Our business here at The Paper + Craft Pantry consists of 50% retail shop and 50% workshops and events. As we've grown, so has the number of inquiries and product pitches we receive on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis.
At the core of our business, we value our people — from our customers + fans, to the small business owners we work alongside to share their incredible products on our shelves. It may not be the best or fastest way to grow our business, but we believe in growth through building organic relationships. We'd like to think that doing things the right way from the beginning sets our business up for success not just in the interim, but for years to come.
We've learned a lot as we've grown, and feel honored that so many brands and businesses reach out to us in the hopes of a wholesale partnership. So, we've identified some key do's and dont's when it comes to pitching your brand (and product) to a potential retailer.
START A RELATIONSHIP
From a retail business's standpoint, we get a ton of emails, inquiries and product submissions. What can you do to start a relationship with a retailer so your brand jumps to the top of their mind when they are thinking about placing new orders? If the retailer is in your town or you happen to be traveling to their city, go by for a visit for no other reason than to say hi (seriously, just to say hi) and see the store for yourself! Sometimes seeing a store in person can help you decide if this store is the right fit for your goods and your brand!
Show up without making an appointment! It can come off as disrespectful of the business owner's time if you just pop by and start trying to sell them your wholesale line. It also can be distracting to other customers in the shop if you are monopolizing the business owner's attention!
BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
Genuinely be a part of their community! Attend their markets, pop-ups and events. Share about these happenings with your community and network. Engage with them on social media (check out our Top 10 Instagram Tips). Reach out to see how you can collaborate with them! Go to their website and learn more about how they accept new wholesale accounts, which are typically simple instructions on how to contact them or a form you can fill out online.
Ask them to coffee to pick their brain. Okay, let's preface that we love coffee and we love coffee dates. But asking a business owner to spill their business + trade secrets with you over a cup of coffee can be incredibly insulting. You would never go to your favorite restaurant and ask the chef for their recipe, would you? Business owners have worked hard, over many years to grow their businesses and most will tell you that there's no secret formula to being successful. It takes lots of trial and error (and hard work) for them to continue to grow their business!
To put things into perspective: if you are asking someone you don't have an existing relationship with to coffee to pick their brain, you are asking them for their time. So you are essentially asking a stranger to give you, say an hour of their time. This is an hour they will spend away from their own business, away from working towards their business goals and potentially even time away from their family. And that hour of their time is worth more than a cup of coffee.
*Disclaimer: It's 100% fine to ask a business owner out to coffee to get to know them and learn more about their business, for no other reason than you genuinely want to get to know them! Just don't go in with the expectation that you are going to get a crash course on how to build your business*
BE ABLE TO SHARE WHY YOUR PRODUCT + BRAND IS A GOOD FIT
You should know what makes your product and brand different from others in the industry! You should also know what other types of products and brands are stocked at each shop you want to pitch to know if your goods fit in with existing products.
With retailers being flooded with so many inquiries, this has to be more than, "I love your shop and think your customers would like my (insert product here)." Emails like these are more likely to be skimmed over as they seem generic and insincere.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Make sure your products are stocked at shops that complement each other and aren't geographically located too close to one another. Smaller retail shops prefer when goods they've stocked can't just be picked up at numerous other stores in the same vicinity.
Oversaturate the market. It's better to build continued relationships with a retailer who will continue to place reorders throughout the year than a one-off order from a shop that may not fit in with your brand.
MAINTAINING THE RELATIONSHIP + INTRODUCING NEW PRODUCT
Check in with your retailers throughout the year — even when you don't have new release! Send them a holiday card or find out how you can support/sponsor one of their upcoming events. Ask them for product and customer feedback! Present them with a clear line-sheet when you have a new line to launch, and snail mail over some samples (particular designs) that you know they are going to love for their shop!
Only reach out when you want to make a sale! Treat their business the same way you would want them to treat yours :)
We hope these tips help you better navigate business pitches in the future! We know how intimidating it can be to put yourself out there. So, as a fellow small business, we want to encourage you to keep on keeping on. A little research + relationship-building can go a long way!