A Change to Our Thank You Notes
Daisy here :) I’m not exactly sure how to start this blog post! I’ve written so many in the past, but this is a hard one!
After over a year of thinking about this and many hours of discussions with Neil and our team, we have made the decision to change our thank you notes that we enclose with our online orders. Bear with me as I explain…
When Neil and I first started Yoseka Stationery, many things were different. First of all, we were called Yoseka Box 😅 Yoseka started as a side project for Neil. At the time, he felt restless at his job as a software engineer and I was a grad school student with a lot of time on my hands. We were young and had an idea of something cool to do. Neil built a website, we figured out how to write (some embarrassingly horrible) product descriptions, and take (some awful) photos of pens. Then, we waited for the online orders to come. Except they never did! So we began participating in some pop-ups at weekend markets and learned all about the value of connecting with people and the importance of being able to test something out first! We had a lot of fun while doing it and even though we were exhausted at the end of a long weekend, it was a rewarding experience and both of us felt really fulfilled.
A few pop-ups led to more, and one day we found ourselves signing a lease on a tiny space in Sunnyside, a ten minute walk from where we lived. The shop was a fraction of our shop now, with questionable plumbing, absolutely no storage, and let’s just say a more experienced business-owner may have picked a location with slightly more foot traffic. Nevertheless, some of my best memories happened in that space! We met some lifelong friends, had a chance to figure out who we were as a store, and learned so much about running our business—everything from lessons like New York City requires businesses pay for their own sanitation services to lessons such as if you treat a customer with respect and are honest with them, they will almost certainly appreciate you for it and be back.
We took these values with us and they are still with us to this day. Somewhere along the way, people from outside of NY in the stationery community started to hear about this and we began getting online orders. The first time we got an order online, Neil and I spent all evening figuring out how to wrap our Yoseka Notebook, and how to transfer our gratitude into this mailer we were mailing halfway across the country. We wanted this person to feel special as they were unwrapping their order. We realized that a handwritten note was the closest thing we had to being able to have a conversation in our store so we began to always include a handwritten note with each online order.
In those days, we were only getting online orders every so often, and it always seemed to be a surprise whenever we got one. Neil and I wondered how someone heard about us and were always immensely grateful that they would choose to order from our website with its measly offering of product listings.
Then, in March 2020 when the pandemic began and we decided to close our doors a week before NYC was locked down, Neil and I, suddenly with an unprecedented amount of time at home, began to devote all our energy to keeping the store alive by adding all of our products online. And to our disbelief, our efforts began to pay off and we saw an increase in our online orders. When I think back on our time at Yoseka and how much things have changed, my mind goes back to this time when Neil and I were at home all day working on orders.
Our dining table became the center of Yoseka. Each day started with an early morning trip to the post office to drop off packages by the time USPS opened. Then, once we got home, Neil and I would sit across from one another at our table and he would begin his work day at his job and I would reply to emails, messages on social media and create new products. After Neil finished his work for the day, we would eat dinner, maybe watch an episode of whatever show we were watching, and then we would begin working on the online orders we got that day. Without moving from our dining table, he would fulfill our orders, picking items that we had in stacks and piles reaching up to the ceiling for each order and I would write notes for each order.
We worked really hard day in and day out, but writing the notes was something I looked forward to each day. I would get ideas about how to decorate the paper for each day, what ink I would use in my fountain pen, how to incorporate some adorable new stamp we had just got in, and I just had a great time doing them. It was even more of a special treat to see that people loved to receive them, that my notes were being taped into your Traveler’s Notebooks and Hobonichi planners, that you were holding onto them and asking me questions about what ink I had used and what memo pad this note was from. Then, some of you would write back too. We started getting your letters responding to a question I had asked in my notes or a comment in your next order telling us a little bit about yourself—how you’ve been using your notebook, why you got that second TWSBI, what Sailor pen you were dreaming of next. It felt like I was really getting to know you even though we had never met in person and that was exactly why we started writing our thank you notes in the first place.
As we worked more and more during the pandemic, and it became safe for Soraya to join us again, our business grew a little more now that our team was reunited. Each week, I began writing a few more notes everyday and when Hobonichi Day came, Neil and I woke up to more orders than we could have imagined and that was the first time that I had to shorten my messages because I just couldn’t write notes as fast as Neil fulfilled orders, and we didn’t want to delay any orders just because of the note.
As time went on, we moved Yoseka out of our home and into our Greenpoint shop, added more team members and I personally taught everyone how to write our notes. I told Ashley, Christine and Jane to imagine what they would say to a customer in-store who was buying these items and write it down in the note.
So if you’ve ordered online from us, you’ll have definitely received a handwritten personalized note from one of us. On most days, it’s something that we really enjoy doing for many reasons—it gives us a chance to sit down and use stationery at work for one! But also, I like to think that when hiring for our team, we got really lucky and were able to find genuinely kind-hearted people who like to make others happy and for all of us, setting aside some time each day for writing thank you notes is almost like a practice in self-care and mental health.
As our online orders have been increasing over the last year, though, there are some days when we do spend collectively 5 to 6 hours a day on note-writing. During our most recent Hobonichi Day, two weeks after Jacob got here, our team was working their hardest to fulfill your orders as quickly as possible and I found myself writing notes as quickly as I could while Jacob napped. If I'm being honest, those were not my happiest days and I was feeling very stressed.
Over the past few years, I have written over 15,000 notes and altogether Soraya, Ashley, Christine and Jane have probably written another 10,000. Neil’s written maybe 100. Haha just kidding! But for anyone who has received a Neil note, please know you are in possession of a rare commodity.
During our biggest recent releases, someone writes notes from the minute they walk in at the start of the day and Neil and I often have to write notes at home after dinner. Earlier this year, when nearly our whole team was sick, and Neil and I worked on orders ourselves, I wrote notes in the car while Neil stood in line for us to be COVID-tested. Soraya has written notes in her car while waiting for alternate side parking. I’ve written notes at my dentist’s office and my OB/GYN monthly check up appointments. I’ve even written notes while bouncing Jacob to sleep and holding one phone up to play white noise for him! On our busiest of days, we began to think that maybe this was not the right thing to do—to hold off on shipping an order because we hadn’t written the note yet.
As you can probably tell, we have been conflicted about the time we spend writing notes because we know it’s something that you all look forward to in your orders and most days, it’s something we take pride and find joy in, but at the same time, we are realizing that they are taking away from the time that we could be making in-depth YouTube videos, doing research for blogposts, creating new products, putting orders together for restocking products, and looking into new brands that we could be bringing in to Yoseka.
Yoseka has changed a lot since we first started. We've grown from being just me and Neil to having our incredible team. We've moved a bunch of times: from our Sunnyside shop to our home to Greenpoint and now to our new storage/office location in Ridgewood. We're expanding and growing, and with each of these steps, we've had to reconfigure and think about a new way of doing things.
For this next step, we'll be saying thank you in your orders in a different way. Starting from today, we will begin including these adorable Yoseka Highlights postcards that Ashley designed for us in some of your orders instead of our usual thank you notes. For those of you who are subscribed to our newsletter, certain parts of the postcard may be familiar to you since we will be taking some Yoseka highlights from our most recent newsletter and featuring them in the postcard!
New postcards will be printed regularly, with each edition being numbered so you’ll be able to keep track of which you’ve collected. Personally, I’m really excited about these. They'll give us another fun project to work on and design every few weeks and our team will be able to contribute their designs on different postcards. With each postcard you receive, in it you will see a reflection of our team's journey, how we've been spending our time at Yoseka and what exciting new things we've been working on. All of these updates are only possible because you choose to support our team and we're so happy that the postcard will give us a way of thanking you for that support as you are opening up your package.
We’ll certainly continue to enjoy writing notes too—after all, Ashley did just design a whole memo pad just for them :) And for anyone who has always enjoyed corresponding with us through our notes and the comments in your orders, please continue to leave us comments and it will be the highlight of our day to respond to them with a note in your order!
Thank you all so much for reading this lengthy post, for following our story and going with us on this next leg of our journey. Brevity has never been my strong suit and I appreciate you all for going with me on this trip down memory lane.