- Gary Dinges American-Statesman Staff
Not everything is digital these days, even though it often seems that way.
Just ask Erin Condren, whose line of LifePlanner organizers and notebooks has really taken off in recent years.
In fact, they’ve become so popular that Condren recently opened a flagship brick-and-mortar store at Domain Northside.
The store, at 11601 Rock Rose, is twice the size Condren initially envisioned. When an adjoining storefront became available, she says she jumped at the opportunity.
The American-Statesman talked with Condren about her journey as an entrepreneur and how she’s grown her business since its launch more than a decade ago.
American-Statesman: Tell us how you got your start.
Condren: My business really began with me designing and printing holiday cards and labels from my children’s playroom. I was a new mom to twin babies, had left my job in the apparel industry and was really trying to find a career that I could do from home. My husband and I knew that a dual income was crucial to support our growing family and I had always been creative, so I started designing and gifting cards to friends and family. They encouraged me to sell my work at home-shopping parties, word of mouth spread and my website erincondren.com went live in 2005. For the first years, I really focused mainly on holiday cards and labels, but with the introduction of the first LifePlanner in 2007, everything changed. Today over 1 million people use a LifePlanner. It’s been a crazy and exciting adventure.
How has your business grown over the years?
The LifePlanner has been the signature product since the first edition was released. Longtime customers have been coming back each year for that new planner with that year’s calendar and new designs, and along the way have seen just how much else we now have to offer. We evolved into organizational supplies, home décor, stationery, accessories and so much more. We continue to add to our expanding collection each year. I’m so proud of the growth of this company and the direction we’re going. Though the product line has expanded, I really think that our core values have remained the same. We’re striving to create colorful, happy, beautiful products that really help people not just schedule each day, but celebrate each day.
Who is your typical customer?
The Erin Condren customer loves the tangible act of writing things down. She gets pleasure from taking pen to paper and seeing her week or her day or her month in front of her as opposed to on an app or on her phone. These gals are creative. They take boring or daunting tasks like creating to-do lists, meal planning or paying the bills, and truly turn it into an art form. These are corporate businesswomen, teachers, students, stay-at-home moms … women in all kinds of professions, all over the world, coming together to make their lives more organized and more fun. For some customers, it has become like “real-time scrapbooking” and they use their planners to create a memory album of appointments, special events and day-to-day activities, all in one book they save and can look back on in years to come. It’s remarkable to see these women with different careers and design aesthetics all united in a love for organization and inspiration.
What made you want to locate at Domain Northside?
I have longed for a retail space for years. I think it’s so impactful to have that brick-and-mortar experience, to flip through the pages of the LifePlanner, see the vibrant colors in person and really have that full engagement with the product. Selling a paper planner solely online was a terrific challenge, especially considering we launched the first year that the iPhone was released. This store will be our way of inviting people in to experience the Erin Condren brand in an organic way. The store was designed to feel like an extension of my home, a place where people can gather and connect. Domain Northside was the obvious choice for this new space. With our fulfillment center located in Austin, it truly has become my second home and it really was where I wanted to put down roots. I’m so excited to be a part of this Texas community. Y’all really have captured my heart.
What was the process of opening a new store like for you?
The entire process of opening the store has been a whirlwind. I keep telling my team, “I’ve never done this before, so let me know what you think.” It’s all been so new to me, but it’s been a total dream come true. After working with my amazing team in Austin all last week, working well into the night, seeing the fruits of our labor – this absolutely incredible space come to life – was something I’ll never forget. I’ve been crying happy tears ever since we opened, looking at pictures on social media of our community being able to go in and experience it for themselves. It really has been a true labor of love and seeing it open is so gratifying.
Why did you decide to expand your store’s size before it even opened?
Well, everything’s bigger in Texas, isn’t it? In all seriousness, we saw the lot next to us was available and we decided to go big or go home and just go all in on this space. We wanted to create not just a store but an experience, a place that planners can gather to communicate and collaborate and exchange ideas and after seeing the finished product. I know we made the right decision. The space is absolutely perfect.
What has customers’ reaction to the new store been like?
It has been better than I even hoped. We’ve only been open for a couple days, but I keep refreshing my phone and looking on social media to read their thoughts and impressions. The community has embraced this company for so many years and has really come on this wild ride with us. They’re so excited to be able to see it in person – and I’m so happy for them to get to touch and feel the product. We see so many comments saying, “Come to New Jersey!” or “Come to Nebraska!” and I wish we could be in everyone’s town. We’ll just have to see where it grows from here.