Planning a Planner v2019 Part II August 30, 2018 05:00

This is the second and final installment of the Planning a Planner series.  To get caught up on all the changes that have been made to the 2019 UPstudio Weekly Planner and why, check out last week's blog post.   

And now.. the biggest change in UPstudio Planners for 2019... 

We are introducing a new Monthly Planner!  The Monthly Planner is a slightly larger format, approximately 8" x 10", with a flexible black leather cover. The planner is bound with smyth sewn binding, so it lays perfectly flat, and includes full spread month layouts, a look ahead for 2020, followed by 62 pages of grid paper, similar to the Weekly Planner.  Because it does not include weekly spreads, the overall thickness of the planner is much more slim than the Weekly Planner.  The Monthly Planner also includes the same upgraded ribbon as the Weekly Planner, as well as an elastic closure, and pocket in the back.

We are so excited to share this new product with you!

For 2019, the Monthly Planner will only be offered in black leather.  Weekly Planners will still be offered in the same colors as last year - gray and satchel (since satchel was such a hit and we had to re-order last year, we upped our initial order number, so there are plenty to go around!)

New Vintage Items Added to the UPstudio Shop January 11, 2018 05:00

In March 2016 we launched the UPstudio Vintage Collection. The idea stemmed from how much interest we had in our vintage display items at shows and the vintage props we use in photos both on our website and social media. We decided as we came across amazing vintage pieces we'd curate a collection that compliments our UPstudio brand and make that collection available to you. 

We just refreshed our online store with a handful of new items. You can shop the collection here.

UPstudio Vintage Collection

All items are authentic vintage which means there might be some imperfections that add to their character. We have described each item as accurately as possible. All images are of the actual item you will receive. Quality is a high priority to us. That beings said, rest assured, we will not post anything that we wouldn't personally purchase ourselves. 

As always, if you have any additional questions as you are checking out a product, feel free to contact us.

Did someone say BBQ? May 19, 2016 08:00

Real quick, we are having our second pop-up at the Southpoint West Elm this Saturday from 1-5. Pencil us into your planner! Click here for specific location in the mall. We hope to see you there!

Well, it's official: the season of perfect weather has arrived (at least here in Raleigh... minus this week of crazy rain). To be clear, it doesn't last long, a few good weeks at the most, and it's certainly not every day during those weeks that the weather is perfect. But, now is the time that we get to enjoy those few fleeting days of no pollen, low humidity, sunshine filled, and perfect temperature. It's this kind of weather that makes you want to be outside all day long, and enjoy delicious grilled or smoked food. Who doesn't immediately crave a hamburger or steak when you smell someone's grill going? (ok, vegetarians excluded! - but grilled veggies are also more than delicious)

My family went without a grill for the past year - the gas one we had suddenly stopped working and we never got around to replacing it, until last Sunday. It just so happened that we got a new combination charcoal grill and smoker on Mother's Day, and believe me, there is no better present (my husband does all the grilling so less work for me, and he's very good at it - win win!). 'Tis the season of barbecues!

To kick off barbecue season, we are excited to announce a new feature on our website - free downloads!  We've added a fun Everyday Card with all the essential BBQ supplies.  Just download it and print it out for your personal use.  Memorial Day is fast approaching, and this would be the perfect way to invite your friends and family over for a fun day of grilling and hanging out.  Enjoy!

New Products - 2016 Spring Release! April 7, 2016 08:00

While you were out on Spring Break we have been hard at work behind the scenes to release new products, and are thrilled to share them with you today.  Get ready, we've got some really exciting stuff!  The shop listings are filled with a lot of information, but we'll give you the highlights of new products below.  Everything you see on the website will be available at upcoming shows and pop up markets, including the Pink Social Girl Tribe Spring Pop Up in Charlotte on April 16 (we hope to see you there!)

Drumroll please...

Planners and Calendars

I know what you're thinking: old news, right?  We'll release 2017 editions later this year, but while we still have some 2016 styles in stock, our prices have dropped AGAIN!  Planners are now $15 and calendars are $5!

Vintage Products

This is not a surprise as we've been advertising them on social media and had a previous blog post about them, but we want to stress that we're getting new items into the shop frequently, so make sure to check back on the website for what is available!  We'll post on social media too, so follow us on Instagram (@upstudionc) and/or Facebook if you want updates.  We are absolutely swooning over this adorable umbrella.


Sticky Pads

Hopefully you saw the poll that we launched and voted for your preference of sticky or non sticky for notepads.  Sticky was the official winner, so these beauties can now easily stay wherever you want them - on the refrigerator, in your planner, taken to the grocery store, on your bathroom mirror, etc.  The dot pattern can be used as a grid for list making, bullet journal style listing, or an impromptu game of dots (anyone else remember doing this on long car rides?)  Side note: check out this life changing sticky pad tutorial from Elite Daily on how to remove a sheet without the sticky side curling up.  So helpful!


Chick Flick Catchphrase Pencil Set

We loooove this new set of pencils because these lines from movies really speak to us.  One, all these movies are classics that we've seen countless times, but even out of context, you know exactly what they're referencing.  We wrote down every quotable quote we could think of and picked our top favorites.  Girly themed movies won this time, and we think it's perfectly appropriate for our #girlboss business.  (We'd love to hear your favorite and if these resonate with you!) #illhavewhatsheshaving


Everyday Cards

The line of Everyday Cards has also been expanded to include 4 new designs.  Highlights of these new cards include small images on the opposite side of the card, as well as some more occasion-specific cards instead of generic designs.  Each one is still all-purpose and BONUS - now you can purchase cards individually!  (Side note: did you know that April is National Letter Writing Month?  Snag a few of these and send out some overdue notes to friends or family!)



Last but not least are journals.  Heavy linen paper covers in the Arrows design protect your choice of either blank pages or dot filled pages to jot down lists, sketches, bullet journal lists, meeting notes, or whatever your heart desires.  All internal pages are top quality for whatever use you choose.  The best part is that these are perfect bound and lay flat!


We hope you are as excited about these new products as we are!  Let us know your feedback - what are you most excited about?  What Everyday Card is your top pick?  Do you prefer dots or blank pages in your journal?  What's your favorite quote from a classic chick flick?  What product do you hope to see next?  (Don't worry - we're already working on new ideas to come out soon!)

Vintage Items Added to the Shop! March 3, 2016 08:00

First, announcements:

  • 300 INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS! BAM! Big milestone for us. Thank you!
  • Terra of Earn Spend Live reviewed our planner on their blog. She totally gets us and what the UPstudio planner is all about. So if you're on the fence and want an unbiased opinion, check out her post. (Cause our blog is WAY biased, us being the designers, investors, criers, the whole shabang!)
  • Nominations have opened for the Indy Best of the Triangle 2016. If you're local to the Triangle, don't forget to nominate your favorites. (If we made the cut, we'd appreciate your nomination  in the following category: Shop: New Business in Wake County: UPstudio.)

Now, vintage, vintage, vintage... 

Have you fallen in love with one of our vintage accessories either at a show or in our product photos on the website? If so, you are in luck! We at UPstudio have curated a collection of unique vintage items that we think you will love.  We plan to add to the collection regularly as we come across great pieces. We will typically trend towards items that can be used at your desk (or decorate it). We launched the collection yesterday with three coil dog letter holders and three different brass letter openers. You can shop the collection here (they also show up at the bottom of our complete list of products in the shop).

UPstudio Vintage Collection

All items are authentic vintage which means there might be some imperfections that add to their character. We have described each item as accurately as possible. All images are of the actual item you will receive. Quality is a high priority to us. That beings said, rest assured, we will not post anything that we wouldn't personally purchase ourselves. 

We plan to add more products this weekend, so if coil dogs and mail openers aren't your thing, make sure to check back for the new additions! We will post pictures on our Instagram, Facebook, and twitter. (If you don't already follow us on social media, this is a great reason to start! #301)

Thankfulness and a Free Download November 26, 2015 08:38

It's that time of year again: time for cooler weather, college football rivalry week, and eating as much turkey and pumpkin pie as you possibly can.  It's also time to take a few minutes to think about what you are truly thankful for.  We recommend that you do this more often than once a year, but when a day is dedicated to it and you're off from work (we hope you are!), then you should make the effort to do it.  To get you in the spirit, here is a list of a few of the things we're thankful for at UPstudio:

  • Turkey
  • Family
  • Trader Joe's Cranberry Sauce
  • Friends
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Hot Chocolate
  • #shopsmall (Small Business Saturday)
  • The reason for the season!
  • Our Favorite Customers (we're looking at you)
  • Free Downloads

Wait - you're thankful for free downloads too?  Well then you're in luck - there is a brand new free download on the UPstudio website today!  If you've been wanting some hands on experience with the 2016 UPstudio Planner layout, then download this Weekly Layout for free!  We're personally using these to finish out the year for 2015 before using the 2016 UPstudio Planner full time.  This is a great way to figure out the best way that the design can work for you and give it a test run before committing to purchase.  We hope you'll take advantage of this, but there's no rush, it'll stay on the site.

Look out for some sales coming up too - UPstudio is celebrating Small Business Saturday through Cyber Monday with 15% off everything in the store!  Use code THANKFUL at checkout. (11/28 12:00am to 11/30 at 11:59pm)


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.)


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

Planning a Planner, Part V October 1, 2015 10:00

This week we're wrapping up the final installment of our Planning a Planner series.  To get the whole story from the beginning, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.  We almost can't believe that all of our planning, designing, checking, back checking, changing, and printing is soon to be complete.  You know the feeling of being really really excited for something, but having to wait for it?  Like a really great vacation, or having a baby, or 5:00 on a Friday?  Well our really exciting thing is knocking on our door and we are so excited to be able to share it with you all.

Last week we showed a sneak peek of the weekly layout for the planner, and some of the changes that we made from our initial design to the final.  The differences described last week to the weekly layout were definitely the biggest changes we made, but we wanted to let you in on another secret:  the planner is full of spaces for jotting down notes, lists, goals, sketches, meeting minutes, daily thoughts, etc. Our focus group found these spaces to be essential for using the planner to do more than recording daily events.  The sizes of spaces vary and are tucked away on month and week layouts, but also are reserved on entire sheets at the end of each month.  I have a personal accolade for these extra spaces.  Have you ever tried to get a passport photo taken of a 2 year old?  If you haven't, let me tell you - it is one of the worst experiences in life.  We constantly needed to take breaks and 'reset' in order to stop crying (both of us) or to work up courage to be near the scary camera again.  During these breaks, my daughter would happily color on the blank pages of my planner.  (In the end, it took 3 different locations and 4 different photo sessions, but we finally got a photo that was acceptable.  Save yourself the trouble and take domestic vacations!)  In our final product, most of the 'extra' pages are graph paper which our focus group also overwhelmingly preferred.

One of our biggest goals is versatility, so in areas where there could have been a title, nine times out of ten we would eliminate it.  We tried to keep things as fluid as possible so that this planner would work just as well for the stay at home mom juggling schedules as it would for the college student as it would for the person working multiple jobs.  

We debated the cover quite a bit.  Most planners out today are flashy or colorful or patterned, but we decided to take a simpler approach, going back to a couple of our core values of simplicity and versatility.  We wanted both men and women to be comfortable carrying this, and for it to be appropriate for client meetings or planning to throw a party.  We didn't want to go 100% plain, and so we enlisted the work of the fabulously talented Andrea and Joe of The Laughing Owl Press Company.  They letterpress printed our custom covers and they are really beautiful.  Without further ado, we present the first look at our 2016 planner covers!

 Image courtesy of The Laughing Owl Press Co

During this whole process, we realized just how picky we actually are.  We looked extensively at types of paper, thicknesses and weights, trying to balance having a durable paper that wouldn't make a 3" thick planner that weighed 10 pounds, but would be more than sufficient to not cause bleed through.  We reviewed binding options, colors and sizes.  We debated the paper type and style of the folder, the tabs, the printing on the tabs.  We reviewed proofs with a magnifying glass and spent too many hours with the printer discussing the perfect lineweight and the perfect grey for text.  We endured our husbands thinking we were insane for not approving something that was 99% perfect but not 100% perfect.  We worked a lot of late nights and probably thoroughly annoyed our ever patient printer by delaying our deadlines just to make sure that everything we were doing was exactly how we wanted it.  

We are excited.  We're excited to use these planners, share them with you, and see what you think of them.  We'll be updating our website just as soon as we can with all information regarding how you can order a planner of your own.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or just want to talk about planning or how you don't think we're crazy for wanting this to be the best it can be, we welcome your comments.

Planning a Planner, Part IV September 24, 2015 07:50

After some back and forth, tweaks, and revisions, we finally sent our final files to the printer last night for our planner! We are beyond excited! This means that we will be able to hold our brain child in our hands next week, and you will be able to check out our final design and purchase a planner in as soon as two weeks! Once we have a hard date for the big reveal, we will shout it from the rooftops, don't you worry.

Over the past three weeks we have being talking about the development process for our planner in our "Planning a Planner" series. Here are the links to Part I and Part II.  Last week in Part III we talked about our focus group. As mentioned last week at the end of the two month trial we asked our group to send back answers to a list of questions, either their actual planners or scans of some sample weeks, and any additional feedback. This information was invaluable. The feedback sparked many conversations between us about pros and cons of each of our layout decisions. We made many tweaks and changes, and are pretty happy with our final product. 

So, let's talk about some of our layout decisions and some of the changes we made; we'll focus on the week layout.

In our sample planner sent out to our focus group we included a page where we gave examples of how to use our layout:

With one of our main goals being versatility, we focused on making our layout as flexible and unconfining as possible. You can see that our initial layout had a large space at the top and then the bottom was broken into four separate sections. With this layout you can use all five sections for whatever works best in your life.

After receiving the feedback from our focus group and looking at the samples of how they used the week layouts we noticed a few common themes, the first being that no one seemed to know how to use the large space at the top. It was hit or miss as to whether it was utilized. Sometimes it was used for daily appointments, and sometimes it was used for lists that may or may not have to do with that particular day. We also noticed that four sections at the bottom Were too many and that only one person in the focus group actually utilized all four sections during the trial. 

In our 2016 planner we decided to include a similar page that talks about the benefits of our layout:

You can see some of the changes in response to the feedback. We added the time of day as a guide for the top section in case you wanted that section broken down with appointment times. We tried to make the times small and unassuming to maintain flexibility, so that if you decided to use the top section in a different way, the times wouldn't hinder you in doing so. We eliminated one of the sections at the bottom. We also made the top section along with the three bottom sections slightly smaller. By doing this we were able to add graph paper at the bottom as "free space" so that you can make lists or sketches, etc. that aren't tied to any specific day. The current month was added to the small months on the side, so you can now see three months at a glance. Overall the revisions were to eliminate space that was underutilized by our focus group and to create functional space that there seemed to be a need for. 

Prior to our meeting to go over the feedback from the focus group, we thought our initial layout was perfect! We were so proud of it. What were we thinking? Most of the trends we saw in the samples sent back to us were also present in our own planners. We feel way more confident about our new layout. But we are sure after we use it in 2016 we will find more room for growth! (We will definitely be soliciting feedback too, so feel free to contact us with any questions or comments after you purchase your planner!)

-- 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.)


Planning a Planner, Part III September 17, 2015 08:00

Are you guys getting excited about the release of our planner?!  It's almost officially fall, which means it's almost time for stores to go crazy over Christmas and completely skip the other upcoming holidays, which means that it's close to time to get in gear and get a planner for 2016 (what else are you going to record all your good intentions for New Year's resolutions in?) Ok, so in the first blog post in this series, we talked about how we came up with our initial idea to create a planner, and in the second post, we went more in depth about the process of coming up with a layout.  Today, we're going to fill you guys in on the secret of how we made sure the public would fall in love with our planner as much as we had.  

To test our ideas, we put together a 2-month version of our planner and invited 16 people to participate in a focus group, using the planner for the full 2 months, and then providing feedback.  We thought long and hard about who should be included in the focus group.  We wanted to reach out to people that we knew, because we felt that we would have a better chance of getting feedback from people we could trust to give honest answers, whereas if we asked people that we didn't know, they could disappear and we couldn't hold them to anything.  But, that didn't stop us from considering everyone from a complete list of people that we knew.  We listed out every single female we knew (because in truth, women are the target audience for a planner, but more on this later).  We listed Facebook friends, Instagram followers, old high school friends we had lost touch with, college buddies, distant relatives, etc.  We sat down at Joule, one of our favorite spots in Raleigh, and went through every single person.  We noted if we knew if they currently used a planner, if they used an electronic calendar, their age, their location, their profession(s), their marital status, their number of children, and narrowed down our list to get a good cross section of different people.  At this point, word had also gotten out about our project and we had people approaching us to volunteer to use the planner, including 2 males.  We were ecstatic to have a male demographic in our focus group.  One of our main goals is versatility, so we wanted this planner to be equally as appealing to men as it is to women, even though we were aware that purchasers would be majority women.

We cut a LOT of people, including close friends (sorry guys - but you know we were being unbiased and choosing who we thought would give us the best variety of results!)  We reached out to our final list, and had a few people tell us no, they preferred their current method of organization and didn't want to veer from that (fair enough).  In the end, our focus group consisted of:

  • the 2 of us - of course we were going to test our own product!
  • 2 males, 1 with kids and a full time job, the other with a job in sales at a major downtown company
  • a single (but going on lots of dates - i'm still looking at you, Zach Boychuck) full time engineer who does floral arrangements for weddings on the side
  • a single full time architect in a serious relationship with lots of extra curriculars
  • a full time employee with the City of Raleigh who runs a very successful photography business (and a husband) on the side
  • a former Miss Virginia, now married with a full time job and side job
  • a busy New York City architect balancing work and social life
  • a full time college student 
  • a married mom who works from home and blogs on the side
  • a stay at home mom with triplets(!!!)
  • a married teacher in Texas with a jewelry design business on the side, with a child in high school and another in college
  • a working mom with 2 jobs, 1 husband, 3 dogs and 2 boys with plenty of extra curriculars
  • a full time working mom of 4 grown children who have children of their own
  • a married full time lobbyist with a baby on the way
  • a busy wife with 2 jobs and in the midst of house hunting
  • a full time nurse with a 2 year old who had just moved to Ohio with her husband
  • a full time wife and web developer at a prestigious state university

All of these people agreed to use our planner for 2 months (May-June), although some expressed concern about going back to paper when they were currently using electronic calendars for all of their planning.  We wanted candid feedback from all of them, to see how/ if each person used the planner, and welcomed the fact that some used electronic calendars. We really wanted to see how our planner was accepted and used compared to each person's norm.  At the end of the 2 month trial, each person was to send back comments, answers to specific questions we had laid out about the design of the planner, and either the hard copy itself, or scans of month and week layouts, so we could see how each was used.  So, we packaged them all up, sent them out, then crossed our fingers!


We gave multiple suggestions and examples for how the planner could be used.  The layout is not typical, and so can be used any number of ways.  We checked in periodically and made ourselves available for questions or comments.  Roughly 3 months later, we had received back most of the question responses paired with scans or the physical planner.  We met and for hours and looked at each planner, how it was used, if certain portions of it were used, if spaces we had created appeared to be undersized or extraneous, and what consistencies we found from person to person.  We went in to this meeting after having used the planner ourselves as well, and truthfully, we both loved it.  We weren't sure how we could make it any better or what changes would really be beneficial.  I'm 100% sure that we were too invested in it to be able to step back and see the flaws, and so the focus group responses were absolutely invaluable.  We made a ton of changes, and we are pretty excited about where we landed.  Next week, we'll give you a sneak peek at what's in store for the UPstudio 2016 planner!!!

Planning a Planner, Part I September 3, 2015 08:00

We're not afraid to admit it: here at UPstudio we love a good planner.  We also love to make lists, be organized and to look at everything written out at the end of the day to see what we accomplished, and what's still in store for tomorrow.  We've both used a planner of some sort for the majority of our lives (Mary Beth still owns all of hers!) so it's natural that we'd have a conversation with each other about them.  It was the end of 2014, and we were comparing our newest planners:  I had a more traditional one with a monthly calendar and spaces for daily agendas, and Mary Beth was using one where you can write in a specific date, and use as much space as you need day by day.  We were talking about what we liked and didn't like, and what we would change about them.  It was later that day when we had the realization that we could create our own planner to suit our needs, and could change all of the things that weren't quite working for us.  We thought about it a little more and had the idea to design something that could work for more people, and then attempt to sell them.  Starting a business was exciting to think about, but then quickly became overwhelming.  Our husbands brought up some good points and asked us thoughtful questions about our ideas:  Who even uses a hard copy planner anymore?  How can you create a market for something that is only needed once a year?  Is there really a need for this product?

 Mary Beth's stack of old planners

We thought about these things individually, then talked about them together.  In the end, we still thought we had a pretty solid idea.  It was risky - a planner is typically needed only once a year, so repeat buys are few and far between in a year, but we felt strongly enough about what we wanted to do to pursue it.  We know plenty of people who use daily or weekly planners, and we both use them ourselves.  

Technology plays a huge role in the world today, and can absolutely take the place of a traditional pen and paper calendar.  There are many people who use only their cell phone or computer to keep track of schedules, or may use a hybrid system of these plus some sort of paper copy.  Maybe we're old school, but there's just something that's nice about writing things out yourself.  Writing things down can help the writer to remember them better.  With a hard copy planner, it is very easy to look at everything at once instead of clicking on multiple things to get different overviews or specifics on your calendar.  Our planner also incorporates ample room for list making, note taking, drawing, etc.  Just like sending real mail is a little more meaningful than sending an email, we believe that using a paper and pen planner is more meaningful than just using technology.

 Becky's iPhone calendar

There are tons of planners that already exist today.  Is ours really any better?  This question is extremely subjective, but of course we think ours is the best!  In reality, there are some great planners that already exist.  In future posts, we'll go more in depth as to what makes ours different and stand out from the rest, but for now, we'll just say that there are definitely differences. What we consistently found about the great versions were that their cost was out of our price range.  We wanted to create something that could compete on an equal playing field with some of these other great planners, but that would be more affordable for the every day person.  Some of the comparisons that we were looking at are upwards of $50-$70!  We have worked very closely with our printers to do everything we could to cut cost without cutting quality.

So the decision was made: we were going to start a business!  We knew we had A LOT of work ahead of us, and wanted to make really smart decisions.  We needed to create goals and really define what we wanted our end result to be.  In our next blog post, we'll talk more about our initial goals and our first shot at design.  Stay tuned!

Everyday Cards - Variety Pack August 6, 2015 08:00

The UPstudio website has been live for over a week, and we're already hitting milestones!  We've made our first sales (thanks Mom and Dad), we have over 100 followers on Facebook, and we're getting really good feedback.  Some of the feedback has come in the form of questions and requests.  We are happy to answer any questions you might have about our company.  You might be able to find some answers from our FAQ page, but if not - ask us!  Contact us via email at, or through the contact page on the website.  Or - leave a comment on any one of our blog posts. 

A few people have told us the same thing: they can't decide which of the everyday cards they like best (the struggle is real - we go back and forth too).  To solve this problem we're introducing a variety pack of everyday cards!  This set will have one of each of the designs with one choice of envelope color.  Having just four in a pack will allow a couple of things: you can easily check out all designs and narrow down which one is your favorite, or, you can buy multiple packs and switch up your envelope color.

What do you think?  Do you already have a favorite design?  We'd love to hear your thoughts!

-- Mary Beth and Becky

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BIG REVEAL! July 27, 2015 08:05

Its been really hard not to share sneak peeks, but now it is time for the big reveal of our first two products... a calendar and a collection of everyday cards!


Our calendar is a small unbound monthly calendar, measuring 5"x7". You can use it to show off at your desk or stick in your notebook. It is pretty yet still functional. We wanted to design a simple graphic that played with typography and varies from month to month. Check out more sample months here.

The everyday card collection actually includes four different card designs, so can we count this as five products? That makes us feel way more accomplished!

Use an everyday card for any occasion. Write a thank you, send some snail mail to your grandma to make her smile, etc. All cards are sold in sets of six and include six envelopes. You can choose from five different color options. Click on the picture above to check out our designs and see the envelope color options. Narrowing our collection down to four options was not an easy task. We had exactly a bigillion ideas but in the end these were our big winners. We hope you like them!

--Mary Beth and Becky