Monday, July 23, 2007

business feature

my little business was featured in our local newspaper on sunday. right on the front page of the business section! i've copied and pasted below. (as well as hidden/changed some pertinent personal information)

Saying it with Greeting Cards
Local woman designs, sells greeting cards

By Nicole Strittmater
Press correspondent

Armed with glue, sparkles and beads, Lori Dunbar carefully bent over one of her signature greeting cards Tuesday to add the finishing touches.

Simplistic in design, the card featured a small graphic among a clean, white background. As she strategically applied the sparkles and beads to the graphic, the card was complete and ready for sale.

A graphic designer, Dunbar, 30, of [Wisconsin] is the owner and designer of Marzipan, Inc., a stationery business she created back in 2001 that sells an assortment of hand-made stationery, gift tags, thank you notes, announcement cards, greeting cards and more—all designed from her home.

Today, Dunbar has about 50 sales representatives working for her all over the country, and her designs can be found in 576 stores in the U.S., as well as some in Canada, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Bermuda and Central America.

When Dunbar sat back and thought about her nation-wide business success, she could only say three words.

"It's pretty cool," she said with a laugh.

But Dunbar said this wasn't something she ever thought she was going to have.

"I can't say that it was ever a goal really, but … now looking back, I definitely see that I've always had that little entrepreneur side of me."

Dunbar said Marzipan Inc. started almost by accident; she stumbled upon her interest for this arena of business while designing and creating her own wedding invitations in 2001.

"I just found that I loved the process of making it so much," Dunbar said. "I just loved everything about it."

So, Dunbar said she toyed with the idea of making wedding invitations professionally, but upon considering the limited cliental, she opted for a broader business: stationery.

That Christmas, she said she made each of her family members a pack of greeting cards to see what they thought, and the responses were unanimous.

"Everybody loved them," she said, adding that she soon took them to different stores to see if anyone was interested. "Everybody I took them to really liked them and started buying them, and stores started buying them."

From there, the business took flight.

Dunbar designs all of the items from her home and then sends them to a printing vendor, In Person, LLC, out of Milwaukee.

Once the printed products are shipped to her house, her assistant Genie [XXXXXX], 34, of [XXXXXX], with the occasional help from Dunbar, embellishes them. Two out-of-the-office employees in Wisconsin also help with the embellishment.

From there, samples are sent to the sales representatives, who present them to stores.

Sarah B Fine Stationery in Madison is one of 16 stores in Wisconsin carrying Dunbar's greeting cards.

As owner Jan Corradini recalled some of the designs, she said the cards do very well.

"We need to get more of them. That's how popular they are," Corradini said. "That's a great company … We love them. They're simple. They have a little bit of glitter which I love; they're kind of understated, but they're really nice."

Of the cities carrying the line in Wisconsin, Dunbar said unfortunately [XXXXXX] isn't one of them. She said the market just isn't there due to higher prices, ranging anywhere from $1.20 for a single gift tag to $16 for a boxed set of six magnets and six note cards.

The greeting cards, for example, go for $5 each, which is something she said many people in [XXXXXX] may not be willing to pay. Previously, she said a [XXXXXX] store sold her products, but never re-ordered, because there was no demand for them.

Whereas in California, her largest market, she said $5 seems like a deal.

California alone has about 10 sales representatives, and currently 156 stores carry the line.

"There are areas around the country that are obviously more densely populated with my products than others," Dunbar said.

But because her products can't be found everywhere, she said people in areas without her products would write to her. This presented her with a problem, since, being a wholesaler, it wasn't possible.

Dunbar found a way to fix that, though.

In 2006, after her success in the wholesale market, Marzipan Inc. partnered with Shades of Violet, LLC, an online retailer of stationery products produced by Marzipan Inc., to provide online sales. This is the only online retailer with the rights to sell Dunbar's products.

"It's nice to have it available to everybody," Dunbar said. "People who lived in areas who couldn't get my products now could."

[Genie] said she is having a great time being a part of the business.

"Oh, I think they're awesome. I can't wait for us to be huge, huge, huge!" she said with a laugh. "I wouldn't trade this job for anything."

Dunbar agreed.

"It's great, because it allows me to stay home," she said. And with her 2-year-old son, [little dude], at home and another one on the way, she said it's definitely nice to have a flexible schedule.

She said walking into a store and seeing her products for sale and knowing that people are buying them makes it all worth it.

"It's a pretty neat feeling."


sally said...

Very cool write-up!!! Congrats!

Leslie said...

Congrats, Lori! That's an awesome write-up! =)

Tara said...

That's awesome! Congratulations :)

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