125 | Moving from wholesale to licensing with Erin McManness of Paper Raven Co.

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As product-based business owners and entrepreneurs, so many of us are under constant pressure to juggle the design and operations sides of our businesses. It can be hard to focus on both moving product and creating the designs for that product, especially when we’re juggling online, wholesale and licensing accounts. Turns out, you don’t always have to do it all. Today’s Proof to Product guest, Erin McManness, is a Paper Camp alumni who’s lived every side of the business and decided to stick to the parts that are most fulfilling for her. I’m excited for you to hear her story. 

Erin is an illustrator working in Atlanta, Georgia. She's been freelancing full time for five years under her brand Paper Raven Co., which started as a small greeting card line and now includes licensing for an assortment of cards, gifts, fabrics, and home décor. Erin incorporates her values and love for the environment in her work by printing all of her cards on 100% recycled paper in the United States. She also donates $1 from every sale to her reforestation partner, One Tree Planted. Over the course of her career, Erin has collaborated on projects with companies like Macy's, Target, Trader Joe's, Publix, and Aldi. In October, she's releasing her second book, The Art Starts In The Heart: An Inspirational Guide To Making Meaningful Art.

On Episode 125, Erin and I sit down to cover all of the above. We talk about how Erin has built the licensing arm of her business, the pros, and cons of flat rate and royalty payments and why she's made the decision to ramp up her licensing arm and slow down on the wholesale side. We also talk about Erin's new book, so enjoy!


  • The inspiration behind Paper Raven Co. 

  • How Erin’s evolved from one stationery line, to multiple product categories, licensing and more

  • What it’s like to collaborate and design for big brands

  • The importance of going out and asking for what you want

  • The difference of working with both smaller and larger brands 

  • Advice on how to navigate negotiations and creative collaborations

  • How to trust your gut and choose the right projects 

  • Flat rate fees vs royalties 

  • The 3 questions Erin asks herself before choosing to work with brands

  • Making room for life beyond work 

  • Why you should double check a company’s tracking & metrics before signing a royalty deal

  • What inspired Erin to make the switch to 100% recycled paper products and partner with One Tree Planted

  • How to research, evaluate and choose ethical companies to work with

  • Tough decisions, book celebrations, and what’s next for Erin 

Download These Quotables to Save and Share


“You need to go for what you want and if you want something, tailor your portfolio and go ask for it.” - Erin McManness

 “At tradeshows, and Instagram, too, you never know who's watching. You never know who's paying attention to you or where the next great opportunity will come from.” -  Katie Hunt 

“I love to work with smaller brands because they can be really flexible and they're not this big, huge company. There's a lot of creative freedom and things like that.” - Erin McManness

“My rule is that if I get excited and I listen to my body, and my body is like, ‘Yeah, whoa, let's go. This is so exciting, I'm so inspired by this,’ I'm like, "Yeah, let's do it." - Erin McManness

“Saying no is difficult for a lot of people, myself included. But when we say yes to everything, we run ourselves ragged and we’re not focused on the things that are really the most important.” -  Katie Hunt 

“I really try to be intentional about structuring my business with what brings me the most joy, what I absolutely love doing.” - Erin McManness

“I was ready to move on, but I was so worried about proving that I was a financial success out on my own that I just hustled and hustled and hustled, and I put things off to the side.” - Erin McManness

“I realized making art is really what I want to do. Making the art is the most important thing to me.”  - Erin McManness

“I just want it to be me, I don't want an empire. I just want to be happy, make art, make things that make other people happy.” - Erin McManness

“I try to do my research about companies that I work with. Are they ethical? Do they have practices that I can be proud of to be associated with?”  - Erin McManness

“It’s super important that there’s shared values between us and those we're partnering with or collaborating with.” – Katie Hunt


Website: Shop Paper Raven Co. | Instagram: @PaperRavenCo. | Facebook: @PaperRavenCo | Pinterest: @PaperRavenCo


One Tree Planted

Connect with Katie Hunt

Katie Hunt is a business strategist, podcaster, mentor and mama to four. She helps product based businesses build profitable, sustainable companies through her conferences, courses and coaching programs.

Website: prooftoproduct.com  |   Instagram: @prooftoproduct

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