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How She Got There: Genevieve Santos, Sole Proprietor of Le Petit Elefant

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Name: Genevieve Santos
Job Title and Description: Sole Proprietor of Le Petit Elefant
College Name/Major: University of Southern California, Communication BA
Website:genevievesantos.com
Twitter Handle:@lepetitelefant
Instagram Handle:@lepetitelefant

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Genevieve Santos: I’m a one-woman stationery and illustration business, so my job entails a lot. The many duties include accounting, painting, producing the paper goods, sales, customer service and managing the online store. I participate in 15 to 30 craft fairs, art shows and comic conventions a year, so I’m often on the road. It’s tiring but I love it.

My day-to-day tasks vary, but I try to do one thing every day: draw. Having your own business, it’s easy to get caught up in the aspects that bring in sales, like doing shows and saying yes to as many custom requests as possible. It’s important to set aside time for yourself and feel inspired.

What inspired you to start Le Petit Elefant?

GS: Le Petit Elefant was born from two things: timing and passion.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me was getting laid off from New Line Cinema, my first and only 9-to-5 job. The combination of unemployment checks, severance and money saved provided me with a comfortable financial cushion to launch my business. I thought, "If not now, when?" I opened my business at a great time as well; just as craft fairs and an appreciation for handmade and local goods were making a comeback. 

As for passion, since the age of two, I have never stopped drawing. I doodled during lectures when I should have been taking notes. While I worked at New Line Cinema, I drove across town to take drawing workshops. Even now, I drive 80 miles once a week to take art classes. This insatiable passion is the backbone of my business.

What is the best part of your job?

GS: The absolute best part is having the freedom to set my own schedule and travel around the world for work. I was able to visit 31 countries by the age of 30, all in the name of work.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now? 

GS: I wish I understood the highs and lows of sales trends. After my first successful holiday season, I celebrated with a very pricey trip abroad. Little did I know that the holidays are followed by a depressing lull in sales, and what most businesses do is ration holiday profits until it picks up again in late spring. It was a tough winter that year.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

GS: I wish I was better at following up. I can’t help but wonder at all the missed opportunities because I failed to email someone.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

GS: I think the most surreal moment was getting an email from Disney. They had found me at a craft fair and approached me to work with them. It was a humbling reminder to stay true to what makes you happy and trusting everything will work itself out in the end.

What do you look for when hiring somebody?

GS: I want someone with initiative. I met my first intern at a USC alumni event where I gave a brief talk about my business. After the presentation, she asked if I was looking for an intern. I hadn’t even considered it, and there she was already listing all the ways she could help me and why she wanted to work for me. I immediately knew she would be a great fit because she was smart, confident and, most importantly, passionate about the work.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

GS: Get ready to work. There are no shortcuts. It’s just a lot of hard work. 

 

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