707
10 min 3 sec

Savvy Stationery Site Offers Cards for Divorce & Diwali

A director at a non-profit college of music creates an e-commerce site selling greeting cards with a twist.
Arts & Crafts Design Product Transition Story

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What It's About

Simple, playful, and culturally relevant greeting cards!

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Design & Creativity
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

As noted in our "Fun Fact," Ali did a lot of research on her customer base, and you can do a version of this too for whatever you’re interested in! I had a chapter of the Side Hustle book called "Become a Detective," where I gave a few other examples of this strategy. One of them was about a woman in Texas who has built a part-time business looking after dogs, initially from Rover.com (listen to the episode here!). She got to the top of the Rover listings by paying attention to what other people who were ranked near the top were doing.

In short, the more you can get in the mindset of your customer, the more closely you’ll be able to make your products to suit their needs.

Fun Fact

Ali used to stalk patrons in the dreaded grocery store card aisle multiple times a week to see what people were buying prior to launching Groundswell Greetings.

She wanted to know what cards people were attracted to as well as their price points. Saying it was “creepy, but very anthropologic. I did a lot of research in the wild.”

Notes from Chris

Episode 707
Ali King is the Associate Digital Director at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s a non-profit and one of the most selective music schools in the United States.

She also runs the e-commerce site Groundswell Greetings, selling greetings cards with a twist.

Ali enjoys the thrill of discovering quaint, independent boutiques. The originality and flair of the cards found in these shops surpassed those she’d find in her local grocery store aisle. In fact, whenever she’d find herself looking down the lonely abyss of a drugstore greeting card aisle, she would sigh, roll her eyes, and question the meaning of life before storming out in indignation. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration… but she was disappointed.

Mostly, she was underwhelmed by the mass-market selections being offered. The cards were out of touch, low quality, and lacked personality.

She began giving serious thought to the idea of making her own cards. As she put it, “Greeting cards made sense to me because they require little capital to get started yet make up an $8 billion dollar industry in the U.S. I felt I could differentiate our brand with unique designs that represent a more diverse, modern audience.”

Ali’s card topics are as diverse as the groups they represent. Same-sex weddings, Diwali, Ramadan, ‘new pet’ and even ‘divorce,’ which reads, “Heard about the divorce. Congrats on the weight loss!”

In short, she’s trying to tap into groups that are underrepresented in the greeting card market. She started reaching out to local female artists and designers through social media and built relationships. She told them she wanted to “build a community in support of the arts and women in business.” These master makers were looking for additional places to showcase their work and agreed to come on board.

Groundswell Greetings launched in April 2017 with the mission to “create an affordable alternative to the underwhelming card options in drugstore aisles.”

As far as pricing goes, Ali has kept the price at $5 per card. The stationery industry is very seasonal. She rarely loses money, but a number of months are break even and her biggest profit months are between $3 - 5,000. She recently launched her own rewards program, Club GG. The annual membership consists of: a $40 credit, 20% off all cards, a free birthday card, and a holiday card grab bag in December.

What’s next for Groundswell Greetings? Ali says she’s excited to see how the wholesale pivot continues to develop. She’d like to grow her brand in Pittsburgh and DC if possible. She also still loves her day job and is invested in learning as much as she can there. Her boss is supportive of her entrepreneurial pursuits and sees her side hustle as a benefit to the office. Success is in the cards.

 
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Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"We are raised to maximize conditions for hearing ‘yes,’ mitigate risk, and avoid rejection, but when you’re trying to get strangers’ attention in a super competitive industry, the tactics have to be more direct. Like so many aspects of starting a business, it seems to be a numbers game."
—Ali King #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau