Elizabeth Rees, from “Peel, Stick, Love” to Creating a Common, Creative Space for Milwaukee

"I think that sometimes we fail to clearly define what success is, even if they are shorter term goals, so that we never feel like we are winning.”


Each month we introduce a woman in our community who inspires us and others. This Sunday we are shining the spotlight on Elizabeth Rees, the founder and creator of Chasing Paper and most recently, Milwaukee’s Creative Studio, Third Branch.

Elizabeth is a Midwest native who moved to NYC to work for her family’s printing company, and after proving herself, eventually took over her the company and turned an idea of stylish, removable wallpaper into a creative reality.

Creating the company while living in NYC, Elizabeth eventually moved back to Milwaukee looking for a home for Chasing Paper. When she came across her current space, she new it was perfect, but it was more space than she needed. Being the entrepreneur that she is, she immediately started to think of how the extra space could be used. And then the idea came: “We rely on great light, good floors and clean spaces to shoot for Chasing Paper” and “other brands might want to use the space as well”. Thus in May of 2018, after realizing a need for “great events held in beautiful, inspiring spaces,” Milwaukee’s Third Branch was born. Third Branch is now a creative studio that can be rented out for events, speaker series, photo shoots and much more.

We caught up with Elizabeth to learn more about her views on entrepreneurship, collaboration, and social media and her vision for Third Branch in the future:

BTD: How did you get the idea for this business?

ER: When I was moving back to Milwaukee from NYC, we were initially just looking for a home for Chasing Paper. When I walked into the space, it was more space than we needed and immediately that got my wheels turning. We rely on great light, good floors and clean spaces to shoot for Chasing Paper and I thought other brands might want to use the space as well. So, we started hosting events over the summer and realized how hungry Milwaukee is for great events held in beautiful, inspiring spaces. So it just felt right!

The Third Branch:

BTD: Why does Milwaukee (specifically) need a resource like Third Branch? And why is now the right time?

ER: While living in NYC, I had events to attend nearly every night of the week—sharing information and creating community is such a vital part of building a business. I have noticed that Milwaukee's market is quite segmented and there was not a ton of non-corporate feeling programming. As a creative myself, I crave a different setting for networking and learning. So I thought, I would create a space for these kind of events.

BTD: What role does Social Media play in your business?

ER: Social media has been an incredibly important tool for me. I single-handedly built Chasing Paper on organic influencer marketing via Instagram. So I have learned a lot through that experience in navigating a new market and category for Third Branch! For us, its all about community and I love how I can engage directly with our audience, in real time.

BTD: What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs on how to use social media to expand their business?

ER: Be authentic. It will be exhausting to keep up something you or your business isn't. Find your strengths and INVEST. Also, be consistent—how often and the quality of the content you are sharing.

BTD:What is your view on collaboration: women supporting women? And, how do you collaborate with other female entrepreneurs?

ER: This is a cornerstone for me personally and professionally. The playing field is far from level for women and its so important for women to help and support one another. Only 2% of female owned + female funded business will break the one million dollar threshold (men are 3.5x more likely to) and its my goal to help other women get where they need to go. We license artwork for Chasing Paper almost entirely by women—Third Branch's latest Blog & Brand Series brought together 75 small female business owners to create community, share information and work towards strategic partnerships.

BTD: What advice would you give to any female looking to take her business to the next level?

ER: I think the first thing would be to set really specific goals about what that next level means. Is it a revenue goal? Bringing in a certain amount of new clients? Hiring? I think that sometimes we fail to clearly define what success is, even if they are shorter term goals, so that we never feel like we are winning. Clearly defining your map with milestones along the way will help you feel accomplished and that you are moving towards the bigger goals.

BTD: Where do you see Third Branch 5 or 10 years from now?

ER: I would love to grow our internal programming and be a place for creative people to come, share ideas, be inspired, continue learning.

BTD: Anything else you would like to share? (maybe talk about the holiday market??? ;)

ER: Yes! The Modern Holiday Market is happening December 8th, 10am - 5pm -- $5 at the door or two canned goods to donate!

If you have a story to share, let's connect!

Photos by David Szymanski