Behind the Scenes - How We Make Decisions: Pencil Edition September 22, 2016 05:00

If you purchased a 2016 UPstudio Planner, then you know that we give away a little treat to go with it - a pencil.  Pencils and planners go together like... peas and carrots... Forrest and Jenny... donuts and sprinkles.  Take for example a week in the life of my (Becky's) planner usage:  on Monday I wrote down all of the game times for my husband's volleyball team in my planner - in pen.  On Tuesday, I crossed those out and wrote the revised ones.  On Wednesday, same thing.  NO JOKE.  If I had been using a pencil, no problem, but that pen seriously messed with my perfectionist goals.  *Le sigh*  

The 2016 pencil is black and we decided to use it as a marketing tool as well as a gift, so it reads ''.  We decided that we needed a little flair for the gift to go with the 2017 Planner.  Spoiler alert: we stuck with pencils, but wanted to add a phrase on there too instead of just straight marketing.  At a meeting between MB and myself, we generated ideas and came up with a list of phrases, narrowing that down to a short list, and choosing from there.  (Keep in mind, this was after a full day of work at our day jobs (remember, we're an architect and engineer, UPstudio is our side hustle), we both have mom brains on fleek, and at least half of us were sleep deprived with a newborn, so things got a little silly.  We're keeping it real in this post.)

These are the ideas that we used as a guide to generate phrases:

  • We love planners.
  • We love lists.
  • We love hard copies.
  • We love mail.
  • (Disclaimer:  We also love trees despite our love of paper products, let's just clarify that right now)

These are the phrases that we considered for the pencils:

  • No need to click save
  • Take note
  • Paper products are my BFF
  • Send real mail
  • No internet required
  • No need for a backup
  • Don't worry about crashing
  • Save As
  • I like the way you work it - no digital (If you're not singing Blackstreet in your head right now, then forget being my friend.  Just kidding.  Kind of.)
  • No charging required
  • Digital schmidgital
  • Digital is for dummies
  • Digital tools are for tools
  • Old school rules
  • Who needs trees, use paper*
  • This only killed one tree*
  • Paper vs Digital
  • Paper for the win
  • I look perfect on your desk
  • I <3 paper

And the winner is...


In white!  With gold letters!  Perfection!  What other phrase would you like to see?  Leave a comment below and we'll consider all ideas for 2018 (it's coming faster than you think!)

*We really do love trees

Lessons Learned: Free Shopify Apps to Install June 9, 2016 08:00 2 Comments

First off CONGRATULATIONS to Lynn B., you won the BEST GIVEAWAY EVER! We are super excited for you to check out all of UPstudio's new products and will be in touch shortly! 

For those of you out there that also use Shopify as your website platform hang around to read up on some FREE apps we have discovered that might help you out. For everyone else, have a great rest of your week and weekend! (And sorry if you didn't win the giveaway, but don't worry, there will be more giveaways soon!)

Lessons Learned: Free Shopify Apps to Install

Let us first set the scene: we are a fairly young start-up company that is fully funded by our two families, so we are very price conscious. We do a lot of shopping around to make sure we are getting the best deal. We chose Shopify as our website platform after a lot of extensive research (we'll share more about this in a future post). We chose to use one of their templates when setting up our store which means that we can't control some things we would like to in regards to its appearance, but we knew there would be limitations. We try to overcome these with installing apps. We spend a lot of time researching said apps because we need them to be FREE and flexible enough to match our website template. Now that you know where we are coming from, we'll share the free apps that we have come across that are currently installed on our site. We've provided a brief overview of each app. If you have any specific questions either leave a comment below or shoot us an e-mail.

MailChimp for Shopify by MailChimp

We are big fans of MailChimp. We can write a whole separate post about all the ways we utilize MailChimp and how well it syncs with all of our other platforms (let's be honest, you'll probably see this in the future). By connecting your Shopify store with your MailChimp account....

During the checkout process, Shopify asks your customers if they are interested in receiving marketing information from your store. When a customers completes an order at your store and has agreed to marketing, MailChimp for Shopify will automatically subscribe them to your MailChimp list. In addition, your customers are added to a static segment called "Shopify Customers", so that you can easily target email campaigns to only your customers.

Yotpo Reviews by Yotpo

Not sure about you, but we both read reviews of products prior to purchasing items pretty religiously. We decide not to splurge often after reading reviews. Honestly, a seller is always going to share all the good aspects of their product in the product descriptions, but the customer reviews are going to be a bit more straightforward, and will include the good and the bad. So we wanted a way to add reviews to our website. It is hard to trust new companies, you aren't sure what kind of quality to expect, so we wanted customers to be able to share their experience, and hopefully help new customers feel more confident in their purchase and in us. Yotpo was the answer. The free version does the basics. It sends e-mails to customers asking them to post a review. You have minimal customization, but you can customize the e-mail verbiage, and the review colors on your website to match your aesthetics. We highly recommend it, here is a sample from the UPstudio planner page. (And if you need more customization the upgraded version (not free) appears to have a lot of cool features.)

Yotpo Product Reviews Free Shopify App

Shopify Digital Downloads by Shopify

Have you checked out our free downloads section yet? (You should!) The Shopify Digital Downloads App has been great so far. After creating a product it is really easy to associate it with a download file you have uploaded to the app. If you list it as free, your customer will still have to go through checkout, just won't have to input any payment information. After completing their order a download option will appear similar to the screen below. They will also receive an e-mail after purchase with a link to download the file as well. One downside is that follow-up e-mail can't be customized with html to match your other e-mail templates, it can only be pretty basic with a few variables and the same e-mail is sent regardless of the download purchased, so it has to also be very generic.

Shopify Digital Download Free App with UPstudio

Email Template Editor by Klaviyo

Just counted, there are 17 different e-mail templates you can set up. That is a ton! There are 10 that we have customized. Klaviyo makes it super simple. They already have a great starter template custom for Shopify that you just have to tweak with your logo and colors, etc. Once you've tweaked the template to perfection you simply copy the html code Klaviyo creates for you and paste it right into Shopify - super easy and user friendly. I recently purchased something from a pretty well known store that also uses Shopify, and they hadn't customized any of their e-mails, but still the default Shopify e-mails, I was not impressed. Such a simple thing to do that goes a long way when it comes to professionalism. 

E-mail Template with Klaviyo Free Shopify App

Shopify Order Printer by Shopify

For all orders purchased through our website we like to print a packing slip/invoice for a couple of reasons: 1. easy for us to reference shipping address, 2. easy way to include a short note and our contact information in the package, and 3. it makes us look legit! The Shopify Order Printer makes this easy. There is a default template already set up and with some basic html code knowledge you can easily customize it with your logo and notes. You can have multiple templates set up for different types of orders as well.

Shopify Order Printer Free Shopify App

Privy - Free E-mail Pop-ups by Privy

We read an article about how pop-ups, although very annoying, are very effective. So even though we are both slightly annoyed by pop-ups we decided to add one to our website. As payback when you fill it out, you get a discount code! Win-Win. Privy is very easy to use and manipulate. We have it set up to accept Newsletter subscriptions, and it syncs seamlessly with our MailChimp Newsletter list. And even though it sometimes even annoys us, we've seen real results. Check out last December when we launched the pop-up; the "Import" category is strictly from our Privy pop-up. 

Newsletter Growth from Privy with MailChimp UPstudio

Privy Pop-up Free Shopify App UPstudio

Quick Announcement Bar by Hextom

This is our most recent addition. We wanted a way to announce big ticket items at the very top of our website. We wanted something simple and easy and the Quick Announcement Bar by Hextom is just that. There are some basic templates already set up but you have the flexibility to change the colors and text to match your template. You can specify which pages of your website it will be visible on as well. And if you upgrade to their premium plan (not free) you can have rotating bars for multiple announcements.

Quick Announcement Bar on UPstudio

Quick Announcement bar by Hextom for UPstudio

Quick Announcement bar by Hextom for UPstudio

Hopefully one of these can be useful to your shop! What apps do you use? Any we should check out? We are always looking for new additions to help improve our website.

Check out Shopify's blog post regarding the top 20 most popular free Shopify apps here.

Best GIVEAWAY EVER! June 1, 2016 22:16 4 Comments

One quick thing before we lose your attention completely by the title of this blog post and the picture below... 

We will be part of The Patchwork Market this Saturday at Fullsteam Brewery (726 Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, NC 27701) from 12pm-4pm. It is a monthly market with makers and vintage vendors. Would love for you to come and hang out with us (and maybe buy an item or two)!

Not sure if you heard yesterday or not, but the 2016 UPstudio Planner is on sale for only $10 and our 2016 Typeface Calendars are only $2. Both are amazing deals! More than half off with more than half the year still to go! 

Still on the fence? How about winning one of each for free? What's better than FREE?

Not only will you receive a planner and a calendar but we are also throwing in a Blank Arrows Journal, a Dots Sticky Pad, a variety (4) pack of our new card designs, and a pack of our new Chick Flick Catchphrase Pencil Set. WHOA! We are serious! The BEST GIVEAWAY EVER, right? Over $100 worth of UPstudio goodies shipped right to your doorstep!

UPstudio Giveaway

We are keeping it simple, just two ways to enter using the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends at 12am on 6/9/2016. Sadly this giveaway is only open to US residents. We will announce the winner in our blog post next week. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Christmas Giveaway!!! December 15, 2015 07:44 14 Comments


Can you tell we're excited about this one?  Christmas is just around the corner, and we're going to hook one lucky winner up with a pretty great gift - wrap it up and give it away, or keep it for yourself (we won't tell, we promise).  The winner will be sent: a 2016 Typeface Calendar, a 2016 Planner, and a pack of Gold Christmas Tree Paper Clips to use with your planner - a prize valued at over $60!  So, get your typing fingers ready and start entering!  

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to submit your entries.

Here are the official rules:

  • You must comment on this blog post to be entered.  Tell us: what you are hoping is under the tree for you this Christmas?
  • You can get one additional entry by signing up for our newsletter.
  • For even more additional entries, use your social media:
    • Instagram - follow us on Instagram and tag three friends on the photo associated with this giveaway
    • Facebook - share the photo associated with this giveaway on your Timeline
    • Twitter - follow us on twitter and tweet about this giveaway
  • Entries are valid through Saturday, December 19 at 11:59pm, EST
  • One winner will be drawn at random and notified Sunday
  • US residents valid only (sorry about this one - hopefully changing soon!)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

New Accessories in the Shop November 18, 2015 07:56

Yesterday we blew everyone up by e-mail and tons of social media posts announcing that our 2016 Planners were available for purchase. We apologize if we bombarded you, but we are really excited! Who am I kidding, we aren't sorry! We have worked really hard and are very proud of our finished product. So, we shouted it from the rooftops yesterday 'social media style'.

What we didn't talk too much about yesterday was that in addition to our planners we added five new products to our shop as well.

Do you need a way to mark your place in your planner? We typically do! We have four different fun options for you. They all work great as bookmarks, but the options are endless. Pricing includes a whole pack of clips!

We also added our Mantra Pencil Set. We shared some of the behind the scenes details on the blog a few weeks back. Includes four pencils with fun phrases that everyone can relate to.

Don't forget, in celebration of our planner launch, everything on our website ships for free this week! Place your order before 11:59pm on 11/22 using FREESHIP at checkout.

-- Mary Beth and Becky

Don't forget to sign up for our Newsletter to stay in the know regarding things on the horizon. 

(You can follow this link to add our blog to almost any reader that you use, or you can click on the RSS icon at the bottom of the page, found in the "Follow Us" section. If you'd like to receive our posts via email, click here.)

Why Our Planner Isn't $9.99 at Target November 16, 2015 19:51

If you haven't heard by now, we launched our 2016 planners on the website today! We are really excited because we have been developing these for a year, and we can finally share them with you now.  It's been quite the learning process, but our end product is one that we're really proud of. 

You can purchase your planner today by clicking here!! If you snag one this week, shipping is on us. Actually, in celebration, let's make it so that everything in our shop ships for free! Really - who doesn't love a good discount?  Enter FREESHIP at checkout (lasts until 11:59 EST on 11/22). 

So, why is our planner not $9.99 at Target, you ask?

First off, let's just be realistic.  We are two people, not a big company. Being a startup, we don't pull as much weight as the big wigs out there, and smaller quantities lead to higher prices. But, we didn't want that to stop us from providing a quality product. Because we are not a large company, we've been able to pour a lot of love, time, and effort into every little detail instead of making quick, profit-driven decisions. We are very happy with our finished product and know you will be too!

(To read more about the development process of our planner, check out our five part series, Planning a Planner, where we discuss how the idea was formed, how we made key decisions with the help of a focus group, and the final layout of the planner.)

Here are a handful of other reasons we think our planner is amazing (and worth more than $9.99):

  1. Our planner is locally printed and bound in North Carolina. 
  2. Our custom covers were letterpressed stateside by The Laughing Owl Press (they did an amazing job, per usual). 
  3. Our planner includes a double sided folder. (We personally use it for invitations, coupons, and receipts, but the options are endless.)
  4. Our planner pages measure 6" W x 9" H so that you can fold an 8.5"x11" size sheet of paper and stick it in your folder or in between pages without bending the corners.
  5. We chose 70lb text paper for our planner. We did a lot of tests with different types of pens, pencils, and sharpies to choose a paper type that has minimal bleed through without making the planner too thick.
  6. We developed the best layout ever (in our eyes, and hopefully yours too). One of our main goals was versatility. We wanted every space to be useful, but for you to be able to set the purpose, so there's a lot of freedom in use. We feel like we achieved that goal in our weekly layouts (click here for more details and sample), by having 5 blank pages at the end of every month for you to use however you like, and by providing pages at the beginning and end of the planner to track things throughout the year. 
  7. Our planner has tabs to mark the months. The tabs have a mylar coating for extra durability. Directly following each tab is a goal sheet for the month and a two page month layout prior to the week layouts.



(For close up of images, shop our planner!)

If we still haven't sold you and you have more questions, comment below, or shoot us an e-mail at, we'd love to share more details!

--Mary Beth and Becky

Don't forget to sign up for our Newsletter to stay in the know regarding things on the horizon. 

(You can follow this link to add our blog to almost any reader that you use, or you can click on the RSS icon at the bottom of the page, found in the "Follow Us" section. If you'd like to receive our posts via email, click here.)


The Lost Art of Letter Writing November 12, 2015 08:00

Here at UPstudio, we're big believers in the hand-written note.  There is nothing more special than receiving fun mail (read: not bills, advertisements, or coupons for window washing).  Sure an email or a text message are nice, but they don't feel as personal, or as permanent.  I have a collection of letters from my husband from when we were long-distance dating that I'll keep forever.  They're that much more special to me because I know he made the effort to sit down with paper and pen and write something out to me.  We still talked on the phone every day, but getting something physical in the mail always made my day.

  Letters saved from my husband while long distance dating

My grandmother who lives in Virginia just turned 90.  She is hard of hearing so we've never been able to talk on the phone.  Instead, both my sister and I write a letter to her each week.  Usually on Sunday night, I'll take out a note card and write to her about the previous week, and what's coming up next week.  A lot of times I'll try to ask her something about her past, how she felt about something going on in the world, what her favorite book is, etc.  She loves to receive mail and will send back letters and newspaper clippings that she thinks I'll enjoy (minus that one about wrinkles, what was up with that, grandma?! #selfconciousnow)  

Imagine a scenario like this:  You've been dating someone for a while and feelings have grown stronger.  Suddenly, your boyfriend sends you this text message:  "I luv u".  You respond with "I luv u 2".  How sweet.  In order to cherish this forever, you take a screen shot of it and it becomes the background on your phone.  Scenario #2: you thoughtfully pick out a gift for a friend or family member that you spent weeks looking for.  It is sent to them, and you're excited to hear their reaction.  You receive an email that reads "Thanks for the gift".  See what I mean?  Nothing can replace the simple act of writing a letter, mistakes and all, and sending it to someone that you care about.

We encourage you to take the time to write notes when you want to thank someone, tell them something important, or just make a person smile. It might not be practical to send a letter every time, but on the times that it is, make it count.  Especially in this technology-centric world that we live in, take a minute to slow down, write something out, and send it.  I guarantee you that the person on the receiving end will appreciate it more than you know.

Now think about this scenario: you're warm and dry at home as the fall temperatures set in, cozy by a fire with a warm drink in your hands.  Scenario #2:  You're away at war for months at a time, with little to no contact with your friends and family.  The mail is handed out, but you receive none.  On the days that you do get mail, you feel that much more comforted and appreciated.

 Yesterday was Veteran's Day, and we are humbled by the sacrifices that our military has made for us.  This blog post isn't an official letter, but it is certainly one way that we are proud to say thank you to the brave men and women who protect this country.  Thank you to those who have served, or who are currently serving.  Instead of taking just one day to honor and thank our military, we encourage you to consider sending a note of appreciation throughout the year.  There are many ways that you can do this, but one way that we have been a part of is through Soldier's Angels.  They offer different platforms of volunteering, but we especially like the Letter Writing Team.  In this team, you can choose how many letters to write and how often.  You are sent a name and address, and then write a letter to a soldier.  I've done this for several years and don't always get a response, but when I do, it is very obvious how much the letter that was sent is appreciated.  Bonus: it makes you feel just as good to send the letter as it does for them to receive it.  

We believe in letter writing and thanking our military so much, that we're offering to send you a complimentary Everyday Card and envelope so that you can pass it along to a soldier or a veteran.  Just send an email to with your name and address and we'll send one along.  Join us in helping to make someone's day!

 American Flag on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh

Potpourri October 15, 2015 08:05

This post is going to be like the Jeopardy category, potpourri: a little bit of everything. (Don't try to deny watching Jeopardy. It's all about that Teen Challenge to make you feel good about yourself.) So without further ado, here's a list of Very Important UPstudio Things:

1) Let's talk planner release, shall we? Planners will be available for purchase in November!! Date is looking like the 2nd, so get excited!

2) We have a winner for our first giveaway: Congratulations to Chelsea Gutierrez. We will be in touch to send you your Mantra Pencil Set.

3) Red skittles are so much better than grape.

4) This has been some perfect Raleigh weather, am I right?

5) UPstudio has not just one but three new products coming out in November! Ooohhhh now you're interested, aren't you?? We can't reveal all our secrets at once but keep an eye out.

6) Everyone on Nashville is so dramatic, but that makes the show that much better.

7) The Trader Joe's pumpkin trees are so festive and so stinking cute. It also means that I have over 20 pumpkins at my house.

8) What kind of giveaway are you hoping for next?

Mantra Pencil Set Giveaway October 8, 2015 08:00 10 Comments

So, today we are going to change the conversation from what goes into developing a planner for a bit. I'm sure after our five part series you are ready for a little break. (But if you aren't and want to reread all of them because you are really excited about the big release here are the links: I, II, III, IV, V)

Other than blog posts we have gone on a little bit of a promotional hiatus while we have been working on our planner. We feel like our website and store just aren't really complete yet without our big product. Once our planner is released and ready to purchase we will be in full "promotional" swing. That being said we have been working on our promotional plan for some time now. Part of our plan is applying to be part of local fairs and festivals. We've submitted a few applications. Once we are accepted and have the dates on our calendar you will be the first to know so that you can come out and support us (or just meet us in person, a friendly face is always nice).

Most applications for fairs and festivals want to see how you would put a booth together. Since we don't have any festivals under our belt yet, we had to create a booth from scratch. Once we started thinking of ideas we quickly realized that we didn't have enough stuff to fill a booth composed of a 6' table. So logically the next step was brainstorming some new products to help us out. We wanted items that complemented the products we already had and stayed true to our brand. 

The first product we decided on was a set of pencils with phrases that we identify with, mantras. First we had to determine if we could create the pencils ourselves or if we needed to find someone to make them for us. After researching foil presses and how much it costs to purchase one (pretty expensive risk) we decided finding a source to order from was the route to go. Once our source was secured the next obstacle was agreeing on just four phrases. We each created a list of ideas and combined them together. I kid you not, we had 72 phrases on that list. It was tough stuff dwindling the list down. We finally did, and landed on these four:

Rise and Grind
Working for the Weekend
Extra Sprinkles
I Double Dog Dare You

(Behind the scenes commentary: The daily grind is brutal but we all must face it in the morning. Who isn't working for the weekend, really? Sprinkles are by far the best ice cream topping, and they can't have those disgusting chocolate black ones combined in the mix. (Ok ok, so maybe we don't have to agree on everything.) Who doesn't think of A Christmas Story when you are thinking about a dare, we didn't go all in and call it a "triple", sorry.)

Choosing pencil colors was a whole different story, we decided on those in about 2 minutes. Check out the final products:

We plan to sell the pencils in our online shop as a set of 4 as our "Mantra Pencil Set". At the fairs and festivals we will sell them as a set, but will potentially have the option to purchase them individually. What do you think?

We have more products that we created for our booth and store still up our sleeve (as you can see from the picture above). We'll be sharing them shortly, just hold your horses. We can't share all the good news at once!

Here is a sneak peak at our booth we put together:


If you'd like to win a "Mantra Pencil Set" before you can buy them enter the giveaway below by using the Rafflecopter giveaway icon. If it doesn't load properly click here to enter. Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on October 14th. The winner will be notified and announced in next Thursday's blog post. (Unfortunately, this giveaway is only valid for US residents.  We hope to be able to expand our capabilities in the near future!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway