E. Frances Paper Proves Tradeshows Aren’t the Only Way to Launch a Wholesale Line
In the paper industry, many brands look to the National Stationery Show to serve as their wholesale debut. It’s a great place to meet buyers, get feedback on your products and build relationships with press, reps and other designers. It's where I launched my wholesale line in 2009.
However, this isn't the only way to launch your wholesale brand.
Many thriving businesses are introducing their product line to buyers outside of shows and doing it successfully. A great example of this is Paper Camp Alum, E. Frances Paper.
After attending Paper Camp in February, owners Ali Flippin, Jenni Laundon and Pippi Roberts knew they weren’t ready for a big launch at the NSS that May.
They wanted to spend more time developing their product line, building a marketing strategy and refining their sales tools before they reached out to retailers.
But they also wanted to know what they were getting into. That May, the E. Frances team traveled from their home base of Newport, Rhode Island to New York to scope out the National Stationery Show. They walked the show, took some pictures and made the decision to ease their way into the wholesale arm of their business.
“We were still figuring it out back then,” says creative director Ali Flippin. “We are grateful now that we didn’t rush it and launch because the Stationery Show is a whole bundle of figuring it out.”
Instead of launching at the show, the group focused on perfecting their product and developing business systems as they worked on their mailing list and soft-launching the company.
After Googling and researching stores they thought might be a good fit for their product, the team sent out packages to introduce themselves. They used a tier system, with the biggest packages going to those stores that were the best fit. The gifts included a balloon, samples and more information about the ladies of E. Frances and their products.
“We wanted to bring on new customers and encourage social shares to introduce our name to retailers. It worked well and we built on that,” says Ali Flippin.
As those new accounts came on board, the team was able to develop and refine systems for fulfilling orders. They figured out what size boxes they needed, how to package the product, how much time it takes and what kind of inventory they’d need on hand. They started small, gradually adding handful after handful of new customers.
E. Frances participated in its first NSS in the following May, and by then, they were ready. The company doubled its wholesale accounts while there, proof that their hard work and preparation had paid off
Today, E. Frances is found in hundreds of retail stores throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and online, they work with several sales reps and have exhibited several times at the National Stationery Show.
Ali Flippin's Thoughts on Paper Camp
“We could not have done it without Paper Camp. When we started, there wasn’t any information online about starting a paper business. The things I learned from Paper Camp were invaluable, from preparing for the show to standard processes to business standards.”
I LOVE sharing the E. Frances story with our campers for a few reasons:
1. It dispels the myth that launching at a trade show is the only way to go. There is no singular *right way* to launch to wholesale and you need to do what is best for you.
2. It reinforces that doing the hard work -- expanding product line, creating sales tools, building your mailing list -- pays off in the long run and sets your company up with a strong foundation.
3. It reminds us that we set the rules for our business. E. Frances chose their own path, made decisions based on their unique circumstances and their business has seen lots of success because of it.
Congrats Ali, Jenni and Pippi on all you've accomplished and thanks for letting Paper Camp play a small part in that success!