15: Building Business Around the Wholesale Model with Gianna Pergamo

15: Building Business Around the Wholesale Model with Gianna Pergamo

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

Gianna of Pergamo Paper Goods schools me on wholesale pricing, building repeat customers, and expanding your offerings into distinct businesses and brands.

You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:


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HT: Hi, I'm Melissa Elizabeth for the Heart Temple. 

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A Conversation with Gianna Pergamo

Chain Assembly: Today I am lucky enough to have Gianna Pergamo with me, primarily of Pergamo Paper Goods, but also owner of many different side businesses, all that are art related. Gianna was, I guess you could say a mentor for me early on as far as figuring out how to pay sales tax and business fees and licensing and all that stuff. Gianna really has this nailed down to a science, and she's a pretty good inspiration. So I'm lucky to have you. Thank you, Janna. 

Gianna Pergamo: That's very sweet. Thanks, Nick. Yeah, I am the owner of Pergamo Paper Goods, which is a gift company based on my art. I say it's vintage-inspired art for animal lovers. And I do, I make these mixed media collages that I turn into prints, cards, stickers, magnets, ornaments, earrings, etc. And then I co-own Toad Hill Farm with my partner Dan. And then I'm starting some other stuff that's like, it's still a little under wraps, but I am working on some other projects. And I am local to St. Pete's. My studio is in Pinellas Park and studios at 5663.

CA: Great. Well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. So there's a lot of things I want to kind of dive into with you. So I think it's probably going to be smart to start in a chronological sense. So you started off in art school and about how long after graduating from art school college, did you decide to start a business or did that happen while you're in college? 

GP: So when I was in high school, you know, I had to decide sort of what I wanted to do with myself, where I wanted to go to school. And I was stuck in between going for art and going for physics. And I decided I wanted to do art and my like, kind of what was in my mind was that I wanted to do children's books. So I went to art school with that in mind, I went to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and I majored in illustration. And I took a lot of like a narrative kind of classes for like storytelling kind of art, as well as, you know, just like general art classes, illustration classes, a lot of different media. So I graduated, I took like a graphic artist job, and then I was thinking about what I wanted to do for myself. And I was approached to do a show, to do a show of pieces in New Bedford. So I was thinking about what I wanted to do for this show. And I had been working, like in my last year of college, on these like collage pieces. stories. I had worked on the story for my favorite teacher Judy Sue. And it was about a fish who went to market. It was called like fish market, like, you know, like a market of but it was fish going to market and they were selling like worms and stuff. It was very silly, but it was like a fish that was, you know, all the fish were dressed up. And that was kind of the style I started working in this collage and I really like animals. So I was making these like narrative pieces with animals and I was like, oh, what should I do for the show? Let me make a bunch of these doing things dressed up, collage, mixed media. So when I started working on the show, I was like, you know what, I should also maybe sell these pieces as other things. Why don't I turn some of these pieces into cards? So about a little less than a year after I graduated, I had this show and I took pictures of all of these pieces with the intent of turning them into cards. And that's how Pergammo Paper Goods started. 

Okay, so that was probably, I guess, 11 years ago, you'd say? 

GP: Yeah, yeah. Okay. 

And so I guess they must have been pretty successful sales that make you want to keep doing that. 

GP: Well, when I first started, you know, I was 23 and I didn't know what I was doing. And I'm really glad that I didn't know what I was doing because I would have been really intimidated. I think if I knew like what I was trying to get into because I was like, okay, I'm making, you know I don't know if it was like 12 or something pieces for the show. It was like 12 or 15 pieces. So I'm like, oh, I'll make six cards and that's enough cards to have a small line of cards to show to stores. Six cards is a really small amount to show a store, but I was like, six can do it, six or 12. And I took that collection and I got them printed as cards. And I went around me with my social anxiety going into stores and being like, hi, will you sell my cards? Yeah.

Did you get a lot of rejections from that first kind of walk around that tour? 

GP: Yeah, yeah, I did. But I remember the first one that took them. I remember the first store that took them. It's a store doesn't exist anymore. Pie in the sky on Thayer Street in Providence, a really cute gift shop. And the owner was kind enough to say, okay, let's do it. Let's sell some of your collection of 12 greeting cards. That's all you have in your whole line. Yeah. But that, you know, I got, it's awkward to go in. You really should make an appointment before you go in. You have to be really cool when you do it because store owners get approached, you know, it's annoying someone to come up to you and show you something that's probably bad. And then you have to be like, oh, let's say something kind of polite, but they'll say, oh, this doesn't work for my store or I don't like it. Yeah. A lot of people don't like it. It's kind of niche. Now I have a lot of people that like it, but it's not Hallmark and it's not you know, something like they have in Target. So, yeah. 

So comparing that to now, do you still find a need to go into stores and present yourself or you have basically all of the outlets you're comfortable with at the moment? 

GP: If I'm on vacation, I have samples in my purse because as soon as I go into a store and talk to the owner or the manager and give them a sample and get their card, the whole trip is now a business expense. So yeah. 

Oh, okay. So you're still doing it, right? 

GP: Yeah. And I have, you know, a second brand that is smaller than my brand. And getting the word out that way and talking to people in person and showing them something physical is really good. Leaving a sample is really good because you can tell someone, oh, my thing is good, but you know, oh, my thing is good. My thing fits your store. And then it turns out to be something that's completely unrelated and poorly crafted. So you want to leave them with something that is memorable and nice. Yeah, going into stores, I will still do that. It's a little scary. 

So when you bring in those samples, what type of collateral are you bringing with them? Like just a business card or do you have like a catalog or a flyer? 

GP: Sometimes I don't have anything. Sometimes I forget and then I will like try to get them. I'll look at my Instagram, but usually I have a sticker and a business card. 

CA: Okay. The reason why I bring that up was because I recently designed a whole bunch of small card games and so like in a desire to not give things away for free, I would show them to people, say, here are my samples, and then I would take them back, which I guess is a bad idea. I should just leave them with the person I'm showing them to. But I did create these flyers that show like all the different games, what the games are about, what the age levels are, website, contact information for wholesale pricing. And those I only recently got those made, but they've done really well at markets. There's a lot of people have come up to me and said like, oh, I have a friend who has a game store, or I have a friend who's got a store that these would go well with, and I hand them the flyer. And it's also really tedious to explain to someone the 10 different games that are all very different. So I can just say like this, flyer explains them all. Let me know if you have further questions on any one of them. 

GP: That's great, yeah.

CA: I do like having that collateral. 

GP:I need, I should probably have a postcard. I should do a postcard that has some more information on it. Usually the sample works. Maybe you should also just have a pack of cards and give them like the flyer and give them two cards. Like one of the cards, like one of the ones with the best illustration on it. You know, something really eye catching. So they can feel it. 

CA: No, that's a good point. The quality is important for sure. 

GP: Very important. 

CA: When you, I guess when you're, 11 years ago when you're starting this process of approaching stores and doing it now Do you always go in with an example or a set idea of how the Renumeration for your products is gonna work 

GP: They're gonna buy it. What do you mean? 

CA: I mean, I'll versus consignment versus like minimum order quantities Are you open to all of it? 

GP: Wholesale- always accept a couple of local cases where I personally know the store owner and have a relationship with them because you have no idea what people will do. But yes, I have all of that. I have $150 minimum. I have set minimums per product design and like product type and case quantities and everything. Yes.

CA: How did you come up with the 150? Was that a number you just decided on and it stuck with ever since, or has it changed over time? 

GP: 150 seems about right for opening order and then 100 for reorder. Unless it's like a special case, someone messages me they need to add something on or whatever. But I mostly sell to smaller establishments like cute little gift shops, kind of places and oh, I feel like 150 is like the sweet spot you want. Uh, I want it to be affordable for them. Like you can't have it be too much inaccessible, but for a store to really sell your stuff, they have to have a decent sampling of your work, um, like a little collection. Otherwise it's what's the point, you know, uh, I'm not going to do a $25 order that's ridiculous.

CA: Right. Do you provide them any type of other like shelf hangers or advertisement for your brand or is it just the material? 

GP: So, I it's mostly just the products. A lot of the products like sticker. Okay, honestly, I want to start making some sticker displays because I have the capacity to make those and I think it would be a good idea. But stores who already sell stickers usually have a sticker display. They'll have a greeting card display. They'll have where they put their art prints. My ornaments, I don't sell packet. I also don't really like a lot of packaging. I can try to be like eco-friendly. So like an ornament, they get it on the string and it has a little tag and you know, they can stick the price on the tag or on the back of the ornament, but that ornament has got to hang on a tree or on a hook. Yeah, so I don't really provide that much stuff with it. Maybe I should a little bit, but yeah. Some places like Florida Craft Art, when you check out from them, They give you a little handout on the artist, which is pretty nice. I like when stores do that. They give a little bio. 

CA: Wow, that's a good idea. I like the stores that I'm in. I don't think any of them do that. They'll give you like a place to drop your business card, but that's a pretty cool idea. 

GP: Well, my art prints, when I sell an art print, when I sell an art print, I include a little bio card on the back. So like art print and then this is about me. So they do have that, you know, it says like how I make the piece, where I'm from, blah, blah, blah. So that, you know, that's a little something. 

CA: I do slip my business cards into all my prints packaging, but I don't, I don't really do the bio. Maybe I should. Well, I guess the difference in that is with me, I don't ever want to present myself as an individual. I always want to present Chain Assembly as an organization. So I guess that's probably one of the reasons why I'm not interested in a bio. But that could also just be me being not very self-confident. Is that because you want to hire other people to work under your brand? So that's it. Ultimately, I always like to try to imagine Chain Assembly being kind of like Mondo publishing. Where Mondo just- 

GP: I don't know Mondo publishing.

CA: So Mondo just started as a guy who would make alternate movie posters at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. And so like whenever they'd be showing an old movie, he would just do like a custom movie poster. Then companies started reaching out to him to do like, hey, can you do this limited edition cover for our album, for our band? Can you do an alternate poster for this A24 movie coming out? And then eventually they hired other illustrators to take on more work. So that's kind of inadvertently what I've been modeling the business after. I like to make it seem like there's multiple people involved and then also have the freedom to bring in multiple people if needed. 

GP: I see that. Yeah. As a sticker company that I follow, Turtle’s Soup does the same thing. I believe it was originally started by a husband and wife team, but they've brought on other illustrators. So yeah, that makes sense. 

CA: So looking at your businesses specifically, like Pergamo Paper Goods wouldn't really make sense to do that because it's named after you as an individual. So it makes sense that you would always be advertising yourself as the creator of those items. But your secondary business with your partner, Toad Hill Farm, that is a lot more nebulous as far as the entity of who's creating things. So do you have different approaches in the marketing to those two businesses?

GP: Yes, well, they're marketed to different stores. Like they, I have a little bit of overlap. But so that one I say like, Toad Hill Farm is a project by Gianna Pagamo and Daniel Frankor, and it's based out of St. Pete, Florida, and blah, blah, blah. Right now. I mean, if it you know, it's, it's run by Gianna Pergammo and Daniel Frankor. Chain Assembly is run by Nicholas Ribera, out of St. Pete, Florida, you could put. And then as other illustrators join, you can say and this piece is illustrated by whatever. Yeah, you know, like, just like the like, it's just a tiny bit of something. Nicholas is, you know, something nice about you, something personal. He's a community builder with artists and he likes ice cream. I don't know, like something. Yeah. Yeah. On all my stuff I say, you know, I'm the artist Gianna Pergamo, artist and animal lover. 

CA: Okay. 

GP:That's me. 

CA: So you you find then that adding that little bio really ultimately helps with brand building and sales down the road. 

GP: I I think creating relationships helps. Uh, I want to create a relationship because I'm working mostly I do wholesale. I also do retail, but If I can build a relationship with the store owner that's beneficial to me and to them, if they know who I am and I know who they are, it helps. Susan owns a plant shop that also has a small gift area. And I know whatever she likes. I can suggest certain products me for certain things and it's mutually beneficial. 

CA: Now with with Toad Hill Farm is that organized as a separate LLC or is that like a DBA under Pergamo Paper Goods?

GP: It's a separate LLC because it's with another it's it's with another person so it's separate. Right yeah so you have to keep all that. It probably doesn't really need to be but me and Dan aren't married yet so It kind of organizes things a little better. 

CA: Well, Dan, if you're listening, notice Gianna said yet. 

GP: So, yeah. 

CA: So with those businesses, I know you do a ton of sales from Etsy specifically. What percentage of say looking at Pergamo Paper Goods, what percentage of your sales would you say are from Etsy?

GP: So I would say 90% of my sales are wholesale. 

CA: Okay. 

GP: And maybe 10% is retail on Etsy and on my website. 

CA: Was that chunk bigger before Etsy forced everyone to do free shipping on everything? 

GP: No. 

CA: Okay, so Etsy was always a small part of Pergamo Paper Goods. 

GP: Wholesale was always my intention. 

CA: Okay. 

GP: There was a while where retail, there was a good while where retail was bigger, but it wasn't on Etsy. It was doing markets, but I don't do markets anymore. I'll do a couple of markets now, but there was a while where all almost all my income was just markets weekend after weekend. 

GP: Yeah.

CA: I remember having that conversation with you a few years ago. I feel like I've slowly slipped into that region two of my career where the value of markets has dwindled to a point where you can be way more judicious on which ones you do and that is such a relief to be in that phase because yeah doing markets where nobody buys anything is just it's time consuming it's heartbreaking it really questions your existence and why you're doing what you're doing 

GP: Also we're in florida it's hot! It's taxing on your body. If you're outside doing an event, even if it's a four or five hour event, you're wiped for the rest of the day. You're done. 

CA: So talking about the items that you are making and wholesaling, which of those are you able to do yourself and control the manufacture of and which of those are you outsourcing? 

GP: I outsource a good chunk of it. So, prints and cards are done by a local printer Stickers are done by a small company in Idaho that I've been working with for a couple of years They are really great husband and wife team I love their quality and like great customer service and Anything the magnets and the ornaments and the earrings were originally outsourced with a guy who laser cut them for me. And then for better or for worse, for better really, he was unable to cut them for a little while and it really screwed me over. And that's when I decided that I needed to invest in a laser cutter. So, you know, a blessing in disguise. Now I'm able to laser cut all of my magnets, ornaments and earrings. And Dan actually handles all the laser cutting and then we started total farm where everything is laser cut and so he handles that that area 

CA: Do you have a process for I guess I don't want to That's the best way to put it I guess like do you create orders for Dan to print or to for Dan to cut or We're low on this. Let's do these next or is there like a-

GP: Well, I wish that we had a lot of back stock on everything and it was like super organized like that. But for a couple of reasons, we have not been able to achieve that yet. Actually we needed to buy a part for the laser cutter this month and that was so stressful because you know, production shut down for a little while and we were behind for like a couple weeks. Oh my God. But so now I have like a system where any order I get that has magnets or ornaments in it, I double print it and give him a copy and I change the due date so he thinks it's due earlier than it is and to give myself a couple extra days. That's our organizational system right now. So he has a stack of orders that he goes through and he'll cut me six cats, three pigs, blah, blah, blah, until I'm, and then he sometimes he'll glue everything for me as well. And then sometimes he'll even pack it for me too, which is a bonus because I don't have an assistant right now. So yeah. 

CA: So generally then with the setup you have for Toad Hill Farm, you are doing more or less the customer service or processing part and he's doing the manufacturing part? 

GP: Yeah. 

CA: Okay. It's nice that you found systems that kind of help organize that because like for listeners out there, once you do something well, you're going to start trying to replicate that as much as possible. And it helps to kind of remember that process over and over again, because you're going to be doing it a thousand times if you're lucky. 

GP: I think this system is working. We've tried other systems and this system seems to be working better, we might change it. And then hopefully once we're caught up, we will start building backstock again, because it's stressful not having backstock. 

CA: Oh, yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure. Since you eventually took over the laser cutting aspect that you were outsourcing, are there any points of manufacturing that you are planning on incorporating, such as the printing or the stickers? 

GP: So I was looking at UV printers for stickers, but those machines are giants Then you need a cutter and you know, you need it to lay you need to laminate the stickers It's like a lot and it's very costly so the new project that I want to work on Is gonna be apparel and I'm trying to figure that out I think I'm going to begin it at everything print on demand and then I'm going to look into getting a machine. Yeah, I'm highly considering buying a DTG machine. I think it's a good idea, but I'm trying to be like chill on it and not overload myself right now. Also, I don't have anywhere to put it right now.

CA: Yeah, I could say with my business specifically the biggest issue isn't so much The cost of the items as it is the place to put the items because I'm in a house I don't have a separate studio. I'm just in a two-bedroom house and Like it was a struggle to find a place to put my image pro graph 1000 because that's like a three foot wide printer and-

GP: Oh your printer. Yeah How big does your printer print?

CA: 17 by 22. Yeah, she's nice. Oh, I highly recommend this printer. I did have to just buy ink for it recently, and it was $700 for the ink. Yeah, but yeah, but it definitely makes up for the freedom of saying, oh, this piece got accepted to a market. I can print my giant format version of it right now. I don't have to send it off, wait for it to arrive and hope it arrives in time for me to frame it and bring it to the event? 

GP: We have a printer that we use for Toad Hill and for like emergency stuff for me that will print 13 by 19. It's like a Canon Pix, I don't know, something like that. It's nice. It's 13 by 19. We really usually only need 12 by 12, 8 by 10, 11 by 14, 11 by 17. So, but it's good to know someone with a 17 by 22. 

CA: Yeah. Yeah. If you need anything from me, let me know. I do regularly print 12 by 18 as a size, which is why I went with this one. So the next piece of, I guess, of studio office supplies that I really want to buy, which I know, again, will take a crazy amount of space is I just really want to be able to cut my own mats and like a good proper mat cutter should take up a lot of space and I got no place for that. 

GP: Are they really big? 

CA:I feel like it should be like I don't want just like a blade at a 45 degree angle because I'll screw that up every time. I love the freedom of going to a thrift shop and buying a frame because it's pretty, not because it's the right size. And if it's a pretty frame, I can cut any mat to work with any one of my prints. So that's just kind of the struggle. 

GP: I like that. My work around for things in my home is I just don't mat things. I just put colored paper in the frame and then I mount the print over the colored paper. So it's not matted. It's just, yeah. And that's how I do for my house because I'm not selling it. But if they were matted, that would be like beautiful.

CA: Yeah, one thing I've absolutely noticed is a matted print will outsell an unmatted print any day of the week. 

GP: Really?

CA: Yeah. 

GP: Okay. 

CA: So I've seen your studio, it's incredibly well organized. You have all those tiny little shelves with all of the little drawers and all the little pieces you have. When you're selling prints, are you usually matting them or no? 

GP: No, I don't mat them. 

CA: Okay, interesting. But you're still- what what general sizes are you offering?

GP: I only offer 8x10. 

CA: Oh, OK. Is that for simplicity's sake? Is that based on research as the ones that sell the most? Or what's the reasoning behind that? 

GP: You know, OK. 99% of the time, I sell 8x10. I sell 8x10 to stores. I have a couple of stores that request 11x14. And I'll print those at home and send them to him. And they sometimes stores, honestly, sometimes stores don't sell them the way I send them. They frame them themselves and sell them for more. I have a couple of stores that do that. 

CA: They're again buying those prints wholesale? 

GP: Yes. I used to offer to one store special, I would frame things for them and send it. But that's really a lot of work.

CA: When you're doing those wholesale prints, do you have a minimum for each design or just a minimum total for that format of product? 

GP: So I have my 150 slash $100 minimum for everything. And then for stickers, it's six per design. For magnets, it's three per design. For prints, it's a free for all. You can buy one of everything. I don't care- prints and earrings because you know they might want to you know they have my little sticker display or whatever they might just want to have a couple of prints or they might want to do a whole wall of print maybe they want 15 or 20 prints and they want one of each of whatever they're into so I don't do a minimum on prints.

CA: Are you signing the prints that people are ordering from you? 

GP: Yes. 

CA: Okay. Yeah. I do the same, but I've noticed a lot of people don't sign their prints. 

GP: Yeah. I mean, it's nicer to have it signed. 

CA: No, I get that. And I'd hate for someone to want to hunt me down and then sign their print because it wasn't signed to begin with. So. Right. So these are, um wholesale orders that you're generally getting from your website most of the time or from you initiating conversations with people? 

GP: So, yeah, I have my customers that I've got from emailing or going in or whatever, and now there's also online wholesale marketplaces like Etsy but for wholesale. 

CA: Is that faire or other ones? 

GP: It's mostly faire right now. The other ones abound, closed. The Etsy wholesale existed for like half a minute. It's mostly fair right now. There's also IndieMe, which I tried out, but I couldn't really figure out because the back ends was extremely difficult and I just couldn't get it set up. So I mostly use fair. I've been on fair basically since they opened when they were Indigo Fair.

CA: So faire has worked well for you then? 

GP: Oh yeah. 

CA: Okay. I started off with faire. I had a couple wholesale orders for my tarot decks and I really hated the way it was structured. 

GP: Why? 

CA: Where your first order, if I remember correctly, you only get 40% of the order. Was that right? 

GP: No, Nick. You have your wholesale price. How much do your tarot decks wholesale for? 

CA: I'm wholesaling my tarot decks for 40% off. 

GP: No, they're not 40% off. That's the price. Don't think about it that way. That's what's getting you stuck. My art print is cost $18, right? No, I understand what you're saying, but I think the way you're structuring it is gonna annoy you and make you not want to do wholesale. So I used to sell my prints for 15, now they're 18. The wholesale price is $8. That's not 50% or 60%. They cost $8. When I retail them, it's double. It's not half of retail, it's double wholesale. So all my prices are structured from what I want for wholesale. My stickers cost $1.50. That's not half of $3. $3 is double $1.50. Do you understand the way I'm? 

CA: Yeah, so you're prioritizing the wholesale price over the retail price. 

GP: Yeah, you need to know what you want. So you want how much for a tarot deck? 

CA: Sorry? I would retail them for $40. 

GP: Okay. So you retail them for 40, you wholesale them for? 

CA: 20 is what I have been. 

GP: 20? Yeah. Okay. So, faire takes a cut. Fair takes, they changed their pricing structure a little bit recently. So, I was grandfathered in for a while to this old structure where everything was 18%. Now it's 15%, unless it's a direct customer that you got, which is 0%, it's 15% and then on the first order, it's an additional $10. So if your minimum is 10 tarot decks, $200, they're gonna take 15% of 200, 30? Is that 30? Plus $10, so $40, so you'll get $160 for 10 tarot decks. Is that worth it to you or do you need to raise your price? 

CA: That is worth it to me. But from what I recall when I was on fare, my first order ended up being at cost because of whatever fees they took off of it. And they said that anytime there's a reorder from that same customer, the fees wouldn't be as bad. And I thought that just didn't make sense to me. I still get wholesale orders on my own without needing faire. 

GP: Yeah, good. 

CA: And those are almost always from just people finding me and messaging me on WhatsApp, because it's a lot of like places in Hong Kong, Thailand, et cetera, who just want me to ship stuff to them directly. Which like, and also- 

GP: That's great. 

CA: And my business isn't really targeting wholesale. Most of my sales are retail from my store, from Etsy, from people who found the product on an old Kickstarter campaign. So I'm, I'm not really. 

GP: Right. I think you should sell to stores though, because I could see your tarot decks. In a certain kind of store that I'm envisioning that has like, you know, different tarot decks and a lot of other different cool artsy stuff, um, that will support that price point. And you can totally get those stores by yourself. You don't need to use an intermediary. Or you could use the intermediary. 

CA: It's a good thing you bring that up because I have walked into a lot of stores that sell tarot. And I introduce myself, I tell them I am a tarot creator. I'm local, I have some products. I would like to show them to you. And almost all the time, everyone I've been to, no one has wanted to carry my tarot decks in person. That's okay. They all say that they're just happy with their distributor from Llewellyn Publishing

GP: I know a couple places that would probably be interested in your tarot decks. 

CA: I mean, I've sold them at non-tarot stores through consignment and wholesale. So like at art places, they'll carry them. But places that specifically do tarot and metaphysical and crystal stuff- No, they're just looking for the cheapest thing possible from their existing distribution partners. 

GP: Yeah, you have to figure out what your target store is. And it's not that it's a higher end store that also sells art that might also sell oddities that might also sell vintage that might, you know, there's a lot of stores that would definitely sell your stuff. I can think of a couple and I'll give you their contact information later. 

CA: Okay, thank you. Appreciate that. So let's take a bit about to what you're envisioning for the future of your business. You mentioned the direct-to-garment printer. I love the idea too, I wanted to get one, but in my mind, I don't know if this is true, but in my mind, it's gonna be very difficult to run a business off of one direct-to-garment printer. 

GP: Well, it would be my, it would be, What what exactly is the issue? Tell me. 

CA: I just imagine you need at least two. Like if you're going to have a design available as a shirt, you need to have 16 varieties of it available before you bring it to customers. You know what I mean? But I guess that's really more I understand. That's more of a screen printing logic, because if someone orders the shirt, then you make the shirt. You don't necessarily need to have a bunch of sizes available.

GP: You just need a sample of each design on a model or a very nice mock-up to sell this shirt and then you can print it. 

CA: My site is already connected to Printful.com, which I highly recommend them, especially for their samples. Their quality is great and their cheapest shirts are about $10 each. So you retail it for whatever- your customer is getting a printed shirt for $10. That's what Printful is going to charge you as the seller. And I imagine it's going to be-

GP: Yeah, I need to get samples. 

CA: Well, you're able to do, I want to say, it's three sample orders a month. No, it's one sample order a month, where whatever you add to your card is 20% off. And you can have up to three items in there. So I think you've probably seen the Fanny packs I've got made and that I've sold at markets. Those are all printful samples. But I've also done t-shirts a lot. 

GP: I would like to look at your items again sometime and touch them. 

CA: I stopped really bringing them to markets because it, I mean, I sold out of the fanny packs and it's not like a product I've been relying on or anything. And with the shirts specifically, I stopped making those because I just hate having to lug shirts at markets. So now I'm almost all tarot games and art prints, specifically. But that being said, I do offer lots of shirts and items on my website that are directly connected to Printful. And almost every product I wear, every shirt I wear, is something from Printful. Because I don't feel like I'm going to wear a t-shirt that markets someone else's business or brand. Might as well just always market myself in my own t-shirt.

GP: Is this from Printful? 

CA: No, that one is silk screened. 

GP: Oh, it is with like a rainbow roll. 

CA: Yeah, yeah. So the the person I was. Yeah, the person who did that one for me, they I told her I couldn't decide on to call on which two colors to make it. So she's like, oh, I could just kind of use two sides of ink, two colors of ink on the screen. And so I just started having her do that for all the silkscreen shirts that I have done, which again, hasn't been that many because I hate carrying shirts and sizes and dealing with all that inventory. Yeah, inventory management is annoying. So like if I were to go the manufacturing of clothing route and we were to compare direct to garment versus sublimation, I think I would be more likely to go the sublimation route because with that equipment, you could then also do coffee mugs and notebooks and mouse pads and all that stuff with the same equipment. The only downside is you can't do cotton as a t-shirt. You can only sublimate polyester. 

GP: Oh yeah, that's, yeah, no, I wanna do, no, I'm gonna do either DTG, the machine I was looking at is, we'll switch between DTG and DTF. I'm sorry, that's what it's called. 

CA: So what is DTF? Is that direct to fabric? 

GP: No, it's direct to something else. But it means that it will print to the word to a transfer. It's a word with an F that it means transfer. And you can do like a 3D object like a hat or something. 

CA: Okay. Maybe it's direct to film or something, and then you can heat that onto the fabric. Is it direct to film? 

GP: I don't know. They should name it something else. 

CA: Yeah. Okay. 

GP: How much is a sublimation machine

CA: So as far as I understand, with my total lack of research and just hearsay, it's generally I think it's just specific inks that you can use on any printer and a specific paper. And then it prints onto that and then you just need a heat press. And then the heat press is coming in different shapes or attachments for different shapes. 

GP: Or an oven. 

CA: I think you need to do pressure and heat so the oven would be difficult. 

GP: Oh, okay. Yeah, I worked at a print shop that did mostly silk screen and they mostly did like mugs and cups and stuff. So I like kind of know what that looks like. We didn't really do that much sublimation. 

CA: Sure. 

GP: Dan worked at a place that did all kinds of stuff. So he actually knows a little bit more about the machines than I do. 

CA: Well, you've seen the pattern baseball caps that I've made, right? 

GP: Yeah. 

CA: Yeah, so the way those are made, the manufacturer sublimates the repeating pattern onto reams of fabric, and then they sew the fabric into hats. Yeah, so that's the sublimation. And since I also work with a lot of disc golf related activities, generally each tournament has a custom t-shirt for the shirt, and those lately have all been all over print sublimated designs. 

GP: But I like to wear cotton. 

CA: No, I get that, I get that. And Direct to Garment is pretty nice. It's not as nice as Silkscreen, but the flexibility of it is more. 

GP: Yeah, ladies like to wear like a cotton shirt. And I like to market to ladies mostly. Have you seen my stuffed animals that I used to make? 

CA: No, I have not. 

GP: So I'm thinking about starting to make them again. And so I used to get the fabric printed through. What's it called? 

CA: Ah- spoonflower

GP: Yeah, spoon flower and I would get like huge rolls of fabric with different animals printed on it. And then I would have a seamstress cut them out, sew them to a different fabric backing and stuff them. I don't know how they printed stuff, but they changed the fabric I was using and it became really annoying. But I think I'm gonna start doing them again. I just, I need to find a fabric manufacturer that I like. 

CA: So I really liked the, I've I really liked the idea of making custom Hawaiian print shirts. And in my mind, I figured I would get fabric made somewhere. 

GP: That's beautiful. 

CA: And then I would have some local seamstresses turn them into the shirts. May I ask what prices you were being charged to get those sewn up? 

GP: It was like nine or 10 years ago, so I don't remember, I remember how I found a person. I put an ad on Craigslist looking for a seamstress tailor type person to do it. And then I paid them per piece. There's a lot of people that will work per piece. And I guess you just negotiate that. I don't know what the cost would be for a handmade shirt, especially in the United States. Could you get them produced in China or something? 

CA: Yeah, I probably could. 

GP: Sewn in China? 

CA: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that would probably be cheaper. Yeah, I've done all over print tank tops in China and those have come out great. 

GP: Cool. 

CA:So it's nice when you can- 

GP: Hawaiian shirts? That would be pretty sweet. 

CA: I thought it'd be really good. I'd like to do like sexy skeleton ladies on a Hawaiian shirt.

GP: Oh my God, can you make like a sundress? I would wear a sundress like that. That would be nice. 

CA: That'd be fun. Be cool to make. 

GP: Or bathing suit. 

CA: Custom parasols too, or fans. Anyhow, I can make anything. But I do. I know you can make anything. It's so fun. I do highly recommend you do not be afraid of browsing Alibaba for manufacturers that will do custom dolls and custom stuff. 

GP: Really? 

CA: Yeah. I've seen some creators on TikTok who have worked with manufacturers. They just send them the design and you know, you're paying really great prices for something that's simple. They'll just sublimate the fabric on huge reams, sew it, fill it, ship it and it's not going to be a heavy thing to ship back either. So I'm sure the Minimum Order quantity would be no more than a hundred for those. 

GP: A hundred for each design. 

CA: Well, maybe not. Maybe not, because if... 

GP: Right, and we could maybe do 50 each of 10 designs or something. Yeah, I'll look into it. That's a really good idea. Thank you. 

CA: When I got skateboard decks done, the minimum order was 20, but 10 per design. So that was very easy to justify for me. 

GP: Okay, yeah, that's a good idea. And then I just pay for samples and whatever. Oh, I love it. 2024, bringing back the stuffed, I call them stuffed critters. 

CA: Yeah. So, cool. And I'm sure it'd be easy, since your art often features characters that people have fallen in love with, it wouldn't be hard to translate an order from, you know, greeting cards to prints to now they're buying a physical doll. 

GP: Yeah, yeah.

CA: So, in hindsight, or maybe on purpose, is there anyone whose business you've been modeling your business after?

GP: When I first started, I started only with cards. So I was looking at other small or like independent card companies and I asked my guidance counselor at school like who do I get advice from? And he like, I think he recommended an alumni that had a small like card business that was doing well. So the first person I talked to, I forget her first name, but of Two Trick Pony is a card company and I just sent them an email and I said like, I'm trying to start this thing and like, can I ask you a couple questions? And so gracious, like answered my questions. Sometimes people are just so kind. So that was one, I like got a book about doing wholesale greeting cards. And that helps me figure out how to like organize stuff. And then after that, it was really funny because I did cards. And I like didn't want to do art prints because I didn't understand art prints and that someone would want to buy an art print. Because I only want to touch original things. But other people don't hair or you know you can't always afford a painting I know like I can't just drop three hundred dollars on everything that I love three hundred dollars fifteen hundred you know so that's when I started doing the art prints it took me such a long time to figure out oh I can do art prints and people will buy them yeah I did cards and I did art prints then I added the stuff's, then I stopped doing the stuffed critters. Then I started doing stickers. Then I started doing earrings, magnets, and ornaments. 

CA: You're still generally keeping everything within the same theme, same art style, and generally keeping it as paper goods. So when it came to, did you trademark your Pergamo paper goods name? 

GP: No. Well, I- Should I? 

CA: So I took a class last year called Co-Starter, which was like this 10 week course. 

GP: I also took Co-Starter, but I don't know about that. 

CA: Yeah. I don't know how useful it was, but it did make me feel comfortable with trademarking. That being said, when you are trademarking, you have to choose what kind of what category to do it under. And if you do multiple categories, you have to pay the fee for each category. 

GP: But what's the point of trademarking my name that's already registered as a business that no one can take in Florida? You think someone else is going to try to start Pergamo paper goods or use my name? That would be very weird. 

CA: Well. I think now, don't quote me, I'm not a trademark lawyer. But if someone tries to sell bootlegs of your art, you have the trademark because it was made under Pergamo Paper Goods. And then you could take legal action against them. But so when I was choosing what category to trademark my business under, I did printing because that allows for adult coloring books, children coloring books, art prints, G-clay prints, hats.

GP: Oh, the coloring books. I love your coloring books. 

CA: Thank you. Thank you. 

GP: I want to do a coloring book. Oh, OK. Well, I highly recommend using Mixam as the printer. They also made my flyers and they've made my last few color books. 

GP: Say that again. 

CA: Mixam is M-I-X-A-M. It's American company. 

GP: Thank you. 

CA: Very cheap. Very great pricing. 

GP: Great. Then they do other small books. I can do just small books through them. 

CA: Yeah

GP: They could do full color too? 

CA: Yep. Yeah, they do tons of stuff. So and they have a dynamic pricing calculator on their website. So it's not like you have to talk to someone to get a quote. 

GP: I don't know. Cool. I like that. 

CA: So aside from looking into printing apparel yourself, what's next for Pergamo paper goods?

GP: Um, honestly, I'm trying not to start too many new projects right now because we're going into holiday order time and I'm already like getting so distracted by all these other projects that are going on. Um, I feel like, like Pergama Paper Goods, maybe I'll add some new types of products. That's like kind of percolating kind of projects that are also art related at the studio. We restarted our queer social, our monthly queer social that's really fun. We do like a craft projects at the studios. I'm meeting a lot of nice people that way. I'm just like lately, I'm just in a super collaboration mode doing like projects with other people personally and it's I'm finding it really fulfilling. That's fun. 

CA: Now I do want to ask you specifically about having like a public studio space at the studios at 5663. Do you find that when you have your monthly art walks that It's valuable sales-wise enough for you to actually be there on those evenings?

GP: Yeah, well, so we had Art Walk last night and it was so lovely. So many people came to visit me that I know and then some people came to visit me that I don't know but who know me. So I had some friends and other artists come visit and I was able to show them what I was working on and then they had ideas and like it, you know, is very inspiring as well as being in my studio space for so long. I've been in it for five years. People know that I'm here. So people will, so there's a lot of people that like see the event on Facebook and they're just like wandering and looking like, oh, what do you have? And you know, maybe they'll buy a couple things, but really more valuable are the people that know that I'm here and that are coming to see me specifically. There was a man and his daughter who came last night that was like, oh my God, I bought a couple pairs of your earrings for my wife at an event a couple years ago. And I want to surprise her with some new earrings. So like he came, like he wanted my stuff. I pulled out all the earrings and we picked out a bunch of new earrings for his wife. And then like people come they talk to me, you know, you know, at a market people come and talk to you, maybe you never see them again. People come and talk to me, they're thinking about they want to buy a piece. They're thinking about which piece they want to buy and then two, three, four times later, they'll buy an original or they'll buy four frames prints. Also, I just meet a lot of nice people. And it's nice to be able to share my art and like kind of get feedback. Also, I never see children. And so when children come into my studio and look at my work, because I still wanna do children's books one day. So when children come in and look at my work, if it makes them excited, I get all excited. So they come in and they're like, cat mermaid, you know, whatever. And then I'm like, which ones do you like? And like, they get very honest feedback. A four-year-old is gonna tell you, I like the horse. That cat is freaky. I don't like that one. So you're like, okay, thank you. That cat is freaky. Just having that kind of stuff. Also the immense value of the studio for me. So I have my space that I can work in that's not my home. So it's not distracting for me cleaning, cooking, dogs, whatever. So I come here. Even if I don't work, it kind of puts me in the right headspace. But my studio, honestly, I think I have the best studio in the world because the people in my studio are incredibly nice and collaborative, and I've gotten to know a couple of them very well and we work on projects together. I can be working on a painting and completely stuck. I go bring it over to John's studio and he's like, you know, do this to it. And I'm like, oh my God, just do this to it. You know, it's really great. I love it here. 

CA: So it does seem like you do get a pretty good amount of value out of having that studio.

GP: I love my studio. 

Like, I love the idea of having a studio too, separate from home. But in my case, I already work from home as my day job. So I'm just so comfortable to just turning my head five degrees to the right to work on a digital project. 

GP: Well, you already have an office. Yeah. So when I got this studio, we were in a very small two bedroom apartment. And I had, we had the second bedroom cut in half. Half was for my studio, half was for Dan's projects, for his sculpture and for his music stuff. So it was so small. And so when I was ready to get a studio, I knew about this space. And when I got here, this room was open, the room with the windows, the best room. I think, you know, it was meant to be. I got the space. Now we have a bigger space, but I still have my studio. Dan has a bigger studio where he has the laser cutter and he has like his workspace. There's not really room for me in the house unless I were to build another shed or something. It is really a wonderful gallery space that you and John and the others have all put together there.

CA: It's quite impressive.

GP: It's great, yeah. 

CA: For anyone who wants to see your work, the best places to follow you are at pergamopapergoods.com or on your link tree, which is l-i-n-k-t-r.e-e slash pergamopapergoods. Are you also, you're also on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, all those things as pergamopapergoods, I assume?

GP: Everything is Pergamo Paper Goods except TikTok, which is just my name, Gianna Pergammo. 

CA: Okay. 

GP: And I'm like trying to work on TikTok, but it's hard. So that one, there's art, but it's also like a lot of videos of my dogs running around because they're incredibly cute. 

CA: One thing I've learned about TikTok is, A, I'm definitely not doing it to its fullest, but B, I get a lot of great engagement on TikTok. If I post a video with just a little bit of helpful information, I'll get tons of comments, tons of people who like it, tons of people who share it. And in that regard, it feels way more organic of a peer-to-peer education platform than Instagram or Twitter ever was.

GP: It's cool because you can just like ask a question and they'll say, oh yeah, like I made it like this. I use this brand, you know, tool and it's, yeah, it's great. I posted, I was doing some paper marbling last month and I was like, I posted a paper marbling video and people are like, oh, which inks did you use? How do I do this? And I'm like, oh yeah, you just blah, blah, blah. Yeah, it's cool. I like that. Also, TikTok shop is kind of cool. 

CA: I haven't messed with that at all. I'm a little scared of it, but have you worked with it? 

GP: I integrated my, I transferred my Shopify site over to TikTok. They don't, I think they're going to have a connector soon. I had to use a third party thing to sync it, but I just imported every product in so that if I do a video about something, I can just tag the stuff. I just started doing it. I only put, my goal is to post on TikTok once a week. So I feel very happy with my four orders so far. It's a start. You have to start somewhere. So I think it's cool. 

CA: That's four more than I've got on TikTok. So yeah. Yeah. 

GP: Do you, is your site through Shopify or is it through-

CA: I'm Shopify. 

GP: Squarespace. Yeah. Yeah. You can just import. I have to import things because I have over 400 products on my website. You know, I'm not manually uploading stuff.

CA: Right. OK, cool. Well, aside from Pergammo paper goods, are there any other manufacturers you work with that you want to shout out? 

GP: So Pergamo paper goods, check out Tad Hill Farm. That is all like vintage imagery, uh, antique imagery that we laser cut onto magnets, ornaments, and earrings, like cute stuff, like, you know, like vintage cats, typewriters and stuff. We have some really cool erotic images that you can get as an ornament. Um, they're very racy. I think you'd like them, Nick. Uh, what else? The other, my new project, uh, it's, it has a silly name. It's called Tina's closet. And, uh, It's one of my dog's nugget. We call her nuggetina. So it's Tina's closet. It's gonna have a lot of rescue inspired apparel. That's what it's gonna start with. So those three things, and then shout out studios at 5663 and Pinellas Park. Come to our fourth Saturday block party, four to nine PM every fourth Saturday. 

CA: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Gianna. Thank you for being an amazing font of knowledge. Thank you for being such a great coach for other artists. And thank you for braving the trails of being a functioning artist who is not afraid to merchandise. You make it easier for everyone else. 

GP: Aw, thanks, Nick. 

CA: Thank you, Gianna. I hope you have a great day. 

GP: You too. 


Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.

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