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Photo by Emily Santos

The Woman Behind The Pressed Paper Shop

"I have always been very artistic ever since I was a kid, so I grew up creating things my whole life. It wasn't until I got older that I realized I enjoyed sharing my art with other people." Emily Santos is a 19-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona. She is currently a sophomore at Arizona State University's Barrett Honors College, where her major is medical studies. She plans to become a physician's assistant in the future, with goals of working in some sector of pediatrics. Currently, however, she operates one of the most successful Harry Styles inspired shops on Etsy.  

Emily prefers "Anna" to "Medicine," Fine Line to Harry Styles (although "Meet Me in the Hallway" and "Ever Since New York" are her all-time favorites), and "Kiwi" over "Watermelon Sugar" (but she admits that the "Watermelon Sugar" music video is fantastic). Like most of us, she can't wait to watch Harry Styles on the big screen again in his newest film, Don't Worry, Darling! And her favorite Harry Styles quote is: "BRO WE'RE GONNA CHEAT THE SYSTEEEEEM! AAAMERRICCA!" 

Her Campus (HC): When did the idea of creating the Pressed Paper Shop occur to you, and when did you officially launch your shop?

Emily Santos (ES): Pressed Paper Shop was a spur of the moment decision over summer break and quarantine! On May 23rd of this year, I decided that I wanted to go through with creating a shop after talking with my mom. I made my shop's first Tiktok that same day, the shop blew up overnight and the rest is history!

HC: Did you ever expect to exceed 12,800 sales in less than a year?

ES: Absolutely not! Going into this, I never thought about sales or followers. I am just happy that my work connected with at least one person! I'm incredibly grateful for how much we've grown so far, and I will never take it for granted.

HC: I originally discovered you through Tiktok. Do you think that social media platforms have helped you to grow your business?

ES: The shop would not exist without Tiktok! Tiktok is how we started this process and how we gained the most exposure. The app is different from any other social platform because you don't need a following to "go viral" or be successful! The algorithm can work for everyone if you market towards your targeted audience!

HC: I believe I heard somewhere that your family is familiar with printing. Is that true? If so, what role does your family play in your business?

ES: My dad has been screen-printing for over twenty years. He started out in California printing for MTV, World of Dance, and other big names at the time. When we moved to Phoenix, he transformed our second garage into a screen-printing studio! Our shop's designs are made and printed by my little brother and dad during the week. While they are busy printing in the studio, my mom and grandpa work in the office with me printing labels, fulfilling orders and answering emails. If you're not talking to me, you're most likely talking to my mom! It's definitely a family affair, and I could not do it without their support.

HC: Do you plan to grow the business and continue to operate it for years to come?

ES: We definitely don't have any plans to stop! Both my parents quit their jobs and help operate the shop alongside me. Creating and cultivating that connection with my "custies" (customers) is what brings me the most joy!

HC: Would you say that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business negatively, positively, or not at all?

ES: Strangely enough, I believe the pandemic was the best thing for my business. Without it, I'm not even sure it would exist! With the time I had in quarantine, sitting at home, it gave me a lot of time to contemplate and think about the vision I wanted for the Pressed Paper Shop. Although the pandemic has many downsides (mainly downsides), it might have created the golden era of online business.

HC: What does a typical day look like for you?

ES: When I'm not at school, I wake up early, check all shop social media accounts and plan out content and packing for the day. If the stars align, we are ahead on shipping out packages. So, if my friends are also available, the day might turn into a photoshoot day! Whether we post on Instagram, Tiktok or Twitter, I always try to be as active on our socials as possible. 

HC: Can you give us a quick rundown on how the printing process works?

ES: It all starts with the design idea! I usually get my best ideas either in the middle of the night or while driving, and I'm not sure why. If my iPad is around, I make sure to sketch it out quickly, so it doesn't escape my mind. If not, I have an ongoing list of ideas in my iPhone that I can look back to for future reference. I usually make a final draft of my sketch and send it off to Photoshop and Illustrator to clean it up and resize it before we're ready to burn the design onto emulsionized screens. Afterward, the printing is ready to begin! The screens can be loaded onto our Workhorse spinner, and the tees can be placed on boards. We pick the ink color, flood the screen with paint, and use a squeegee to transfer the paint through the screen's design and onto the tee. It might take a few passes before the design is the desired opacity. Lastly, the tee is baked in our oven, and the design is there to stay!

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HC: Do you have a specific creative process when it comes to designing new products?

ES: Not particularly; I mainly just make items that I would want to buy and wear. Before I was a shop owner, I was a consumer and purchased from the shops that I'm close friends with now. I would never make anything I don't love and wouldn't wear!

HC: Obviously, the shop is centered around Harry Styles, but are you considering expanding the shop to other artists?

ES: Yes! I think it will always be a Harry-centered shop, but I also love other artists such as Conan Gray and Rex Orange County. We already have designs in the works ready to launch next year for these artists!

HC: What is your favorite item in the shop right now?

ES: The Sunflower Vol. 6 Flower Crew or The Good Influence Tee!

HC: Can you give us any hints about some new launches that will be happening soon?

ES: Some "Lights Up" themed merch will be launching later this month, and some "To Be So Lonely" themed merch will be launching in January. We also will have a couple of Conan Gray designs going up in January! Both embroidered and screen-printed designs will be available.

HC: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone considering opening an Esty shop?

ES: Take your time! Shipping, packaging and outsourcing (if applicable) can get pretty complicated! Make sure it's something you want to do! Also, start on Tiktok! It's fun to make videos and the easiest way to gain an audience! If you believe in your work and your product, so will other people, so have fun with it! Lastly, be original! 

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Taylor Gabrovic is a sophomore studying criminology and editing, writing, and media at Florida State University. She was born and raised for most of her life in Chapin, South Carolina, but her family has since relocated to Cape Coral, Florida. She owns and operates her own photography business that specializes in portraits and events. She adores Criminal Minds, Law and Order: SVU, football, southern cooking, sweet tea, Taylor Swift, and she still has hope that One Direction will have a reunion. To find out more about Taylor feel free to check out her Instagram @taylorgabs_
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