Kathy Davis started this business over 25 years ago from the corner of her bedroom with the dream of being an artist and Creating A Life She Loved. The KATHY DAVIS™ brand is renowned for fostering connection with expressive hand-painted art and inspirational hand-lettered messages. What began with a handful of greeting cards is now becoming a way of life with lifestyle products in home, fashion, stationery, cards and gifts.
As Kathy’s brand and business have grown, many aspiring artists have asked us how she got started and what steps are needed to break into the social expression industry. We hope this page of information, tips, industry contacts and general advice helps you catch your dream.
The wholesale marketplace can be a key business strategy touchpoint, depending on your business model. Over the years, we have participated at various shows to license or sell our wares. There are countless others, depending on your specific niche or product line. Below are a few trade shows worth checking out to see where you may fit in the marketplace. When you go, it might be helpful to bring a digital portfolio and try to talk to as many people as you can. Sign up for the seminars and take advantage of opportunities to attend any industry mixers. It’s a friendly industry, and most people are happy to talk with newcomers (because everyone was a beginner once!).
Trade organizations can be a great place to build a business community, access information about your industry or seek support. Here are a few we have worked with over the years.
Greeting Card Association
Graphic Artists Guild
U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Also, if there’s a local Chamber, they can be very helpful when you’re starting out.)
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) has a network of national offices that offer business planning courses and support for small businesses.
SCORE is an organization of “volunteer business people helping small business people solve business problems.” They can assist startups with running and growing a business, marketing, finance, technology and management.
The Arts & Business Council is an organization found in numerous cities around the country (Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, among others). The council serves as a vital link between business and the arts, creating connections to make the region it serves culturally vibrant and economically strong.
TRADE PUBLICATIONS AND DIGITAL RESOURCES
This is a short list that focuses on the trade publications and other digital resources that support creative businesses. While it certainly doesn’t include every publication, it should give you an idea of what may be available for research or media coverage – and even inspiration – in your niche.
Trend forecasting is a key component in building seasonal design collections. Of course, the biggest problem is that most trend forecasting services are very expensive. WGSN is one of the biggest cross categories, and though the service may be expensive, you can often find seasonal reports posted through blog sites. NellyRodi is a growing service and is free for a period of time. Of course, the internet and social media have changed everything, and often, Pinterest can be an incredible resource to access trends or make trend assessments yourself. In addition, find the brands and companies you admire most, follow them on social media, and pay close attention to what is happening in the industry.
Much has changed in the last decade with technology and access to customers. In some ways it is easier than ever to be discovered, but it’s more challenging to stand out in the market place. If you have not yet created your own Facebook page and Pinterest board, as well as accounts for Instagram, Twitter and Linked In, why not get started now! There’s lots of info on the internet to guide you through best practices for each medium.
BUSINESS SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS
Even if you are someone who has strong business sense, it helps to seek advice from professionals. Talk to friends and loved ones you trust to give you referrals for a) an accountant to help you set up your business and be prepared for taxes; b) an attorney to advise you about business contracts and protecting your “intellectual property.” If the cost of such services is an issue, search the internet for pro bono accountants and attorneys or check with your local SBCD or SCORE (see above, under “Trade Organizations”). Great mentors can also be an invaluable resource. You may already have a contact in your social circle who could fill this role for you, but if not, it’s easy to search online for resources that will guide you to finding a mentor.