There are SO many talented stationery and paper designers out there, y'all. It's overwhelming in the very best sense because there are so many great folks to work with! When I first started The Paper + Craft Pantry, I knew I wanted to build very intentional relationships with each and every single stationer we had in the shop—I wanted to grow alongside the designers I worked with as I grew The Paper + Craft Pantry.
As the business grew, so did the amount of mail we received in our physical mailboxes as well as email inboxes. If there was one thing I wanted to tell every single person who reached out about their product line, it would be that I take the time to go through everything we receive. I personally have experienced being on the other side of things, where I was reaching out to shops and stores I loved, in the hopes of getting to work with them. Thus, I truly value and feel so honored that folks think of The Paper + Craft Pantry in the same way.
I suppose there really is no right or wrong way to purchase product for your business. There aren't any fast and hard rules to follow. I trust my gut by working with folks I organically connect with—folks who have incredible, relatable designs that I know our community here in Austin will love.
One of the reasons why I might choose not to work with someone is simply because I try to make sure there aren't any product overlaps with the current stationers we work with in our shop, and it can even be simply because I just finished placing a bunch of orders (and my accountant would probably shake her finger at me if I didn't clear it in the budget with her). There are a lot of good designers and stationers out there, but I really appreciate when someone has invested the time to ensure their designs aren't similar to anything else out there. And trust me, I know that can be really hard!
If I had to narrow down the criteria for why and how I buy (from a small business, retailer's perspective), it would loosely be based off the following list:
- Does this business have a cohesive branding story? Does its brand align with The Paper + Craft Pantry?
- Would this interest the guests who walk through our doors?
- Does this look like anything else we currently carry in the store?
- Does this product line offer variety? Is it priced at market value?
- Are the designs a little too trendy/seasonal?
- Would I personally ever use/send out this product?
- Is this brand a business I can see The Paper + Craft Pantry growing alongside? Is the person behind the brand a person I can see growing a working relationship with?
One of my priorities as a shopkeeper here at The Paper + Craft Pantry is communicating information and feedback to the designers I work with. I love sharing a stationer's story and process with guests in our shop as much as I love sharing feedback from customers about product. Knowing that these tidbits of information can help the stationers I work with to improve anything from their current and future designs to final product packing or even their wholesale policies and catalogs is something I really find joy in.
We opened our doors with 16 stationery brands, and we are currently at 40 and counting. I can't wait to invite new designers into our shop, and I look forward to discovering new up-and-coming designers!
I truly hope this really transparent post was insightful :) Any other questions? Leave a comment and let me know!