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Pressed to Innovate

While COVID-19 is altering nearly every aspect of life, small businesses are being hit especially hard. These changes are forcing business owners to adjust, but their uplifting stories of perseverance and creativity are showing what Iowans are capable of in difficult times.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way she’s doing business, Pressed co-owner Kristen Meeter’s family’s long line of entrepreneurs taught her how to persevere and keep chasing her dreams, which is what she and her husband, Eric Meeter, have done since starting the business.

After leaving the corporate fashion world in 2015, Kristen channeled her entrepreneurial spirit and taught herself how to hand stamp jewelry. She initially created eight styles of necklaces and took them to the Spencer Farmers’ Market hoping to just sell one. To her surprise, she sold several necklaces that day, inspiring her to start an Etsy shop and eventually her own ecommerce website.

“When I left my job, I found myself drawn to jewelry with meaning – pieces that reminded me who I was and what I enjoyed,” said Kristen. “I stumbled upon hand-stamped jewelry and loved that I could create jewelry with meaning that would be held right next to the heart.”

Two years after starting Pressed, they expanded their offerings by learning how to hand press apparel as well. By 2018, they outgrew their in-home operations and decided to buy a building in downtown Spencer, which they opened in November, that now serves as their studio and store.

In 2019, Kristen’s husband, Eric, joined her at Pressed fulltime and learned how to letterpress, rounding out their offerings to hand-pressed jewelry, hand-pressed apparel and hand-pressed paper products.

“Asking what our favorite pieces are to make or what we’re most passionate about is like asking someone to pick their favorite child,” said Eric. “But if I had to pick, it would be the letterpress. Our 110-year-old Chandler & Price letterpress machine still produces an absolutely perfect product.”

They pride themselves on being a small, local business that offers all three art forms under the same brand, as well as being an experiential store. Customers can enjoy shopping while hearing and seeing the jewelry being pounded or the letterpress working.

“Especially during these difficult times, we want to create products that encourage and uplift people and truly convey the care and love we put into making each item,” said Kristen. “We want to make sure that every word or phrase we print and hand stamp has truth and grit behind it.”

Then, when COVID-19 forced Kristen and Eric to close their doors, they found new ways to virtually bring the experience of their artform to their customers. And, fortunately for them, their community was ready to show their support.

“We immediately added 200 more products to the website and offered curbside pickups for our customers,” said Eric. “Before the pandemic, we were excited for our big spring launch, which included five new shirts, three letterpress items, Mother’s Day jewelry and more, so we had three weeks to figure out how to launch it virtually.”

Kristen and Eric successfully created a Facebook launch event and posted two videos a day for the spring launch, allowing them to showcase the new products and give customers a behind the scenes look at how the products are made. When they reopened their doors later this summer, they started offering 30-minute private appointments for two people per time slot. Now, they’re back to normal hours for those who are comfortable shopping in-store and still offer curbside and in-store pickup.

Two constant dreamers, they also used the down time to innovate and grow their business by solidifying their plans for the space above the store floor. In June, they announced the new The Loft by Pressed, a space for local businesses, entrepreneurs and creatives to rent to capture photo or video content, record podcasts and more.

With bigger dreams and goals in mind, Eric and Kristen remain focused on the present and are grateful for every challenge and obstacle they’ve overcome to get them where they are today. “We sometimes get bogged down by looking too far ahead, but right now we’re just focused on what truly is the next best thing we can do,” said Eric. “With all the challenges we’ve faced in 2020, we have to focus on what we can control today.”

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