Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi guys! I am Claire Jordan and I started claire jordan designs on Feb 4, 2017. I am a greeting card and print designer. I also just debuted my baby clothing line in mid-December.
I consider my business more of a brand than a greeting card/paper company. Where my line differs from most card lines is that it’s just my art/images and no words. I design, create, and produce all images. My cards have been popular because they are a 2 in 1 product, they can be used as greeting cards or framed as art. I've found many people like to use my work for various home decor projects, nursery and children's rooms probably being the most popular.
The cards are blank on the inside so they can be used for all occasions. I didn't add words to my work because the images’ personalities speak for themselves. I started off with 6 images and now I have over 150. The cards are for sure the best sellers by far, but selling paper in a world going paperless isn’t the most ideal way to make a living. That's why I brought in clothing. I started with onesies and plan to add t-shirts by the summer.
There are so many things I could do and want to do but I am taking the time to make sure the product is 100% ready before I release it. It took me 3 years to get my onesie combo right. They are really great and were worth the wait. Babies are forever and so is baby clothing, so I am looking forward to learning more about this market and its trends. As far as wholesale, the stores that carry me are all different. I love that I have a product versatile enough to sell in galleries, clothing boutiques, seaside stores, marketplaces, and many more. I have found my product to be an all-around well-received one. The expressions of the images just leave you with a smile or just a little more lighthearted. Now, into the break down of my business and my story, it definitely isn’t a boring one.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My cards happened as a suggestion.
I started painting in like 2010 here and there for extra cash and I specialized in furniture. I have not had any formal training in art. I would bid on jobs, research techniques and dive straight into the project. I taught myself how to refinish lamps and furniture and did custom jobs for a year. I once painted a custom MSU cowbell for Dak Prescott. I grew up in Yazoo City, MS and was living on my family's farm. I had lost my father to cancer and decided to venture out and leave Mississippi, my home for 31 years, I then moved to Asheville, NC to start over.
I continued to paint furniture and eventually had to stop due to a saturated market and I realized this wasn't the direction I wanted to go. I was working at The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC in a gallery for hardly any pay. I was at a point in my life where nothing seemed to be working and I was feeling defeated. I was working on custom animal abstracts for Christmas gifts and a coworker suggested greeting cards. I had been painting animals for years and I thought the idea was genius. You create 1 image and make replicas of them. sold!
Every image I created was from an actual animal photo. I freehand every one of them and paint them by hand using acrylic. My manager suggested this Jan 20, 2017, and by Feb 4, 2017, I had 6 images. I sold the fox in the first few hours, skip forward a few years and I am in over 200 stores in the US, Canada, British Virgin Islands and I have sent a lot of my work to Tanzania, Africa.
I try to stay hands-on and reach out to all my stores and keep good relations with them. I have built my business on honesty and integrity. I wasn't exactly sure if you could thrive by following the rules, but I sure am trying. It has been a very bumpy road and anything but easy. There are more days than not, of me wanting to just walk away. Then I remember, I can't. This has happened for a reason. I have the chance and ability to put some happiness out into this difficult world and I feel that it is my life mission to do that. I think God gives everyone a talent and if you figure out what it is, then DO IT! Do it as hard as you can, with all you have and let nothing stop you! (btw I am gonna need someone to read this to me every day to remind me, ha). Life is something that has not been very easy for me., I grew up an extremely shy child in an extremely small town.
From a very early age, I was bullied relentlessly, for years. That combo mixed with my shyness and things in my family life at the time affected me in ways I can't even begin to describe. I struggle daily with, do I deserve this life or the chance to try to help people when I, for so long, though I wasn’t ever going to be enough. Today, I battle these thoughts but I also have overcome so much. I am not going to lie, most days have to get through the panic and negative self-doubt and force myself to walk through all my fears to move forward in everyday life and my business. I want to be the light for people or a glimpse of kindness in someone's life.
I started this business with no expectations or even an inkling that it would be where it is now. What has kept me trudging forward is random acts of kindness throughout the years. I have really enjoyed sending cards to people anonymously. I would do posts on Facebook for anyone struggling around the holidays or deaths of a pet or loved one, cancer survivors, people that may get overlooked a lot. THAT is what has kept me going. That has brought me more joy than anything in the world. In my short time of business, I have received letters all over the country from people on how these cards have affected them, their grans or how they watch over their children in their nursery at night.
Anyone who takes the time to write you a letter on this day is pretty cool. I pay attention to the little things. I actually got a card one day from my niece who was at camp and I opened it and I was like oh! Okay, I get it now. It was a really sweet surprise. This was when I realized, my cards were just the beginning. I own these images and I can do with them what I want. I can make clothes, blankets, and bedding, I have so many ideas. I built this business from scratch and taught myself everything and I plan to keep going. (I didn’t even own a computer when I started) I have Phil 4:13 on the back of my cards. I say this with my head held high. I have always been whatcha see is whatcha get kinda girl so I don’t hide the fact it's there and I am not trying to force it on anyone either. My story, my life, it’s what got me through my dark times.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
As I mentioned before, all my work is my actual art. I freehand every image I have done. I take my art and digitize it and edit It to send it to my printing company to have it made into cards. If they are prints, I format them in Photoshop, which I taught myself and I found it to be much more challenging than teaching myself to paint.
I take the same files and forward it to my sublimation guy and he prints them for me and mails them to me where I cut them and use them to transfer on my onesies. Literally every piece I use, from products to packaging, I purchase from different places. Once my cards are ready at the printing company, I bring them home, I fold them and insert the envelope and slip them in the plastic cover ready to sell. When I receive an order, I fill them all myself by hand. At one point, I was scoring them myself to save money, which I do not recommend. Every order I get is filled by me. I ship in 1-3 days sometimes less than 24 hours. My Valentine cards are even hand-painted. I literally embellish them myself and ship them out to stores.
I hand-painted over 3500 cards in January and shipped them all out in less than 24 hours. I have learned and worked my business from every angle. I do not allow or offer my files to anyone. If my image is on something, it is something I approved. All my images are copyrighted and I have had many offers to sell, but I will not. It’s not all about monetary gain with me. Don’t get me wrong, I hope to do well financially, but I want to stay in control of my images and what they are printed on. Every image I did I used the photo of the actual animal. I look at the photo and freehand it all. My bunny, my best seller, took 20 minutes to make, but the sloth took maybe a day. Creating comes easy to me. I look forward to growing to the point where I can spend more time creating. I can come up with a new series in one night. Some images come too easy and some I find more challenging. I think it’s all my headspace at the time. If I am meeting a deadline, I make it more difficult than it has to be.
As far as finding my manufacturers, it has taken me time and I am always looking for new ones or backups in case I lose the ones I have. I have walked out of many printing companies in these 3 short years. Most who gave me the runaround on my coloring. I refuse to put out a product that I wouldn't use myself or gift to a loved one. I have found that finding good printing companies has been my biggest challenge. I definitely learned that the hard way.
From when I started to where I am now is like night and day! You name it, everything has gone wrong in this area. I am actually hoping to move away from the greeting cards, paper, eventually because it has been so challenging finding a legit company to work with. Clothing took me longer to perfect due to finding the best quality and vibrancy combo of my images. I have to have the right combo and the right price point. It took me 3 years of research and money until I figured it out. My onesie is soft - durable, and affordable. It washes well and the neckline allows you to dress your baby without strain. They run a bit smaller but I like it bc it gives the baby a three-quarter length and the bottom fully covers the diaper.
Putting a good product out there and backing it with honesty and integrity and making sure it’s out in a timely manner is all I have done.
I must say it was well worth the wait. I have 100% used my own money in this endeavor. Some may call it foolish, some smart…. I’m still undecided. The beginning days were tough and it has gotten more challenging with the onesies being added. As challenging as it may be, I am always working on several side products.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I don't think I realized my launch was a launch until 3 years later. I sold a card in the first hour of putting them on the sales floor and I just went hard with it from that moment on. I designed my website and I continue to manage it daily. Through the years, the orders I have spent more time with it this year.
I have worked on and off part-time while being in business for myself. I didn’t form my LLC until 2018 and I moved to Tennessee. I have great relationships and consistent business with stores and customers throughout the world. The biggest lesson I have learned is not to doubt myself or my ideas. I have accomplished things that I wasn't even aware that I could do. Don’t put limits on yourself, there is a world out there and if you want it, go get it!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I honestly think my products alone have sold themselves and attracted customers. I am very observant of others - I take time and talk to little kids and adults of all ages, likes, dislikes and I take everything anyone says into consideration. I have worked at places that sold my cards and I never told anyone they were mine and I watched everything and tried to get people’s feedback without them knowing.
I really believe that given the state of the world and all the anger and hate going around that it's nice just that having something that's sweet, and kind, and funny and light and distracting even if it's for a second. I think that's another factor in why I think I have done so well. I offer a product a 7-year-old little girl will want and something that a 75-year-old man will chuckle at.
Talk is cheap, show people. The less I speak and the harder I work, the greater my results.
The stores that carry me and the feedback I have received is what has kept me going. I send cards to my 95-year-old great uncle and his cousin and they are some of my best critics. There is no greater advice or wisdom than someone at their age. They shoot ya straight and I love that. I do random things to get my product out. Some may call it foolish, some genius. I send out random cards to strangers. Those who appear to be struggling. I will hand them to people at the mall, the person sitting alone in Starbucks, sometimes I write "you are loved and appreciated" anonymously inside. I send stuff to cancer survivors, those struggling with cancer, those people who may get overlooked in life. I do this because I believe everyone deserves some kindness.
Life has been challenging for me to say the least, I believe everyone should feel like they matter, because so often I have felt that I do not. These core beliefs and values are what has kept me fighting for this to work. I think this mindset along with practicing old school business ethics has helped others continue to follow and buy my products. I am honest, I do the right thing and I go above and beyond for my people. That alone has kept my business strong. I know you can't always make everyone happy and I have learned that as well.
Instagram has been good for me and social media but honestly, I don't know what has brought in the most revenue or attention. I record my work and me talking and my dogs and show people who I am. I like that I want my followers and customers to feel comfortable around me and understand what I am about. I think a combo of it all. I put myself out there. Competition is not my thing. I don’t look. I have no idea how many cards people sell a year or anything about their process. I try to say it as original as possible.
I have never sold on Amazon so I have no point of reference. I prefer wholesale over retail. I in no way shape or form desire to have a brick and mortar and I wouldn't be opposed to turning off the purchase option of my website when I get big enough to reach customers in every area. I always push my stores. I would rather customers make in-store purchases than on my website.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today I am starting to see my hard work pay off. I have no problem trying things out. I don’t conform and I don’t mind taking risks. This is possibly the area I scare most people with. I come from a very business family with both siblings having a master’s in finance and business and an accountant mother who keeps telling me how risky this is. That's the thing. I am a doer, I am an entrepreneur in that sense. If I had known all the things that running a business involved, I never would have done it. Fear would have won. I am a doer, I don’t talk a big game, I don’t sell myself as well as I should, I just do it.
Putting a good product out there and backing it with honesty and integrity and making sure it’s out in a timely manner is all I have done. My product has done a great job with the help of store owners and keeping customer relations a priority.
I would say my biggest expense is postage. I have a love-hate relationship with the mail. The best thing I did was to get a third party shipper. Shipstation has gotten me better pricing and it is something I should have done a long time ago.
I have had a lot of hiccups in the 3 years that I have been in business. A lot of broken promises, deals, a lot of ups and downs that made me wonder if it was worth trudging forward. I almost called it quits the last November, that's when the onesie came together and it gave me the strength to get back up again. Starting a business from scratch can be discouraging for sure. You have to work hard and fight for what you want or believe in. Research, study, do your homework.
I have learned that life throws you curveballs and it’s not if but when. It is solely up to me how I choose to handle it. If I am gonna let it consume me or if I am going to get up, learn from it and move forward. I think a lot about the beginning days for me was just taking it day by day.
My vision has not been about one product. It was always more than that for me. I am the type that can see it all in my head. It’s like a clear picture and I work as hard as I can until I get there in real life. I don’t look at the competition or research competitors. I am always evolving and looking to do the next thing. I have plans for making flashcards. I want to write or use my images as a learning tool for kids. I would like to take into account autism, it is becoming more and more common and I would like to create a product that really reaches all developmental stages. I want to reach all children. I have had the pleasure of working with special needs kids that had interests in games like a memory so I cut my cards down, laminated them, hole punched them and put a shower curtain ring around it to hold it in place when the game was over. I chose 3 distinct animals and I sent the game to a friend's client to memory with my cards. I have laminated them and put them in small binders for kids to be able to take out and look at and flip through them. I do this as a form of research. I find out what does and doesn’t work and I get to observe as well as get personal feedback from parents. I am always working on multiple projects.
I want to help raise awareness of bullying. A few months ago a 12-year-old girl from JFK Middle School in Nashville, TN, took her own life because of bullying and that affected me deeply. I have been in that same place, feeling despair and no way out. I understand the damage of bullying. In the not so distant future, I hope to create an image where all proceeds go towards anti-bullying campaigns and nonprofits.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The best advice I could ever give anyone is
- to be open-minded
- hear suggestions, my business was created on a suggestion.
- be teachable
- never stop looking for ways to better you, your product or service and your business
- Despite difficulties, keep going.
- You can’t fail if you don’t give up.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I have a website with Squarespace. I am in about 10 online wholesale markets. Instagram has been really great for making connections internationally. As well as finding other artists and influencers to collaborate with.
Faire.com has been a wonderful wholesale platform. With an ever-changing market, I have to stay internet savvy and up to speed.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I have a business degree from Mississippi College and it has been helpful. I also highly recommend joining Facebook groups or forums that pertain to your trade. I have learned more in those forums than anywhere else. You get pointers and tips from like-minded professionals.
I know this is wild, but I watched the toys that made us and I listen to celebrity stories. How they were rejected so many times and kept going. My drive comes from within. Being creative inspires me, music has been very important in my business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I am not one to give advice. I can tell you what I did, how I did it and what I learned in hopes of saving you money and heartache but other than that, always move forward. I am always looking for cheaper ways to do things and finding backup manufacturers in case you need another. Be on your toes, if you are running a business or starting one, keep in mind anything can happen. It's hard, that is why most businesses fail in the first year.
Expect the unexpected. Always be on your toes. Don't expect the worst, but also don't let it blindside you. Never stay in one place, you have to constantly evolve. At least I do stay relevant. I act as if I am never "safe" and I need to always be moving in creativity, inspiration, and positivity.
Talk is cheap, show people. The less I speak and the harder I work, the greater my results. Stay humble, run your business properly. Show some empathy. When a situation arises, look at it from every angle possible. Put yourself in the position of others and treat others how you would like to be treated. That is what has worked for me. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I hire freelance a good bit. I am also looking for people to help me with trade shows. As far as full-time, I am not looking for help at the moment. I work so fast, I am still able to manage it all myself but if things continue, I will be hiring sooner rather than later, so my business is worth watching if you would be interested in learning about cards and clothes.
I am open to interns for college credit and experience. I would love to work with a rep group to help push my product. I know it can really take a company and push them to a new level. I am easy to work with and I produce fast and pay on time. I am in Franklin, which is right outside Nashville so anyone interested can always contact me! I respond to everyone
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Discover the best strategies of successful business owners
Join our newsletter and receive our handcrafted recap with the best insights shared by founders in Starter Story each week.
Useful, convenient, and free:
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.