Tag Archives: start-up

Is Card Publishing a Serious Business?!

I often get asked of what is needed to start a greeting card business and in fact whether it is a serious business at all. It is a shame that often people assume that greeting card business is simply a hobby and hardly earns any cash. I think it all depends on what is your product and how you run your business.

It is true that many new greeting card businesses (in fact many start ups) begin on the kitchen table. The sheer abundance of craft materials in the hobby market alongside the fantastic quality of digital print available nowadays makes a greeting card a very easy product to make and bring to market. This, alongside the fact that retailers like cards as a relatively low risk product (because consumers often buy a gift accompanied by a card) makes the greeting card market an extremely saturated and fiercely competitive market. The card designs are trend-driven and usually the life-cycle for a card is 6 to 12 months, unless you hit the right button then your bestselling design may sell for years.

So, if you are serious about turning your card hobby into business then this is another matter. To decide what type of card business is right for you, you would have to consider your skills, experience, the amount of capital you have and your personal preference.

Generally, card publishers publish two types of cards, printed cards and handmade cards. All card designs based on stamping, assembling, individually hand-painting etc. will be very difficult to product in large quantities for the trade and are considered suitable for personal use or hobby.

Printed cards are produced in large numbers and command lower trade and retail prices. They face fierce competition from cheaper printed cards in the Far East and tend to sell better in card shops than gift shops. Printed cards could be artists reproductions, collages or handmade designs and then photographed shots, photos of landscapes, flower arrangements, toys displays etc. They could also be commissions you have done for a private client who has let you use their work or elements of it for commercial use.

You could print the cards digitally to start with and once you have proven record of sales you can go and do litho printing (the difference between these two printing techniques will be highlighted in another blog post). I often hear stories of publishers just starting out doing large litho printing runs only to discover that they may never shift the cards. Tip: if you are starting out, make sure you have proven track record of selling your cards to the trade, not to your closest friends and family. It is very tempting to do litho print, where the cost per card costs a fraction of the cost for digitally printed card. However, the litho print runs tend to be in the thousands (usually a minimum of 1000 per design) and as such a litho print run is more expensive than a digital print run. Remember if you fail to sell those cards it is only a false economy and at the end of the day the cards may cost you more than having been printed digitally. You need to have large enough database of stockists who re-order regularly to make this venture viable. It would be good if your printer lets you experiment with different boards as the design can look quite different on different boards, which will also set your card aside and above the cheaper ones flooding the market in discount cards shops.

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Handmade cards are more special than printed cards as they offer a different shopping experience – something done by hand will always be more special and valued than something mass produced. They also tell the recipient that somebody had carefully chosen a special card for them. Hand-finished cards face the same concerns about printed cards but they have the added embellishments like jewels, bows, dried flowers, embroidery bits and any other trinket you could think of. Handmade cards are more trend driven than printed cards and often the add-ons can be the decisive factor of their uniqueness. When you make handmade cards, make sure you make them in batches or enlist the help of family and friends when making or outsource the embellishment process if you could afford it. It is tempting to buy cheap embellishments as they are widely available from craft shops. However, as the handmade cards command higher retail price (£3 to £6 per card depending on the size) and consumers nowadays are very savvy make sure you choose good quality embellishments. The board you choose is also very important and often textured, pearlescent or lightly tinted boards are used for hand-crafted cards as they not only are better quality, they often give a more luxurious feel to the cards.

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There is a common misunderstanding of what is a handmade card. I have heard publishers claim their cards are handmade just because they assemble and pack them by hand or they have drawn them by hand. I would have to say that handmade card will qualify as a handmade when components to the design are added by hand. Any other packaging process does not make them handmade. They are simply hand-wrapped, hand-packed etc. as are many other products in business. The drawn designs would then have to be called hand-drawn, hand-illustrated, hand-painted etc.

So, here we are. If you are thinking about a card publishing venture choose what are you going to do wisely and remember you could always switch and fine tune when you go along. The importance is to start.

Best of luck!

SSK Signature

 

 

5 Myths About Starting In Business

Marcus Says NEW SABIVO Design 2014

You’ve done your homework and in theory you ticked all boxes along the way. You came up with a ground-breaking product or service, trashed your bank saving or persuaded family and friends to part with some cash or cleverly got a bank loan, either way, you made your product reality. Then you did a brilliant marketing job with adverts launches and shouted pretty much left, right and centre about it. You applied to lots of business and industry-relevant awards etc. In other terms, you just launched your business. Hurrah! You thought the money will start pouring. But they don’t. Huh…You are thinking ‘What has just happened?!’. You thought just because you came up with this great product, everybody is going to love it, but they don’t. You thought because it was your dream, everybody would buy into your passion and enthusiasm. But they don’t. So, what really happened?!

Chances are that you have fallen into the trap of glorified business start up stories. In this blog post, I have decided to demystify the most common 5 and there are many more.

  1. ‘I am my own boss’ – Well, you are not, I hate to break it to you.  You are most likely to be very flexible with your own time and to have escaped the 9-5 rat race or 12h working day. You might have said goodbye to 100 miles daily commute (like me) but you are likely to have entered a different bossy world. You probably got rid of 1 boss, but now you have 10 or more, all at once. The one where your customers are your top bosses and alongside you’ll get your suppliers, logistics companies, trade show organisers etc., all of whom will dictate your day-to-day routine.  Because it is them who will send you orders, deliver your orders on time, agree on discount when you purchase consumables or book your precious trade show stand and so on, you get me now.
  2. ‘Everybody is my client’ – Wrong! We are all different, we have different hobbies and interests, we live our lives differently, decorate our houses differently, we watch different TV programmes, read different books and magazines etc., and so is your ideal client. You have to spend the time to figure out who is he/she and in order to do so you have to do a simple exercise. It’s pretty similar to when you were back to school and dreamt about your ideal boyfriend/girlfriend. The difference is that now this is your ideal customer. Write a simple list of questions: what age is he/she?; how does he/she look like?; likes/dislikes; what does he/she earn?; job preferences; where does he/she shop? does he/she have disposable income?/holiday destinations etc. etc. Once you have answered those questions, you can start actively searching for your customer and then sell what you have in the bag.
  3. ‘They will come’ – Once you have found your perfect client you may think ‘I have my product or service, they are coming and I can roll for some years now’ – Wrong again. This is just the beginning, your first step. You may fly for one or two years, but inevitably the things will stall. Why?! Because the marketplace has this insane need to look for the next big thing, to offer the most exciting new product or service to its customers. This need is almost overwhelming for any newbie in business. So, you can’t rely on what you have. You have to evolve constantly and you have to market your product or service, every single day as even the ones who come may not come back.
  4. ‘The first 2-3 years are the hardest’ – Whatever your time frame to success was – just triple it! While it is true that once you go beyond the two years things would improve and might take off. Unfortunately, they may not take off big time. You may have been really confident of doing something different but the path to world domination may not be quick or may never happen. It is true that some rare gems exist and some innovative products fly even in mature industries. There are some relatively young industries like technology, for example where the overnight success is possible but majority of start-ups simply take a slow and long path to establish themselves on the market place. The reality is, it is probably much longer and slower than you ever imagined! Throw in the mix a global economic crisis and your theoretical assumptions may have hit a very rocky road along the way.
  5. ‘Doing it for the love of it’ – You have to get real really quickly. You are likely to spend about 30% of your time (if you’re lucky) doing what you wanted to do in the first place: designing, writing, baking, making or generally the stuff you love and which gave you the idea in the first place.  The rest of the time you will be wearing so many hats, that are impossible to list in a short sentence. You will be doing admin, selling, marketing, following trends, competitors, book keeping, accounting, chasing payment and answering loads and loads of emails! Get real – the fun stuff always comes second I hate to tell you…unless you have rich parents financing your ‘love’…but then we would call that a hobby, not a business.

So, these are the 5 common misconceptions about starting your own business. It is good to know what to expect and be prepared as then it is less likely that reality will brutally crash your dreams. Hope this read helps you.

Take a deep breath. It is a rollercoaster ride, but is wonderful.

Best wishes,

SSK Signature

Pains & Gains Of Greeting Card Publishing

We have recently been featured in Progressive Greetings Magazine, a trade magazine that runs monthly and is a barometer for what’s happening within the greeting card industry.

A feature in the magazine is absolutely free, in essence it is editorial, and usually does wonders for us in terms of raising our profile and wide industry recognition.

We have been interviewed about the pains and gains of running  a creative business, which you can read on page 69, January issue.

Happy reading!

SSK Signature

 

Why Go To The Ladder Club? – Part 2

 

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Photo credit: Jim Bullough

It has been more than a week since I attended the Ladder Club for new greeting card publishers. I posted earlier what was all about but if you have not had the chance to read the previous post, you can read it here. The list of the speakers also gives you a good insight of what was covered on Day 2.

The networking dinner was wonderful and I had a chance to meet people I already knew as well as new ones. At dinner I sat next to Lorraine from Rush Design and Henri Davies, former National Trust and WHSmith Buyer and currently a retail consultant. I had interesting conversations with both of them but had a proper giggle with Lorraine. We’ve discovered that we are both self-taught artists and somehow entered the world of greetings with the similar idea of ‘how hard can it be to design a card’ (more on that on another blog post). I was also looking forward meeting Lynn Tait of the Lynn Tait Gallery. She is the heart and soul of the Ladder Club and true inspiration, both personally and professionally. The food was lovely and all in all, a fantastic evening before a full day of talks that were to follow.

I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar day, which was packed with valuable information, although drawing from my previous experience in fashion retail and buying, there were not many surprises to what I have heard. But I still found it good to compare similarities and differences. My thoughts are, if you have never been in business and all your life have designed or created lovely designs and products, the seminars will be eye-openers.  I wholeheartedly recommend attending the first and the second day. As a bonus, you can also join the Ladder Club Facebook Group Page. There are some wonderful discussions going on and you can ask even more questions or what was not clear on the day even after the seminars.

So, best of luck with your future venture in greeting card publishing. Hope to see you soon at some of the trade shows and if you go to the Ladder Club, do not forget to pop a little badge on your website and tell everybody that you have attended one of the very special clubs in the world.

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Best wishes,

SSK Signature

 

Should I Blog Or Not?

Hand drawn computer

Welcome to my new Blog. My name is Sabina and I, together with my husband Ivo, run SABIVO Design. We publish beautiful handmade greeting cards and trust us, it’s not just us saying it.

I did have a blog before and I was guilty of the common crime ‘blog to promote your own work’. I was exploring my creative side and thought to document it via a blog, but I got bored of myself pretty quickly. I blogged without purpose and I blogged because everybody was saying I should blog. However, I don’t follow orders very well, so I intentionally stopped blogging for some time. Surprisingly to me, people were following my posts and none of them were my friends, so forget the sympathy vote here. Apparently, I had something to say and it was interesting for people…I remembered that but I also had to see what the point of it was as my primary cause for blogging was not to make a blog that would generate revenue. It was mainly to raise my voice or share my own opinion and hopefully find likeminded people to have a good discussion and banter.

During the time I was not blogging I started my own publishing business (together with my better half, of course) and was building my own brand…dare I say so…Having arrived at the self-employed point through professional cross-roads of science, fashion retail management and fashion buying (we can get into details of this eclectic mix at another blog post) there where so many practical things I knew about business and also so many I did not know. Typically to all start-ups, I joined several organizations, attended business courses, gazillions of networking events and generally embraced the learning curve that all new businesses go through. The sole purpose was to ‘get out there’ and also having never been self-employed, to learn ‘best practice’ advice from the wise people in the big business world. As the time went by, most of the advice did not make basic business sense, not because it was wrong, but because most of the business advisors I was seeing have never run their own business or if they did it has closed down and they were not happy about it (had it closed down and they were happy about it is a different matter). The advice was passed to me with the best intentions but it was backed by scholastic graphs, theoretical assumptions or based on old-school sales techniques. It was not based on current business/economical climate, therefore it’s implications were not viable. Most importantly, it was outdated, it has not moved with time. I may not have degree in business but I do have bags of ‘real-life’ experience in retail and buying. I have spent considerable time on the shop floor and in the Head Office for both luxury and value retailer. I have also worked in academia and science and my professional path spans 17 years that I have worked for private, public and government organisations and in three countries. This puts me in a comfortable position with product development, costing, negotiation, merchandising, logistics, marketing, selling, promotions, customer service etc. I have also written research projects, scientific papers, spoken to international audiences, tutored students and won several educational and research awards. Having said that, I urge you to not take my words in this blog for granted, I am not an expert. Question me, doubt me and if you disagree with something, just let me know. But I do think I have commercial head and general business sense. The latter being the only message I was not getting well when I started – common business sense.

It is time to point out that among all business people I have met there were/are people who were/are like gold mines. They are knowledgeable, professional and happy to share their experiences in order to help. I have either stumbled upon them by chance or have actively searched for them and reached out. My advice to you (and I generally refrain from giving advice) if you happen to come across a ‘gold mine’, keep it and treasure it. Like all gold mines, it is rare, so make sure you recognise it once you face it, keep it and cherish the gift of knowledge that it passes on.

I have also ventured into mentoring activities through various organizations, so I do help with business advice. I do help even total strangers who get in touch with me through LinkedIn (when they see that I am a Mentor) and fire up their questions. People often ask me whether I have a blog to share my ideas, some step by step tutorials etc., which puts me back into the ‘should I blog or not?’ dilemma.

As the years went by it did make sense that I start my own blog especially as all blog and SEO gurus were singing the same song – how a blog can help a website visibility. However, the reason I found most exciting is actually the fact that I can share some ideas and potentially ‘talk’ to audience that I generally don’t have despite the whole social media hype (you can find SABIVO Design in most social media handles as ‘sabivodesign’, I am usually behind it). The reason is because our business operates as a trade supplier rather than retail outlet, although we have a small selection of greeting cards for our retail customers on www.sabivo.co.uk. We supply quality shops, department stores and boutiques throughout the UK and in mainland Europe. Often communication is just business related and I feel that I sometimes lose the human touch. I feel that a blog will be a fantastic way to reach to people with common interests and start discussions that you as a reader will be excited about, would love to read and/or participate.

This blog is aimed mainly at artists, not just because I am part of a creative industry. Along the way I have found that artists are actually the breed of people that generally lack business sense and even when offered business help their hearts just start beating in despair (sorry guys, no offence, but you know what I mean). This blog will hopefully de-mystify some aspects of staring and running a creative business. It can also be used by retailers as I have a soft spot for retail and love taking photos of visual merchandising and display. So, there will be hints and tips that owners of small independent shops without prior retail experience can use. I will blog a mix of common business sense, real-life examples from our first years in trading, interesting/useful knowledge, experience, some general stories or ideas I would like to share. I hope that you can use them to excite you, inspire you, help to accomplish things otherwise you couldn’t with your regular career or typical start-up. If this changes your life even in a smallest way, then I will be pleased immensely and my job will be done.

With very best wishes,

Sabina