Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wiser for the journey


Seven years ago I tried my hand at the National Stationery Show in New York. I had never been and I was five months pregnant and I had decided I would just wing it with my own line of cards. I did very little research, spent a few thousand dollars on the booth and a curtain and renting a table, plane tickets for my Mr. Rosen and my mom and I, and off we went flying by the seat of our pants. And I remember one night before going to bed saying to Mr. Rosen, what if I don't bring enough brochures or what if I can't fulfill all of my (zillions of) orders. Brother. 

We got there and I felt completely overwhelmed. People had shipped or ordered whole store fronts. Everything in my booth we packed in our suitcases. I remember renting a car and driving to the IKEA first out in Jersey and then on Long Island looking for stuff to make our booth a little more substantial. We only had a day. We stayed with friends in Soho and used some of their furniture. And friends in New York stopped by the booth. It was cute in the end. But I remember feeling mostly dejected by the whole thing. Everyone had the same kind of stationery - little icons of purses and heels in pinks and greens, all preppy throw-back. Some of it was exquisite - the Hello! Lucky stuff and other letter press creations. But that cutesy stuff was selling well. Hardly anyone stopped in my booth. I had to kind of lure them in and puff out my belly so they'd think I was kind of cutesy. In the end it wasn't a complete bust. I got five contracts and one was even from Whole Foods in NYC. But still, altogether they maybe amounted to about $1000. Not exactly what I was expecting.

I sold that collection (it was the inner toddler stuff) for another few years, here and there. Some on ETSY and some to shops. When I was on maternity leave with number two I had renewed energy and actually reached out to some blogs. I even got some coverage on Cool Mom Picks and Design Mom. It was fun. But the sales weren't exactly pouring in. So I stopped. I mean, I was also working full time and raising these two kids. It was more than I could manage.

And then after taking some time off I got a second wind. Started my blog. Started reading other blogs. Got inspired by what some other self-taught artists were doing and started painting again. Different stuff. Started developing my own style. Started getting into ketubahs and Judaica and sort of found a little niche for myself. And here we are. Seven years later.

Two weeks ago one of my images debuted at the National Stationery Show with a company called Calypso. Not a whole collection, mind you. Just the one. But I didn't have to fly my pregnant self there and spend a week and a small fortune getting it seen. I just got an email one day in March that said they wanted to use an image. We agreed on licensing terms. And here we are. Ironically it's a "congratulations on your move" card. I have a stack of them at home now so when someone does decide to buy our house, I am well equipped to congratulate them.

Funny how sometimes the choices we make lead us back to the start - wiser for the journey.

8 comments:

RookieMom Whitney said...

That was a good story for me today. After seeing a news story that someone who I consider a blogging peer earns a six figure salary, my self esteem sank down well below the five figures my website earns, divided by two because it is a partnership. But today as I take a sick day for a 6-year old who is in generally good health but too gooey and snotty to impose on his classmates, I try to think that the journey is not always measured by numbers. Sometimes the thrills are the compliments paid by someone liking what you produce, or by a child who is having his needs met. How the EFF did you know what to ask for in terms of licensing?

Lori said...

AWESOME. I love this story for so many reasons. I had heard this story from you in person, but it seems different today. I thought about getting a booth this year but I'm not ready. Yet. Maybe never. I love the full circle of your story. Congratulations Susie. Sending you lots of love, my sweet pregnant friend.

aimee said...

That's awesome, Susie! Congrats!

AG Ambroult said...

I love this story. It's good to know I'm not the only one who has approached her business in fits and starts. Dare I say things are finally starting to go the way of your fabulous business? I can only hope!

painted fish studio said...

i'm so bummed that i didn't know about your work with Calypso! i would have taken photos and sent them to you from the show. guess my "i'm going to nss!" brain waves didn't make it to california. i'll give you advance notice next time. :)

love the journey, tho. that's what it's all about.

no way said...

This is a great story, and it made me happy for you. Now where can I find this card?

Inner Toddler said...

whitney - it's usually not me asking. it's me being told. Hallmark sent a flat fee. I negotiated a little more than they offered, just because the worst they would say is no and they said yes. Calypso does a standard 8% of net sales. I think if they want a whole collection of your stuff you have more leverage. For me it's more about gaining exposure at this stage.

As someone whose blog brings in zero figures, I hear you. But think about the THOUSANDS of women/parents you've advised/made giggle, myself included. pretty amazing...

Liv @ Choosing Beauty said...

Wait. a. minute. How did I miss this? You have a Calypso card? That is rock-n-roll awesome. Came here to see if you've given birth yet (because I'm sure the FIRST thing you'll do is write about it on your blog). And here you've given birth to a card!! I will scour every stationery store and kiosk until I find it. And I'll buy them all!