Banker-turned-card designer. For years, Dorothy Atkins kept her side business as a greeting-card designer a secret. She worked for a bank in various client service and human resources positions. "It was totally unrelated to the card business—different sides of the brain," she says. She used her commutes into San Francisco to brainstorm and sketch potential designs, and focused on her banking job from 8 to 5. Then, during her lunch hour, she visited local shops to see if they wanted to sell her cards. "I got a couple of clients that way," she says.
Over time, she honed her technique and figured out how to cut costs, by purchasing her card stock from lower-cost shops for artists, for example. "Now I'm more cost-effective," she says.
After she retired in 2002, she devoted more of her energy to her art and card business. (Atkins also paints.) "I don't think I'll ever stop working. I'm just not wired that way," she says. Her father, who lived into his nineties, often said, "Do as much as you can for as long as you can"—a maxim she continues to live by.