Auburn Alum Leslie Chalfont: A Creative Take on The Plains

Auburn Alumnus Leslie Chalfont is the embodiment of a true Auburn woman: hardworking, classy, creative and ambitious. In life after Auburn she combined her love of art and creation by starting giddy paperie, her own stationery company in Winter Park, Flordia. The business has expanded from beautifully painted note cards and invitations to include planners, phone cases, towels, and many other adorable products. Chalfont has recently designed a special note card to celebrate the spirit of the Auburn family, and her continuing passion for her alma matter  makes her a perfect Campus Celebrity!

What made you decide to start your own stationery company? I’ve always loved beautiful paper, bookbinding, calligraphy and painting, it’s like getting art in your mailbox! From years of painting I discovered there’s nothing better than working one-on-one with a client to create the perfect piece of art to use for an announcement, invitation or gift. Every painting and project takes on a life of its own. Setting up a stationery and gift shop seemed like the perfect way to share my favorite things. Eventually giddy paperie came to life after years of working with clients individually.

Where do you find most of your creative inspiration?I draw inspiration all around me in my everyday life:  my home, my neighborhood, French and English influence.  I love old collectibles like botanicals, etchings, modern art, impressionism, gardens, fashion, and melding it altogether with a fresh spin.  I also love humor and try to include that in some of my work.

What has been the most enjoyable aspect of owning your own business?Watching it grow and flourish while sharing our work with existing clients and new customers.

How do you hope to grow your business? We’re working on growing our wholesale business across the country and always looking for people and businesses that are interested in partnering with giddy.

What is your current favorite product that you sell?Flamingos!  Literally, I painted them while flying on a recent trip.  We hit turbulence and I couldn't paint the legs straight while flying.  So I came home, painted the legs and posted them on our site and have sold quickly!  We are incorporating them in our 2015 calendar and planners.  They are all very cheeky.

How do balance your creativity and business-savvy?It’s definitely a struggle some days, my creativity is always "on" when really my business side should say "No”, stay organized, don’t over commit, do your business financials..."  The business side is crucial, but some days I'd rather paint and drink coffee.

What is one thing you were surprised to find about owning your own business?It's really hard to know all of the moving parts until you are in the middle. At a certain point you realize you need things like licenses, insurance, copyright, etc.  All of this is going while tying bows on packaging and filling orders. I touch every part of the business and could not do it without my business partner and favorite daughter, Lauren. She is the reason I do what I do and she has been my best encourager.

Do you experience any challenges being a female entrepreneur?Not so much in this industry since it is heavily women based; however, many people don't take this kind of business seriously and often think it’s just a "hobby" and I hate that.  If it was just a hobby to me then I would be painting on nights and weekends. This is a perfect marriage of making art useful on an everyday basis with everyday things.  There’s enough “ugly” in the world and I love when everyday things can be made pretty through a nice note or special card.

How do you cope with the challenges of being in a creative field of work? Coffee and quiet time helps. I love being with people and it energizes me, but also enjoy being alone, in an interesting setting. I always carry a journal with me to sketch away when creativity strikes. It’s equally fun to go back and look at the previous pages and see how my designs have come to life and how one image leads to the next.

How did attending Auburn help prepare you for owning your own business?Having a business degree always helps, but it's not the only thing from Auburn.  While there, I always felt like I could participate in a variety of activities and somehow there was always an intersecting point with people and ideas.  I was very involved with SGA as Director of Spirit and  learned how to juggle A LOT at the same time and not crack under pressure.  Deadlines motivate me to this day and I love lots of different activities combined altogether.  I guess that is how I see giddy paperie:  business plus creativity plus people.

What is the one thing you wish you had known before graduating from Auburn?  How fast time flies and to come back to the campus as much as you can! There really is no other place like Auburn.

Do you have any advice for Auburn women as they prepare to enter the workforce?Go on interviews a lot, even if it’s not exactly in your field.  You never know when you, your experience and your degree will intersect perfectly...just like my Finance degree and paper company.

What advice would you give to your college-age self?Invest in your favorite sport or hobby a lot in college. You will have very little time once you start work or a family!  It’s taken a while for me to get back to golf--I am on the third try now!

For more information (or to place your own order of these amazing products!) visit giddypaperie.com. And be sure to stop by our O-Days table September 2-5 to enter to win a set of the War Eagle Note Cards and Tiger Crunch!