A Cancer Diagnosis Motivated This Founder To Quit Corporate & Build A Business
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Greetings! My name is Candace McGinn and I created Periwinkle Greetings, LLC.
Periwinkle is refashioning the art of greeting cards!
I apply a newer printing technology on recycled aluminum to create our unique greeting cards. Using Dye-sublimation, a beautiful image is sublimated INTO an aluminum blank. The archival quality of this printing process creates a luminous keepsake greeting card that can be displayed as you would all your art! And YES! They can be sent through the mail using two regular stamps!
I feature artists' images from around the world to give you a greeting card that is uncommon and exceptional in every way! These cards are works of art and can be given to your favorite people or added to your private collection!
People who appreciate beautiful imagery and art buy my cards through my website and at pop-up venues in Southern California.
Currently, my revenue averages $1000 a month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Having, and then surviving, cancer was a landmark in this founder's life. Everything changed including my financial services work life. I ended my relationship with corporate and began to carry my camera around with me everywhere. I worked as a house/pet sitter.
Being awakened by the full moon glistening and setting over the ocean one night, would become an awakening for me as well. I took photographs of that stunning moon and from there, was moved to find a way to represent this image in the most creative and beautiful way I could discover. I found a local company in San Diego to print my images on metal. The 5X7 size was what I could afford, and this process that I discovered made the image so luminously come to life! Having a handful printed, I gave them as gifts, greeting cards, and birthday cards, writing a message on the back of each 'card' with an indelible pen. This was my "light-bulb moment" to creating Periwinkle Greetings.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I wear all the hats so far; I researched how to be able to print on metal blanks myself. I bought a special printer, special ink, special paper, and a heat press. I figured out how to design my 5X7 cards using a simpler application – Publisher! Though I loved taking photos, I was not adept at Photoshop – too many distracting bells and whistles for me. I learned this new language of sublimation printing. And I began printing on metal blanks using a simple Sawgrass Printer and their platform, “Creative Studio”. I learned how to print on the front AND the back of metal. The front of the metal is uniquely different than the back.
I researched where to buy metal blanks for the best price and quality. I researched which envelopes I’d use and where to buy them. I had a sit-down meeting with the post office to see how I could send these metal cards through the mail. I hired Logo Nerds to help me create my logo. I tried to patent the idea myself, speaking with the USPTO many times. If I had thought about how much I’d have to research, how much time it would take me and try this and that I’d fail at times - then try again, I don’t think I would have started. I’m right-brained. I’m not strategic like a tech start-up entrepreneur. For me, it’s been one day, one week at a time. I knew this novel idea could take off! I knew there were no other metal greeting card companies. None!!! It’s me, baby! It’s Periwinkle Greetings! “The Original Metal Greeting Card®”.
If you have an idea for the marketplace, research and DO! Don’t let your inner dialogue stop you. Don’t let ANYONE stop you. Maybe you must wear all the hats on this journey to start, and maybe it gets overwhelming at times – but DO NOT STOP!!!
Describe the process of launching the business.
After I had announced the launch of my greeting card business at a New Year’s Eve dinner with friends on December 30, 2019. I had begun to contact and send out samples to local retail shops in January 2020. And then…the Covid shut down in March of 2020!
During that long downtime, I worked on my website. GoDaddy had a great offering and they helped me.
I worked on my trademark idea. I submitted my trademark application myself and had help from an attorney for the final execution. I researched better printing ideas, licensing to brands, new ways to market my cards and representation, new artists (I found that I could not create enough cards using only my photographic talents and so I have collaborated with talented artists from around the world.) I even had to get a J. O. B.!
This year, I began doing pop-ups locally. Pop-ups are run by an individual or a company that organizes artists to show and sell their work at specific places for which they’ve rented space. You pay a fee to the organizer to set up your booth with your wares. Another process I had to learn all about by “doing”. This is the key to life, though. The actual DOING!
And though it’s a great kind of life, and I’ve met some wonderfully creative people who are pursuing their art in this entrepreneurial manner, it’s scrappy and unpredictable. I don’t do well just “waiting for people to come to me”. And so, I have pivoted and am pursuing the avenue of hitting the pavement and going B2B for 2023.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I had signed up to receive emails from Katie Hunt who operates “Proof to Product”, a consulting company for greeting card start-ups. I’ve not paid to take her classes, but she sends out helpful and insightful emails along with podcasts that include people who are working and successful in the greeting card industry. I’ve learned a lot and I’d say that her information really helped me with the idea of launching as a wholesaler and going B2B. The idea to license my cards under other brands came from her as well! I’ve gained a great understanding of representation in this industry. I can happily say that I’ve now been rejected by three companies since my decision to go wholesale! And not because my product is inferior in any way. All have said my metal cards are ingenious! It’s because the marketplaces are still not in full gear after Covid, and they are still revving up themselves. Every rejection is one step closer to the door that invites me in and lavishes me with sales!!! I foresee Nordstrom having their own unique line of these exquisite metal cards, licensing through me!
Another great addition to the artists I work with came from an idea I had after reading wonderful quotes from Erin Van Vuren. She’s not a photographic artist but her artistry comes through her quotes, which will reach your soul! And through continually trying to find and contact her, the Universe finally put us together and I was able to license some of her work. She has many wonderful quotes and this very card on the right, with this quote, has been a sell-out at my latest pop-ups.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Periwinkle Greetings’ future has great potential. The greeting card industry is estimated at $7.3 billion annually. What is eating into handheld cards are digital cards. In my opinion, that’s because there’s nothing shaking up our industry. It’s the same-ole same-ole. I think Papyrus cards had a good run and they’re really the only company I deem as my competitor, but only price-wise. They’re pretty and detailed - but spill some water on them and they’re toast. And they don’t recognize their artists.
My gross profit margins dipped a bit since Covid. Recycled aluminum really soared in price. So, I shifted to a smaller gauge, and I’ve been able to maintain a 40% margin even with paper goods hiking a bit in price.
My advertising is word of mouth, my website, and linking in with the organizations that I “pop-up” with; this is where my largest sales come from. I’m a bootstrapped company. I wear all the hats and growth is slower for someone like me at this point. My social media hat is somewhere to be found. I’m not “profitable” yet.
I have been “accepted” as a vendor on Faire.com. They are an online middleman between makers and retailers. I launch with them in January 2023.
I foresee licensing to brands as my next long-term goal. I want to do an exclusive with Nordstrom, for example. They have a division called, “Home Gifts” and they do not have any greeting cards - yet. I’d also like to work with Patagonia. Yvon Chouinard, the founder, has handed over his company, valued at $3 billion, to trusts and non-profit organizations focused on fighting climate change. I think it’s time Patagonia had its own metal greeting card printed on recycled aluminum! We could save the world, one card at a time!
In the meantime, I’ve decided that in 2023, I will pivot and market B2B to retail shops, wineries, museums, resorts, flower shops, and bookstores. I am also developing a line for graduation keepsakes and wedding planners; announcements, “Save the Date” cards, and wedding invitations - uniquely on metal!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The main thing I’ve learned is that everything takes longer than you imagined. The next thing I learned was to keep going and to keep my dream alive, even after setbacks. I tried Kickstarter and that was a non-starter for me. I went to a Shark Tank casting call and that tanked. I learned about myself. I learned to be proud. I know there are people in my inner circle who think I’ll never really get this off the ground in a successful way monetarily. I heard a saying the other day, “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Keep working at it. I tried having a partner thinking that two heads are better than one. That. Did. Not. Work. And when I think about acquiescing to the naysayers, including the one inside my head, I think about what else would I rather be working at that will bring me joy in the short time I’m on this earth, and that brings me back to my passion about this dream. I’ve put a lot of work into this. It’s a great idea. I’d rather keel over than give up. And so I keep plodding along. You just never know what will happen from one day to the next, who I’ll meet and how I’ll capture their attention.
Keep learning, keep adjusting, keep an open mind, and keep doing. These are my useful habits. I’m right-brained. I see what my numbers are and when I see that I must adjust, I adjust. I know that as I grow, I’ll incorporate the bean counters and analyzers.
Timing, cash flow, and luck – are some of my contenders.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
In my research, I’ve found that these vendors work for me for these reasons: reliability, quality, and price.
I use GoDaddy for my website builder and merchant account.
I use Mercury for my online business banking. Great for start-ups.
I use Publisher to create my 5X7 jpgs.
I use Digital Grafx for my blanks.
I use Sawgrass’ “Creative Studio” platform to print.
I buy my printer, ink, and heat press from Heat Press Nation.
I buy my envelopes from Envelopes.com.
I order my card jackets from Clear Bags.
I read articles and listen to podcasts by Katie Hunt at Proof to Product.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
If you have an idea for the marketplace, research and DO! Don’t let your inner dialogue stop you. Don’t let ANYONE stop you. Maybe you must wear all the hats on this journey to start, and maybe it gets overwhelming at times – but DO NOT STOP!!! You might have to take a break. That’s ok. Then get back up, keep going, and KEEP LEARNING! If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing it right!
The DOING is the thing. The LEARNING is the thing. The JOURNEY is the thing.
Maybe you tried something, and it didn’t work out. I thought having a partner might work. For me, that didn’t work, and it was short-lived. So, I learned more about myself and my desires for this business.
Though Covid was a weird and dark time for the world, it made me stop and think about what I was doing…or not doing. It made me think about what and how I want to spend my time doing to not only make money but to enjoy what I’m doing to make that money. I bought a small trailer in 2021 and plopped it on my sister’s property so I could live very cheaply and be able to pursue this entrepreneurial dream. Now I have a part-time J. O. B. and have been able to expand in some ways and plan for greater expansion in 2023. Keep coloring your dream! Draw outside of the lines! If you’re going to dream, DREAM Big and then LIVE your dream!
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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