We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Stevens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda, what do you attribute your success to?
For us, there are several key factors that we try to never lose sight of, and I strongly believe they play a big role in our success. First, community participation and customer service. These two go hand in hand. Our products are designed for papercrafters; it’s a relatively niche market, so it’s critical to leave a good taste in people’s mouths. I get out there and talk to papercrafters in as many forums as I can to build goodwill. I cheer them on when they post photos of their creations and I answer questions when I can. As a company, we participate in the community by creating inspirational and educational content for other papercrafters and sharing it freely. Often, we incorporate our unique products and that leads to sales. At that point, customer service comes into play. If there is ever an issue, I would much rather lose money on a sale to make a customer happy, than worry about getting scammed. Happy customers feel good and might tell a friend or two. They’re also likely to become repeat customers. Unhappy customers tell everyone that will listen to avoid you. In our little industry, it’s imperative that we maintain a good reputation.
Another key factor in our growth is collaborations. We collaborate with influencers and other businesses in our industry on a regular basis. Collaborations are so effective for us that we rarely use any paid ads! So how does that work? I reach out to influencers and offer to send them free products to use in their papercrafts if they will guest design for us (create a how-to video and/or blog post for us). We add them to our affiliate program so they can earn commissions from any sales they generate as well. The more well known we become, the more well known influencers want to work with us. The same thing goes for other companies in the industry. Since our products are unique, but related, we can collaborate on projects that cross promote each other. This is incredibly effective! We trade products and send them to 8-10 designers to create with. We all publish projects (featuring products from both companies) at the same time, and link to each other. We call this a blog hop – each person links to the next person until it goes full circle. We all promote our videos/blogs on social media in as many places as we can. Email blasts go out too. By linking to each other, we expand our reach and are introduced to new viewers. Designers get new followers and earn commissions, we get more sales and reach potential new customers. Everybody wins. Remember how I said community participation and customer service is really important? It comes back into play here too. Other companies and influencers don’t want to associate themselves with anyone that might tarnish their reputation.
The last factor I want to touch on is innovation. We don’t rest on our laurels. We’re always working on the next product in the background. Yes, it takes time, money, and lots of effort to launch a product. Then, even more to support it as it gains traction, but to ride it all the way to the end without having your next products already out there is suicide. When you come up with a great product, people will copy you and/or improve on your idea. In most cases, a patent is only as good as the money and lawyers you can afford to defend it with. Ask yourself if it’s worth the bother. Would the money be better spent working on the next idea? For me, fighting eats away at my soul. I’d rather be inventing. And I’m not afraid to kill my own products. Our second product basically made the first obsolete. We invented a mouse trap, then built a better one. But better us than our competition, right? I’m not saying you want to introduce the new one while you still have a warehouse full of the old products, but factor it in and figure it out. Don’t stop moving forward. To help us do that, we don’t order massive initial quantities of a new product. We prototype and then manufacture a small batch. The small batch gets a soft launch and we get feedback. This way, we can make improvements if necessary, before ordering big batches.
If you have a small business, focus on community participation and customer service first. Collaborate whenever you can, and always keep your eye on what’s next.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I own a little company called Pear Blossom Press. We make unique products for papercrafters. It started as an extension of my hobby. You see, I love to make things from paper. Sometimes I scrapbook, but mostly I make my own greeting cards. Believe it or not, I’m not alone. There are quite a few papercrafters out there! Although, I’m the first to admit it’s a niche market. I’ve been at it for over 25 years, and I’ve gathered quite the collection of tools and products along the way. Often, they’re designed for other uses, but they work. Occasionally, I wish they’d be a little more specific to my needs. That’s where Pear Blossom Press started. I come up with ideas for craft supplies that are specifically designed for papercrafters like me. Then, often with my husband’s help, we work to manufacture them and bring them to market. We make things like the guts for light-up cards (EZ-Lights, One Lights, and Halo Lights), as well as really cool collapsible marker bags (they collapse into a cup, then expand and zip shut so you can travel with them). Our product line keeps expanding and we resell coordinating products from other companies as well.
One of the coolest feelings in the world is to see something you’ve created take on a life of it’s own. When a complete stranger posts photos of a card they’ve created with our lights inside, I get such a thrill! When we fill an order destined for another new country, I do a happy dance. It’s so neat to know people all over the world love our ideas and want to give them a try. Another unexpected byproduct is that we are creating jobs. When I was able to leave my job to do this full time, it was great, but it didn’t hold a candle to when I hired our first employee! Not only am I contributing to my family’s needs, but others’ as well.
Like with anything in life, we hit bumps along the way. Running a business is a constant dance of putting irons in the fire while juggling. Sometimes, it seems like nothing is working, and sometimes you’re overwhelmed with how much work you’ve generated for yourself when things pan out. I’ve learned to enjoy the quiet times, rather than panic. And I’m getting much better at timing things to help even the workload out. I’ve also been lucky enough to create a great network of colleagues that are always willing to offer advice and insight when needed.
While I can’t agree completely with the old saying that if you do what you love, you’ll never work again, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do for a living instead. Except on accounting days…
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in southern California, but I often visit Phoenix for work, and to visit my dad. When I’m in town, I try to visit Scraps of Love and The Paper Collage in Peoria. I love working with my friends at Spellbinders too!
I’m a coffee snob, so I always try to hit Xanadu in the mornings, and on special occasions, we have dinner at The Capital Grille. If we have time for a drive, we head up to Rosa’s in Prescott for better than homemade lasagna. While we’re up there, I never miss a chance to stop into the Ian Russell Gallery too!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to send a big shoutout to my husband, Micah. You know you’ve found your soulmate when you say “baby, I have this crazy idea…” and he helps make it happen. Not only is he my biggest champion, he’s my best friend and an amazing partner.