Friday, September 28, 2007

Cartolina Cards and Dominion Post and Salvage

It's obvious that Fiona Richards loves paper. As the owner of not one, but two separate stationery companies, Fiona is surrounded by unique designs, intriguing images, and colorful patterns all day. Dominion Post and Salvage (DPS), her first card company, features labor intensive, handmade cards for the sophisticated buyer. This line combines the beauty of vintage ephemera with the sophistication of modern design to create a visually and emotionally compelling style. To address the younger market, Fiona formed Cartolina, which features equally chic and unique stationary at a lower price point. Cartolina combines old block prints and antique cartouches with twentieth century lead type and contemporary colors, resulting in a fresh modern twist to stationery design.

"[I was] educated in Scotland. I have a fine art background - painted pictures for a living for a long time and then worked as a graphic designer for 15 years - I "apprenticed" under 2 very talented designers . I have an "old school" knowledge of graphic design which I think really helps because I have a good knowledge of traditional typography and lithography. I understand the techniques that traditional offset printers use and this really helps me get good service, good deals and a great product from the printer. I have a serious aversion to digital printing and very low tolerance for bad typography!"

Accepting Success
"[The most challenging part about having a business is] getting over the fear of success. I have had many sleepless nights wondering how I was going to deal with large orders, inventory control, etc. Nowadays I am past that stage and when i start freaking out about the amount of work that has to be done I just take a deep breath and remind myself how fantastic it has been to have had such good success so far, and that I should celebrate if I run out of cards because it means that we are doing WELL !"

Conquering U.S. and Canada
"We sell to stores all over Canada and the US. We sell to about 200 stores. Some stores are national stationery chains like Paper Source, national gourmet stores like Wholefoods and others are home decor stores and gift stores. We sell to lots of florists and also garden centres."

Landing the First Wholesale Account
"We live in the country - an 8 hour drive to a city. So I was going to Vancouver for the weekend (8hrs) and I took a small box of cards to one of my favourite shops to see if they liked them (at this time I was still a graphic designer). They bought them all. Two weeks later Lisa called me, after seeing my cards in this shop, to see if i would like to work with her and she would take care of all the sales. So I never did another sales call after that first one! I am a terrible sales person!"

Making Contacts at Gift Shows
"We have our products every year at the New York International Gift Fair(twice a year), as well as the San Fransisco Gift Fair(twice a year). We also have our products at the National Stationery Show in New York every spring. These shows are the best way to sign up new accounts. We also make sure that we have new products to launch at the New York show twice a year."

Generating Press
"We have had good luck with the magazines - we just write a nice letter to them and send a box of samples - nothing fancy - just friendly. We have never spent any money on press releases or media packs. We have had wonderful 3 page spreads on our company - we have had loads of seasonal features and lots of general good press."

"I think that press releases and media kits are a huge waste of money and it kills me when i read about new indie designers spending a fortune on expensive PR stuff."

The Power of Blogs
"We always send product updates to the main design blogs - design*sponge and poppytalk-three times a year before the shows. We have very good response from the blogs. We often get new retailers directly from being blogged...and it's free. I do believe that you have to be quite active on the blogs - make frequent comments etc. so that the blogger gets to know you. I think that blogs are an amazing phenomena for small business - such a generous group of people."

Business Challenges
"At the moment the problem for us is the fall in the US dollar. We do so much business State side ( We are in Canada). But the US economy is making a bit of a dent in the exchange rate so we may have to raise our prices - OR buy more supplies in the States to bring our costs down. If the US economy continues to slide we will definitely look at doing more international business in Japan, Australia and Europe."

"I love to see business happening. We live in an extremely remote area and I love that fact that I can do business successfully with beautiful shops in Manhattan from my cottage at the lakeside. I am excited by the fact that I can hear that fax machine spitting out orders every day.......though the fact is that I am deeply involved in this business now - there really is no choice at to whether I am feeling 'motivated' or not - the business chugs along and if i don't get into the studio everyday and take care of orders it will implode!"

Inspired by...
"Vintage design from every era - no matter how you look at it, in the quest for REAL inspiration you will always end up back at the old-stuff - you don't find inspiration at Walmart."

"My husband - he is a briliant designer and illustrator and has taught me a lot over the years."

Words of Advice: Focus, Learn, and Follow Through
"Focus on an industry you love, don't just jump on a current bandwagon. Learn to do everything yourself. It will save you a lot of time and money if you understand every aspect of your industry - including the boring stuff like web development, marketing, PR, accounting etc. After you have done masses of research and you are prepared to commit yourself to your business - work hard and take pride in what you do. Don't spread yourself too thin - focus on a niche and grow slowly."

"All new businesses cost money - being self employed is not CHEAP - as soon as you recognize that you have a position in the market, invest as much money as you can. I hear so many people always trying to get the best price and the cheapest deals when they are starting out, I think this is the wrong time to save money. Most people will barely break even in their first few years of ANY new business. Being a self employed craft person is not a get-rich-quick plan! Work hard, grow your business and the money will start to increase - and as your volumes go up, your costs will come down and you will make more money - it's a basic business plan."

Fiona Richards

Thursday, September 27, 2007

IE Tip 50:

Need some cash or have some to spare? Prosper is the first people-to-people lending marketplace for consumers. Prosper bases its lending principle in a time when people formed personal credit communities and people acted more responsibly towards each other-resulting in better interest rates to borrow or lend. Borrowers can request loans of up to $25,000. They also have to indicate the maximum interest rate they would be willing to pay. Lenders can bid on listings by indicating the minimum rate they would like to accept. When a borrower and lender are matched for a loan, Prosper handles the tasks for payment and collection of the loan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

IE Tip 49: Woman Owned: Business Networks For Women

A wonderful resource for women entrepreneurs, started in 1997, and through word of mouth has grown to serve over 1.5 million women business owners all over the world. Offering "no nonsense" business advice, the site provides straightforward business information, as well as networking opportunities and resources for women.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Entrepreneurship Panel, Podcast Expo

Step Up Women in Entrepreneurship Panel: Listen to leading women entrepreneurs in fashion, finance, legal services, and marketing candidly speak about their successes and challenges in starting a business. Located in New York, NY. Sept. 26, 2007.

Podcast and New Media Expo: We know how podcasts are gaining popularity as marketing tools. This annual convention educates individuals and companies about how to produce high-quality audio and video digital content (for podcasting), grow a loyal audience, and market your content creatively. Located in Ontario, CA. Sept. 28-30, 2007.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Computer Bags

Computer Bags
Computers are so utilitarian and boring, why not spice them up with one of these vibrant laptop cases and sleeves? (Wouldn't that make work less Probably not.)
1. Angie Green Sequined Laptop Bag by Abbi New York.
2. Cherry Blossom Laptop Bag by Janine King Designs.
3. Gray Felt Laptop Sleeve by Working Class Heroes.
4. Multi-striped Laptop Bag by Dory Designs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

IE Tip 48: Boss Lady: Because Women Run Businesses

Run by Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears, a pair of business partners and best friends, Boss Lady contains a chockfull of entrepreneurial tips and information from their own experiences in running their own business. Lauren and Emira are currently co-authoring a book on starting a business, but until their book is published, please check out their site here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Marketing Classes, Transitioning to Self-Employed

How to Successfully Transition from Employee to Self-Employed: Class will discuss basic strategies to making the transition from employee to self employee. It will also provide key approaches to accelerate your transition, and give resources to help put your plan into action. Located in Birmingham, MI. Sept. 17, 2007.

Marketing Magic Workshop: Learn smart marketing strategies such as branding, networking, internet marketing, and public relations. Sponsored by Center for Women. Located in Charleston, SC. Sept. 18, 2007.

Lunch and Learn: Business from the Heart: Series which covers essentials of "marketing with heart" by going to the core of who you are and how you relate to people. Located in Portland, OR. Sept. 20, 2007.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Women For Hope

Pam and Tom Swider run Women For Hope, a web-based business which provides information and resources about various women-related issues such as sexual assault, domestic violence, heart disease, and ovarian cancer.

At the heart of Women For Hope is a shopping boutique that features fun and unique products for women. All the products featured are made by companies that are women owned or run. Pam and Tom also have their own awareness jewelry line in which 10% of the proceeds is donated to the charity connected with that specific cause.

In its quest to combat women-related causes, Women for Hope has partnered with national and local charities that deal with cancer, sexual assault, domestic violence, eating disorders, and AIDS.

Here Pam shares her stories and thoughts on starting Women For Hope:

Pam’s Story
“I am a rape survivor. It was a long road to recovery and the thing that really kept me going was hope. I found that hope in lots of ways, especially from the crisis center I went to and knowing that I wasn’t alone. I also wanted a way to give back to those that helped me and help others every day. My husband, Tom, has a background in counseling, so he really understands where I am coming from. He also taught self-defense classes and knows how important information can be when you are dealing with a trauma. He was right on board with my idea of a company that brought women together to help each other. We work together to make Women For Hope a reality.”

A Balancing Act
“Tom and I both work full time jobs. We have the benefit of working together and both wear a lot of hats. Weekends are pretty packed with working on the site, making jewelry and doing art shows (which we just started) We also work in the evenings, but try to have at least one night during the week when we take a breather.”

“We both have our bachelor’s degrees. I have worked in sales and marketing. Tom has done sales and also [experience in] training and presenting. We also both have started businesses, which didn’t work out, but taught us a lot. Because of our backgrounds, we take things one step at a time. With us both having marketing experience, which has helped us think out of the box and look at things from that point of view, rather than from an artist’s point of view as far as promoting the company.”

Business Challenges
“Finding money to invest into the business is always a hurdle, as well as getting the word out about us to the general public. Time management is always a challenge-reminding ourselves that we need a break every once in a while.” “The most challenging part has been to keep up the slow and steady pace we are on. I think when you start a business, patience is extremely important. It is tempting to try to find that one thing that is going to make you “hit it big” and unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen. The worst thing to do is have big expectations when you are trying to get things off the ground and then getting disappointed. We both learned that from our previous business ventures. We keep each other in check and remind ourselves on a regular basis what our focus is and how we need to take small steps to reach our goals.”

Best of Show
“Our best experience so far was last weekend, we just revamped our display and changing it from kind of basic to a new look. We are using a “woman’s dresser top” as our model. We added big wooden boxes that are like jewelry boxes to display the jewelry. We also added lots of Gerber daisies (our logo and theme of the website) to accent the display. It got lots of ooohs and ahhs and we had a lot of people stop by.”

Marketing Avenues
We market our items mainly through the web. Because of the agreements we have with the non-profits, some of them have put links on their sites to our sites. This has helped both with customers finding us from them and also raising our search engine appearances.” “We also use word of mouth and carry cards with us always. I wear the jewelry as often as I can. I say I am a walking billboard!”

Generating Press
“We have done press releases ourselves, but the biggest press opportunities have come from the cancer charity we work with doing press pushes and including us in this.”

Motivated by…
“The fact our business helps others is a big motivator. It is amazing when we hear from someone how wearing one of our bracelets helps them get through the day. Or getting an email from someone who has been assaulted thanking me for telling my story. It is when I get those that I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.”

“We are also motivated about the usual…being our own boss, working for ourselves, financial security, and the pride of owning a business.”

“We are inspired by strong women and men who make a difference. For example, we recently had the opportunity to meet Angela Shelton. She was an actress/writer in Hollywood who decided to do a documentary about women in America. Her hook was to interview all the other Angela Sheltons across the US. Once she started talking to them, she discovered that, like herself, the majority of them had been raped, abused or sexually abused by family members. Her journey leads her to confront her abusive father and in the process find herself. The movie is called “Searching for Angela Shelton.” It was amazing to watch and she was amazing to meet. She has made it her life mission to help those who are survivors of abuse and though she is constantly confronted with stories of trauma, she is uplifting and positive. I hope to be able to touch just a small part of the people she has with her mission.”

Words of Advice-Follow Your Dreams
“ Do what you believe in. Be patient and take each day one day at time. If you have a dream, don’t be afraid to follow it and don’t let someone talk you out of doing what you know is right.”

Pam and Tom Swider
Women for Hope

Thursday, September 13, 2007

IE Tip 47: Craft Revolution: Helping Creative Business Owners Navigate the Waters that Lead to Success

Run by a group of talented crafters, designers, and entrepreneurs, Craft Revolution provides business tips, craft news, and other helpful musings targeted to the indie craft community. They also started podcasting this past August-check out their initial episode here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

IE Tip 46: SBA Office of Women's Business Ownership: Resource for Women Entrepreneurs

The Small Business Administration's Office of Women's Business Ownership (OWBO) assists women achieve their dreams and improve their communities by helping them start and run successful businesses. Check out their website for a great list of women's business centers (organized by state), as well as inspiring success stories of women entrepreneurs who have fulfilled their business dreams.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Women's Expo, Web Class

Build a Web Business: Want to learn how to build a successful web business? This course series uses a suite of online tools to brainstorm a business idea, determine its profitability, write content and build a web business. Students will graduate from the class with a working web site and a blueprint for a successful online business. Located in Reno, NV. September 11, 2007.

Great Women's Expo: Mingle, connect, and network with other women in the West Coast's largest event for women. Keynote speakers include Suzanne Somers, Carnie Wilson, and Fran Drescher. Located in Los Angeles, CA. September 15, 2007.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Midnight Firefly and Allison Biggs Graphic Design

Whether it’s building a website, developing jewelry designs, or creating paper and stationery products for her shop, Allison Biggs does it all with creativity, style, and passion. She started her first business, Midnight Firefly in 2004, creating gorgeous handmade and limited edition jewelry. In the last three years, her style and skill in jewelry design has grown significantly, to a point where she has finally felt like she has come into my own. She is also a freelance graphic designer who enjoys working with other small-business entrepreneurs in a variety of web, print, and media design projects. From her interest in design and a love of paper products, she began designing stationery products which are available at her Etsy shop.

Combining Her Background with Business
“I have a bachelors degree in graphic design. This has helped me with my graphic design business, and paper/stationery, but it also helped a lot with my jewelry design business as well. I believe all the same principals and aesthetics apply themselves to jewelry design, but in a three dimensional way. It helps immensely to be able to do my own branding, websites, and business cards."
A Balancing Act
“I work part time as a graphic designer at a local newspaper, but I still consider working on my businesses as a full time job. Balancing time can be tricky. When you work for yourself, sometimes you feel guilty if you’re not spending every single minute doing something related to your business. There are some points when you just need to walk away and make a conscious decision to take care of yourself, because in the long run, you’ll get much farther.”

Believing in Your Business and in Yourself
“I think that most challenging part of starting your own business is believing in yourself and your ideas. When you start your own business, a lot of people will make you doubt yourself. As long as you believe that you can succeed, and use that belief to build and better your business, there’s not really much that can stop you!”

Generating Press
“For Midnight Firefly, I’ve sent out press releases to highlight different events in the business, such as our donation to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. This was picked up by a local paper that did a story on the business. For my paper/stationery design, I was able to participate in the media only portion of The Sampler, where they send separate samples to different media contacts.”

Low-Cost Advertising
“Promo swaps and swag bags are a great way to get your product out to people, just make sure to pick the right venue! Also, there are many online blogs that are very affordable for the amount of exposure they give you.”

Business Challenges
“Gaining exposure. Advertising, no matter how big you get is a continuous task. Even if you reach hundreds of people, there are still billions more out there who have never heard of you, and you have to convince them that they need what you have.”

Motivated by…
“Knowing that I don’t want to live an ordinary life. Having goals and a purpose constantly keep me moving. And nothing is a better motivator than a small taste of success.”

Recommended Business Resources
The Switchboards have been an invaluable resource since they day it began. I also recommend reading Guerrilla Marketing. Not everything is 100% applicable for every business, but it gets you thinking about your marketing strategy in an entirely different way. If you’re a woman in need of some business inspiration, defiantly visit Another Girl At Play. It will get you out of a funk when the road ahead seems more than daunting.”

Discovering Inspiration
“I take a lot of my inspiration from nature and fine art. Depending on what I’m working on, my inspiration can come from the materials themselves. I love to let my imagination run wild and see what happens. My ideas hardly ever end up the way they began, but that’s one of the things I enjoy the most!”

Words of Advice-Be True
“As an artist, I’ve found that nothing is more important than being true to your ideas. Once you start designing because you think something is trendy or in style, the magic and soul of your creativity is lost, and so is the joy of the process.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Craft Inspiration

Designer's block? Books and other resources that inspire you to create.

Craft Inspiration

Craftivity: Innovatively cool projects by author Tsia Carson, the force behind Supernaturale.

Scribbles Giant Coloring Book: Coloring book for the young and young-at-heart.

Wreck This Journal: Who says journals have to be pristine? Keri Smith encourages, no, requires you to go all out and wreck your journal-step on it, throw it against the wall, splatter paint---all in the name of unleasing creativity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

IE Tip 45: American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA)

AIGA is the oldest and largest professional membership association for creatives in the design field. Its goal is to inform, communicate, inspire, and validate designers and the design profession. Some really handy resources for freelancers or design entrepreneurs are the "Design Business and Ethics" brochures that are published periodically on topics such as educating clients and recognizing legal requirements faced by design firms. The website also has a sample of a standard agreement for design services that you can customize depending on your design engagement.