I’m beyond thrilled to bring y’all our next stationer, Allison from The Social Type! Allison and Jess have created some of my favorite foil pieces and matchboxes and they are a hoot to be around. The Social Type is a creative manifestation of their friendship and they have been at it since working separate day jobs and being long distance business partners. From working together on designs to adjusting to being a parent, Allison is here to take us through their stationery business story! –Megan
Hello from sunny Los Angeles! I’m Allison Brennan, co-founder of The Social Type. Jessica Tree and I are thrilled to be featured on Oh So Beautiful Paper, our go-to for all things paper related! Jessica and I founded The Social Type in 2009. We were already good friends and decided we wanted to do something creative together. Both eager to be our own bosses and business partners, we were excited by the idea of creating cards and products that we loved and wanted to buy. I had previously worked as a buyer for Jonathan Wright and Company and Minted.com. I was immersed in the stationery and gift industry, and there was no place I’d rather be. I had a desire to launch a wholesale line and Jessica was on board.
We really kicked things off in 2010 when we launched our mini-collection of letterpress and foil greeting cards at the Renegade Craft Fair in LA. Urbanic, in Venice, CA was our very first store. We dropped off some samples for Audrey right after Renegade and I think she purchased the entire line for her boutique. We were thrilled; that gave us the boost of confidence to keep going and grow our line further. Over the next year, we figured out how to fund a collection that was big enough to show at the National Stationery Show. Our first show in 2012 was a great success and this May 2016 will mark our fifth NSS. We are always excited to travel to New York City to be part of such an amazing show.
The Social Type is a paper goods and gift company; we sell wholesale to boutiques and stores across the United States, Canada, and beyond. We also have a retail site where customers can purchase directly. We outsource all of our printing and most of our manufacturing primarily in the United States, and we ship all of our products from Los Angeles.
We are really crazy about foil printing. When we were conceptualizing our first collection, foil wasn’t a prominent printing method in the stationery industry. We love letterpress but knew we wanted our cards to have a little more sparkle, and foil was the perfect detail. It was a bit of a risk because the trend hadn’t taken off yet, but we were confident that it would catch on. Everything we print today, from cards to matchboxes, all involve some sort of foil printing. We haven’t met a foil we didn’t like. Right now we are mad for hologram; we really can’t get enough of it.
Our studio is in Echo Park, Los Angeles, which is just a short jaunt from hip Silver Lake and booming Downtown. Jessica and I love LA, and it suits us both quite well. We are two midwestern transplants that can’t get enough sunny skies. Some days we head to the Echo Park Boathouse for lunch meetings to enjoy the lake or we’ll have a happy hour brainstorming session at L&E Oyster Bar in Silver Lake. Our surrounding neighborhoods serve as constant inspiration as they are home to many artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives like us. Los Angeles is such an exciting place to grow our company; we have lots of good friends that have their own companies here, too. We are lucky to have such a great support group.
Our studio has a lot of natural light and great outdoor space, and we take our meetings in the courtyard whenever possible. About a quarter of the studio is dedicated to our own offices and the rest of the studio is comprised of fulfillment space and inventory, though the inventory is really taking over. We moved to the studio in August 2014 and are already outgrowing it. We are currently looking for space in the area where we might one day be able to have a retail shop, which is a dream of mine, as well as our warehouse and design studio.
Our work day typically starts around 9-9:30 for the team. I usually sneak in at about 10 so I can spend a few morning hours with my daughter (and I’m grateful to have a partner who allows me to do so). Monday mornings we have a team meeting to discuss projects and schedules for the week ahead. Jess and I usually meet on our own and split up tasks for the week. Jess often focuses on design, deliverables for our licensing partners, and answering inquiries we receive through our website. I focus on some design, sourcing, and general operations. Our awesome fulfillment team handles everything else from order processing and packing to rep correspondence, processing payments, and shipping wholesale and web orders. From time to time, we bring in extra fulfillment help during busier seasons and for large key account orders.
Jess and I concept and design together. When I get stuck on an initial idea or design, I pass it off to Jess and she figures out what to do with it, and vice versa. We have worked that way since the very beginning, even when we were in different cities. Occasionally we license art from other artists too, and we really appreciate those partnerships.
Once a design is ready to be manufactured, I usually prep the design files to send to our printer and Jess will create or update our catalog and sell sheets for our reps and stores. Our products often go through several rounds of proofing before we sign off on them. Once we receive inventory at our studio, our accounts coordinator and fulfillment team handle the rest. They stock product, sleeve and label cards, pull and pack orders, and ship samples to our reps. Our team is small but growing, and that means we all wear a lot of hats – it’s a group effort. We work hard, but like to have a good time. It’s not unusual to find us blasting music, dancing about the studio, or cracking jokes.
About a year and a half ago we started designing die cut cards and they’ve been really successful. We have fun designing them, too. Expect to see more die cuts, lots of hologram foil, and new matchboxes in May at NSS. We have some other goodies planned for 2016, including a line of candles and other party and gift items. Our biggest release comes in May of each year when we show off new product at NSS. We have two other smaller releases in early Fall and mid-Winter, though this year we will have a more sizable release in August since we will have our first solo booth at NY NOW. We love owning and operating our own business, but it’s not always cut and dry. As we grow, we occasionally run into obstacles but try to learn from our mistakes, which makes our partnerships and business stronger.
Thanks to Nole and Megan for letting us share a little glimpse of our company with you. We love what we do and are very fortunate to be part of an amazing network of talented businesses and individuals. We look forward to expanding our business this year and sharing new products with you. Don’t be a stranger, please keep in touch!
Photos by Stephanie Todaro
Interested in participating in the Behind the Stationery column? Reach out to me at Megan [at] ohsobeautifulpaper [dot] com.