By Daniel J Vaccaro
Julie and David Sandusky fell in love through letters.
David was a marketing student at MSU Denver. Julie, a recent high school graduate, was traveling across Europe with the service and performance organization Up with People.
They’d met shortly before she left, and sensing something special, had agreed to stay in touch.
“I was amazed by her adventurous spirit,” said David. “This was in the mid-’90s, before email, so I would handwrite letters and send them in advance to the cities where I knew she’d be.”
That year was an indication of things to come. Their commitment across thousands of miles would ultimately mature into marriage. And as it turns out, letters – or more precisely, stationery – would also play a pivotal role in their life together.
Today, the happy couple owns Idea Chic, a cozy boutique in the Denver metro area, where they design, manufacture and sell stationery and handmade gifts. In recent years, the near decade-old business has garnered attention from local magazines such as 5280 and been featured in national publications Martha Stewart Wedding, Redbook and Country Living. The company was one of 52 nationwide to be filmed for Handmade at Amazon’s Discover the Artisans series.
At the heart of their business is a 1930s letterpress that they’ve affectionately named Hazel. The press produces stationery that is as beautiful as it is tactile. But stationery is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, the couple expanded its product line to include everything from greeting cards and calendars to coasters, match books and sachets of herbs. They also have a digital printer that allows them to print on wood and other materials. Seasonal and customized wedding items are among their top sellers, and true to their tagline, everything is handmade with love.
Idea Chic is a perfect marriage of Julie and David’s skills. Julie is creative, detail-oriented and loves to work with her hands. David is a broad-minded entrepreneur with a passion for marketing and e-commerce. The Colorado natives trace their career paths back to their student days at MSU Denver.
David chose the University because he wanted to study with professors who were working in the field. When an entrepreneur came to speak in one of his classes, it confirmed for the 1997 graduate what he was meant to do with his life. That speaker would become his mentor and help launch his career as a small business marketing consultant.
David stays connected with his alma mater. He served on the advisory board for the University’s Center for Innovation and has taught entrepreneurship classes. He is part of a mentoring program for business students and won an Alumni Award for giving back in 2008.
Julie studied hospitality at MSU Denver and appreciated the hands-on learning opportunities she received in the program. When she graduated in 2000, she immediately got a job in event planning. Over time, she learned that her passion was in the small details.
“I loved all the little things – the invites, the favors, the décor, making things look beautiful” she said. “That’s when I got the idea to start a wedding business.”
She called the business JS Design and worked with couples to create save the dates, welcome packages, table settings, etc. That work was going well, when on a whim, she put a tea favor on Etsy.com.
It sold quickly. So, she and David posted more stuff – she would make the items and he would market them.
“Everything was selling so quickly, and Julie was busy making custom wedding invitations, so I would come to the shop on nights and weekends to fill orders,” said David. “It wasn’t long before it became a full-time job.”
And that’s how Idea Chic was born.
These days, business is booming. Millennials, in particular, seem drawn to their handmade, organic aesthetic. And though their workload has grown exponentially, much is still the same as in those early days. Julie is the designer and creator. David uses e-platforms and social media to expand their reach.
They both love customer service, and have even bigger plans. Their ultimate goal is to open Idea Chic boutiques across the country, but for now, they’ll be happy with a bigger production space.
With that space, they can create even more unique stationery and gifts. So, when the next couple decides to express their love in the old-fashioned way, they’ll have something beautiful to write on.
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MSU Denver Office of Marketing and Communications, 303-556-2957