College Student Creates Foundation for Multi-Million Dollar Business
GREENVILLE, North Carolina — What started as a part-time job for an East Carolina University student has turned into a multi-million-dollar business.
“Our ultimate goal is to help people celebrate through personalized gifts,” said Taylor Walden, owner and founder of Simple & Sentimental.
In late 2016 as a freshman at ECU, Walden spent her free time making custom calligraphy gifts for friends and family from her dorm room. As word got out, the demand for gifts went up. By early 2017, Walden started selling decals, prints, and cards outside the student store. She quickly became known as “Sticker Girl” throughout campus.
“By the end of my freshman year at ECU, we had 500 Etsy sales,” said Walden. “It was all out of my dorm room and I’d store my materials under my bed and in my closet.”
At the time, she was majoring in Interior Design. Once she realized her passion for entrepreneurship, she switched her major to business and hit the books, while saving time to run her existing business. In February 2018, Walden entered and won $6,000 through the annual CompePITTch’n challenge in Greenville. It was co-sponsored by the ECU Miller School of Entrepreneurship, City of Greenville, Pitt County Development Commission, Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce, Greenville Utilities Commission, Inception Micro Angel Fund (IMAF), and Uptown Greenville. The next day, she pitched in another competition, the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge through the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, also taking first place and winning $12,500 in seed capital.
“Those pitch competitions were the cherry on top,” said Walden.
With the extra money, Walden signed a lease to upgrade her workspace and started to hire employees.
“The mentorship that we had and the support from the community is what kept us in Greenville,” said Walden. “I don’t know that we would have had the same opportunities in another city. It’s a great place to run a business.”
Now, at the age of 22, she’s operating an internationally known personalized gift company which employs over a dozen people in Pitt County. To date, Simple & Sentimental has served over 100,000 customers around the world.
“We’ve seen employees who have moved away from Greenville or who don’t currently live here but they came back or moved here for a job,” said Walden. “It’s really cool to see that happening.”
Walden credits a lot of that to the family-friendly community, reasonably priced housing options, and lower cost of living compared to other cities in North Carolina.
“We want to create a company where employees are financially stable, they feel supported by their work family, and they’re able to come and do a job they love,” said Walden.
While many of Simple & Sentimental’s gift orders ship to California and New York, the Winston-Salem native is committed to staying in Pitt County. She and her husband, Nick, are currently operating the gift company at a location in along Fire Tower Road as they make plans to expand.
“We’re looking to build a warehouse soon and are working with the Overton Group to make that happen,” said Walden. “They care about seeing our community prosper and they care about seeing people like us grow. It’s really encouraging and gives me things to say to other people who want to start businesses in Greenville.”
*This piece was originally published by the Greenville — Eastern North Carolina Alliance website as part of a series during National Business Women’s Week 2020.