Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey, I’m Jordyn and I’m the owner of Jordyn Alison Designs. My intentions with my products are to bring joy to your daily life as well as help connect you with others.
For a couple of years, the only thing I sold in my shop was greeting cards. But in March of 2018, I started selling vinyl stickers, which proved to be successful. I now have greeting cards, stickers, notepads, apparel and more in my shop.
Part of what I think makes my business unique is that I have a pretty strong digital side to my business as well. For that side, I work on making SVG cut files and hand-lettered fonts. As someone who can’t sit still and do the same thing every day, it’s really nice to have two distinct sides to my business that I can switch back and forth from.
As of February 2020, I’m currently averaging $3,000 a month. I know this number could (and will) be better but for now, I’m really content with this!
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
A few years ago, my boyfriend (now husband) went off to Boot Camp. In preparation for those months of zero communication, I started hand lettering and making long-distance greeting cards. I needed something to occupy my time… something more than just college!
When I first started my business, I was working full time as well as being a full-time college student. It was really hard to grow my business to what I dreamt it could be when I didn’t have a ton of time to spare. It’s taken me some time to not get discouraged from others’ faster success. However, looking back I really do appreciate my slow-but-steady growth.
In December of 2017, I graduated with a Bachelors in Graphic Design. I was looking forward to 2018 finally being my year to fully work on growing my business – but life happened, and let’s just say… moving across the country (22 hr drive non-stop) 3 times in 5 months really tires you out.
In 2019, I only moved one time so I ended up seeing the most growth in one year’s time since the start of my business. It felt really great to finally see some hard work paying off.
Stay focused on yourself and your journey. I often find myself feeling ‘behind’ other small businesses. Social media makes comparing yourself to others really easy.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My products primarily stem from my real life. From something I wrote in a letter during boot camp, to something I said out loud jokingly to my husband… to him deploying with a week’s notice and feeling all the feelings. I try to make products based on personal situations. However, there are times when I feel like making Baby cards even though I have no kids, and the inspiration from those usually comes from what I hear people saying on Instagram about their kids, or scrolling through Pinterest and seeing a pretty nursery!
My cards are all produced in my home studio. I get my paper from a business in my home state, but then I cut, score, fold, and stuff all the cards myself! This is obviously more time consuming, but as I mentioned earlier I am a military spouse and the thought of moving around with tons of greeting card inventory did not seem like a good idea for me at the time. It’s definitely something I’m considering outsourcing in the future, but for now, I can’t do that. The biggest hurdle for me has been making my products as eco-friendly as possible. For now, I’m using a plant-based clear sleeve around my cards for wholesale orders but I imagine that will change in the near future as I work out other solutions.
My vinyl stickers are outsourced because I wanted the highest quality sticker that could be waterproof and fade resistant. I believe I saw a Facebook ad from the company I used, so then when I went to look up manufacturers their name stood out to me. My stickers come packaged plastic-free whether the order is from a brick and mortar or from my online store.
So far, the only hurdles I’ve had in terms of manufacturing is finding a solid notebook supplier. I know what I want it to look like but Google can only do so much for me. And when I do find a manufacturer I like their minimums seem too high for me to handle, at this time.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Honestly, my launch story isn’t that exciting. I was sitting in my room one day and decided to make a logo and open up an Etsy store. I didn’t have business cards, an Instagram — literally nothing thought up in advance. I definitely do not recommend doing this, because as you can imagine I was not that successful at first. I was in college at the time, so I really didn’t mind not being an instant hit because I didn’t have a ton of time to package orders as it was.
The start-up costs for my business were very minimal. I started with what I had. Some money from babysitting was able to purchase paper and ink. I used my home printer to print cards at first.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that just because you make something doesn’t mean people will buy it. Especially if they don’t even know about it. You need to really market yourself and your products constantly if you want to grow your following.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
When I first started out I was clueless about all things marketing. And I still think I have a lot I could learn and improve on. I mainly just promote my Instagram following, Facebook group & page, and my email newsletter.
What has worked best for me is to sit down and actually make a launch plan. I start thinking about the launch months in advance: what types of products I want, what sayings or themes, etc. I share some behind the scenes sneak peeks when I’m drawing and working on it to my Instagram Story. Then once we’re a couple of weeks away I start talking about it more.
The week leading up to my launch I make sure I talk about it at least once a day (Instagram Story a few times, and also a post the 2-3 days before). When I did this for my Holiday 2019 launch, it was my best launch to date! It probably was because it was also the holidays, but I was still really happy with this!
I recommend making some sort of pre-made Instagram Story that customers can screenshot and post about your launch. It makes it easy for them to share, and word of mouth is really powerful!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, I’m doing a lot more wholesale than I thought I would be. In fact, it has now become more than 50% of my business income! I’m really pushing that and the digital side actually. I’ve realized that my retail customers are actually only around 20% of my income. So even though I post on Instagram regularly, most of my money doesn’t come from my followers!
Last year, I started promoting posts on Instagram and while it has gained me a couple of hundred followers I don’t really see too much profit coming from that. I’ll still probably do them from time to time, but now I’m stressing less about growing my following on Instagram.
Some goals I have for the year are to get my products into over 100 stores nationwide, make $40,000 in sales this year, release at least 12 new fonts, and start licensing my artwork. Eventually, I would love to be able to go to major retailers and see my work, whether that means my actual cards or stickers or my work that has been licensed out.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
My business has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I’m really compassionate. I care about people and their feelings, and I like to make people happy with kind words. But I’ve also learned that I’m terrible at making decisions – especially those that require me to spend money. It takes me weeks, sometimes months, to finally decide to spend money on my business. It could be anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars and I still take forever to finally take the plunge and spend the money. I’ve also learned that it is so hard for me to say no. I started my business in 2016, but it wasn’t until 3 years later that I finally learned how to say no to the people and opportunities that weren’t worth my time (or that didn’t make me happy).
There was one time I was offered to get my products in a nationwide chain store… but they were only willing to pay me pennies per product, leaving me to lose money. I realized that I’m perfectly okay with working with small businesses that don’t want to undercut me but instead have an ongoing relationship with.
Marketing is something I think I will always struggle with. I’m an introvert who doesn’t like talking about themselves (shocker!). In 2019, I finally showed my face and talked on Instagram Stories, and despite how awkward it always makes me feel, I always get more replies to those videos than just still photos!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Shopify is the platform that I use for my website and I’ve been really happy with it. I use Later to schedule Instagram posts. I recently made the switch from Mailchimp to Flodesk for my email marketing. It’s in Beta right now, but so far I’m loving it!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Rachel Allene has a course that was extremely helpful to me for learning marketing. I also enjoy the Proof to Product podcast. Katie knows so much about wholesaling and exhibiting at Trade Shows, so if that’s something you’re interested in I would definitely listen!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My biggest piece of advice is to stay focused on yourself and your journey. I often find myself feeling ‘behind’ other small businesses. Social media makes comparing yourself to others really easy. When I start feeling down about myself and my progress I remind myself that we’re all on different journeys. We all come from different backgrounds and have different problems we face behind the scenes.
As for business advice, I would say to start off making products that you’re passionate about. The products that have done the best for me are the ones that have come from my heart.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Founder of Jordyn Alison Designs
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