How an Art Director Left Her Job and Started Her Own Business

How an Art Director Left Her Job and Started Her Own Business

Kaylee Conrad dreams of a world where gifts never cease to put smiles on faces and songs in heads. In 2017—on a mission to conquer all mediocre gifts everywhere—she traded in her cushy art director day job to start her work-from-home online boutique,Mailbox Melodies.

Kaylee spends her free time mainlining coffee, DIYing all the things, and listening to music at a level much too loud for her neighbor’s taste.

Kaylee Conrad of Mailbox Melodies.

Finding the perfect gift for every occasion can often leave you scratching your head when staring at your typical gift registry. Should I get them these pots and pans or perhaps this extra large toaster?

That’s where Kaylee Conrad of Mailbox Melodies comes in. It’s her goal to make gift giving parties feel a little bit less awkward and a whole lot more fun by injecting some humor into the gifts.

Kaylee took a huge risk and left her job as an Art Director in Chicago to startMailbox Melodies, so we’re going to dive into her story and learn about how she started her business and got to where she is today.

Bridesmaid Proposal Kit

Rising to the Occasion

Every business has a starting point, for Kaylee and Mailbox Melodies, that starting point could be traced back to attending dozens of bridal and baby showers and seeing the same expected gifts be given over and over again.

Kaylee began, “I got to the point where I felt like I had to do something for myself. I had the entrepreneurial bug I guess. I had to go out and make something that was mine without anyone telling me how I should do it.”

How’d she land on gift giving as her business inspiration? “I was going to a bazillion weddings, bridal showers, baby showers a year—all the things that typical 20 something women are expected to attend. It was just the awkwardness that I couldn’t handle at these events.”

But in these awkward situations Kaylee saw an opportunity. “I started making gifts for my girlfriends’ showers that were always really well received. All the attendees would be blown away by the originality of the gifts and always got a good laugh out of it.”

“Will You Be My Bridesmaid” Gold Foil Card

Beyond the Gift Registry

When it comes to providing a better alternative to the typical gift registry selections Kaylee said, “It wasn’t necessarily that the gifts were bad… it was just that registry gifts are—by nature—expected: plain and simple. No one is ever going to be moved by getting a diaper genie at their baby shower.”

On the subject of an average gift exchange she continued, “That’s not personal interaction. That’s not something that I feel like I’m bonding with my friends over. I felt like it needed to mean something more than that.”

“Beach Hair, Don’t Care” Hair Elastics

Makin’ Plans

So while most people would just continue using gift registries and dealing with the awkward gift exchanges, Kaylee decided she could do better and hatched plans to create something of her own.

“Once I started seeing the response from the gifts I made for my friends, I realized it had the potential to be a bigger idea than what I was giving it credit for.”

Getting the initial confidence to make the jump and start your own business can be difficult to overcome. On that subject Kaylee said, “My friends would always encourage me to take these ideas to the market—always telling me that I would surely succeed if did. That support and validation to take the jump was my biggest motivator.”

Full Gift Box Set

Putting the BandBrand Together

One of the first steps in creating Mailbox Melodies was selling posters on Etsy. “Prior to Mailbox Melodies existing I did hand lettered posters online and just sold a few of them on Etsy. Music posters…lyrics and stuff like that. I got a lot of social media attention, but didn’t sell a ton.”

She continued, “That was my first baby iteration of doing something for myself. I realized it wasn’t going to work and pivoted. It started as something entirely different, but it was a helpful learning experience.”

Yellow Submarine Bath Bomb

When talking to Kaylee about the musical theme of Mailbox Melodies she said, “Music has always been such a huge part of my life. I grew up in a house where my dad was always playing something in the basement, so it just became ingrained in me and I want to put it at the forefront of what I’m creating now.”

Kaylee continued, “The products I create moving forward will always have something that’s tied to that musical inspiration. Whether it’s a product name, design style, or just the theme of the package itself, it will continue to be a visible part of everything I create. Music also gives people something extra they can relate to in my products. It’s that sense of nostalgia and the anchor of something familiar that makes them drawn to the products even more.”

For finding the inspiration behind her products Kaylee said, “I try to make my products as honest and authentic as possible as well. For example, I have a post-pregnancy package for new moms where I’ve packaged compression panties as “Mama’s New Lingerie” and a bottle of wine as “Victory Vino.”

A lot of the products I see out there are so surface level. “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” is just really expected and cheesy. I try to incorporate more up-front messaging that will get a good laugh out of someone.”

“Victory Vino” Wine Bottle Label

When I asked Kaylee about how she turns the idea for one product into an entire gift set she said, “I guess thinking of a theme initially. One item always leads to another. So it’s like I think of one main thing, ‘I’m doing a pregnancy recovery kit, ok – how do I make this funny? What are all of the horrible things associated with pregnancy?’ And then it just sort of grows on itself.Having that core central theme is just a domino effect.”

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” Hand Soap

Create Smiles!

Feel like making your own printable gifts? Kaylee has provided us with an incredible do-it-yourself printables kit with instructions, so you can brighten someone else’s day! Just click the download button below to get started.


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