I'm departing from the normal blog post because today is my wholesale Debut Day! This is something I've been working towards for a long time, and I thought it would be fitting to share some of the story and the behind the scenes of HOW and WHY I decided to start a business and wholesale my products today.
If you want to start a product-based business one day, I hope my experience will help you determine if that step is right for you.
I call myself an "accidental blogger" because I never aspired to blog. It was just a natural jump from the hand lettering/scripture creativity that I share on social media to share more in detail here. But starting a paper and gifts company – that's been in my heart to do for years!
When I started my first business in 2009, I just desperately wanted to leave my full-time design job. It drained all the creativity from my soul. Some sweet friends encouraged me to design custom invitations and start a business. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I thought, "Hey, that sounds fun." I didn't research the market. I didn't think about what starting a business meant or why I was doing it. I just dove into creating shower invitations and wedding invitations and birthday invitations and everything in between.
On the side, I decided to create some notebooks and notepads and magnets, and "hey, how about painting canvases!" just for fun. I had no direction and no idea what I was doing.
I spent hours upon hours creating and invested a lot of money on printing and manufacturing. I put my whole heart into the design process but zero time thinking about how I was going to market and sell my products.
The Junior League Christmas Market was where I chose to sell my wares in November 2009. My business basically was born and died in the same weekend. I didn't even make back my booth fee, much less any of my investment on product. I spent a little time adding stuff to an Etsy shop and attending a few craft fairs. But that was all pretty much a waste of time. I was left with a feeling of failure and the idea that I wasn't a good designer.
I packed up my products and put them in the back of a closet.
Looking back, I lacked business sense, but most of all, I lacked grit and determination. I still have those boxes of product sitting in my closet. They're a reminder of a big lesson learned.
That flop hurt my heart so much that I stopped dreaming of having my own art and gifts company and instead turned to freelance design. That was safe, relatively predictable, and earned me some good income. But once again, designing for other people stole the creativity from my heart and made me feel creatively empty.
I tried furniture painting. I tried wreath making. I tried pallet sign making. I tried sewing and embroidery. Friends told me I should start an business in each of those things. But I didn't love any of it enough. And business was scary. Business was risky. My heart couldn't handle it.
When you're a creative, well-meaning people will encourage you to start a business selling your work, whatever it is. It's easy to get carried away by the romantic notion of starting a business. But businesses are like babies – they have to be nurtured and fed and grown. It's best not to enter into it lightly.
All along God was priming my heart.
In 2015, I felt the initial stirrings to create again when I discovered hand lettering. It lit my creative heart on fire, something I hadn't felt in a really long time.
I started creating scripture art out of the sheer joy of creating. Not to start a business again. And as I started surrounding myself with God's Word, I saw there was power in reading those words daily. I wanted to share that power with others.
I "stumbled" upon Deuteronomy 11:18-20 which says to "fix these words of Mine on your heart and on your soul...Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
That was all the motivation I needed to paper my walls with God's Word. He told us to. He told us to saturate our minds with it and talk about it regularly with people around us. What a joy it is to have someone come into my home and comment about a scripture on my walls and have an opportunity to talk about it.
I didn't enter into this new business lightly. I was plagued by fear and doubts stemming from my last experience. But I just knew I had to do this. I started with one print design and posted it on Instagram. Then I came up with a couple more. Then came the Lettering Prayer Journal (that's another story for another day). But by then, I knew: Some day I want my art to be shared in stores.
I can see God's hand leading and directing me. One of my most common prayers is Psalm 32:8
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."
One thing led to another and I discovered PaperCamp. That's where the wholesale plan really took off (Thanks Katie!). I began to search for scripture art and greeting cards. And I didn't find much in stores. The boutiques and big box stores were lacking in pretty, modern scripture art – designs you'd be happy to send people other than just your grandmother.
For the last 6 months I've been furiously planning, designing, lettering, researching, PDFing, sending files to print and readying my website.
Debut Day means I'm releasing 41 card designs and 31 art print designs out into the world, along with the Lettering Prayer Journal to say, Hey you can carry my work in your store! But it's also the fulfillment of an old dream made new.
We'll see where it goes from here.
Will you help me spread the word about my new wholesale line? Share or pin this post!
With love and lettering,