us because you love stationary, but we're opening you up to world of design. It's that sort of intersection between design and the medium in which we communicate that.
Matt Hall: 46:46 Cheree, my podcast is called Take the Long View. I have Take the Long View on my walls in my office as you know, you helped me with that.
Cheree Berry: 46:54 I did.
Matt Hall: 46:56 It's a part of everything this show is about. How does your business or how do you take the long view?
Cheree Berry: 47:04 I think for us it's just continuing to not be so deep into the moment of design. As I mentioned earlier, getting lost into a certain project because we're just so excited about it, but keeping the pulse on what's ahead of us. That really to us, again is the relevancy of our medium of staying still very much rooted in being designers and being able to pivot and be nimble in the way in which that is released and produced. I think that we have scratched actually our original tagline of, we are paper people, because we thought that that, even though we don't want to hide behind the fact that, “Ooh, we like paper and we're worried about what other people think about that.” We're very much champions and cheerleaders for print and for paper communication. But we want to know that there are many other things that we do and that is really the design engine of who we are.
Matt Hall: 48:02 It'd be interesting to track because you're obviously a young professional or at least I think we're young.
Cheree Berry: 48:09 Yeah, exactly.
Matt Hall: 48:09 It'll be interesting to watch and see if you work with generations. Have you had wedding invitations you've done and then you've done baby announcements for the same family and so on and so forth?
Cheree Berry: 48:22 Yes, we have done. We have not done an invitation for a bride's child, thankfully yet. I'm not quite there yet, but we definitely weave in and out of our clients' moments in life. Just like with Hill Investment Group is starting this relationship and always staying in touch with them. We are not a one time come in and leave us type business. It's mostly traveling along with them for these happy moments that they want to mark in some way, whether it's a wedding or a baby announcement. Or even the sad times, if there's a bereavement moment that we need to do, just a beautiful celebration of life program or a piece of paper or installation at a funeral home. I mean, those are the types of things that we are there for. We hope that that continues.
Matt Hall: 49:11 Yeah. Well, thank you so much for coming to talk with me. I think so many people will be curious about what paper has to do with Taking the Long View. But I love the way you have zigged when everybody else's zags. I think part of the contrarion spirit that is alive in my firm, I think is alive just by the nature of your industry. You're a super professional dynamic, as I said, a beast in the best way possible. You're the kind of person I think, I have a much younger sister. I wanted her to be around you and soak up some of your energy. Same for my younger daughter. I love her being around your family because you and your family and the way you approach relationships in your business and your work and you're just who you are. By the way, this is Cheree Berry, not Sherry Berry, not Cherry Berry.
Cheree Berry: 50:03 Thank you for that clarification.
Matt Hall: 50:04 I know a lot of people say your name incorrectly, but it's Cheree Berry. But you're a superstar and I really appreciate you sharing some of your thinking with us. Any parting words? Where can people find you? You've got a bazillion fans and followers of your work.
Cheree Berry: 50:17 Well, I'll just say it one more time, chereeberrypaper.com. That would be one place to find us.
Matt Hall: 50:21 What's your Instagram handle?
Cheree Berry: 50:24 Just to chereeberrypaper.
Matt Hall: 50:25 Yeah.
Cheree Berry: 50:26 Chereeberrypaper.
Matt Hall: 50:27 You have like 25,000 people that follow you there.
Cheree Berry: 50:28 We do. We do, yeah. Yeah, that's been so much fun being able to stay relevant there and build an audience.
Matt Hall: 50:37 Okay, cool. Well, thank you, Cheree.
Cheree Berry: 50:38 Thanks, Matt. I loved being here.
Matt Hall: 50:40 Okay. Thank you, everybody. I'm going to, as I said in the beginning, try to do a better job of meeting you halfway and maybe putting in the show notes, some of the takeaways and things that are specific that you can use to improve your own life or how I think the guest has helped reframe or taking the long view in their own way. Write a review. Keep listening to the podcast and tell a friend. Thanks so much for your ears.
Matt Hall: 51:11 What's your favorite thing to spend money on?
Matt Hall: 51:18 Please note the information shared in this podcast is not intended as advice. The intent is to share meaningful experiences. I am likely not your advisor nor wealth manager nor financial planner. My opinions are my own and not necessarily shared by Hill Investment Group. Investing involves risk. Consult a professional before implementing an investment strategy. Thank you.