Preppy PersonalsNatalie Ciulla Katz ’99

Natalie Ciulla Katz did exactly what she set out to do after graduating Colby-Sawyer with a degree in education in 1999: she became a teacher and elementary school principal. As she was fulfilling her dream of working with children, she also spent time working on her hobby of making personalized cards and stationery. In 2005, the roots of Preppy Personals started to take hold as she created and sold stationery to customers.

In 2010, Katz and her husband welcomed their first daughter into the world. The birth of her daughter inspired her to create a piece called On the Day You Were Born in which she produced a framed graphic of all the details of her daughter’s birthday. “It was all about the day she was born: the time, date, her weight, length and a graphic,” Katz said.

The year following her daughter’s birth was full of Katz’s friends having their first babies, as well. She said, “The birth announcement graphic I made for my daughter became a sample, and I created one for each baby that was born that next year to all of my friends.”

Katz had made the decision to go back to the classroom as a teacher, rather than a principal, so she could have more time at home with her family. When she made that decision, she decided to take Preppy Personals to a new level.

With zero sales experience, Katz created a three-ring binder with some of her samples of the birth announcements she had made for her friends. She visited children’s boutiques, stationery stores and hospital gift shops. She asked them to purchase her book of samples and forward any orders directly to her.

As business grew, she brought her business online and started incorporating more personalized pieces, such as pajamas, tote bags, jewelry and wedding announcements. Today, her most popular items include the On the Day You Were Born announcements as well as the personalized pajamas.

Unfortunately, COVID has slowed down her business a bit. Katz said that though her most popular item is usually the holiday pajamas, not as many people are purchasing them because they are not going out with their kids to social places where they would wear the special pajamas. “No one is going on the Polar Express or getting together with their families to make gingerbread houses. Everyone is staying in and not thinking about getting the special pajamas,” said Katz.

But one thing that Katz has made plenty of in 2020 is personalized masks. She has made masks for her hometown with their logo as well as masks for the local sports teams. Katz said that people were also buying personalized masks during the summer when it was safer to get together and customers were buying them for their friends for get-togethers.

Katz said she is very grateful for her education at Colby-Sawyer and has followed exactly what she planned to do. She said her biggest supporters of her business are her CSC friends, the same people who first received the original birth announcements. “I am thankful for all of the friendships I made at Colby-Sawyer,” Katz said.

All of Katz’s prints are inspired by her two daughters, aged 7 and 10. She said, “My kids are the inspiration of everything I do. I am just enjoying the things I like to do. It is a hobby and I love it.”

As for advice she gives to others thinking about starting their own business, Katz said, “Dream big and go for it. The things that you least think will happen, will happen. Believe in yourself and believe in your product.”

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