This week I am joined by Pamela Joy Trow- an expert in growing a small Illustration business into a large Greeting Card business with a national footprint. She is teaching classes and supporting arts through the Dali Museum and other institutions around St. Petersburg.
- Music by Old Romans: https://www.instagram.com/old_romans
You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:
A Conversation with Pamela Joy Trow
Welcome back listeners. I am joined today by Pamela Joy Trau. Pamela and I met years ago at an art event and I never had the benefit of being able to actually sit down with Pamela and have a conversation until now. And in prepping for this meeting, I learned that Pamela is a wonderful resource for turning your art into a business that makes money. So I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of fun things we can learn about. So to begin, thank you, Pamela, for taking time to talk to me. I appreciate it.
Pamela Joy Trow: Well, thank you. Ditto on the appreciation.
CA: So I guess since there's so many things we can cover, I wanna start with, on your bio, there was a note that you, in 2008, you turned your art into the art of Pamela Joy Trow business. And...So what was the, I guess the, what triggered that? Impetus. Yeah, that's the word. I was trying to come up with that. Yeah, okay, that's okay.
PJT: I got it. I was living in Bend, Oregon at the time, which is located in central Oregon in the incredible Pacific Northwest. And I had moved there with my then husband from Atlanta, Georgia. And I spent 13 years in Bend, Oregon, absolutely adored it. It was what an incredible place. And I was practicing my graphic design, illustration, creative direction work. So I had built a clientele up there. And so a lot of times, a lot of my clientele were nonprofits because I did a lot of branding work and they really, really needed it. And I was a very community-minded person, I still am. And I did a lot of events for them to fundraise and it allowed me to purchase products wholesale to sell for them. So I got a little bit into it. At the time, I had, this is kind of, deep. This has got a lot going on with it. I had some history with wholesale before this. So when I lived in Atlanta, it's probably best to kind of talk about that. Because you don't just fall into wholesale, you know, there's something that introduces you to it. So I was at the time in Atlanta, I had a client that was I was doing surface design for women's footwear. And so what that meant is I was illustrating images that were cut out in leather and put on the shoes. And I had to work within a trade show calendar. And at the time I had no idea what was going on, what the trade shows were and all that stuff. And what I learned was they sold wholesale to boutiques, to big box stores, to cruise lines, et cetera. So the way that retailers buy, one of the ways is they go to trade shows that are created just for them to buy. And they go to places that are situated around the country where they have these trade shows. So these places include like Atlanta, Chicago, LA, Dallas, places like that. So we were in Atlanta. So the Atlanta Mart was real close by and that's where one of the places that they attended a shoe show. So a lot of these trade shows were built around a particular categories. Like it could be baby apparel. It could be jewelry. In this case, it was women's footwear and so I had to create in such a way that they would be able to be ready to have these shoes, um, sample created for each of the salespeople and Being able to put them into the trade shows. So the trade shows might be Six months out and so what I did is I would create an imagery. I would either draw it or You know sketch it on the computer. I would give it to the company they would decide if they like it or if they wanted changes or they didn't want it and Ultimately, they would send it off to, in this case, the line was produced in Brazil. And so they would send it to Brazil just to get one shoe back, okay? So Brazil, the shoe company just manufactured one and they would send it back and the company would decide if that's the shoe or if they needed changes to it. And then ultimately, they would, the factory would get the go ahead to produce sample pairs enough for 10 salespeople at the time. And sample size shoes are size six, so all the shoes would be in that size. And so anyway, I had to be ready to make that all happen. And then I had the opportunity to visit the trade show, where they showed all the shoes and retailers came to buy, and I was really just intrigued. And what happened was,I'm not too sure how long afterward it was, but you know, as a creative, I was always creating something and I was doing some jewelry, some handmade artists jewelry. And I built up enough where I said to myself, what do I want to do with it? And most normal people would say, let's sell it to our friends and family. Instead, I went down to the Atlanta Parallel Mart, which is now called America's Mart and got myself a rep. And so these places that these shows are held have sales reps for different manufacturers or different individuals that are producing something. And so I went down and I got a rep in apparel to sell my jewelry to stores. And it was an incredible experience because we did shows and those shows would happen depending on what show it was. I'd have a show usually every three months or six months. And the first show I did, I sold so much that I had a hard time fulfilling the orders. And man, did I learn the hard way. So because I was still working on orders, the next season came along and I said, oh, what am I going to do? So I brought my old board that had all the original earrings that I had. And I'll never forget the showroom, the wife of the showroom owner looked at me and looked at everything, said, this is what you sew last season. And it was like, it hit me. Oh my god, I was supposed to have a whole new line for them. And it wound up, the lessons I learned, which I now share with other artists that want to do wholesale, is that you have to be able to scale. Meaning, once you're selling your stuff and you might be selling to a big box store or to a store that orders quite a bit, you have to be able to produce it and send it out in the timeframe they need it. And so that was the lesson that I learned from not being able to meet those deadlines. So I kind of did it for about a year and a half and then I left because I knew I had to figure this out. So that was my entry into wholesale.
CA: Wow, there's a lot there. A lot there.
PJT: I know.
CA: So let me try and dive into some of that stuff with my own experiences and see how I can kind of relate to that. So a lifetime ago, one of my first jobs was working at a drill bit factory in Miami. And I went to- In Miami.
CA: Well, I grew up in Miami. I went to this thing called the Tigers of Asia show to help set up a booth for the the drill bit factory. And that was eye opening. It was a huge convention center and there's all these little manufacturers from different Asian countries showing like this is the new product. We want to get it in your store. And in my mind, that situation was a lot of manufacturers looking for buyers. So I guess it, and again, I didn't really know what I was doing. I was just helping move things up and set up a booth. So I guess in the situation or the Atlanta show you went to, it's more, I guess it's all sides of it happening, right? So there's manufacturers looking for people to find someone that needs stuff manufactured. There's artists looking to find a manufacturer. There's wholesalers looking to be the go-between is it like, was it specifically tailored to one side of the industry or is it all sides?
PJT: Well, actually in all these shows, you actually sign up as either a vendor or a manufacturer or I forgot what the other categories were. So they cater to all of them. But the first one I went to after, you know, for myself, I wanted to go as a manufacturer but I also wanted to talk to some of the people that were doing what I wanna do. And I was told by the folks that you sign up with, they said that I would get better response if I did not come in as a manufacturer because manufacturer, they would think that you're copying them. So I came in as a store, as a retailer and was able to get a lot of my questions answered that way.
CA: So when you came into that environment, did you have to have like a set booth or something and like entertain people as they came to you or you just have a badge and you're walking around and chatting?
PJT: Well, again, as a vendor, most of the so so the people that have the booths are usually the manufacturers, which are the creators, if you want to relate it to artists, and then the people that attend are they could be people who are reps, sales reps, looking for different organizations to rep, depending on what the show was. In the case of like cards, greeting cards, there's reps that come in and you kind of want them to come into your booth and say, hey, you know, you want them to be interested. And then you could also go, most of the time you want, you want vendors, you know, people that are there to buy because the whole idea is to write orders from the booths. So yeah, I think if I understand what you're asking me, is the major purpose would be to have vendors buy your stuff.
CA: Right, okay. So, but when you're doing that, you do have a set, you have a booth set up, right? You're sitting in a place-
PJT: Well, I didn't come in as a manufacturer. The shoe people, they were the manufacturer, and they would come in and they would create a whole display of their shoes, yeah and you know what, those displays should be pretty incredible. You know, I remember when I first started to look into the marts, I went to the holiday show and I visited the showrooms for some of the big ornament companies. And oh, my God, you would not believe these displays. One of them had literally rooms and each room had a display of a living room or a place you would have a tree, and the whole tree might be 14 feet tall and it might be Victorian, and it'd be all Victorian ornaments. Then you walk into another room and it's more retro. I mean, and that was for a particular ornament maker. I forgot his name, but he's real hot. And so it was just, it showed me the importance displaying your work.
CA: So did you find it hard to be noticed when you're competing with that many? larger companies and that many dramatic displays.
PJT: Well again, I wasn't behind I wasn't in a booth I was one of those vendors walking around and I haven't done the trade show yet In other words.
PJT: My means of getting my work out is I do online that sometimes have trade shows online. So, you know, the vendors, there's different ways that they buy. They buy at these shows. And a lot of times, you know, that used to be the only way they bought. But since the computer, we now have these trade shows online and people still go to the trade shows. Actually, the bigger stores go to search people out. You know, there's an advantage for doing that because you can touch and feel and see the product, whereas online you're ordering it from a picture. But it's expensive to attend these trade shows. It's expensive for the vendor. It would cost me a minimum of $10,000 to have a booth. And that includes getting your booth set up and getting everything here and all kinds of things. Whereas those expenses, you don't have that with online. And so a lot of vendors now too, because they have to spend money sometimes for an airplane ticket and for their hospitality, they have to get a hotel room, they have to pay fees to get around. A lot of them use online marketplaces and the biggest one is called FAIRE, F-A-I-R-E.
CA: Yeah, I've sold through FAIRE and I've an earlier episode, Gianna Pergamo, she does a lot of wholesale through FAIRE too. So I'm curious to know your experience with it because I did not like it.
PJT: Well, the thing about FAIR is they're really the algorithm is very good for when you first sign up. So I got a lot of orders when I first signed up. And as time went by and more folks signed on and were in the same category as me, the orders got less, but what is good about it is I still get orders and I still get orders from reorders from the stores that bought from me. Because in wholesale, the thing you think, okay, I got a store to buy from me. Wow, I'm successful. This is great. But the truth is you want them to reorder. You want to have them as a buyer all the time. And so that's...that's a good thing. And then, you know, there's other ways to get retailers, it's not easy. You know, I do workshops teaching makers and artists on how to get their work into retail environments. And, you know, I teach this to them. But also, there's so much to wholesaling. It's not just, you know, a lot of us, including Gianna, we kind of learn by doing and you know, we kind of learned in the school of hard knocks, I guess you can say, just like the experience I was telling you about. I wish I had something like what I offer today back then, because also the other thing too is I think what I offer helps you to make a decision if you want to move forward or not, because there's so much to it. It's not just, you know, getting your stuff into a product line, but it's about making your stuff a product line that sells, you know. The artists that I cater to with the workshops tend to be artists that have been painting, for example, for a long time. So they have a library of images and they perhaps may think they want to do a greeting card line and put their stuff on the card. That doesn't mean it's gonna sell. I mean, there's so much more to this than the obvious. It's a constant learning experience.
CA: Well, I know we're going to be going all over the place with this because there's so many things to cover, but specifically with your workshops, I'm really curious about how you coordinate those. Like, is there a platform you use for your presentations? Is it just a video? Is it live? Is it all online? Is it in person? What's your history of developing those workshops?
PJT: Well, the workshop started as an idea before COVID and I approached Barbara Sinclair, the CEO of Creative Pinellas with it and she loved the idea. But then of course COVID hit and then after COVID we did the first series and it was incredibly successful and it was in person. And then what I've done is the Alliance for the Arts, which is an organization out of Fort Myers, Lee County. They contacted me, they somehow found out what I was doing. They contacted me and asked me if they'd do it for their constituents. And I said, yeah, but you know, I'm not gonna drive there and back for three workshops. So we did it on Zoom. So I have it in two ways. I have it in person in Zoom. Now the next step for me is I am going to make it videos so that people can get the course when I'm sleeping. I don't have to be there to do it. So that's my next intent with the workshops. It's sort of the next level.
CA: So I have been consulting for a few people on how to self-publish Tarot decks. And because I've been developing all of these... resources like links and like how to interact with manufacturers in China and all that stuff in documents and things that I'm constantly rewriting A while ago. I decided to let me try and actually just make a book and fund that book through kickstarter Like I fund all my other things so i'm still super early in the stages of that But have you thought about rather than just videos having other or maybe you already do have supplemental materials or like a checklist or like a to-do list Things that people can tangibly follow with your courses?
PJT: Yeah. I haven't set that up. What I do do is when people take my course, I let them know that I do consult, I do coach. And also, I set up a Facebook page called Creativores. And it's a private group, so I invite them in. And it's a place where they can continue to ask questions. It's a place where I do what I call pearl posts, which are little pearls of wisdom, things to do or not do with wholesale. There's so much to this and so much I can do. I'm actually starting to think about wanting to maybe create some products and work on Kickstarter. I should really talk to you about that because I never did do that. That's something that I want to do.
CA: Well, with that, the first thing I always tell people is the biggest benefit of Kickstarter is not the fact that you are offsetting production costs. It's the fact that you're getting your art in the front of the eyes of thousands of people all over the world who would never be able to find your art if you did your best of social media marketing.
PJT: And what's also great about that is the ones that do fund. That's your audience. Those are your that's your tribe. Those are the people that are gonna be supporting you. So that's what I love about it. How many, did you get like more than you wanted on any of those?
CA: Yeah, I've done 17 Kickstarter projects so far. Wow. My most recent crowdfunding campaign ended this morning and it failed. It was my first failure. And it's the Women's Wheel Project. I'm still super proud of it. We're gonna redo it probably January of next year, but the biggest issue was I didn't use Kickstarter. I used a new platform from BackerKit, their crowdfunding campaign, which is, they've got just a handful of projects on it. So it doesn't have the traffic of people just browsing, looking for stuff to fund that Kickstarter does.
PJT: So, can't you just put it back on Kickstarter instead of waiting?
CA: Yeah, we can. But I want to re-configure it. So like, it was based on 500 units, the price quotes I got for 500 units of all the elements of the project. And we put a lot of stuff into the project like an enamel coin, prints, journals, all these things that are like, it makes the overall product more of a kit, but it doesn't really serve the true bare bones purpose of the original product. So when we reconfigure it, we're going to do it based on units of 250 quantity and we're going to take out and strip out the things that are not absolutely necessary so that our funding goal is a lot lower. Before $7,000, we're going to be trying to get a $2,000 target for the funding goal. So at least at that point, if no one is interested in it on Kickstarter, we can still just put our own money into it to make it hit its goal.
PJT: So I have a question for you.
CA: Yeah, go for it.
PJT: So in my workshops, I talk about sourcing and funding and all that stuff. And what comes up a lot is producing in China, which it sounds like you've done.
PJT: And one of the things I usually tell folks is to be careful because, you know, COVID and China, it really impacted getting your product. A lot of folks, their product was sitting in the ocean, right? And so I know some folks that produce these really high-end journals, leather-bound journals, and all of those are produced in China. And so they talked about, they were biting their nails about getting it in time because a lot of them were, they had a year connected to it, 1923, whatever it was. So my question to you is, have you encountered that?
CA: No, it luckily didn't become an issue. Well, a few projects ago, I did have the boat was stuck in San Francisco for about three months before it was able to get unloaded and go through customs. So there was a three-month delay, but I had already baked in three months into the estimate. So I still ended up delivering the items to the backers on time. But speaking of journals, I find all my manufacturers through Alibaba, this gorgeous Moleskine journal that I got made comes to $2 a unit when you order 100 of them. Custom printed pages. I got my own logo in there. It's a dot journal, and then I got like an embossed logo in there too.
PJT: But how did you feel about the manufacturer? Were you scared to, you know, hoping that they would fulfill everything?
CA: No, no, Alibaba is great because whenever you complete an order with someone, you write a review, you upload product photos. So if you're looking at manufacturers or looking at products on Alibaba, that's usually the way it works. You type in a product, you'll see a bunch of manufacturers that make them, most in China, some India, some in the US. But then for each one, you'll see people who have ordered from them in the past, you'll see their reviews.
PJT: Oh, great.
CA: They'll review it on communication how quickly it arrived and the quality of the product. And you'll also see their photos too. Plus the manufacturers are always happy to send you a sample. It's usually like $10 for a sample and $30 shipping. It's just something they have lying around. So if it's something that's gonna be a big order, I usually ask for a sample first. And then based on that, I'll kind of change my numbers or decide to go with someone else.
PJT: Mm-hmm, fantastic, fantastic.
CA: Yeah. But anyways, let's talk about you a bit more.
PJT: Okay. Okay. That's all right. I enjoyed learning more about you.
CA: Let's take a look at, if you were to take a snapshot of your business in 2023, what would the pie chart look like? Like what percentage is wholesale? What percentage is gallery sales, like traditional art sales? What percentage is licensing? Like what are your sources of income? And then how has that changed from 2008 to…
PJT: Well, my pie chart would include wholesale D to C direct to consumer, which might be shows or something, which I don't do a lot of. It also includes consignment and it includes, although I didn't have a lot of it this year, participating in shows. So most of my income would be wholesale. And I have to say that this year...was a weird year. This is a tough year. For me, on a personal level, it was tough. I lost my sister in June. And I'm sorry to hear that. It literally did a number on my immune system. And I, about two months later, I got pneumonia and then some other things happen. It was just been a roller coaster. I'm still recovering from. And then the other thing is usually just like retailers, The holiday season is a really good time to sell a lot of work. And this year has been freaky weird. I mean, the stores are telling me things I don't want to hear, but it's things like, you know, that they've hardly gotten people in there. And it's a time of the year in the past where they should have been inundated. Right. So, you know, I'm thinking about how, you know, what's doing this?And I know for sure that has a lot to do with, you know, next year being a political year, people are holding back on their money. You know, the economics is pretty slow. And, you know, sadly, what we sell isn't a necessity, it's a desire. And so there's a lot of people holding back now. There's still a lot of people that will always buy from you and such, but when you're trying to make numbers and increase your numbers. You need everybody.
CA: So wholesale's your biggest chunk then? And has it?
PJT: Wholesale's my biggest chunk.
CA: When would you say it became your biggest chunk, as you as an art producing entity?
PJT: When I said I wanted to be, because getting buyers is a process in itself. So when I decided to do all the work to do that, and I still do it, you have to constantly be doing it. As I got...buyers, you know, I depended on that, you know, of course I did other things like this past year I had a Grant and you know, I've had three grants from creative panelist and They occupied this this last one. Well one before the last was a ten thousand dollar grant That took a year to you know um, I did a coloring book that was about water pollution. So I had a collaborator who was a scientist and we created, I created this story years ago and I finally decided to make it into something and it's a coloring book. It's called, There's a Crystal Clear Pond. And it's about this little girl who comes into a new place and starts polluting the water and the creatures. in the lake, in the water, the pond, and around save the day, and they do it in a particular way. So what I wanted to do is to teach children and adults that when objects go into the water, the water changes that object, but the object also changes the water. And the way we showed that is we got scanned electron microscopy photos of about seven different objects that the little girl dropped in the pond, like styrofoam cups and plastic bags and things like that. And what scan electron microscopy is, where you take an object and you, it's like a 10,000 magnification. So it no longer looks like the product, but instead you're seeing this world, this unseen world of patterns and color, shape, and you don't see the product anymore. And so what we did is we showed, we call them SEMS, we showed a SEM of the product, and then we showed a SEM of the product three days after it's in a pond. And so you can see that there are changes. And the products that were actually more dangerous had little change to it because they didn't decompose. We kind of integrated some food and stuff, which isn't really...an issue because it does decompose, but we wanted to show them what it looks like under the microscope. And so we did, we scheduled nine workshops throughout Pinellas County libraries, and then we did some workshops in other places. And so throughout the year we did this. So it really occupied a lot of my time. And so, and in between that, I, you know, I continue to do what I do. So this year has been a real weird year for me. And I can't say it's something that I can use those numbers as a generality. It's just been a very strange year. And who knows what next year is gonna bring. I mean, it's really, I think, gonna depend on lots of things that are out of my control to a certain extent. I mean, all I can do is vote. So- If you know what I mean.
CA: Yeah. So would it be fair to say then that the growth in wholesale you've experienced is not organic? It is your actual footwork of...
PJT: No, it can be organic for sure. But it also depends on what you do to make that happen. So, you know, the more online trade shows I attend, the more possibility of customers fair does these marketplaces every so often where, you know, you have to give them a percentage off or something, which is really, you know, fair and doing wholesale that way is really, it's a difficult way to really build your business because you are giving a percentage to fair and off of your wholesale price, not your retail price.
PJT: You know, we know that. Wholesale is 50% of what you sell retail. And so you're talking about a few, you know, you have to give a percentage to fair, something like 2.9%, I forgot what it is. No, 15% plus that. And then you have, you know, if you're doing any kinds of promotions, you know, you're taking another chunk out of it. So the bottom line is with wholesale, you know, you're making money on selling volume. Right? And you have to sell volume. I mean, if you're not selling volumes and go back to D to C, you know, selling directly to consumers. So it's really, it's a somewhat of a dance, I guess you can say, but there's definitely an organic aspect of how much you put into it. You know, because although I have buyers that repeat buying, I'm constantly working on getting new buyers. but I'm also constantly trying to retain the buyers that keep coming back. The experience is all about relationships and relationship building. And in all honesty, that's about any kind of sales. I don't care if you're selling nails. It's about establishing an emotional connection with people so much so that they're buying your work over anybody else that has any similarity to your work. So it's a lot of energy.
CA: No, I totally get that, especially in an environment where you're using a marketplace, you're automatically compared to other people because they find you through a search algorithm. They're not walking into your studio, they're typing in whatever, and a bunch of similar things come up. So you really need to have that personal touch because that's the best way to edge yourself out out of the other people who are showing up in those same search results.
PJT: Yeah, but that's like, you know, the whole idea is to have different venues to bring in your people. And so with the marketplace, the other thing you have to deal with is the algorithm. So as I told you before, on FAIR, you tend to, they set up the algorithm so that, you know, it's kind of like a drug, you know, people come in and buy and you're there. Wow. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then they start, they change the algorithm to be more beneficial to the new people. And so, and you have to participate in a lot of these promotions in order to get pushed out there. So, you know, you've got that to deal with too. But, you know, the truth is you don't want to depend on FAIR as your only resource. There's other ways of finding your people. And I teach that in the workshop. And it's about making connections through Instagram. It's about finding people that, I call it benchmarking. Benchmarking is a business term for looking at similar, business that sell similar things that are similar to you. And you look at them not to beat them up, but you look to them as to what are they doing successfully? And then seeing, can you do that? You know, can you actually make it work for you by using whatever they do to successfully get their product or business out there? Okay, so, but there's a lot of ways to do it.
CA: Well, another benefit to the Kickstarter is most of my wholesale orders have been people who found my product on Kickstarter, and then they've reached out to me to see if they can do a wholesale order. So Those are always fun messages to get. Yeah, because your project and the whole campaign always exists in perpetuity on Kickstarter and when it ends, you can add a big button that takes people to your website so they can buy it now that the campaign's over.
PJT: But what's wonderful about that is it makes sense that retailers that are innovative, they want product that not everybody else has. So they probably look at Kickstarter for a while. What's the coolest thing going on? Most likely it's not necessarily all the way out there yet. And I can see where that's a fabulous way for them to go. And I think I wanna do that. But I think for me, I've got to think of that project that I wanna do. The thing about all of this is we do what we do because we have a passion for it. I mean, there's criteria that we have to meet in order to sell it within the way we sell it. Because when you decide to sell your art, you no longer are creating just for you. You know, one of the biggest problems in anything to do with marketing and sales is that people tend to think about themselves first rather than the buyer. And it's important to think about when somebody wants to buy your tarot cards or buy my stickers or bookmarks or whatever, why are they buying it from me? And what is it that makes them want to connect to it? To buy it and then to come back and buy more, right? So that's why it's important to really have a strong sense of who your audience is. And for example, for me, niche markets are good. Niche markets are markets within markets, okay? So for example, if you have a product that you see goes to pet owners. Right? Okay. So you've got pet stores, you know, what kinds of places do you have to get that sold? So how do you niche that though? If that's your market is the pets world, how do you niche it? Well, you niche it by, well, maybe you only do dog products or cat products. And that's great because then what happens, it allows you to go deeper down in the potential. buyers, you know, what, who, what kind of opportunities are available for just dogs, you know, you can approach groomers. Okay. I mean, there's different folks that you can approach based on your audience, right? The one thing you don't want to do is to be so niche that you don't have an audience. So for example, let's say you're making collars, pet collars. You don't want to make pet collars for iguanas, right? Not everybody has iguanas, but you know, you want to find out what kind of pets are popular and you make that for them. Rather than, you know, I want to make pet collars for who, whatever kind of pet there is, only for my pet. You can't do that. You're not going to be successful with that. So you have to think broader and you have to think about how is the person. Who wants this? Gonna buy me. You know, what do they want from me? You know, how do you solve a problem for them? You know, cause maybe your pet collar does something like, maybe it holds some sort of electronic beacon so you can find your dog wherever they might be. You know, something special like that. So you have to think deeper.
CA: To add to what you're saying, there's always a Venn diagram for your product. And that's something that I picture when I think about how I'm going to market one of my things that I'm putting on Kickstarter. So, for example, let's say I have a board game, which is one of the coming out soon, a board game about propagating houseplants. If I market it just to people who are board gamers, yeah, I'll get a lot of people interested in it. But I'm now competing for their attention with thousands of other board games out there. Exactly. So the other half of that market of people who might be interested are people who propagate houseplants So they might not be board gamers, but they might see this game and be interested. So there's always a second market.
PJT: You also have, excuse me, but you also have nurseries and you have You know flower shops. You've got places that have the audience, you know, you don't have to think about The audience as a direct fail you know, that's D to C.
CA: That's true.
PJT: But if you think about the retailers and who they reach, they'll reach more of your buyers than you could. You see. So that's a good way to think about it, too.
CA: So let's let's talk about about what you offer for wholesale. So I know you do greeting cards. I know you do stickers. What else do you do?
PJT: I do greeting cards, stickers, bookmarks, luggage tags. What else? I just started pins. One of the things I'm doing is, and what I try to tell my students is that it's not about offering so many products. I didn't add products until about three years after doing greeting cards. You don't want to reduce or dilute your thinking and your skills and everything. You wanna make sure that the product that you're selling works well with everything else you're selling. So for example, the next thing I got into is stickers because stickers is really considered low hanging fruit in the industry. You sell a lot of stickers, they're low priced, people love them because it's affordable. They can go into a store and buy a bunch of stickers and stick it on water bottles and. skateboards and anything that they want to express themselves with, right? So I went into that and I did see that it was very, you know, I wound up and I still sell mostly cards and stickers out of everything and Then the other thing you want to do is when you create an image you want to You know, it'd be nice if you can make sure that that image can work on other products. So like I'll have I have greeting cards of goddesses, right? And I made bookmarks out of them. It just worked well for bookmarks because the goddesses also have attributes that you can relate to with that goddess. And so I always look for what's the appropriate product. I don't just put stuff on products, you know? Because there's some products that don't work as, you know, I do art prints too, by the way, I forgot to say that. There's...products that only work well as art prints, and they don't work as greeting cards.
CA: I feel like your goddesses would work well as an Oracle deck.
PJT: Probably, you know, I've thought about a tarot deck and I tell you what, one of the things I respect about you and that intrigued me about you is that you took the time to create these beautiful illustrations for what's over a hundred, isn't it over a hundred cards? How many cards?
CA: There's 78 in a traditional Rider-Waite tarot deck. I'm working on my third tarot deck right now.
PJT: See, that's profound to me because, you know, when you enter the market with greeting cards, The suggestion is you should have a minimum of 60 cards, right? I've got 300, right? You are doing, you know, more than 60. I mean, you can take your, I'm sure, your images and you can put them into other products if you wanted.
CA: Yeah, I sell prints and I've made bookmarks and some shirts, but yeah, none of them have served well as the original deck.
PJT: Yeah. Right, right, right. Yeah, and it also takes special, you know, it might take special marketing for that too. But you know, you'll always have something that sells better than the other thing. But I'm very, very impressed with what you do because you're sticking with your tarot cards and your games. They have particular niche audiences, but you have a number of people and stores that would buy that.
CA: Thank you.
PJT: Do you sell to stores yet?
CA: I do. So I mentioned that I've had a few wholesale orders. Most of those have been Hong Kong, Taiwan and Italy.
PJT: Are you not afraid that the Hong Kong is going to copy your cards?
CA: No, because they've reordered from me. So.
CA: And plus, like if I I'm I'm in it's not like I'm sitting on a thousand decks and I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to sell them. I probably sell like maybe two a week through my website, maybe one a week through Etsy. So like they're slowly trickling out and probably this time next year I'll be out and I can start a third edition, which will be another reason to have a Kickstarter project.
PJT: So- So do you reprint or you just do another subject?
CA: Both. So my first tarot deck, Eros Tarot, I'm on the second edition now. And when I did the second edition, it was a second Kickstarter project, which raised more money than the first one, because it brought back a lot of people who I guess wanted to go the first time, but it sold out so they couldn't get it. So now this was their opportunity to get it. It allowed me to try a different manufacturer, allowed me to add additional cards so I can go above the 78 that are required. So it's fun kind of revisiting that project and trying to recreate that old art style I did a few years ago. So I will do a third edition when there's enough demand and it hasn't been on the market long enough that I feel like it's time to do that third edition. Same with my first Oracle Deck, the Gorgle Deck, which I'm almost sold out of now. So I'll give that some time to, like once people start messaging me saying, hey, where can I buy this thing? I'll be like, sorry, it's sold out. After I do that a few times, I'll be like, okay, there's demand up there now for me to do a second edition of that.
PJT: That's great.
CA: And...I love the idea of, so like with Kickstarter, you can't have two projects running at the same time. And it also looks very bad if you've launched a crowdfunding campaign and haven't delivered on the previous one. So I want to always constantly be either delivering or crowdfunding.
PJT: And what's the difference between, are you calling Kickstarter crowdfunding? Is that what you're saying?
PJT: And then you just step with Kickstarter because you know it works, right?
CA: Yeah, yeah. And it's got the biggest audience of people just constantly browsing, looking for stuff to throw money at, from my experience.
PJT: But you know what? You mentioned something that's really important, and that is how you're going to a different manufacturer. You know, one of the issues about what we do is sourcing, you know, finding those sources that produce something in quality, affordable, they deliver on time. I mean, those are all things that I promise you, if you're in here long enough, you're gonna have problems, you know, with your vendors, with your manufacturers of the product. And you know, that is something that, oh man, it's been such a journey, you know? I've had manufacturers that just deliver such a bad product, particularly if you go on to, if you work with online printers and such, that's a real scary thing to do because, you know, everybody and their mother is buying from them. And a lot of time they just deliver a bad product. And for some reason, I don't know why, they think you'll accept it. And if you don't, they make you go through this process of providing proof and all this stuff, and you don't get it resolved for quite some time. So when you find somebody that does a good job and meets all those criteria, you just don't let them go, right?
CA: Right, yeah. Well, I mean, the reason why I switched from Eros Tarot, first edition to second edition is because it's an erotic tarot deck with nudity the manufacturer in China got in trouble with the local government because that's illegal there. So I had to have, so they couldn't ship it to me. So I had to have an American company pick it up and then bring it back to me. So when I did the second edition, but I love that manufacturer. I've used them for everything else since. But for the second edition, I got an American company to print it out of California and communication with them was terrible. And the quality wasn't the best, but I mean, the cards themselves are great. The box, like all the best, material all the best equipment is in China there's no way around it so like you're doing you're really doing the best you can do by sticking in America but if I do a third edition there's a manufacturer in India I want to try out so I might do a sample with them and see how it goes and did you find India doesn't care about nudity.
PJT: Oh okay did you find them in Alibaba?
CA: Yes yes
PJT: Yeah that's good to know
CA: So which of your wholesale items are you manufacturing yourself.
PJT: You mean literally creating or?
CA: Well, I mean, like, are you printing your own prints at home? Are you guys?
PJT: I don't know. I'll be honest with you. I I try not to do the actual work. I mean, I can make more money, but my time, it's my time. And I don't I don't employ anybody yet. Even as an intern, it's something to think about, but I don't do that yet. So everything is more about getting dependable vendors to do it. So, yeah.
CA: So do you store it all at your house and then ship it out when people need that?
PJT: Yes, I do. Well, yes, I do. But it's terrible. You wouldn't believe my bedroom's a bedroom. But actually, I started to get involved in POD, Print On Demand. And I really love it, but it's got its own problem.
CA: So my shirt is Print On Demand.
PJT: Oh, is it? Okay. So for your listeners, print on demand is where you go to a company that either has a bunch of producers or they produce work themselves and you can, they have like anything from blank t-shirts or, you know, slacks, caps, whatever. And also things like mugs and hardline things, shower curtains, all kinds of things. And what they do is they'll link to your Etsy or your Shopify or Squarespace website. And you produce all this stuff as a link or as a post on your Etsy shop and all these places. And when somebody buys it, you know, they think they're getting it from you, but what's happening is the order's going into the print on demand supplier, and they are producing it, and they ship it to your buyer. Now, that all sounds wonderful and dandy when it works. One of the problems with print on demand is, you know, these places are big, so they do make mistakes, and particularly when they get really busy, and what happens is because they, let's say you're doing a mug, and it comes back, you know, off center or something like that. You don't know that because it's being shipped directly to the buyer and the buyer, they perceive that it's your problem, that you are the one that, you know, think about this or didn't do your quality control. And what happens, you know, you have to explain to them how you're doing it, but it still doesn't change their attitude about you. And then it takes, like I said before, this whole process to get it fixed because you're working with this third party who's super busy, right? And so they have a particular process that you have to fulfill through. So there can be some good things about POD and definitely some bad things about POD. So far, I've been liking it.
CA: Yeah. So when I first started with POD, the main manufacturers I worked with were Printful and Printify. Printify was incredibly inconsistent with the quality of the samples I was getting, so I stopped dealing with them. And they don't actually do any printing themselves. It's just like a hub of different printers around the country. Printful, meanwhile, everything I've gotten from them has been fantastic quality. And they also do QC on everything before they ship it to the backer. So if you order on their website, you'll see what stage it is in. It'll be like stage one, picking, stage two, printing, stage three. Quality Control Stage 4 packing Stage 5 shipping.
PJT: That's awesome.
CA: Yeah, so I love them and they've been great. I had a whole conversation on an earlier episode with our local artist Mark Williams about how we've been using them and other companies on our websites with the correct thing. But like, so related to that, when I first started with Printful, I overdid it. I made t-shirts, prints, mugs, Laptop sleeves for just about every illustration I ever did and my website was a hot mess.
CA: So I've noticed like you kind of With when confronted with too much choice your customers will choose to just leave the website so I feel like I've gotten better returns when I severely reduced what I'm offering and maybe just have like Seasonal collection that could just rotate or so.
PJT: But but but I want to add something is It's also about navigation on your website and the quality of the navigation. So if you have a way to let them know while you offer all this and they can get to it by, you know, clicking. So in other words, when they open up to your website, they're not necessarily seeing everything that you do on one page. So to me, the answer to that would be to have some excellent navigation on your website to get people to go where they wanna go. Cause usually they come into your website and they tend to have an idea of what they're looking for. Sometimes people are just looking through it. But if you have a dropdown and a good navigation, they can go to where they want to. So, yeah. But I think that's great that you're trying it all.
CA: Yeah, I definitely need to have, I wanna hire a professional to look at my site and evaluate it. I mean, my biggest sellers are just the tarot decks, the Oracle decks and things like that, which I'm fine with, but like I want to be able to see how someone who comes into my site to buy a tarot deck, how I can convince them to also buy a t-shirt with their favorite card from the tarot deck or buy a print or something like that. Like I wanna sell, I wanna increase the purchase of each person who comes to the site. But anyways.
PJT: Right. Yes, you want to increase the AOV, which is average order value. There's a lot of terminology in wholesale.
CA: So let's talk a bit about your organization or your interaction with your involvement. That's the word, your involvement with the Zodiac committee.
PJT: Oh, okay. That's a big switch.
CA: So yeah, well, I mean, we're already like 58, 57 minutes and I know we can probably talk for two hours but yeah
PJT: Okay sure.
CA: Go ahead. Tell us about the Zodiac Committee.
PJT: I'm on the Zodiac Committee of the Dali Museum. So what is the Zodiac Committee? Well the original Zodiac Committee was formed in 1930 when Dali was not so famous. He had 12 patrons that supported him, one each month for that year in return for a painting. And so the concept of the Zodiac Committee was reinstated in, I think it was 1996 at the Dali Museum, to serve a particular purpose. And that purpose is basically to work with membership and create programs that excite members and maybe even bring in more members, or have members re-up. So it's really about us being ambassadors of the museum. And the way I got involved with it is one of the signature events is called the Dali Dozen. And each member of the committee, again, there's 12 of them. And by the way, we do have a liaison to the museum and we have the goddess. Megan Moyer, she's our membership director for the museum and she's also our liaison. So this Dali Dozen is one night in December these artists get to show their work to members and we recently added non-members can buy a ticket to it too. And I had the incredible opportunity to be a Dali Dozen artist in 2018. I was contacted by Marie Jones, who's no longer on the committee, but she was on the committee and I got a call from her and she said she was walking through, I think it was Tree House Gallery at the time where I had some work, and she said, you know, she loved my work and she wanted me to be her artist and I was, oh my god, I was so just honored because, I mean, as an artist person on the committee, you can pick anybody you want, you know? I mean, any artist, and you know our community is filled with phenomenal artists. So I got to be a Dali Dozen artist, and then after it, she asked if I wanted to participate in being on the Zodiac Committee, and of course, didn't have to think twice, I said yes. And so I started on the committee in 2019. And I'm so excited about this year's Dali Dozen. Some things happen and a lot of us on the committee got to pick two artists. It's very rare that we get to do that. So one of my artists is Jessica Oxner, who creates bikinis and accessories to those bikinis, like straps and buckles, that you can change and the bikini becomes something totally new and fresh. And she's probably one of our first fashion-oriented artists. And then my other artists, I don't know if you might've heard of them, is this guy named Nicholas Ribera. Have you heard of him?
CA: I'm familiar, I'm familiar. Yeah, yeah. So I'm so excited to have you.
PJT: I thought about you more than just for this one in the past. And I'm so excited when this opportunity came up, because I had talked with Jessica a long time ago, like at the beginning of the year. And anyway, I'm so glad that you're doing it. And I'm so excited. One of the things we started last year that we're going to do again is Best of Show. We're going to have the people who attend get to select who they like the best.
CA: And- I am very honored. Thank you so much again for-
CA: I can't wait for it. For nominating me for this.
PJT: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's not a show where you're selling your work. It's about introducing you to people. And you know, they-go somewhere else to buy your work, whatever. But I found it to be so exciting. So many people were interested in what I do. And I even got a wholesale account out of it. So you never know what you're going to get, right? It's an honor. So I'm looking forward to it. And I'm looking forward for you to enjoy it and share your incredible work.
CA: Well, I do feel like it's a big deal. I mean, so Like one of the other things that this is having me think about is last year I applied to the Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Grant and I didn't get it. So I was so soured by it that I decided not to apply this year. But next year I know my resume would be stronger because I've got the Dali Dozen and I've been doing this podcast. So I feel like in that even before Dali Dozen has happened, I feel like it's possibly opening up doors for me.
PJT: It might prevent you from getting emerging artists, because you might not be perceived as emerging. You have to think about that too. But look, anything like this, not everybody gets to do it. There's an honor to it. And putting that on your CV or resume or whatever you want to call it, I mean, is a nice nick in the belt. You know? So...Again, it's not like you really go in there with the intent on selling. It's a different kind of attitude. It's more about exposure and the people that attend these events love art. They are your audience, right? It's an automatic audience. So it's about gaining those folks too. Maybe they'll buy off your website or whatever.
CA: Well, again, thank you so much for that. And this has been an incredible conversation. I know we could we could go on for hours, but I don't want to. I know I don't want to. I don't want to put our listeners through too much. I'll probably just have to have you on again at some point. So if anyone who wants to follow you or learn more about your workshops, you are available at Pamela Joy Trow.com. That's spelled.
PJT: That's my shop. But I do want to say that they can friend me on Facebook, where I kind of put everything. And I'm always posting when the next workshop is. And by the way, I can tell you when that is. Oh, great. So the workshops, the first one is about wholesale, what that is. The second one is creating a product line. And the third one is about how to create a greeting card line. Although you can take any one, the best way to do is to take them all. But the third one is happening on November 15th and it's a Zoom one and it's being sponsored by the Alliance for the Arts. So you would go to artinlee, that's Lee County, dot org, A-R-T-I-N-L-E-E dot org to sign up for that one. And then. We are starting again in January. And again, if you friend me, I can, you know, you'll get all the information. And then the Morean is going to be doing an in-person workshop series starting January 13th for the first one, then the following weekend, these are Saturday workshops, is workshop two, and the following weekend is workshop three. And I'm in discussion with other organizations about holding this. So there's no excuse you should be able to attend any of them. Thank you so much.
CA: Yeah, this episode is also gonna be coming out, I wanna say November 29th, so just before, yeah. So the week before Dali Dozen, which is gonna be Wednesday, December 6th. And I'm gonna see you there, I hope.
PJT: Of course, I'll be there.
CA: Okay, great.
PJT: I'll be there for you, yeah.
CA: And I'll put all these links too in the show notes. So thank you again so much, Pamela.
PJT: Thank you, Nick. You're wonderful. I look forward to this experience with you.
CA: Thank you.
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.