Greeting cards are a great start-up business. The initial costs are low, and you have a commercial outlet for your creative talents.
Greeting cards are both a necessity and an impulse buy. They are low cost, easy to carry around and personal, and with the UK market worth around £1.75 billion in 2016* there are clearly plenty of customers out there.
Nearly every occasion warrants a card so you will have to be original but generic, specific and blank and appeal to many different tastes and types: older and younger, men and women, urban and rural. Usually, you can make minor modifications to your design to gain wider appeal (a high heel or a welly) but don’t try to please everybody, you’ll go out of business very quickly.
You will most likely want to protect your designs. This can be an expensive and lengthy so research the options, sometimes a simple copyright notice is good enough.
The way that your card looks and feels is as important as the design, so source your card and printing company carefully and don’t skimp on quality. Pick suppliers who will negotiate on production runs, especially in the early stages where you will want smaller print quantities to test the market. Build solid relationships with your suppliers, there will be times that you want a rush job or a last-minute alteration. You can make the raw materials and production part of your brand and use statements such as recycled or proud to be UK made. Increasingly customers look at the back of the card as well as the front.
Markets and fairs are a great way to understand the market and find out what appeals to customers. Start off with a few different designs then watch people browsing. What draws their eye? What makes them smile? You don’t get this sort of interaction and feedback with e-commerce, so take the opportunity to get in front of customers, it’s invaluable.
See also: How to turn a hobby into a business
You don’t have to have your own website to sell online, there are plenty of market sites which will sell on your behalf. These sites are very highly ranked in the search engines so you will attract more customers but you will have to pay a commission and on a low margin product it may be unfeasible.
It’s quick and simple to create an e-commerce website but to succeed you’ll need to be creative to drive customers to your site. Offer your face to face customers incentives to visit your website and make the most of social media especially Pinterest and Instagram. Cards are very visual so use the platforms that attract visual people to create a buzz and traffic to your website.
Find different ways to encourage customers to bulk buy, increase the product range available for popular designs, offer a date reminder service or a bespoke service and make sure your cards are in as many places as possible.
Don’t undersell yourself, unique designs are just that, and people are prepared to pay for something different. The retail cost of the card must cover your raw materials and production but don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to think, design and sell. If making and selling your own cards doesn’t appeal, you could think about licensing your work. Big card companies are always looking for fresh talent and you could see your designs on sale internationally.