Hey, I'm thinking of launching a greeting card line and I'd love to find some resources or a mentor on how to start, find artists, printers and a fulfillment house. Any thoughts will be deeply appreciated. Thanks, DIna
I'm assuming you're doing this as inexpensively as possible.
You should be able to find commercial printers in your area through Google or other search engines. If you don't know a lot about printing, schedule a visit at their offices - most are very friendly - and pre-plan some questions. You'll want to know if they'll print on the stocks that interest you, if they can letter press, their prices, their minimum orders, lead times, etc. Price shop.
You might have a different supplier for envelopes and cards. I've used ActionEnvelope.com in the past for stock envelopes.
There are lots of ways to find artists. Living near an art school, I've had a lot of luck hiring near-graduates or recent graduates for web-based projects. Graphic design is still founded in print (paper) design, so most students are well-versed in mediums like greeting cards. Using students, I spend more time as an art director, but it's a role I'm familiar with. For more experienced graphic designers, you can use craigslist and any one of the websites for freelance graphic designers. I'd start with craigslist. My ratio is something like 15-20 viewed (you can ask for online portfolios) for each designer hired.
The bigger challenge is finding sales channels for your products. I've known several smaller players in the greeting card industry and they usually have a niche (wedding and novelty come to mind), know lots of wedding planners or shopkeepers, and go to a lot of conferences to beat the bushes (Gift Show in NYC, Stationary Show in NYC, bridal shows everywhere, etc.). Without a stable sales channel, it's hard to justify capital commitments to the business and you won't grow it beyond a hobby.
My last bit of feedback is that greeting cards don't strike me as a highly profitable full-time business. The barrier to entry is very low which leads to a lot of competition regardless of your niche. It's a good hobby if you know about printing (letterpress or commercial) and if you are an artist because reliability in printing and design are the two things your customers want in a card company. If you're learning about printing and you have to outsource the art, you're probably selling the farm to grow the corn.
If you're in doubt, try a profit-loss exercise where you write down all of the expenses you think you'll make and use that to determine the number of cards you'd need to sell in order to break even. Those numbers should all be very clear before you start.
I hope that helps. My experience with printing and seasonal products was as founder of the flip book company, www.flipclips.com.
BC, you're an angel. Your thoughtful response challenged me to think harder about this. This project wouldn't be a full-time venture, but is more than a hobby.
My intention, which may be misguided, is to develop a line of marriage cards for baby boomers that may have broad appeal to any married person. (there's my niche). Because the line is based on my midlife and marriage blog, This Marriage Thing, it has more of a lifestyle brand. That brand is about being a lifelong learner and experience glutton, someone who wants to experience life and marriage fully and deeply. So, to that end, I plan to develop additional products which may help differentiate me from the competition.
I'm trying to work an unconventional sales channel in addition to the typical boutiques and card stores. I hope that will make the products more popular and grab attention from the media. Primarily I want to be an online business.
I'll definitely do the profit-loss analysis you suggest. As well as engage Modus Operandi as a consultant (they run the Max and Lucy company) to help determine if I should move forward.
I'm especially grateful for your thoughts, BC. If you think of anything else, I hope you'll let me know. Best, Dina
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