Fast Start Your Paper Goods Business


Fast Start Your Paper Goods Business


Lesson Info

Seasonal Paper Goods

So this comes up quite a bit when people are figuring out the structure of their paper good business and it's a great time to mention it because we had a question in the first segment that was actually about the structure of your paper goods business, so I want to talk about an opportunity that is a really great way to think about your structure initially when you're just starting out and that is the seasonal nature of a paper business. So this is something that makes it another way that you have a lot of flexibility and freedom in your business, but you also have some great boundaries belt, right? And particularly if you're working with things like stationary fabric, surface design, party supplies, anything like that is you have a built in reason for people to buy your products and that is holidays so and the seasons so the nature of the seasons in the holiday cycle really determines a lot about what you could be working on, what people are going to be looking to purchase items for an...

d that's a really great thing about having a paper goods, businesses you I know that people are going to want to buy, say, holiday cards or you know that people are going to want to buy valentine's day cards or you know that people are going to want to buy mother's day father's day cards as well well, as the additional kind of items that you would need, a few ran a stationary line that people need year round, like birthday cards, baby cards, you have occasions built right into the calendar that you can work toward or be working on any given time. So that is one of the really powerful things about setting up your structure and what your calendar is going to look like. There's a lot of your business could be dictated by this season's, so you can when you're studying color trends, which we're going to talk about trends in the industry in a few minutes. But one of the things that you can think about when you're designing your culture, your color palettes or the colors that you're going to focus on and used if you are inclined to switch those up during the course of the year, is what colors are people going to be responding to in the winter? What colors air they're going to be responding to in the spring, the summer, the fall? So all of that change is built on this season's, which gives you some really great, you know, parameters to work in when you're trying to figure this out, so right now, if you were working, say, in december, you would definitely want to be working on your spring or even your summer line. Or cards that they're going to be appropriate for that, like mother's day would be a big focus right now. And if you if your line included other things like gift wrap or framed items or goods of that nature than you know, you would be thinking about easter or fourth of july, red, white and blue and that's always a lot of people have backyard barbecues and parties. So what kind of paper products could you make for something like that? That's going to be coming up in this summer, but being way ahead of the game is really important because you need to have your products designed, you need to have them photographed, and you need to have them figured out so that two months before the holiday or whatever sales cycle, you want to put your business and you can start doing your promotion and you're selling then. So one of the best tips that I have for that is, if you I said, part of your vision includes your products being your photographs, being lifestyle products. So you want to sort of set a stage or set a scene with what you have to sell after the holidays are over is one of the best time for you to purchase props to use for your photographs, so say, in a few weeks from now, you're going to be able to get in a few weeks from now, you're going to be able to get christmas time or new year or in right now, you could probably get thanksgiving and in some some places, maybe even find some halloween items that are on big discount that you can use to style your photographs in there future if you found something that you really liked, you can build sort of a little prop oz it if you're interested in selling your products through a lifestyle event, so if you're making party products than some of your pictures might want to include, ah, party theme so that people could really envision what those products would look like inside their own home are at their own party, so this is a great time after any major holiday or occasion where decorations and things like that are on sale when the holidays over that's a great time to pick up props for your for your prop closet that will help you build better photographs and be able to sell your work more easily because, as we're going to learn from patricia, she doesn't include any props in her photographs. So and I found that to be fascinating because you also get a really clear sense of what she's selling you, but if you're trying to sell a product that invokes a mood or situation. Or a particular occasion then sometimes adding lifestyle elements in cheer marketing is is really a great way to go to make more suggestions to buyers about what you have to sell and a part of that is also keeping up with trends, so it is really important for you when you're making your time map if you choose tio to experiment with that when you're making your time up is to experiment with blocking away blocking parts of time up for you to keep up with trends so I would I would find it really interesting people with type into the chat what they think are major trends in stationary or paper goods right now because I've been noticing a few elements that have been cropping up for a while that air coming up again and again as faras trends ago that I see a lot of different places from like national chain all the way down to smaller local source of my areas seemed to be picking up on when it comes to their sign ege their displays and things like that. So staying in touch with what trends air really current what people are responding tio color patterns, color palettes is that people are really liking like I think pantone just meant just released the color of the year for next year and I think it's called masala it's like a beautiful rich deep coppery brown that was beautiful but seeing really aware of things like that so that you can tell what colors are going to be cropping up in home decor in fashion and things like that because all of it ties together in with what you're making so really keeping up on trends, and you can do that in a lot of easy ways. You can test out trends that you might want to experiment with on your instagram account by asking your followers what they think of a certain design element or idea that you want to incorporate into your work. You can also set up secret pinterest boards now, which I love, I have when pinterest board came out with more than three secret boards. It was one of the best days of two thousand fourteen for me because I had to be so careful with those secret boards when we could only have three, but you know, you consorted, build your brands or keep track of trends that you're interested in, or things you want to experiment with, and if you're not ready to share that with the world yet, you can sort of work on building your vision before you have a plan to execute by utilizing free tools that are out there that exists like pinterest and instagram and things like that to sort of keep up with what people are liking, purchasing and buying. It's interesting what people say they're seeing in terms of trending creatively carol thinks that owls are currently trending that something she's seeing a lot on that small so halloween in ways that tea ty and k y says hand lettering, hand lettering that's a major one that I would have take take a note of two yeah geez, saying she's seeing a lot of mick mix of different fonts in sign ege that's something she seemed trending happen, saying gold foil seems to be trending as well. We saw some gold foil yesterday with when alana was we said some gold foil during our bath are so coarse where the guest you came in for that had wrapped her wrapped her body scrubs in gold foil and interestingly, our secret tree house says, well, I don't follow trends it all I just go with what's what makes me happy? I really like our secret to the treehouse she's, a member of in the studio with carrie cheapen and it's always nice to see her pop up you certainly don't have to follow trends, but if you are short on operation, which does happen to all of us at some point in time where we're just like sitting around thinking oh yesterday or last week I feel like I had a million great ideas or I thought of the funniest thing that would have made a great poster or all I had a pattern in my head and I lost it you know whatever when you are trying to get inspired to do your work sometimes taking a look at what's already out there can help point you in one direction or another like yes this is something I could incorporate and put my own spin on or I really dislike that and I'm not going to go that direction at all so really taking note of what other people like even if you don't plan on joining in is one way to help get your inspiration back on track because it just can remind you of who you really are when you see a whole bunch of things that you don't relate to it all and it's a great way to waste time if you need a structured way to waste time I have I have a special kind of time management trick that he used that I haven't really ever attacked about before you don't think that it is ah positive procrastination list and this is a separate list that I keep that has things that I can do online or for my business that really have nothing to do with my productivity level for that day or don't deray don't relate directly back tio making a sale anytime soon and so sometimes if I'm just sitting at my computer and I can't for whatever reason begin something or start something or even if I'm waiting for a phone call or somebody's had to postpone or whatever it is I try to turn to my positive procrastination list and find something on that list that I can do that's good for my business so it's it's it's necessary but it's not you know integral so what I need to do and so sometimes that is looking for something particular on pinterest sometimes that is I'm seeing what hash tags are trending in the craft community on instagram so those are all positive ways that I procrastinate that help make my business stronger even though they have nothing to do with what I need to do that day and I try really hard not to veer from my positive procrastination list if I'm not actually going to be able tio be doing productive work at that moment now when you're seeing trends except her we've got a question coming from online saying how you know really how far do you how do you get ahead of yourself to be a part of that trend? So question from day doing prince was can you talk a little bit more in depth about the retail sales cycles and what a good time to release new collections is so that you are following your part of a trend rather than you're seeing in your you're too late for it I think that the best way to do trend forecasting is to really keep up with your industry news look for professional organizations that deal with what you want to make. So, for example, if you have the time and were able to do it to visit the national stationary show in new york city, which I've gone several times, and those have been wonderful trips for me. But I know that that's not always accessible to everybody, but going tio big trade shows like that or being a part of those kind of organizations, you get a lot of industry news ahead of time. They try to do some of that trend forecasting for you, and occasionally you can find a forum or group online or community that's talking about those things, and you can sort of read what other people are saying, and then put that through your filter of does this match with my customer, and does this match with what I want to do so that you could be more on trend? And generally, I think that a good rule of thumb to follow is to try to be six months ahead at the holiday, like for real people, if when they go to the gift show in january in new york city. So that's, a major one that happens in the united states, it's going to be january and our world, but it's going to be so? Summer in the it's going to be summer at the gift show so people are going to be showing up and buying their holiday decorations for the fourth of july or lawn chairs or you know, summer stuff were summer table claws and napkins and paper plates and bright colored flower covered glasses and bobbles and cards and things like that for their marketplace but they're going to be buying those in january and when you go to the gift show in july, you're buying christmas so then you're looking at ornaments, trees, tree skirts anything that could be related to the holidays starts happening in the middle of the summertime. So really trying to be six months ahead of where you think your market is is kind of best practice, particularly if you happen to have time management troubles if you know that that's a weakness of yours that you're trying to get under control as far ahead as you khun b is absolutely the best idea, but as far as being ahead of turns, I think you really have to pay attention to a lot of things you have to pay a lot of attention to pop culture used to be a lot of attention to what's happening in magazines you need to be a lot of attention to what's happening in other communities aside from your own because things trickle down so if you always find yourself reading the martha stewart living you know, try reading something out of your comfort zone and see what stands out to you there, because eventually what you see in one place you will see in another place. So if you start noticing a strong trend, er design and say architecture, you know that's going to show up and everything from the sweaters that are available at your local mall tio you know what? How your vacuum looks when you go to buy it from a big box store. So look all around you, not just in your same place if you want to figure out trends, and actually patricia and I talk about how she trained scouts in our podcast, and she list some of her favorite resource is for how she keeps up with trends and that's in the faster action guide. As a matter of fact, there's also a bonus if can purchase now you've already answered the question very popular question about how soon she should you should you begin rolling out designs for particular times? Thank you for that. Another question of four people voted on. Is it better to tailor your products to potential customer base in using trends or just create styles that are based off your style and preferences? So I want to say that just because I suggested you be six months ahead of time that's when you know you want to be working on your stuff six months ahead of time, but you might not want to put out your holiday cards for sale in july, but in july, you will want to have the plan of what you're going to do for the holiday so you can begin that work. So you know what your common themes we're going to be, what colors you're going to use, what you want to say and what you want to produce. If you want to make six different designs of ten boxed cards in for the upcoming holiday season, like you would need toe have that dialed in in july. If you want to make a calendar for the next year, you would need tio consider start your ah, you're ideation process in your design work as early as july so that you can get you know things back from the printers so that you can know if it's going to work so you can have your photo shoots done so that you could be ready to hit the ground running in, say, october, so it doesn't mean that you're like your december products need to be for sale in july, you just need to be aware of and working on them. Far enough ahead of time it's really difficult to say like, oh christmases in two weeks what can I dio like that's not a healthy business happen and that's going to put you a little bit behind the game particularly if you're trying to catch early bird shoppers which I think more and more people are these days actually, so I think that the second question is a really good one and I think that depends on where you are personal comfort level is if you really you should never veer away from what you want to do you should never make work to please other people specifically unless your vision includes you doing custom work or specifically designed to work that you take direction from your client, our customer if you're freelance graphic designer and you want to be a surface pattern designer and a local architecture firm comes to you and says I want you to create this countertop pattern that we're going to use for this very specific house and they have really true ideas of what they want and there's not a lot of flexibility or freedom if that's a job that you want to take on then that's great and that's work that depends on entirely on what somebody else wants and what they think about it if you are making products in general and selling to anybody who wants to buy make sure you keep yourself in there that is one of the main filters. I want you to funnel all of your ideas and concepts through. Does this make me happy? If you are making work that doesn't resonate with you in some way, or that doesn't match up to what you want to dio, then then you're not going to enjoy it, and you don't have to translate a trend exactly into what your work is. So if the one way to look at that is, say that, I think that gemstones air really popular right now, and so we see a lot of people who draw stones air like diamonds, and they put them in all kinds of things, I've seen embroidered versions of this, I've seen realistic versions of this. I've seen illustrated versions of this. I've seen very stark, graphic depictions of these stones. Somebody took the idea or the concept of the jen's gemstone, and then put it through their personal filter of how they want their work to look into feel, which lines up with who their customer is. And then they come up with their version of that trend, so they're not translating at directly it's just a concept of feeling something that's popular, and you need to turn it into you need to put your individual stamp on it so that your product remains true to who you are versus says, I'm hand lettering is very popular my mug as hand lettered right here so I mean we have an example of the hand lettered work you know right here in my desk at creative live and my friend emily mcdowell made this and she's a phenomenal hand lederer she's like not only one of my favorite people in the world but she is one of my favorite artists in the world and she is an astounding him letter it's amazing what she does and so but she put her own spin on it if you tried tio mimic the same style that emily mcdowell has it's not going to ring true to you and it's in your customer is going to be able to pick up on that so you hear a lot of like blah blah blah about being authentic and being true to who you are and while I think some of that is just stuff that you know yourself if you if you I cannot look at a piece of work and say that's original too me even if the concept came from the world, then you're not going to be happy with it and people who look at your product are going to be able to pick up on that people are really intuitive and they can tell the spirit of your work in your copy that you write for your product sales they can tell the essence of who you are in your photographs, all those things come back to the kind of business you have, and if you have major business personal people are going to be able to tell when you're not in it to win it. Now we're still trying to get on that guest on the line, so if you'd like to have gorgeous come or questions, carrie, does that work few this point? Yeah, I mean, answer questions. So gail was asking, do you have anything to say about the difference between creating a selling original works on cards versus printed cards except for what might be better to focus on if you have any experience in that field? I do because I have bought cards that have original artwork on them, and I bought printed cards. Obviously the works obviously, the cards that have original artwork on them are generally more expense tiv they're one of a kind it's, the only one that exists it's an actual piece of artwork that is, you know, the size of a car door that's functional as a card. Eso generally those have a little bit of a higher price point, then say card that you can print out or produce I think the difference is, is what is your vision? What kind of business do you have? Do you want to have a line of high end cards that cost more money that you sell to a specific person who maybe becomes a collector or really shares the sort of message or vision that you want to put out into the world, then that's. Great. If you want to be able to sell, your cards and bulk are faster at a lower price point than printing them out. And going with something that anybody can buy is much easier if you're limited on time, either one of these business models would work for you if you were limited on time. So if you built a big enough community around your work or around what you were doing and people knew that once a month you released twenty five original one of a kind of card designs and that they had to get on your mailing list. And they had tio get access tio to what you were selling right away so that they could be first in line. You could actually eventually build up a frenzy of people who want to buy your one of a kind cards at, you know. Twenty dollars apiece or whatever it is, and you would be able to know that you were going to sell out this work at the end of each month and you would have thirty days to create it. You would only have to go to the post office ones. You could turn that into a reason well, business model of that fit into the vision of yourself. What? How much time you had to invest and what you wanted your business to get back to you if you need to. If if you need to manage your time a little bit differently, if you need to be on the go if you need tio, if you don't have the time to constantly be updating your photographs and or your copy, then a line of cards that you reproduce at at the touch of a button, a printer button is going to be much easier for you if you sell one of a kind items you need to do. Ah lot of different steps over and over and over again. You need a new photograph each time you need a new description, each time you might need to think of a new price each time, whatever it is, so one of a kind of business takes a lot more of the time investment and a lot more focus. So it will be harder to batch your work it'll be harder to hire help for example, if you were spending money on a photo shoot and having a professional photographer come in and photograph all of the supplies you made for your party business you know and say you spent three thousand dollars on that photo shoot it's worth it if you're going to be selling each one of those products that are in the picture five hundred times a hundred times it's not worth it if you're only going to sell those things one time each because then your cards would need to cost you know seven hundred dollars apiece in order for you to recoup your investment so it depends on what kind what sort of business model you really want they can both be very successful, but it depends again on your time the what you want to get back from your business and how that speaks to you personally how it fits through filter she got two almost identical questions that a lot of people voted on these and they're there regarding wholesaling so when you're selling wholesale, what should the cells sale cycle look like once the stories placed received their order? When do you check back and how do you go about getting them to reorder on then the data and prince is asking something almost simple you know when do you handle pre orders okay, so I think a lot of you may know that I was a buyer for story for a long time in a big a portion of what I sold in my store was paper goods and one stationary. I would by my cards several different ways. I would buy them directly from etsy shop owners, and I would buy them from placing orders at the national stationary show on then I would order them from catalogues so seasonally, about four to five months before the season began, and I needed the stuff stocked in my store. I might get an email or a pdf download, a digital catalogue from a stationary designers showing me what they had available in win that product would ship. I always wanted things in my store. You were in my store room, even if I wasn't ready to put them on the floor at least a month to a month and a half before the buying season started. So, for example, I knew that I wasn't going to decorate my store for. For christmas until the day after thanksgiving, but I needed all that jazz to be in my possession in november, so I could figure out what my display was going to be, what I was going to promote online, what I was really going to talk up. So I needed all of that to come in october, or at least the very beginning of november at the latest, so I could figure out what my plans were. I think it is best these days if you want to build a wholesale business and you're not going to be able to go to the station, the national station show, which I don't think is necessary for you to build a healthy wholesale business that way, I think that you can communicate with shop owners that you're interested in by asking them if you could send them a digital catalogue by sending them a sample of your work that's. Another benefit to selling cards is they're not overly expensive to reproduce if you're printing them so it's. Easy to send a sample, andi, asking them to place an order. You know you would submit them. You would give them your line sheet, you could have ah. And this is also where social media tyson, I mean, you'll find you'll hear from a lot of designers like patricia, that a lot of their business is driven from pinterest that, you know, might be the number one refer back to their website or that's how stores or magazines or editorial context get in touch with them, things like that also making sure that you have a wholesale button up on your web site that tells people that you are willing to wholesale because not everybody is so letting letting the world know that that's something you're interested in will go a really long way to getting those accounts. How you would follow up with them is I would always follow up. So this is where people get scared, like all I said, that email and I never heard back, so then you to skip it, don't just skip it, send what you want to send and then wait like two weeks, and then send a follow up and you can either do this an email. But I'll tell you that nothing stuck with me mora's, a shop owner, than getting an actual card in the mail from a stationary a designer like it was nice to see a pretty envelope show up with all of my bills and catalogs and, you know, addressed to me it was wonderful to open that up and then if it was something that was doubly useful, that was always a really good ploy for somebody like me, like sometimes people would send one peach calendars or something like that that they designed in their style that reflected their brand that had their sales information on it. And you bet that I would pen that to my bulletin board right away to keep track of something anything that I you know, any sort of detail that I had going on so it's ok to stay in contact with people and to follow up people who run businesses and who by also items for their store half like one million jobs and a lot of people are coming at them. So the more polite you khun b in the more persistent you can be, you know, cool way the better off you are actually follow their social media accounts, make comments on other things that they seem to sell in their store, that that are a good fit for you, there's a lot of different ways to go about it and actually in the first course, start starting handmade business we talked to some shop owners and say, you know, what do you really what are you looking for when people are trying to communicate with you and so if you happen to have that on hand, you might want to review that. But be persistent. Stand up for your business. Let people know what you have and be really thorough. And number one always be consistent. If you say you're going to ship on x y z date ship on x y z date, don't make somebody wait for you, because that will affect your reorders.

Class Description

Handmade cards, prints, and gifts make excellent gifts, but not everyone has the patience or skills to create them – that’s where you come in. Learn how you can turn your design skills into a thriving paper goods business in Fast Start Your Paper Goods Business with Kari Chapin.

This course will encourage you to take a wider view of your paper goods business, beyond just printing cards and shipping them. You’ll take a behind-the-scenes look at a thriving stationery business as you learn about selling a range of products, both online and in stores. Kari will talk about:

  • Developing multiple revenue streams for a single product
  • Forecasting trends and staying current
  • Working with printers
  • Preparing for annual sales cycles and the holidays

No matter what kind of paper goods you make, this course will inspire you to build a thriving business.

Check out Kari's other Fast Start Classes:
Fast Start Your Jewelry Business
Fast Start Your Sewing Business
Fast Start Your Beauty Business