Client Profile: Linden Lehner
In honor of the class of 2020, we are profiling a very recent alum, Linden Lehner and her business, Linden Lane Artworks.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I grew up around talented artists and taking art classes in high school, sparking my passions in the art industry. While studying at Kent State, I thought I was going to study Art History to learn more about the culture and what it takes to bring to life an art gallery. I also took entrepreneurship classes to pair it. Half way through my first semester in Art History, I gave that a big good-bye and took marketing as my minor instead. I already knew I was good at art, so I didn’t think taking art classes was going to be a good use of my time so I landed on majoring in entrepreneurship and minoring in marketing. Little did I know at the time where that would have taken me, but it has taken me to writing this story.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea of your business come about?
The history of Linden Lane is quite wild, starting as the vision of being an art gallery once I could afford a brick and mortar shop. When I knew I couldn’t afford that then and (now!) I leaned towards the pop-up route. I gained a few artists to commission work from and used some of my own artwork to put on display. I’ve popped up artwork in Corner Cup Coffee, Scribbles, Flurries Cafe, and the Kent Makers Market. During this phase of Linden Lane, I would literally lug around 20 pounds of shelving to set up my booth, then carry around all the artwork (carefully wrapped and packaged to be transported) in my car to get it from place to place. This was not a great reality. I would stand at pop-ups and watch the clock until it was time to go. I did not have fun doing that. One time, I even told myself I was sick so that I wouldn’t go, but the entrepreneur inside me said no, you’re going!
The day I thought to pretend to be sick was the day I knew I needed to make a big pivot in my business if I wanted it to continue. This was when I made an e-commerce store and started posting my artists' artwork on there thinking it could sit on the internet and maybe, just maybe, someone would find it! Well...that also did not work out. The marketer in me knew that too!
One of my artists gave me a stack of her Christmas cards to take to my last pop-up. The Christmas cards were the biggest hit of any pop-up I had ever had. Now was the time to really step back and think about what sold well and what didn't, what I liked to do and what I didn't like doing.
Linden Lane is now solely a card company. This happened back in January of 2020. With it being my last semester at Kent State, on top of pivoting, I also wanted to absorb my last moments with all my friends, focus on graduation, and find a job! And that is exactly what I did.
Now we were in the month of March, there is now a world pandemic going on, and my entire life ground to a halt. Everything changed--there were so many adjustments I had to make in my personal life that there was “no time” for my business right now.
Well, come to find out, after sitting around being “bored” it dawned on me to step my game up, be a motivated entrepreneur and find my niche in this pandemic. I spent hours late into the nights (because I still have a daytime job!) updating my website, learning how to REALLY use it the right way and everything, marketing because we have switched fully to online sales since most small businesses are closed. All this time on my hands has given me the creative space to make new card designs, connect with my customers, create more online content, and network with other entrepreneurs in the area to help guide me.
I’m now focusing on post COVID-19 and how to scale up once stores open back up by starting to go wholesale. The journey for Linden Lane is really just starting, and I couldn't be more excited about it!
What has been your most satisfying moment in your venture?
The most satisfying moment in my venture has been my inability to keep up with supplies! I know that sounds like the opposite of satisfying because trust me, it's STRESSFUL, but I know that not being able to keep up with my supplies is because I’m getting more orders than expected. I haven’t set specific goals to achieve so seeing orders come in everyday has been mind-blowing, and I know I have a product that people love.
What company do you admire the most?
One of the companies that I admire the most is Anne Cate. [Editor note: Anne is also a LaunchNET client who we also admire very much!] Annie is the most hard-working entrepreneur that I know. She always has her thinking cap on and is always thinking about the next step. She motivates me to be better, not just in my everyday life, but as an entrepreneur myself. Not only has she succeeded and will continue to succeed, she's been a great friend and mentor in my life. She’s always giving me her best advice and being one of my many hype women! I hope one day Linden Lane will be as successful as Anne Cate and start doing collaborations with each other.
Where do you see you and your business in 5 years? 10 years?
10 years, even 5 years is so far away! Since graduating and having more time on my hands, I hope to expand Linden Lane to boutiques and stores around the NEO region to start, and expand more into different states by starting wholesaling and commissions. If expansion goes well, I hope to find a manufacturer to produce the amount of cards I would need and start a team of my own. I’ve worked in the start-up world for a while now and want to be able to provide eager students and upcoming entrepreneurs with the experience that I received in my positions, while also managing a secure team that has the same passions as myself.
How do you express your creativity?
Since creativity is a huge part of my life, I tend to express it in many aspects. I get to express most of it while designing cards. I like to have some music on or a tv show to watch while creating designs with tons of lights and sunshine. When I'm not designing cards, I express my creativity in my work. I do a lot of marketing and social media marketing for the company that I work for which has allowed all my passions to really come together.
What made you laugh today?
My roommate and I have been so bored lately, we have spent many hours watching TikToks, so this morning we made "cereal" out of bite-sized pancakes and put them in a bowl with some syrup on top. We thought we were clever and had a good laugh doing it!
You can find Linden's cards on the Linden Lane Artworks website, with designs that are "unique and carefully curated cards to bring your stationary needs to life." Linden graduated from Kent State this May with a degree in entrepreneurship and marketing, pitched in the 2019 CEBI Pitch competition, and was a finalist in the 2020 LaunchNET Idea Olypmics.