Lindsey Kath's small business, Branch + Cotton, started with a conundrum: gift wrapping for far-away recipients.
"All my family lives back in Minnesota," the Corona del Mar resident said. "I never really had anything to send a gift in."
It was hard finding that perfect box small enough for those little items, Kath said, plus "you have to wrap it, put a ribbon around it, then you have to put it into another box, then bring it to the UPS Store. It's just a hassle."
Her solution? Chic, mailable gift boxes that are easy to store and travel with, and are collapsible.
"Everyone is so busy right now with this economy," she said. "Nobody really has the extra funds to present a gift elaborately. This a nice, quick solution to the traditional wrapping paper."
Kath started Branch + Cotton in 2011 from her tiny home studio in Corona del Mar.
Named after a tree branch to represent paper goods and cotton to represent fabric, Branch + Cotton also sells wine tags, notepads, coasters and labels — all with a little twist.
"I just like to have clean, bold, trendy designs with small, unexpected details," Kath said.
Those details are being noticed. Kath won a Best New Product award in May at the 2012 National Stationery Show in New York City. It was an award-winning debut for the four-year CdM resident.
Her "Made in the USA" products — which are printed in Laguna Niguel — can be found in 75-plus stores nationwide, and in Switzerland, Japan and Canada.
Locally, they're stocked at places like Francis-Orr in Corona del Mar, Where's the Party? in Costa Mesa, and the Details Design Studio in Newport Beach.
"It was surreal," Kath said of seeing her products on display the first time. "I was pinching myself because it really didn't kick in."
Her pillow-box-style gift boxes come in two sizes. The smaller ones are available in 20 designs, with the larger ones in seven.
The University of Minnesota alumna has a degree in merchandising, with a minor in graphic design. She worked for 3M in Minnesota and for Pica Press, her former CdM neighbor's company, which sells custom invitations, wedding and baby announcements and other paper goods.
Now, with her own boutique, it's all about time management and wearing "50 hats" to get the business off the ground.
"You have to figure out how to get into stores," Kath said. "You have to market. You have to do social media. It's the invoicing, packaging, assembly work — then creating new designs."
Her husband helps out a bit, and she has sales representatives and a part-time helper.
"I would love to be able to move this to a studio on Coast Highway and have more part-time help," she said.
Until then, it's about implementing an established product line that keeps up with the trends.
"I hope it continues to go well," she said.