Small Business School: Insight To How We Buy
Happy Tuesday from our new shop + studio! It’s honestly still so surreal that we are in our new home. It both feels like we just moved in as well as like we’ve always been here. We just celebrated our official re-opening a couple of weekends ago so it does feel a little more real since we're 100% settled in.
Since we opened in 2015, we’ve been committed to bringing y’all the very best stationery, paper and of course, workshops! When we first opened, we started with working alongside 16 fellow small, independent designers to showcase their goods in our shop. And that number has now grown to well over 80!
We’ve grown our family of stationery designers through in-person and Instagram relationships, as well as through our visits to the National Stationery Show. We are so honored to be able to help share the incredible work of fellow creators with you.
A while back, I wrote a blog post about why we buy- a way to share a little bit of perspective of how I choose to stock our shelves. By no means am I an end all be all expert as everyone has their own way of doing things, but I still follow those same thought processes. Since we’ve grown both as a business as well as for me personally, I wanted to take the time to share a more in-depth look at my preferred way of connecting with a brand/maker/designer, and what that early stages of that relationship might look like that leads to placing an order (and re-orders after!)
BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
There are seriously SO many talented designers out there, and as a paper lover, trust me when I say it’s hard to decide which lines to carry in our shop.
I love working with designers who have a vision, designers who are not just talented at creating but are savvy business owners. I want The Paper + Craft Pantry to grow alongside these fabulous businesses. A lot of the designers I started working with when I first opened the shop are still designers we carry in the shop! And I prefer to re-order new designs and replenish our stock by reinvesting in those relationships. The designers we work with have sometimes gone from online working relationships to real life friendships- and if I'm being honest, those are the very best relationships!
Although I enjoy supporting folks we already have a strong relationship with, I also really enjoy scoping out new designers to bring into our stationery “family"! We get a TON of product submissions via the contact form on our website as well as through good old fashioned snail mail. I typically sort through what we get into sections- ones I will file to order in the future, and ones that just aren’t a fit for us in another. It certainly helps a new designer trying to woo us to go through the proper way we choose to accept product submissions (more on that below!)
DO YOUR RESEARCH
I’m willing to bet that most shop owners can attest that each of them have their own preferred way of accepting product submissions. Do some research, look through their website (Are there instructions on how to submit your work? Are they even accepting new goods?), have you even been to their physical store? Why do you think your brand + product would be a good fit? I can’t tell you the number of times I get inquries where people say they’re a good fit for our shop because our shop is cute. That’s really nice that they think our shop is cute but it makes me wonder if they even know what The Paper + Craft Pantry is about.
Personally, I do not accept walk-ins purely from the standpoint that it’s not a good use of my time. It’s always a little awkward to have to tell someone I am unable to meet with them right then and there. Especially when they’ve got a bag or box full of product and are insisting I look through their product with no regard for my time (or what I have going on during my work day).
Although our submission policies are just a personal preference, I’m almost certain most of the other shop owners I know would agree that unannounced and unscheduled walk-ins are usually not the right way to go!
HOW TO STAND OUT
Think about the volume of emails, and even old fashioned mail a business/shop receives weekly and even sometimes daily...Getting lost in the crowd can be easy.
When submitting your brand + product to a new buyer or shop, presentation is key because I think it speaks to how you run your business. It sets the bar that quality is important to you and usually quality will translate throughout someone’s business.
We’ve received packages that were accidentally left outside in the rain but when we opened it, we mentally applauded the person who put it together for thinking to slip everything into a cello sleeve. A handwritten note is also key (when you’re a stationery business at least) and always sharing why you think your line would make sense added to our shop. Samples are always appreciated because as a paper person, I love being able to feel the weight of the paper and see how things are printed/packaged.
POTENTIAL REASONS FOR WHY YOUR BUSINESS/BRAND/PRODUCT MAY NOT BE A GOOD FIT
Occasionally we’ll receive a submission that’s a really easy no for us. But we also sometiems receive submissions that are a yes, but not right now.
The nos are usually because there’s an overlap in a simliar brand we already work with and carry in the shop. The nos are also usually from improper product submission- because it means that this person has no idea what we do and has never even looked on our website!
The yes but not right nows could be for a number of things. The quantity minimums or opening minimums may be restrictive. There may not be enough designs released that resonate with our shop to warrant an opening order.
P.s. I almost always will place an order/re-order if the designer is offering free shipping and I know of other shop owners who will also raise their hand to this :)
WAYS TO FOLLOW UP:
After submitting your brand + product (in the way that specific shop requries), a follow up email a week or so after is wonderful!
I personally unsubscribe from product/wholesale newsletter that I never opted for- this happens actually more often than you’d think.
But if I already work with a designer + brand, I love when they check in with new product releases and when they remind me of upcoming holidays. Receiving product/wholesale newsletters from folks I already work with is okay in my book!
INSTAGRAM STORY MOST ASKED QUESTIONS:
How do you choose? Based on your own taste or purely what you think will sell?
I choose on a variety of factors but when it comes to actual design, I choose designs I feel will resonate with our community (you!) I also am firm not never carrying anything or stocking anything I myself would not want or purchase.
How do you find designers?
A lot of designers I currently work with I've known for years (from when I used to design my own line), I discover new designers online as well as attend the National Stationery Show to check out and meet designers in person!
Do you prefer email before samples?
NO! Only because my inbox is always so full (any one else out there feel the same?) so it's easy for emails to get lost in the shuffle. I personally prefer snail mail and an going through our online product submission form (because the form covers questions I want to know from the brand/business/designer!)
Best approach to submit product to a store? Wholesale ettiequte, sending samples?
I mention it in this blog under "Do Your Research"! Each store and shop is different. Each buyer is different :)
Open to wholesale products from overseas?
Yes! We currently work with designers from Canada, the U.K. and South Korea. It's not a deal breaker if it's overseas as long as pricing translates to USD and also if shipping isn't bonkers.
Preference of printing type?
I love all paper equally... okay maybe that's not true. I have a particular soft spot for all things letterpressed.
What do you look for in a brand to carry?
This is mentioned in the section "Build A Relationship" in the post above.
Are you a shop owner? How do you like to receive product/brand submissions? Are you trying to add a stockist to your brand? Have you found an effective way to approach shops?
We wanna know! Let us know in the comments below!