by Carolyn Edlund
Are you a greeting card designer? Blow Birthday Cards is seeking artists who want to sell their work.
I recently interviewed Jerry McLaughlin of Blow Birthday Cards about their new e-commerce greeting card website, and how interested artists can gain exposure and create income. Their business model puts a different twist on selling cards, and encourages artists to submit their work.
AS: What is the concept behind Blow Birthday Cards?
JM: Blow is designed to shift birthday card purchasing from retail to the internet. This shift allows independent birthday card designers to begin to capture their fair share of the billions spent each year in the US on birthday cards.
By using technology that we developed in Silicon Valley, Blow allows shoppers to write any message inside the birthday card in their own handwriting and then have us drop that real, signed card into the US Mail a few minutes later. A tech reporter who saw an early version called it “magic”.
This approach makes online birthday card buying an exciting alternative to the drive-park-shop-drive-sign-find stamp-mail routine for those tens of millions of customers that are already buying everything they can online.
AS: How did you identify this niche in the marketplace, and how did your business evolve to fill it?
JM: I sold the last company I co-founded around the same time that I turned 50. That sale left me with some time to reflect on my life. One of the things I realized was that in my drive to build a large e-commerce company, I had become bad about keeping up with many of my good friends regularly – I didn’t even send real birthday cards once a year. I decided to change that.
I devised a system to help me keep on top of those birth dates and addresses, and I then I found myself wanting to send better cards. I didn’t find them in stores, but I did find them online from independent card designers. I haven’t been to a card store since. After I sent out a bunch, my friends started looking forward not only to a card from me, but to the cards I would send.
Some friends asked me where I got his or her card and I told them. But most were then disappointed to learn that getting these cards mailed to them in time for the birthday required more planning ahead than they were used to. Like 90% of all birthday card buyers, these friends buy their cards so close to day they either have to give the card or mail it, that they have no alternative but to keep going back to the supermarket selection.
AS: What opportunities does this present for artists? How do you work with them?
JM: This presents birthday card designers with two big opportunities. The first is to get their names and affordable examples of their art in front of many more people than will visit even the busiest gallery on a typical day. Thousands of customers are searching birthday card related terms each day. The second opportunity is to earn licensing fees on every sale of their card designs.
When we find a birthday card designer who shares our passion for specialized cards, we invite that designer to list her birthday cards with us on a non-exclusive basis. Designers can share samples of their birthday cards designs with us through this link.
We don’t select cards. We select a birthday card designer and then allow her to add to, subtract from and otherwise change her offering on the Blow Birthday Card website. We never charge the designer for listing or for anything else. Money flows only one way – from us to the designer. We pay the designer ten percent (10%) of the price paid for every card we sell. Today we sell all cards for $4.95, so the typical fee paid to the designer is $0.50 on every card sold. We handle 100% of the production, fulfillment, customer billing, and customer service. We shoulder 100% of the marketing expenses incurred to promote their work on the Blow website.
AS: What are your plans as you move forward with your greeting card business?
JM: We will continue to open the mainstream birthday card market to the independent designers who create the incredibly funny, sentimental, spiritual, nerdy, quirky, punny, sexy birthday card designs that customers crave. Every day, we get out of bed determined to tilt the odds of the next birthday card sale in America in favor of the indie designer. The big card companies have had it all to themselves long enough. When customers see what is really available to them, and when they see that they can get those designs mailed in minutes, they favor the indie designs a lot.