Etsy Open Call 2016!

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend (as press) the inaugural installment of an event organized by Etsy Wholesale called Open Call. The Open Call 2015 was a one-day event at Etsy Headquarters that gave a select group of both new and seasoned Etsy artists and designers the opportunity to pitch their lines face-to-face to a select group of retail partners, including Nordstrom, The Land of Nod, and Clementine. Thirty artists and designers were selected to participate in Open Call 2015, including Paper & Clay, Simply Curated, Evermore Paper Co., Earth Cadets, La Familia Green, and so many more. Well, I’m super excited to help share the news that Open Call is back for 2016! And stationery folks, there’s some SUPER exciting news: Paper Source is one of this year’s retail partners!

Etsy Open Call 2016 / Oh So Beautiful Paper

The entire roster of retail partners for Etsy Open Call 2016 is seriously impressive. Along with Paper Source, buyers from Giggle, Macy’s, Whole Foods Market and the Shop of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum will attend Open Call 2016. All of the retail partners are committed to buying product from the Open Call 2016 designers, as well as offering constructive feedback to designers on their product lines.

Etsy Open Call: Evermore Paper Co. / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Evermore Paper Co. from Open Call 2015

Etsy Open Call: Fernweh Woodworking / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Fernweh Woodworking from Open Call 2015

Open Call 2016 will kick off at Etsy’s Brooklyn headquarters on Monday, August 22 with educational workshops for participating designers, followed by panel discussions led by internal experts from Etsy’s Manufacturing, Wholesale and Seller Development teams. On Tuesday, August 23, designers will pitch their lines to the Retail Partners and select independent boutiques from around the country. A few lucky designers will even win “Golden” purchase orders (“Golden POs”) from the Retail Partners and have their lines picked up by that retailer for the holiday shopping season! HGTV Magazine’s Lifestyle Director, Jodi Kahn, will also award one seller with the “Designer to Watch” title and feature their designs on

Etsy Open Call 2016 / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Etsy Open Call 2016 / Oh So Beautiful Paper

It’s seriously such a great opportunity for any independent designers and artists, but especially those of you in the stationery community! Applications are due by July 14, so you’ll need to act fast! Designers can apply to the Etsy Open Call 2016 program right here and then share product images via Instagram and Twitter tagging the retailer they’re interested in and using the #EtsyOpenCall hashtag. You can read more about Etsy Open Call 2016 here and read interviews with last year’s sellers on the Etsy Wholesale blog here and here.

Good luck everyone!

Brick + Mortar: How to Submit Your Line to Retailers by Mail

“How should I reach out to retailers?” is a question that looms large in both casual conversations and my professional consulting with product based designers. As a retailer, it seems obvious which approaches will work and which won’t, but through conversations with you, I realize it’s not so clear. With that in mind, I began breaking this topic down to give you real examples. My first post here discussed how to get a shop owner’s attention. More recently, I wrote about How to Submit Your Line to Retailers by Email. Today’s post will talk about when and how to submit your line to retailers by mail. Email is great, but sometimes there’s just no substitution for presenting your products by good-old-fashioned snail mail. –Emily of Clementine


Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper


Ok, let’s dive in to reach out:

  • WHAT does it mean to submit your line via mail? Submitting your line via mail means that you send a small selection of your physical products via USPS/UPS/FEDEX to a new retail shop with the hopes that they will pick up your line. It does not mean you hand-deliver your products to a shop. It does not mean you send your catalog in the mail. It does not mean you e-mail a link to your catalog. (And yes, you should put that phone down.)
  • WHY should you send physical products and not just a catalog? Crafting emails to a large group of potential retailers is a great way to cast a broad net. But emails get lost in the shuffle and simply don’t have the same effect as seeing work in person. You should consider sending an introduction by mail if:
    • You want to pick up new wholesale accounts.
    • You want to capture a retailer’s attention/get on their radar, even if they don’t pick up your line immediately.
    • You want to gain social (or traditional) media attention.
    • You didn’t have a great response to an email mailing.
    • Your products don’t translate in 2D/online nearly as well as in person.
  • WHEN should you submit by mail? Submitting your line by mail is vulnerable and time consuming. I recommend making a plan and a timeline to hold yourself accountable. Consider timing it as part of a marketing plan or other external event to create a reference point for your work.  When is the perfect time? When some combination of the following happen:
    • You’re launching a wholesale line and want to reach out to potential retailers.
    • You are launching a new collection in your wholesale line and want to reach out to potential retailers and treat existing retailers.
    • You’ve done your homework on which retail shops would be a good fit for your line.
    • You’re skipping a trade show.
    • You have the money to invest.
    • You have a wholesale line that you are confident has depth, variety and something new to add to the wholesale marketplace.
    • You have the inventory to fulfill potential orders.
  • WHEN shouldn’t you submit by mail? Retailers all have slightly different schedules for when they’re not looking to pick up new lines, but I would generally avoid:
    • The winter holiday season (Thanksgiving – New Years), because we’re just incredibly busy.
    • Directly after a big national show, because we may have spent too much money.
    • When you don’t have the inventory in place to fulfill an order, because there’s nothing that will turn a retailer off faster than getting in touch for an order and being told many items are out of stock or it will be several weeks before the order can ship.
  • WHO should you reach out to by mail?
    • Retailers who you feel confident would carry your line at their store.
    • Retailers who have reached out to you, who you met at a creaft/gift show, or have expressed an interest in another venue (maybe even social media).
    • Retailers whose aesthetic you are so smitten with, you want to gift them with samples from your line even if you aren’t confident they’ll pick you up.

Hello Brick + Mortar: How to Submit Your Line to Retailers by Mail / Emily Blistein for Oh So Beautiful Paper

The Hive Studio submission: product samples, wrapped in fabric gift wrap, catalog and note: submission perfection!

  • WHAT should you send? Introducing a wholesale line by mail can look very different from line to line. I recommend creating a budget for this mailer and a goal for the impact you want to have. Then, divide your budget by the number of stores you want to mail to and sketch out what to include. Consider including:
    • A selection of products that highlight your line, especially those that don’t translate well in photographs/online.
    • Products that are tailored to a retail shop owner’s interests, geographic area and/or other insights you have gleaned about their shop.
    • A physical catalog.
    • A handwritten note. What should you say? Something similar to what you say in your email, but in your own handwriting!
    • Details that reinforce your brand: Ribbon, wrapping, swag, and extra touches enhance the experience of meeting your line and may be the reason you are picked up.
    • Clear, easy contact information via every social and traditional channel.
    • A promise to follow up.
  • HOW should you follow up?
    • By email, one to two weeks later

I hope that’s enough to get you started. Remember: Reaching out by mail takes effort, so make it count. Please ask any follow up questions in the comment section! xo Emily

p.s. Want more on this topic?

Brick + Mortar: What retailers won’t tell you when they reject your line.

I spent the better part of this week tending to my submissions folder. This task is exhausting. I want to provide a thoughtful reply to each submission, but I can’t. I don’t have the time, and I fear that my feedback – even if well intentioned – will be taken as an insult. I’ve given feedback that has been taken as an insult. I never want to be the reason a line stops growing and I’ve used that to justify my short replies. But I always have more to say. Today, I want to share a few of the potentially tender reasons I don’t accept lines. I hope you’ll take them in the manner they’re meant: as true constructive fuel that can help a line grow. ~ Emily of Clementine.


Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Many of you already run strong, stunning, professional lines that are carried by many shops. This post isn’t for you. You may apply to shops like mine and not get picked up and it really is because the timing isn’t right, or I admire what you do, but it’s just not a fit. However, there are other lines who are new and growing, in the early stumbling stages, getting rejected or simply hearing crickets after you apply. This post is for you. There are some concrete, fixable reasons that you may be rejected. This feedback can be awkward to give one-on-one, but I believe our creative community could use a little constructive criticism.

So here goes:

  • Your line lacks an understanding of design and/or a compelling aesthetic. Let’s be blunt, not everyone is fit to run a successful wholesale stationery line. You may love to draw. You may have always dreamed of having a card line. These things should propel you forward, but they don’t compel me to order from you. I’m overwhelmed by the number of submissions I receive that seem to lack a basic understanding of design (borders, type, color, pattern). Retailers can, and should, disagree on the aesthetics that they choose for their store, but we all want lines that meet basic standards of design. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s time to invest in some course work: visual art and graphic design. There are some incredible online options these days, and continuing education courses you can take. Hone your skills, sharpen your eye. Get excited about what you don’t know.
    • Beyond good design, of course, is the overall look: the art and sentiments themselves. I have seen many early attempts that are very heartfelt, but simply not very good. This is a hard area to receive feedback on, because it hurts and it’s hard to solicit feedback on because your friends and family will lie. It’s time to explore Etsy, craft fairs, and other sales venues where you see if there’s a market for your work. In other words, send your submission to retailers after your dream of having a card line has actually taken root and begun to grow.
  • Your line doesn’t look professional. On the other hand, you may be a really talented artist, but you don’t seem to care about how to sell. You may, for example, decide to turn your [fine art, photography, doodles, etc] into cards, and you didn’t give much thought to how to present it. Major tells in this area are: poor printing quality, inconsistency in paper, poor envelope quality, and poor packaging. Bottom line: printing quality matters, packaging matters. If you’re not willing to invest in your line, I’m unlikely to invest in you. Go to the stores where you envision your line and look critically at the items that are already there. Your line should not mimic what has already been picked, but it should be able to stand along side the current lines.
  • You don’t seem to understand what wholesale is. I get it – wholesale talk can seem like a big secret society when you’re on the other side. But the truth is, there’s very little you can’t Google your way into. For that reason, if you submit your line without the basics: a catalog and line sheet and some industry standards around pricing, minimums, and policies – it’s a red flag that working with you may mean more work for me.
  • Your line isn’t extensive or cohesive enough. Early on, many talented crafters take a spaghetti-against-the-wall approach to see what sticks. Are you a designer, a potter, a seamstress? Do you want your cards to be letterpress or flat printed? Are you offering custom items? It’s ok to try out different product lines and methods, but when you present your line to retailers, it should feel cohesive and it should be extensive enough to convey that I’ll be able to rely on you for fresh products as the seasons change.
  • Your submission seems careless or spammy. I always recommend taking 5 minutes on each retailer’s site to learn their name and any submission guide lines. It takes very little time to be thoughtful and most retailers I know receive so many submissions that if it’s not addressed to us by name, we feel permission not to respond.
  • Your intro is too long, too casual, or off-color. I offered a template for email submissions here and I plan to write another about mail submissions. In short: your submission should be short, sweet and professional. It should not be seven paragraphs. It should not be too personal unless we actually know each other. You may assume I’m laid back, don’t mind a well placed curse word, and love to laugh (all true), but your submission email should still err on the side of business casual, not casual Friday. We’ll get to know each other later.
  • Your photos and collateral aren’t appealing. Assume I have 30-90 seconds to look at your submission. Good photos and collateral (business cards, and other marketing extras) are often the only reason I linger. They also give a nod to the fact that you understand that our business is visual and that I can rely on you for quality presentation going forward.
  • Your line looks too much like another line. In private conversation, this is a frequent topic. My friends and colleagues often disagree on who may be copying who. But for the purposes of picking a line, it’s not the copying that I’m focused on, it’s that your similarity to another line is either a distraction (because all I can think of is whether you’re copying someone else) or it means you don’t stand out on your own. If you want to sell professionally, you should be aware of the work of your peers and step back to critique how and when you may need to veer away from a design that seems played out. Please don’t hop on a new trend after you see it on line. The world only needs more gold foil pineapples if yours are spectacular. What retailer’s really want is to find something we’ve never seen that only you can show.
  • You don’t stand out. Lately, I’ve seen an increase in submissions from designers who really do seem to understand the format of a good card, but I flip through the catalog and it’s immediately indistinguishable from dozens of others: the designs seem safe, the colors bland, the sentiments re-hashed versions of what’s out there. It’s hard to truly trust your gut and make the cards that you’re meant to make, but there’s nothing I love more than finding lines that do. You should cringe a little at your prior efforts, and then use them as a springboard to try something new.

If you feel like maybe I’m talking directly to you, rest assured, I’m probably not. These nine bullet points represent issues that I see repeatedly in hundreds of submissions each year. But now, I’m curious to hear from you – if you don’t get an order in response to a submission, do you want to know why? Do you want details? Do you want a dialogue? What more would you want from retailers? I’ve been investigating ways (periscope? Facebook live?) that we could turn this into a discussion. I await your suggestions and promise, when asked, to give true feedback to your line, if (and only if) you request it. I would also love to hear from my fellow retailers – tell me what I might have missed.

Clementine Greeting Card Wall / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I’ll leave you with my current view at Clementine: Mother’s Day + a few other favorite cards on some shoddy shelves that I made, which are basically held together with dreams and wood glue. We all have our strenghts and weaknesses. I always welcome your constructive construction criticism and your feedback…xoxo, Emily

Brick + Mortar: What’s Next for Your Business?

This fall, Clementine, my Brick + Mortar, turned 5. I celebrated. I took stock of the friendships, partnerships, and mentoring I had done. I felt proud and happy. Then, like a punch in the gut, I suddenly felt worn down – heavy with small business fatigue. I imagined working for someone else; letting them make decisions, and giving me a steady paycheck. I left 2015 with two weighty, honest questions:  What do I want to do next year? And, if it’s this, How can I do it really well? ~ Emily of ClementineHello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / Illustration by Emily McDowell

Illustration Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

As busy, creative entrepreneurs how do we confront questions of doubt? Like many of you, I have several side-hustles. I love them just as much as my main gig, but I often wonder where and how to focus my energy to be efficient. Last year, I started a styling and creative consulting partnership, I began offering creative consultation, I continued to write here (xo), partnered with Etsy on some of their new wholesale endeavors and, last month, decided to organize creatives to take a stand against gun violence. I love starting new things and having variety to my work. I love how these things relate to each other, but they pull me in different directions. How do I do all of them well?

2015 was about gathering advice and resources to make my business bloom, but I admit, it’s far easier for me to daydream up new ideas than to put them into practice. I’ve been lucky to befriend some incredible small business owners, so I began 2016 by making time to talk to my cohorts about the nitty gritty of what’s next for me. I also relied heavily on the greater small business community, especially on podcasts, to help me think through many of my small business dreams and plans. This year, I need to dig in and create a structure to help my business plans flourish. I wanted to start 2016 by sharing a few of my favorite podcast episodes, many of which I’m revisiting as I plan for the road ahead. I hope they help you move you through your own stumbling points and give you a boost for 2016! (I’d also love to hear your favorites!)

Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / After The Jump Podcast

After the Jump, has been, without a doubt, one of my favorite podcasts. Hosted by Design Sponge creator, Grace Bonney, this podcast stopped airing a year ago, but there are 100 incredibly helpful episodes. My favorites include: Episode 6 Meg Mateo Ilasco and Mom Inc. (deleted from the web, but still available on itunes!); Episode 20 Becoming your Brand Episode 39 Raising the Bar; Episode 90 Genevieve Gorder returns.

Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / Magic Lessons Podcast

Magic Lessons is the creative weekend getaway we all dream about in podcast form. This short follows up on Melissa Gilbert’s work with her recent book Big Magic. Each episode comes in two parts – an interview with a creative person who is stuck and then a conversation with one of Gilbert’s co-horts about advice for that person. I adored this short series, but Cheryl Strayed’s advice in episode #2 Pursue your passion like a mofo and Brene Brown’s take in the final episode, Big Strong Magic, were the food I needed to keep my creative heart beating last year (do listen to the complimentary episode for each or they won’t make sense!)
Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / Being Boss Podcast

Being Boss is a podcast for creative entrepreneurs hosted by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon.  This is one of my regular listens (thanks to Kristen’s recommendation at the August NYNOW). I especially loved episodes #4 How to Be Boss When You’re Afraid of Failing and episode #53 The Value of Staying Small.

Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / Girlboss Radio Podcast

#girlboss radio. Launched after the crazy popularity of Sophia Amoruso’s book, #girlboss, these conversations are refreshingly honest with a kick of irreverence. They’re all fun, but for business, I really liked Episode #4 Sheree Waterson, CEO Nasty Gal.

Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / Profit Power Pursuit Podcast

Profit Power Pursuit.  Tara Gentile asks delightfully pointed questions which lead to real, detailed answers from her guests. I haven’t listened to all of them, but especially enjoyed these two so far: Episode #3 Megan Auman; Episode #8 Keri Chapin.

Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / The Lively Show Podcast

The Lively Show. Jess Lively is effervescent and upbeat, even when tackling difficult topics. I enjoy the episodes when she digs into tougher life stuff, and interviews grounded, deep women. I especially enjoyed #58 Using Values to Thrive in Work and Family with Tina Roth Eisenberg; and episode #107 Quitting a Full-Time Business for More Joy with Melissa Gruntkosky, which explores the extremely important question of when quitting our passion project may be the best thing for our lives.

Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / Smart Creative Women Podcast

Smart Creative Women. Hosted by Monica Lee, there are some wonderfully extensive interviews with creative women. Two of my favorites include Lisa Congdon: A Creative Journey and Emily McDowell’s Amazing Adventure.

Hello Brick + Mortar: Small Business Advice by Emily Blistein of Clementine for Oh So Beautiful Paper / StartUp Podcast

Start Up – This podcast is all about the making of Alex Blumberg’s podcast company, Gimlet Media. The transparency and awkwardness in this series is refreshing and compelling. Start with episode #1 How Not to Pitch A Billionaire and see if you want to listen on…

Screenshot 2016-01-10 14.19.15

Iron Curtain Press’s The Dream Is Free Print means one thing when you’re dreaming, and another when you’re years in.

We’re experiencing a bit of a golden era of entrepreneurialism. Starting your own business is applauded. Quitting your day job is glorified. Running your own thing is great. But we’re not all cut out for it, and even those who are generally deserve far more support than we’re receiving. I know it’s not time for me to sell the farm (or the store in this case!) but I’m digging in to my resources, I’m making time for tough conversations with fellow business owners (and my family) and I’m genuinely looking forward to some change this year.

What about you? What’s ahead in 2016? What are your stumbling points as a small business owner and where do you turn to overcome them?

Brick + Mortar: How to Submit your Line to Retailers by Email

In the past, I’ve given you some meaty posts. Now it’s time to break them down into bite size pieces. We’re going to start with how to submit your line to retailers by email. This submission option is quick and free. But if you’re like me, even the simplest emails can take forever to write. So how about I write this one for you? – Emily of ClementineHello Brick and Mortar: How to Submit Your Line to Retailers by Email / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

This post is brought to you by MailChimp. More than 9 million people and businesses around the world use MailChimp. Their features and integrations allow you to send marketing emails, automated messages, and targeted campaigns. And their detailed reports help you keep improving over time.

Hello Brick + Mortar Sponsored by Mailchimp / Oh So Beautiful Paper

I wrote a long post about how to get a shop owner’s attention here. If you’re like me, you enjoy reading thoughtful things, but when it comes to perfunctory business dealings, it’s better when someone just tells you how to do it. So, ok. Here is my suggested template for the best way to submit your line to an independent retailer by email.

Hey there [Emily]!

If you’re writing to an independent retail shop, find the retailer’s name and use it. Based on the volume of submissions (and how easy it is to find my name on Clementine’s website,) I don’t reply to those who don’t bother to find my name. Double check, that you have the name right if you’re copying and pasting.

I’m writing to introduce [Undressing Press], my line of [letterpress prints inspired by vintage lingerie]. I found your store on Instagram and I love [the way the light hits your desk obscuring the papers you obviously hid under your chair.]

This paragraph is short: it tells who you are, how you found me, and that you know that my shop is uniquely mine. It doesn’t give me three paragraphs about your history and what you’re inspired by. I love getting to know lines, but the intro email isn’t the place. Also, closing with a compliment helps you avoid the temptation to tell me that your line would fit in my shop. Instead, it subtly tells me we might get along.

I’ve attached images of my current favorite prints so you can take a quick peek. If you like what you see, you can find my entire line at [website link and/or I’ve attached an online catalog.] I know you’re busy, so I’ll send a follow up email in two weeks.

Thanks so much!

Frou Frou

To recap: The intro email is short, sweet and free. (And I hope it goes without saying, this template is based on my experience. It doesn’t guarantee a shop will give you the time of day, but I think it’s a great start. Please tweak it to the recipient and your own style). It’s easy to duplicate for many retailers, but gives you the space to personalize. It should fit on my screen so I don’t have to scroll down and include your version of:

  1. Personal Salutation
  2. Who are you, how you found the retailer, and a little compliment for them.
  3. Web link or online catalog and 2-3 low res images of your work
  4. Promise to follow up and closing salutation

Till next time! xoxo Emily

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 11.22.43 PM

p.s. This is my view at Clementine when I’m reading emails. The light is good, but believe me I am also surrounded by piles of to-dos that are instagramed out of the frame.

Many thanks to Mailchimp for sponsoring this post! All content and opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make Oh So Beautiful Paper possible!