Yesterday, my 1.5 year old daughter, Hudson and I snuck into Seattle Mart.
We weren't planning on it, initially. I just thought I was taking her to some sort of local artists' pop-up shop or something. (An artist I follow on Instagram must have posted about it, so I followed the Seattle Mart account, then didn't spend another second actually reading up on what the Seattle Mart is before deciding to bring my daughter there.) Let's just say it wasn't a pop-up. And it became pretty obvious even pulling into the parking lot that it was a closed event. Then the front door to the place said "OPEN TO WHOLESALE AND DESIGN TRADE ONLY". Okayyy, I can take a hint.
"Hudson, let's just go in and see, though. I'm sure it'll be fine."
Ok, Mom, I'm in a stroller so I literally have to go wherever you push me.
We walk in and the first thing I see is a check-in desk with a short line of people. Everyone has lanyard badges on and is in business casual. I'm in jeans and a 70s style ringer-T that says, "available for weekends". Oh and with big, tinsel earrings my friend made. Like I'm still very-happily celebrating the 4th of July on my ears. Real subtle.
The second thing I see - and consider - is the exit. Then I see the first store. A rad display of a company's stationery and gifts is visible through the storefront window. I casually bypass the check-in desk and start browsing what turns out to be Compendium's line.
A young woman instantly approaches me, and asks if I'd like any coffee, tea, or another beverage. Taken aback I smile and say, "no thank you, I'm fine." She tells me to let her know if I can help her with anything. Okay, thaaaaanks. Also, I shouldn't even be here. What is this place?
I keep pushing Hudson through aisles that didn't expect to see a stroller, that's for sure. I come up to another display, this time for a line of men's gifts. A guy is standing by it, clearly associated with the brand.
I finally just ask him, "Hi, um... What is this? I sort of just stumbled in here," [lie] "and thought I'd shop around."
He smiles, not in a condescending way at all, but almost as if he was relieved to have a break from what was going on. I find out later that was totally the case; he was just in NY for another one of these.
He gladly explains to me that this event was set up for local retailers to shop from. Each showroom has multiple brands, each with their own display, all represented by one company. And that company has one showroom. He thinks there's about 30 showrooms here. So people who then own brick-and-mortar stores around the area can come into Seattle Mart, browse current and new products from each brand represented by a bigger company (AKA a rep), and place orders on what they want to have in their stores next.
"Ohhhhhhh. I see now. So, I can't even buy anything today if I wanted to, can I?"
He smiles again. "Nope. This is more for store owners to place bigger orders for their own show. Are you with a company?"
Bingo. "Well, funny you ask because I actually just launched my own greeting card company about a week ago." Here comes the spiel, guy. Get ready.
"Oh wow! So you're brand new."
"Yeah!" He seems genuinely interested so I keep at it.
"I have no idea what I'm doing, but here's what I've done so far," I say as I reach under the stroller to grab the stack of my first 14 greeting cards that happened to be delivered the night before from my recent test order (to make sure my site was working and the products looked good. So this was perfect timing).
I show him a few.
"Here are some of the more popular ones."
I first show him the So Many Dings card. "I don't know if you know anyone who texts like this but I do, and this was a funny way to call them on it." It takes him a minute but as soon as he gets to the end, he laughs. Mostly genuine, a lit bit courtesy. Ok, not bad, I'll take it.
I show him another. Congrats On Your Baby / Sorry About Your Hair.
"This is the card I wish someone had given me a few months after having my baby. I had no idea-"
He belly laughs before I even finish. And God, it feels good.
Hudson stars getting antsy, understandably, sitting ever-so-chill-like in her stroller this whole time (thanks, Hud!). So I use her as an excuse to thank this guy for his time and move on to what's now clearly my next mission: find a rep.
I exit that showroom and this time completely avoid the front desk. I'm really not supposed to be here, but, now I have work to do.
I wander around more, playing dumb, acting like I'm exactly where I should be. Now I'm looking for showrooms that have not only greeting cards, but cards that have a similar vibe as mine. I want a rep who has already done the work to find stores who would carry my cards and appreciate my weirdo sense of humor.
I fight so many distractions to check out kids' toys and brands I see with other reps - because, Hudson! Woahhhh, look at that! Isn't that so cool?! - on the way to spotting Shannon Martin's work in another showroom. Boom. I like her stuff. Let's go in.
I make small talk with a woman who seems to be with the company/brand next to Shannon's. She didn't ask, but I tell her anyway: "I love this woman's cards," as I point to products she doesn't even represent. Cool move, Sarah. Why would she care?
The nicest woman I think I've ever met overhears my comment, turns around and smiles says, "Oh, you like Shannon Martin? I'm with her."
"Oh, really?" We get to talking. She also seems genuinely interested in what I'm doing. I don't want to waste her time, plus I know I only have about 2 minutes at this point before Hudson loses her shit anyway, still being in the stroller. This is normally priiiime playing time, afterall. So I quickly give her my spiel. Both women are now listening, and I think appreciating how young/new I am to all this. The woman affiliated with Shannon Martin inquires further.
"Are you in any stores?" Not yet.
"How are you selling?" Just through my website. I built it on Shopify and launched it just last week.
"Do you have a sales sheet?" No, I literally just have my website, these products so far, and my social media accounts that only have a few posts.
I tell her, "I just stumbled in here and thought I'd learn whatever I could from people already doing things in the greeting card industry. I have no idea what I'm doing," I say again.
I pull up my stack of cards.
"I'd say you did more than just stumble in here," she says, and I laugh because she totally calls me on my bluff. I start to show them my more popular cards, again starting with So Many Dings. It was still on top of the stack and I'm now a bit nervous so I don't even think to tailor what I show them. I just show them. Shannon Martin's associate gets it and laughs, but the other woman, in an attempt to relate, goes on a tangent about not having enough time in the day to text people back, which is why she texts one word responses. She misses the joke. And I quickly give myself a pep talk.
It's ok! She's not my target demographic. Other people get it; other people love it! So, this is good info. You're fine.
Thinking they may be mothers, I decide to show them Congrats / Sorry About Your Boobs next. Both of them see it, and both of them share a huge laugh. Shannon Martin's rep gets a peek at the next one first: Congrats / Sorry About Your Hair. She bursts out laughing again and tells the other woman, "Look at this one! She has another one for moms..." The other woman also laughs. Big time.
I had them. And it felt so good.
A little confession: I had been in my head all week, second-guessing myself after my launch sales weren't at all what I expected them to be. But this was everything and all I needed. Reassurance from strangers was all I needed! :) For real though, to know people outside my family and friends – who I've never met before; who don't know me or my sense of humor; who have no context whatsoever around these cards and how they came to be – to have them think they're funny and find them relatable? That means the world. It's reassurance I apparently needed, that my cards are funny; I just need to get them in front of more people.
Shannon's rep browses through the rest of my cards and looks up to tell me: "I really think you have something here."
She says, "I almost want to put you in touch with Shannon because I think she could really help you, but I don't want to do that to her because I know she's incredibly busy right now."
"I understand completely. That's ok. Can I ask, what would you do next if you were me? It seems like there are so many different ways to go about this. Do I prove the concept, then pitch to local stores, or...?"
"If I were you, I would work on getting a distributor. Like Knock Knock I believe, for Emily McDowell."
"Ok, how do I do that? Do I need to show them my sales? Have a certain number of cards done to pitch with?"
"No, they just need the artwork. They just want good ideas. They can help you print, get into stores, market everything... they'll even help you refine your designs sometimes. Just go to their websites and fill out their applications."
Amazing. Thank you. I'm so glad I snuck in here!
Hudson was really starting to lose it so I thanked them both for the insight and for taking the time to talk with me. I went home and as soon as Hudson was down for her nap, I emailed Knock Knock. Turns out they're not a distributor but the contact pointed me to the right direction.
Distributors, here I come!
That was a really cheesy way to end this blog post but I don't know how else to.
Oh! How about this: "If you liked this post and want to see more like it, sign up for the Hey Weegs newsletter at the bottom of this site."