Birthday Gift Turns into Business Start-Up for St. Michael’s Student Grace May (By Laura Duggan, Director of Marketing & Communications)

When Grace’s two closest friends surprised her with a hand-made, personalized decorative tray for her birthday, she thought, “It looked so good I thought it came from a real store.”
 
A business plan in hand, which Grace developed for her St. Michael's Economics class, "Picture This Collages" was launched. In the first four months, they amassed $2,660 before expenses, which include resin, trays, printer ink, mod podge, brushes, and packaging supplies.
 
Their products are custom trays. The most popular option is a collage tray made from personal photos or those found on the Internet. They recently released a new collection of patterned trays that are available to monogram, and they also offer canvasses, but Grace says the trays are by far the most popular.
 
Production, distribution, and marketing are done entirely by the team. The three co-founders, Grace and Nell and Kate Yonge, Grace’s best friends since preschool and twin sisters who attend Austin High, all help with production and run the entire business themselves, which is not without its challenges, as Grace explains.
 
“The biggest challenges in setting up our business model have been finding a price that allows us to make a large enough profit to continue to expand the business as well as expanding our reach as we run the business primarily through social media.”
 
Grace also acts as  project manager and social media director, and Nell Yonge handles the finances. 
 
They believe their niche market success is attributable to their unique client-centric approach. 
 
“Others create custom trays, but ours are unique as they are handmade with every preference of the client taken into consideration - from the photos used to the type of finish done on the tray. Often, we keep in close contact with the client and keep them involved in every step of the process to ensure they are satisfied with the product. Additionally, other brands do not offer the extensive sizing options and product options we do. While we are most popular for our acrylic trays, we also have produced many canvasses and offer other custom options upon request,” Grace said.  
 
Producing a tray takes from two to three hours in between drying and curing. First, Nell prints and cuts each individual photo; then Grace lays them out in collage format. The design is then sent to the customer for approval. Finally, photos are glued to the tray and left to dry for a day, after which resin is applied and the tray cures for a further three days. Prices range from $30 to $85.
 
Long-term goals for their company include having their products sold in boutiques and hiring someone to help with production and delivery. Look for their creations on Instagram: @picturethis.collages.
 
Grace is currently president of the Spanish club and World Literary Magazine founder. She has also been co-captain of the tennis team since sophomore year. She plans to major in international studies and Spanish in college and doing humanitarian work in the future, possible founding her own non-profit one day.
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