117 – Getting Started in Wholesale with Heather Bourque
Heather Bourque

In this episode, we continue our accountability group series by introducing you to Heather Bourque, an artist from Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada, who illustrates her love of coastal living and travel through her wholesale and retail online shop, Paper and Wings. We travel deep into Heather’s world of creating and distributing wholesale products alongside her online retail shop. We know you’ll love Heather’s Startist story – and Heather – as much as we do!

Oh – and did we mention she created a solo-run wholesale business that still allows her to travel globally several months out of the year? We know you’ll be inspired to give wholesale a try after you hear Heather’s great advice!

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Laura

0:00
In past episodes, we’ve been able to interview a couple of our accountability group members about their Startist journeys, including Isabel Wood on creating digital products in episodes 95 and 96, and Jennifer Long on becoming a fabric designer in episodes 98 and 99. We know it can be far more relatable when we talk to people who are a bit closer to their beginning stages of their creative career.

Nikki

0:26
Today we want to continue our accountability group series by introducing you to Heather Bourque, an amazing artist from North End Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada, who illustrates her love of coastal living and travel through her wholesale and retail online shop, Paper and Wings. And when I say travel, I mean travel. Heather has actually been to more countries than Laura.

Laura

0:49
Hey, and that’s saying something because I’ve been to 40 countries so far. But one of the things that I love about Heather is that she has chosen an unconventional life as a flight attendant, photographer and illustrator and has combined them all into a wonderfully creative career.

Nikki

1:05
Today we’re discussing something you’ve asked us to get into and we’re traveling into Heather’s world of creating and distributing wholesale products alongside her online retail shop. And we just know you’ll be inspired by Heather who’s a great example of a Startist.

Laura

1:25
Hi, this is Laura Lee Griffin.

Nikki

1:28
And this is Nikki May with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

1:37
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

1:50
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

1:58

Heather, welcome to the Startist Society. We’re so excited to chat with you today.

Heather

2:02
Hi, guys. It’s so awesome to be here. Thanks for having me.

Nikki

2:06
We’re super excited to get into sharing your story.

Laura

2:11
So Heather, one of the things we love to do is start with your Startist story and learn how you came into this creative career. So can you give us a bit of information on how you got started?

Heather

2:25
Yeah, I might be going a little too far back. But I was raised on the ocean with a really creative mom. And that would definitely be where I grabbed that creativity from. But I really only started creating in my 20s when I became a flight attendant, I knew I wanted to do a lot of travel. And I knew I wanted a camera. So after my first travel, I went out and purchased a camera and it started from there. And it kind of rolled into making my mind want to create everything pretty much. So that would be where it started. I started grabbing photos when I traveled. And eventually I actually took a leave of absence as being a flight attendant and formally studied photography.

Laura

3:12
Oh, wow.

Heather

3:13
Yeah. And so from there, I went and started a photography company, I was mainly doing commercial and weddings. I quickly figured out that doing the weddings was not a fabulous balance for my flying life, which I wasn’t willing to give up. I really wanted to fly, travel and do something creative. So eventually, after doing the photography for several years, I decided that I needed to do something that could be done anywhere around the world, from any hotel room I pretty much was able to create. So that’s when I started going into illustrating and pretty much putting a website together and starting that form of creativity.

Nikki

3:52
Alright, so you kind of put the photography on the backburner. I know you’re still into photography, because you share beautiful photographs on your Instagram. But but you got into the to the illustration. And so we all love to see our artwork on products out in the world. And we’ve talked in episodes in the past about licensing, but we’d love to hear more about how you got into wholesale, and how you create your own products to put out in the world and sell to retailers.

Heather

4:27
I started super small, really, I’m Acadian background, French Acadian background. And I started with designs that had some of our sayings. And I thought for me, I could start with small stores from my area that I’m originally from. And that was kind of my test market. Let’s say I went into small stores. Some of it was consignment some of it was wholesale and just kind of figured it out from there. That was kind of my starting point.

Laura

4:55
Okay, so I’m curious what are some examples of Acadian sayings. I speak a little French, Heather, a little bit.

Heather

5:02
I will go with specific words. So for example, chien, dog.

Laura

5:07
Uh huh

Heather

5:08
We would pronounce it, chian.

Laura

5:10
Okay.

Heather

5:11
Main, hand? We would say mine.

Laura

5:16
Okay.

Heather

5:17
Something that’s really, really, really specific to my area is we would say, counting XXXXXX.

Laura

5:24
Okay.

Heather

5:25
It’s really not a standardized way of French counting today, but we still see it where I’m from. And from places like Belgium, smaller places, but it’s really just the really old traditional French that we’ve always hung on to.

Laura

5:44
Yeah, not to get sidetracked, I was just interested that you found this like niche that you could sell to retailers with this. So you were illustrating those those things, right?

Nikki

5:55
How did you turn that into products?

Heather

5:58
Oh, I actually would do basic sayings or words. And honestly, put them on cards and prints and use the traditional Acadian colors in there here in there. And, like I said, tested it out into small boutiques, museums, anything in my downhome area to see what would people gravitate to, and if it worked, because I wasn’t even sure if doing this type of thing would work in any capacity. And it did. So it kind of spiraled out into allowing me to create into maritime themes, etc.

Nikki

6:31
And so you said you tested it out in in local local shops? Did you physically walk into the shop and say, Here, I have some cards and some prints? Would you like to carry them? How did you make those contacts?

Heather

6:45
Oh, interesting. Yeah, definitely even simpler than that. I live about three and a half hours from where I was born. So to go there, I could do like a little circuit and visit. But nowadays, I pretty much email the museum’s, email the little stores and send them one or two photos of what I was producing. And to see if they were interested at all. And then from there, we’d have a conversation and see what they needed, if it would work and very specific to each store would bring in wholesale products for them.

Nikki

7:19
Nice. And did you immediately get some interest from just those emails?

Heather

7:24
Yeah, definitely.

Nikki

7:25
Okay, so hear how easy that is?

Heather

7:27
Oh yeah, it started off with three emails, that’s it.

Laura

7:31
Wow, that’s cool. Okay, so to get the products even to get products to send them an example of where you just printing them out on your printer, and like sending them that like sending them an image of what you were working on? Or how did you how did you do that?

Heather

7:47
I personally would do like, I would print it out at a small print shop around the corner from where I currently live and would do it from there, I would I found a place that would do, honestly, five prints of cards, 10 prints, max, so not large quantities just to test it out.

Nikki

8:05
That’s awesome. That’s a great way to get started. So but I’m curious, why did you immediately start thinking about wholesale, rather than, say, print on demand or trying to get things licensed.

Heather

8:20
I have, one print on demand, I feel it doesn’t generate enough money. And for me, being in Canada, it would bring up the shipping costs a lot for the small communities. And I really wanted to keep it down and make it affordable for Acadian people to be honest.

Nikki

8:38
Okay, that makes sense.

Laura

8:40
So let’s talk a little bit about the types of products you sell. So you started off with these local sayings. You put them, you approached local museums, boutiques, shops to see if they were interested. They said yes, looks like you found a local printer around the corner who could print things for you? So what types of products you originally were selling? Was it prints and greeting cards? Or how did you know how did you decide exactly what to sell?

Heather

9:08
Yeah, I started with prints. And then from there, I went into greeting cards. And pretty much I have a couple outlying products that I sell, but essentially, it’s our prints and cards. That’s it at this point. I really wanted to keep it simple and non complicated. And just something that people would understand very easily what I did pretty much.

Laura

9:31
So what has been your very best selling product.

Heather

9:35
Oh, okay, I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia. And we have smokestacks just across the harbor in Dartmouth. And they kind of are very prominent when you go across the bridge come into the city, and everybody knows them. And that’s probably been my best and probably simplest art print that I’ve ever put out there and people love it.

Nikki

9:55
Oh, that’s awesome. I’ve seen them. They’re very cool. And then they actually could to kind of apply to lots of places, because like, anybody who has an industrial section of town has smokestacks, you know?

Heather

10:09
Yeah, definitely. And I can see them from my upstairs window in my house.

Nikki

10:12
Oh cool. Is that where you got that image to create, from your view from your window?

Heather

10:19
Not really, my style kind of stems from my photography work. I tend to make a horizontal line a little lower than most artists. I mean, as artists were always taught the rule of thirds, like where we kind of said things. And right from the get go, when I was a photographer, I always lowered that line. And that’s almost how all my art is made as well.

Laura

10:43
All right. So you have these products, you know, you said greeting cards, you said prints, and you’ve approached some people. They said, yes, we want it. You were lucky. I guess it sounds like you found a local printer just around the corner. That’s amazing. And that they had a I assume, you know, the the type of paper or whatever. How do you choose what to print on?

Heather

11:07
Well, I was lucky enough to have one person specifically that was in the printer that kind of guided me through that. I wanted something that was hard enough that it could stand like some rigidity if I can say it.

Nikki

11:18
Like cardstock?

Heather

11:19
Yeah, that yeah, it’s cardstock, basically, but not the thickest, like, but it’s a nice quality cardstock. And basically, I went with the one that was affordable, that look great, that was a little bit more on the whiter side versus yellow, and I stuck with that right from the get go.

Nikki

11:37
Do you use the same cardstock for your cards and your prints?

Heather

11:40
I do? Yep.

Nikki

11:41
Perfect. Keep it simple. We so overcomplicate things, and I love that I love that you keep it simple. So how do you package them for for retail?

Heather

11:53
Okay, so basically, let’s say it’s a card, I basically have the card envelope in a sleeve. And that’s it. If I’m doing the print, I have the print cardboard stock on the back of it. And I have a write up as to what the prints about. So I have an individual write up for each print.

Nikki

12:14
Nice.

Laura

12:14
Okay, so if I’m understanding this correctly, the sleeve is probably like a see through, cellophane type, whatever sleeve, acid free sleeve. And then the other things that you’re adding in there. Do you compile all that yourself? Or does your printer do that for you?

Heather

12:30
To keep costs down, I do everything myself.

Laura

12:34
And then do you buy – does the printer sell you those things? Or do you source those things yourself? Like the the backing for the print and the sleeves and the stickers that you perhaps you use to put the story of print in there?

Heather

12:46
Yeah, the backing. And I think they call it t-shirt backing or something like that. I source it from the printers. The little card that goes on the back, the printer prints it, same as the cardstock. Same as everything else, same paper. And the sleeves, I outsource elsewhere, there’s a Canadian company that I grabb that from. And that’s it. That’s all that there is in there.

Nikki

13:10
And do you do any kind of, like, what do you do when you’re packaging something up to deliver it to the retail shop?

Heather

13:16
I’ve done both, I ship it, or I deliver it if it’s in the area. So if I do a shipping type of parcel, with all my prints in it, I definitely incorporate the shipping cost in there. Like there’s an extra charge for that.

Laura

13:32
All right, I have two questions for you. I’m gonna go back quickly and just talk about greeting cards for a second. Greeting cards come in so many different sizes. So when you’re working on wholesale, and I don’t know if it’s different in Canada than the US, for example. But like, is there a specific size you use for greeting cards through your printer that you decided on? How did you decide on that size versus something else?

Heather

13:54
Well, as every artist, I started with the wrong size, I kind of went to the size that I thought was cool and I would enjoy and quickly…

Laura

14:03
Which was what? What was that size?

Heather

14:05
Oh, I can’t even remember it might have even been square, something not standard for shops and for presentation in a shop. They have the standardized places to put them and all that. And I was lucky enough when I decided to have my first store in Halifax, one of the stores was owned by an artist and she guided me with the cost that I should put on my prints, sizing, standardized size for my cards and cost that I should put on my cards as well.

Nikki

14:36
Oh, that’s fantastic.

Heather

14:37
Yeah, Because I went in with odd shapes, my prices were too low for wholesale pricing, etc, etc. And she really helped me standardize it to what everybody else was selling at.

Laura

14:47
Okay, so the next question I have then is around placing orders so you had these people that were interested in your product, and you have to price things out, right, and then I know for a lot of people, if you’re doing wholesale, and especially when you were talking about shipping fees and shipping charges, you don’t want to like, you want to have a minimum, right, like a minimum order they have to place because if they buy one card, then you’re gonna be like, how do you do the shipping on that? And like, you know, how does that how does all of that work?

Heather

15:18
It was kind of a process for me, I learned as I went. But essentially, I would definitely recommend doing a minimum order, whether it’s number of units, or the actual cost that you need to have to buy this purchase. Essentially, you want to make it enough that it’s going to cover your cost, and you have to be ready to offer wholesale pricing, which is 50% off.

Nikki

15:44
And so what is what is your minimum, I mean, I would love for you to share as much as you feel comfortable with about what your pricing is, and how you figure that out.

Heather

15:54
Yeah, for me, I do a local minimum of $250 for the first order. And once they put in one order, I give a lot more flexibility, especially if there are regular orders from people. But definitely the first one to keep it basic and make sure that I can cover my cost and all that fun stuff and make it worth my while, I do a minimum of $250. Yeah, some people do it per unit, which is kind of comes to the same thing, though.

Laura

16:22
Alright, so if you have $250 as a minimum order, and then what’s the standard cost of like a print that you have, a retail cost for your prints?

Heather

16:30
A retail costs, and my 8 by 10s are around $23.

Laura

16:34
Okay, so $23. So that’s, I’m trying to do this in my head, it’s about 10 prints would be the retail cost. And if it’s half off of that, so about they have to order about 20 prints.

Heather

16:44
Mmmhmm, exactly.

Laura

16:44
Right? So the wholesale people, right?

Heather

16:46
Yeah.

Laura

16:46
Do you do they have to be the same print or can they be different prints? Does it matter?

Heather

16:51
For me, they can be different prints, because the printer I deal with definitely allows me flexibility to do small orders. So if they want five of one, I am not opposed to that. It can be complicated, though, if you’re doing printing with a printer that requires a minimum order. So that’s something to consider in the pricing as well. But for me, I do 5 prints, 1 print, it doesn’t matter.

Nikki

17:14
And so how do your retailers order from you? Do you have a form? Do you have a catalog? Do you have private place on your website for wholesale? How do you handle that?

Heather

17:30
I personally guide them to my website, and they can order anything off of it. There is, you can do it several ways, though, you can do it through a website, and you can have a wholesale option to go in and offer that kind of thing. Some people do line sheets. Or you can, yeah, they are you might even all only offer a select number of prints to this person. So there’s different ways to do it. For me, I allow them to go onto my website, and they basically make a list of what they want, and then I invoice them accordingly.

Nikki

18:01
Okay.

Heather

18:02
Yeah.

Laura

18:03
Okay, this is kind of a random question. So when people are getting started, I know you had mentioned the word consignment before on the front end of this discussion. And sometimes there’s the wholesale option. And sometimes people have this option for like consignment. And even with wholesale, I think there can be the option of are you buying everything outright from me? Or can they return things that don’t sell? So, so how did you set up your business from the get go? Did you have options for consignment, where you went, Okay, if it doesn’t sell, I’ll take it back. You know, that product? Or have you always kind of… How has that worked for you?

Heather

18:38
I’ve done both. My first store in Halifax was consignment. Essentially, I offered the product, brought it in, and when it sold, she would pay me monthly. If anything didn’t sell, after X amount of months, we’d have a chat and I go pick up the prints.

Laura

18:56
Okay.

Heather

18:56
As for the wholesale once again, minimum of $250. They get the product, they keep the product till it’s sold. I never get that one back. It’s a straight up purchase.

Nikki

19:05
Do you still do any consignment at all? Or is it just all wholesale now?

Heather

19:12
All wholesale at this point, but open to consignment if it’s the right store for sure.

Nikki

19:16
Yeah, yeah.

Laura

19:18
So how many stores are you selling in now?

Heather

19:20
Under 10?

Laura

19:21
Under 10 retail stores right?

Heather

19:23
Under 10. It’s more like small boutique stores, essentially. And it’s under 10. And they’re all in the Maritimes between here and New Brunswick. Yeah, here in New Brunswick, essentially/

Nikki

19:33
Have you thought about expanding and growing it to be bigger than it is?

Heather

19:38
Well, interestingly enough, the occasional time I’ll have one wholesale order. And that’s the only order for that maybe it’s a special occasion or something. However, not really. I really want to keep it to small. I would consider max 20 stores just to be able to manage it. And my whole goal is to be away six months of the year. So for me it’s very important not to have too much work either, I want to keep it balanced and be allowed to create.

Laura

20:04
Well, let’s talk a little bit about that. Because I do know you have a career where you’re traveling quite a bit. And you’ve also taken some really fantastic sabbaticals to like Mexico to Portugal…

Nikki

20:17
Which we were so jealous of.

Heather

20:19
And more to come.

Laura

20:21
I mean, that’s amazing. But like having a wholesale business, people would think, well, how do you keep when it’s just you? How do you keep a wholesale business going if you’re going to be gone for a period of time? Like how, how do you manage that in your own life, in with your own business?

Heather

20:38
Okay, so I’m slowly figuring that out, because the reality of being away is starting to happen now. So essentially, what I’ve discovered with the wholesale world, at least in the little boutique stores I’ve dealt with, is, in general, I will get a sale when I approach them, even if they’re a regular client, the occasional time they’ll contact me, but in all reality, I usually target them before Christmas, and before summer, those are the two times I reach out, and I make sure I approach them when I’m in the country or let them know I’m leaving by this date. So it’s worked out really, really well. But it’s definitely been a little bit of a challenge to find the way that best works for me, because I know my situation is not typical. So…

Laura

21:24
Right? And how frequently are you refreshing the products that you’re offering them? So let’s say you may have a certain number? I’m not sure how many illustrations you’re offering them today. And then if you are working on, do you work on new collections that you then offer? Or how does that work?

Heather

21:42
Yes, definitely, I aim for a new collection a year. And being able to offer that. I’m realizing, once again, learning process starting, is the fact that I’m not creating often enough. So to sell more, I would have to create a little bit more. And I know that’s something I have to be a little bit more on in the future, because definitely I have not created often enough.

Nikki

22:08
I’m sure there are tons of cafes all over the world that you can sit and sip your coffee or tea and draw in.

Heather

22:17
Yes, yes, yes, definitely. Last year, when I was in Mexico, my goal was to have a creative month. And I was just so excited. It was in Oaxaca, I was just so excited to be there. I ended up visiting and touring and walking and hiking the whole time rather than creating. So hopefully in the future, I will find the space for that a little bit better than I have in the past.

Nikki

22:40
But all that travel and experiencing just gives you so much more to draw on when you do create, right?

Heather

22:46
Absolutely, definitely. That’s where I feel most inspired is when I’m moving and away and seeing new things.

Nikki

22:54
Do you retire old designs? Or do you have everything that people have bought from you in the past always available?

Heather

23:02
In general, I’ve had I have most of it that’s available. And it’s funny you mentioned that because I’m in the process of kind of going through my website and looking at what has to be removed, because I do realize some things are a little bit stagnant and should not be there any longer. Yeah, definitely.

Laura

23:20
And how do you manage inventory? So let’s say you’re going out to approach people and you go out to these 10 stores and say, hey, you know, I’ve got to, you know, in a month I’m leaving town, if you’d love to place an order, let me know, here’s, you know, I have this new art available as well as what you’ve seen in the past, however that’s communicated. Do you wait to print with your local printer until after you have the orders placed so you know how much to have printed?

Heather

23:46
Yes, absolutely. I do one test print, put in my orders, and if I get a wholesale order, I’ll print accordingly. I never, I have a small inventory here, but not a whole lot, minimum amounts.

Laura

24:01
Now I think that’s smart, because otherwise, you could be sitting on a whole bunch of inventory. But if you’re able to, like have your printer print, basically print, it’s like print on demand, isn’t it? Like you can get the orders and then you have it printed, you just have to have all the backing stock and the stuff prepared so that you can have everything put together professionally with you know, your plastic packaging and all of that.

Heather

24:25
Exactly. So I have the plastic packaging, the backing, I usually have a few extra, like the write ups that go on the back, I do have a little bit of stock of that, because that’s a little bit more complicated to print. And when I do get a wholesale order, say they want 10 of one print, I might tack on 15 to have a little bit of a stash in the house when, and it brings down the cost if I do it all at once.

Laura

24:49
Makes sense.

Nikki

24:50
So what’s your turnaround time with your printer when you place an order?

Heather

24:56
I’d say maximum two weeks. So I do put that in the wholesale agreement, I’ll give myself a three week period, three to four week period.

Nikki

25:05
Okay. And nobody seems to have a problem with that.

Heather

25:08
Never.

Nikki

25:08
Because they actually plan in advance unlike anything I ever do.

Heather

25:12
Yes, I would say I’m definitely the slacker in this because they’re ready to go for the holiday season four or six months in advance. And I’m always the artist that is kind of at the latter, at the later end of that one.

Nikki

25:28
Oh, I get that for sure.

Heather

25:29
Oh yeah.

Laura

25:32
One thing I’m really curious when you talk about finding this local printer just around the corner from you? How do you work with them on… a lot of people are nervous about using printers versus their their own printing in their house, for example, because the color is… it’s hard to get the color right. Like, how do you make sure – did you have any problems with that with the printer when you started out? Or did your colors just turn out fantastic the first time.

Heather

25:55
Okay, so yes, super challenging, I will not lie. Coming from my photography days, I had a high end printer that I absolutely loved, and printed, amazingly, consistently, but cost me a fortune. The ink I was going through was never ending. Long story short, I eventually ended up selling it and going to a printer. The challenge I’ve had with printers is consistency. But what I’ve learned is when I do a wholesale order, I make sure I do the full order all at the same time. So at least the coloring is consistent within that order.

Nikki

26:32
Ah, that’s smart.

Heather

26:33
Yeah.

Laura

26:34
Yeah. So if you send them the same print, all 10 of those prints are gonna be the same color.

Heather

26:40
Exactly. And I mean, like when you’re presenting five prints, and I have really solid, bright colors, that teal has to be the same, or you will notice it from print to print. And that’s really tough to do if you’re doing it in two, three orders. I always do it in one big order.

Nikki

26:55
But also you work with the same printer all the time, right. So they should know by now, they should pretty much have it down, I would think.

Heather

27:05
They do. They do. But I’ve noticed that, once again, depending on how their printer is tweaked, you might see slight inconsistencies.

Nikki

27:14
So as long as it’s not within one batch, then you’re probably okay.

Heather

27:19
Yeah. And I’ve learned that now if somebody orders a batch, or if they do even three individual prints that have the same background, I order it all at the same time.

Laura

27:28
Yeah, that makes sense. I have a printer myself, I’ve considered doing this type of thing on and it’s a Canon, something 100. It’s like a big gargantuan machine that takes up half the room. But it’s really expensive for the ink and the paper, like there’s beautiful papers from like, it’s called Riverside, and it’s it’s based out of Dallas, and they have these beautiful papers, you can print on it, but then they’re like $1 each. So like, yeah, if you screw up, you know on that and you’re trying to get the colors, right, you’re wasting a lot of paper, right.

Heather

28:03
And then the other thing is I found and this was coached through the printer person themselves, is I have a lot of solid colors. If you’ll notice any new print, I really try to stay away from that. It has to have a little texture or some kind of grain in there. Because the solid color, you can sometimes see lines going through it or in are very visible on solid prints.

Laura

28:27
Yeah, that’s a good point is having the texture keeps that from like, any printing errors to be so visible.

Heather

28:34
Absolutely.

Laura

28:36
So we talked a little bit about, you mentioned, you could potentially retire things that aren’t necessarily selling well. Do you sort of track which products are selling the best? And do you ever do any custom work for any specific retail shop or anything like that?

Heather

28:55
Oh, yeah, I’ve done a few. I’ve done joint projects. I’ve done custom. I’ve done a few custom pet portraits, which people have really liked. I did a joint project that was an artist that sells tea towels, and he wanted the cityscape of Halifax. So we made the agreement that I would do the design for him and myself so I could sell on print he could sell on the tea towels. Yeah, those kinds of things. Definitely.

Laura

29:23
Because you could get a percentage of whatever he sold on the tea towels or something.

Heather

29:26
Yeah, what we did is what he sold. He got what I sold. I got.

Nikki

29:34
And how did that how did that go over for you?

Heather

29:36
It really well. Yeah, definitely. It was a commission based, but I gave him a price that was a little bit lower, to allow me to use it as well.

Nikki

29:45
Nice.

Laura

29:46
Now, have you ever had a specific situation that’s popped up with a retailer that was challenging, you know, maybe something didn’t go right, and you, like either a shipment went wrong or something you know.u

Nikki

30:00
Did you have to break up with anybody?

Heather

30:02
I live, I live in a city that people are pretty darn cool. I have to say, most of the people that are involved in boutique shops and those kinds of things, I target the smaller places. They’re there because they love what they do. I’ve never had a problem, I would say, one poor client didn’t get their package for a very long time because it got lost in the system. And eventually ended up coming back to me. And I had to repackage and send it back to them, there was a slight mistake in the address they had, that I think I had made the mistake, I can’t even remember. That being said, very understanding and they eventually got it. And I talked a couple of extra things in there for them, having waited so long,

Nikki

30:47
Nice. Nice. I actually want to talk a little bit about away from the businessy side of it and kind of talk about your, your style. You have a very, very distinct, strong signature style, which I think is fabulous. And I want to talk about how you developed that style. And do you think that helps with shops being interested in your work? It’s definitely different from a lot of other things out there.

Heather

31:17
Oh, yeah, definitely, as I mentioned, that really stems from having studied photography, and learning my style at that end of things. I was a little bit all over the place when I first started photography, but I quickly had a way of like seeing photos. And for me, something very clean and simple, always has worked. Some photographers do fabulous photos with a lot in the photo. For me, I tried to clean it up and bring it to nothing. And that’s how my art is. Often I’ll have way more lines in there when I first start, and in the end, I wipe out almost half of what I’ve designed to bring in to simpler.

Nikki

31:56
And it works beautifully. And it’s really interesting to see, when you share your photography that it’s very, very similar to your to your drawings, they’re the same composition and the same sort of interesting crop perspective.

Heather

32:14
Mm hmm, definitely.

Laura

32:16
And I also see that you use a lot of the same colors as well. When I look at your prints, like there’s a sort of a signature palette that you’d like to use.

Heather

32:25
Oh, yeah, definitely. I like the teal, and in the blues and stuff, and I think that…

Laura

32:31
Who doesn’t love teal?

Heather

32:35
And I’m a fan of a really punchy color in my illustrations. I like that single big color in there that brings it out. And I find that people that are drawn to my photos and illustrations, it’s often because of that one punchy thing in there.

Laura

32:51
Yeah, I love those pops of red that I’ve seen too, in your work. And then and I know you’ve done some work in collections, because I had a beautiful version of your calendar last year on my desk. And it was really awesome because it had it was one of those that you could set up and it had you know, like cardstock and I don’t know how to describe that type of calendar. But it was, it was thematic, right because as you went through the year all of those illustrations went really well together, the color palette, the style, you know, all of that, which I thought was really cool. How did you come up with that theme or when you’re working on something like a calendar? How did you come up with the style you were going to use for the calendar and the themes for the calendar?

Heather

33:38
And I think the one you got that we’re speaking about specifically was flowers. Is that the one you had flowers

Laura

33:44
Flowers, it had, like there was a cute car on one of them. There were a few travel themed things as well as it was kind of like a teal and a green theme.

Heather

33:54
Yes from my whimsical collection. That one comes from an inspiration from you

Nikki

. It was the 100 day challenge that I reduced to a 50 day challenge when I turned 50 and basically all the designs that came from that ended up on that calendar.

Nikki

34:12
Awesome.

Laura

34:13
So Startists, challenges are an awesome way to go to get your illustrations together so you can create a 12 month calendar and then sell it.

Nikki

34:21
We are huge fans of challenges for sure.

Heather

34:24
Yeah, and I like creating my I create my own challenges when I want to do a new design or a new collection. For me what is the best way to create something. I’m productive? It keeps me on one line of thinking and it’s cohesive, all those fun things.

Nikki

34:40
Excellent. Well, I expect my commission from that in the mail.

Laura

34:43
And what I love is that you make this sound like so easy, Heather. You’re like oh well you know, you just go to the shop you do this you approach a few people and then hey… I love that. But we make it up, I think, to be a lot bigger in our heads of like, what does it mean to have a wholesale business. It’s like, it could be as simple as approaching local stores, showing them you know, it doesn’t have to be a huge catalog of like 80 types of products and you know, 50 designs, you can start really small and, and make a difference and actually, you know, be able to put your products out in the world and get them sold, which is, which is so cool.

Heather

35:25
I think I think even smaller is better to start because it allows you to grow where you should or might want to with these stores, like you kind of grow together. I had one that I would say, Okay, what is needed in your store right now. And I would often guide what I design according to her feedback. So it’s um, it’s about chatting with the people you’re working with. And I think it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s never been for me. And if it was, I probably wouldn’t enjoy it.

Nikki

35:52
Well, and the way you’re doing it in the in the small ways, just keeps it from being so overwhelming that you’re afraid to start.

Heather

36:00
Yep, absolutely.

Laura

36:02
So let me ask you from a timing perspective, when did you get your first wholesale client? What year was it?

Heather

36:08
Oh, guessing seven or eight years ago?

Laura

36:12
Okay.

Heather

36:12
Yeah.

Laura

36:13
So the reason I’m asking is because COVID has happened since then, right? Like this pandemic has happened. And I know for a lot of small retailers, it was really, really difficult, right? Because nobody was leaving their house kind of thing. And if they weren’t already online, it was really a struggle for them to sell. So how did that impact your business and your relationships with those retailers during that time?

Heather

36:36
Okay, so two ways. One, I wasn’t flying, I chose to be home during COVID. And not fly as a flight attendant. The second thing was…

Nikki

36:46
Good choice, by the way.

Heather

36:47
Yeah, I was really happy to be home. And it allowed me to indulge in my creativity. I treated it like a full time job. So Monday through Friday, I was in the office creating, doing things, making new projects. I guess there’s three points, I’m on my third window. The third thing was because people were home, they were actually online. So between myself, my website, and the boutiques I was with, people were promoting online, it was my best year ever for creating and making money.

Laura

37:18
Wow, you know, I’ve heard, I’ve heard so much about that people who were like teaching online courses and things like that, right? Because everybody was stuck at home, and they didn’t have anything, you know, to do in there after hours. So there was a lot of that. That type of business that was skyrocketing, but it didn’t think about that for retail. And that like the the people could be promoting things online, and you would still have that opportunity to be able to sell your products. So

Nikki

37:43
Well, it was a great time to be someone who builds websites, too, because everybody was trying to bring their business online.

Heather

37:49
Yeah, I agree. I agree.

Laura

37:52
Interesting.

Nikki

37:53
One thing I really love about your business is your name. Oh, so you work under the name, Paper and wWings? Oh, which is so perfect with your travel, and your prints and cards. Did that just come to you? Did you play around with a bunch of names?

Heather

38:14
So before I met you to, I was in a mastermind group. And my whole website was made through this mastermind group, I was brand new to this group. I was brand new to illustration. And I had no website and I didn’t even know where to start. So I was coached by people that has specialty in these different areas. So it was basically a brainstorming session. And I had a whole bunch of, I talked about paper airplanes, blah, blah, blah. But I really wanted it to be true to what I did and how I wanted to put it out there. So the flight attendant world and my illustration, or my travel world and illustration, and what it to bring together. So that’s where the name comes from.

Nikki

38:54
Well, it’s just, it’s just perfect. It suits you and your business perfectly.

Heather

38:59
Thank you.

Laura

39:01
I love it.

Nikki

39:02

Heather

, is there. Is there anything else that we should have asked you that we haven’t thought to ask you? Is there anything that you want to share any bit of advice?

Heather

39:11
Um, I would say, I would say the only outlying thing that is completely disconnected, but it kind of irrelevant is I’m getting into a photo project again, after 10 years of being away from the photography world.

Nikki

39:25
Oh, yeah. Tell us about that.

Heather

39:27
Okay. So yeah, I got… many, many years ago. 2007 actually, I was involved in a photo project that was published in a book, I was one of seven photographers, and at the time, I was traveling around the world doing humanitarian work here and there on my days off, and we put a book together and come to find out, it did very well. And so the fellow that did it approached me recently to do a second book with him, which I’ll be the solo artist in there as a photographer.

Nikki

39:57
Oh, fantastic. For the first one you were not the solo artist?

Heather

40:01
No, one of seven people. So this time I’ll be the only photographer. And it may mean some traveling. But more importantly for me, it allows me to go through 25 years of archives that I have not used very much. I was looking for a place to put these photos and I figured a gallery or something like that. And they now will have a home in a book.

Nikki

40:25
That’s fantastic.

Laura

40:26
So tell us a little bit about these photos. What is the subject matter? Is it is it black and white? Is it color,

Heather

40:33
it’s going to be a mix, subject matter, it’s all going to be humanitarian based. So anything from modern day slavery, to climate change to mental health that affects people around the world, but it’s all humanitarian based, and it will be anything from some of the projects I’ve gone to have been in orphanages, I’ve been to Haiti post earthquake, it’ll basically bring all those more adventurous travels to light basically.

Laura

41:05
That is amazing. And potentially provide opportunity for more if you… you know, I think it’s a good excuse to do a little bit of extra adventure travel. And, and…

Heather

41:17
Yeah, that’s what I’m hoping!

Laura

41:19
But then you’re gonna get more countries on your list, Heather, and then you’re just going to be that far ahead of me.

Nikki

41:24

Laura

, you gotta get traveling again.

Heather

41:26
That’s right. That’s right. And I forgot to mention, this will be 100% charity based, it’s to make money to break out to the right organizations. That’s the goal of the book.

Nikki

41:38
That’s great. So I also wanted to ask you a little bit more about your photography. Have you thought about adding photo prints and cards to your shop to your retail, your wholesale business?

Heather

41:52
Absolutely. I actually have an unpublished page, on my website that I just have to click a button and open that up. I’m kind of actively working on that. And it’s cool, brings back the super clean photos that you could collage on your wall and make your wall look beautiful, basically.

Nikki

42:11
Nice.

Laura

42:13
Now, you had mentioned that there that the wholesale, your wholesale orders can be placed on your website? Do you have a special portal for that? Or it doesn’t end up being like a secret coupon code you give people? How does that work?

Heather

42:28
No, what they do is they go through my website, basically take the name of the print at the bottom, and they send me a list of the prints they want. Simple as that. A lot of people do the coupon code of 50%. And that would probably simplify my life. But I don’t know why I’ve never done it that way.

Nikki

42:45
Yeah, I was just when we were when we were talking about this about your interview. I was telling, I was telling Laura, I’m recording right now from a friend’s house, who is also a client and she makes the most beautiful jewelry. And we’re probably going to have to interview her at some point. But I built her website for her and she has her online retail shop. And rather than having a whole separate process for retailers to buy wholesale, we just have a coupon code, and they can just order it, order that way. And it’s worked beautifully for her.

Heather

43:20
I think one reason I started going a different route with that is because I’m in a small city. And I really try not to saturate too many stores in one area. So honestly, downtown, I have two stores that I’ve dealt with. And at one point, I promised one of the retailers that I would only sell that size in her store. So it would restrict strict certain prints from purchased by other retailers. So that’s why I went by doing and just say do not order this size, etc. So that kind of gave him the guideline.

Nikki

43:53
That makes sense. That makes sense, if it’s a more personal choice.

Laura

43:58
So I have a couple of other things that I wanted to talk about with you, Heather. And so one of those I think you mentioned is staying small, you’ve got your your 10 stores, maybe you would go up, consider going up to 20. A lot of people are even nervous about going out and talking to potential stores. And they’re looking at Faire online, which is an option now that you can sign up and then I guess other people will find you because it’s a marketplace, right? Is that something that you, you probably have not considered because you’re wanting to keep this at sort of a manageable level. Do you know anyone either Nikki or Heather that uses Faire today, I’d be kind of curious to understand that experience.

Heather

44:43
Um, I’ve talked to a couple people that have used it and have said that it wasn’t fabulous for them. And that’s kind of why I stayed away from that one.

Laura

44:51
Okay. What were some of the challenges that you’ve heard using fair versus the approach that you’ve taken?

Heather

45:00
Jeez, I can’t even remember because it’s been that long ago. Yeah, it was when it first came up that I had considered it and it kind of just fell off my radar.

Laura

45:09
Yeah, I’m not I’m not sure. Nikki, do you know anyone who’s used Faire?

Nikki

45:13
Um, no. Any experience I have with it is more from the retailer side. Because Raven & Moth, the shop in Paducah that I sell my work in uses it to purchase. But I don’t know anybody. I don’t know anybody who does it, does it that way?

Laura

45:33
Well, and the second thing I wanted to talk about, again, was revisiting pricing with you. So I think a lot of people don’t know how to price work for wholesale. So there’s a lot of different ways to look at it. Right? It could be well, what’s your internal cost, and then I need to double that at least to make a certain amount of profit. But then I know that the retail will have to be double that, you know, because if I’m going to sell it for wholesale, I gotta make some money at wholesale. So, so what is your recommendation of how you look at even coming up with a price? Because I’m sure you have to be competitive with what’s out there in the market as well, but you just want to make it worth your time. So what are your, what are your best recommendations around pricing?

Heather

46:16
Oh, yes, of course, like you said, you have to find a base price of what you’re spending, like, what does it cost you to print? What is it cost the package all that stuff? I think equally and maybe even more importantly, is going to the store and see what other artists are pricing their things at. You want to be in that bracket. And for me personally, it brought my price way up, because I was I was charging half the price to be honest.

Laura

46:37
Wow. Okay. So that was on, like going out to having a shopping day, right? Going out to some of your favorite boutiques. Or if there’s a place that you were like, oh, man, I wish my work could be in that place. Like go in and see what does everybody else charging, and then you would know, you’d need to sell it for like half that retail price to as wholesale to that shop, right. And then you just want to make sure that your cost isn’t going to be too high. And if the cost is high, maybe you should consider using a different type of paper or like making things a little bit cheaper on the cost side for you. But also, you’ve got to consider the time it took you to make all those beautiful illustrations, Heather.

Heather

47:15
Absolutely, absolutely. And don’t be scared to approach artists and see how they’re doing it. I think for me, I was lucky, I got the guidance from somebody that owns a little boutique store that I really wanted to be in. And so got chatting with her. And she was great guidance. That was my first one in Halifax. And she guided me through everything, however, looking at other artists, and seeing what they were selling for was a big key as well.

Laura

47:41
Awesome, great advice.

Nikki

47:43
So Heather, where are you going with this? What’s next? Where do you see yourself with all of this in the next like five to 10 years?

Heather

47:52
I definitely see it as a very slow business because I don’t want to say slow business, I want to keep it small, and allow me to see the world. That’s the main focus for me, I want to be able to leave for six months and still manage to be able to do creations and make a little bit of money on the side. So I want to keep that balance in there. And as mentioned, I want to re introduce photography in my world. I feel like I’ve missed a big passion for me in the last few years not doing that. And I think this humanitarian work will be mixed in there for sure.

Nikki

48:29
Well, I can absolutely see your photography working beautifully alongside your drawings in the shop. I don’t think it’s so different that it can’t work beautifully together. It’s you know, same kind of subject matters, same, same vision. So I think I think it’ll be great. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.

Heather

48:49
Thank you. Me too.

Laura

48:51
So where can our listeners connect with you online?

Heather

48:55
At paperandwings.com.

Nikki

48:58
And you have links to all your social media on there.

Heather

49:00
Everything. Yeah.

Nikki

49:02
Perfect. Perfect.

Laura

49:04
Well, Heather, thank you so much for coming onto the show to talk to us today. It’s getting me a little inspired maybe to go out to some local boutiques and maybe approach them, talk to them about putting some my own greeting cards and artwork out into the world. So thank you so much for that inspiration.

Heather

49:24
My pleasure. It was a blast speaking to you.

Nikki

49:27
I think this will be really inspirational to a lot of people who, you know, we we interview the Stacie Bloomfields of the world who who are doing this kind of thing on just such a huge level that’s so overwhelming. I mean, she does it amazingly and she’s inspirational. But the way you’re approaching it, I think will help the people who are, our main listeners who are maybe afraid to get started and you’ve done had a great job of making it really manageable and not so scary. So thank you for that and I can’t wait to hear what everybody has to say about it.

Heather

50:11
Thank you guys.

Nikki

50:12
To learn more about Heather and Paper and Wings and to read today’s show notes go to startistsociety.com/paperandwings.

Laura

50:21
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love for you to leave us a five star rating and review. Reviews help us reach more Startists like you and keep us inspired to create new episodes.

Nikki

50:32
Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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