Today is the last day of my first year running Strange Fruit! And what a year it has been, this time last October to say I knew nothing about the greeting card industry would be an understatement! But what I did know was I had a lot to learn so I approached year one as my learning year and as much as I have learnt I am no way done.
When I first started approaching stockists Christmas was a few weeks away so of course retailers were thinking about displaying their festive stock not taking on new ranges! Lesson one.
I also learnt that buyers for large retail outlets don't answer emails - ever - when you approach them. Regardless of how many hours you spent tracking them down they only engage with you when they meet you at a trade show. Lesson two.
Lesson three. "We like your cards but we don't think they are right for our customers" is code for people who don't have the confidence to say they, in their opinion, their customers wouldn't buy greeting cards reflecting people of colour. I always want to say "how do you know who your customers are friends with, who is in their family and do you not serve black people in your shop?" but of course I don't! For every stockist that is 'nervous' about selling cards with black people on them there is another who gives them a try and finds out very quickly that people of all ethnic backgrounds buy our cards simply because they like them. Sometimes they even sell out in a week!
So 365 days, twelve designer maker markets, two trade shows and one business awards nomination later our number of stockists is growing, I am talking to contacts in the US about licensing my images for the American market and am setting up a trial for a chain store in early 2012. Which if I say so myself is not to shabby for someone who knew more about the life cycle of a ladybird than she did about the greeting card industry.
It has been emotional, stressful, rewarding and fun and I am sooo looking forward to putting into action the lessons I have learnt and taking Strange Fruit Greeting Cards into its second year - look out for us as we could be coming to a shop near you sooner than you think. And yes I will still be learning all the way.