Hi guys, I've spent the last few months making some enormous and exciting changes to our business model. As of April 1, Emily McDowell Studio has partnered with The Madison Park Group on our wholesale production and fulfillment. WHY DID WE DO THIS AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN? I think that's best approached in a good old-fashioned Q&A! Have a seat while I interview myself.
Q: Hi Emily! First off... why did you do this? I mean, you've been busting your ass for three years to build your company.
A: That's very kind of you to notice. You are correct; I have been busting my ass for three years (which feels like a decade). By June of 2015, our company was 14 people, and I was spending about 85% of my time answering questions, figuring out infrastructure and production, handling staff issues, worrying about where in the ocean our ship of tote bags was, doing math, and solving general business problems, even after delegating a TON of it away to very competent people. For the past year especially, it's been really tough to have the existence of the company be dependent on me having ideas and making them, when I didn’t have time to actually do that. I started to think, “Should I build a creative department?” The problem was, the thing I most enjoyed doing was the creative work, and I didn’t want to turn that over to other people. And the work really started to suffer this last year. I wasn't happy with our last product release, and everything felt so rushed and hurried. I was having to say no to a lot of things I really wanted to do, like creative partnerships with other brands, speaking opportunities, and writing, because there just wasn't time. I'm turning 40 in two months, and I already had a 10-year career in advertising that I gave up most of my nights and weekends for. Emily McDowell Studio grew so quickly that I didn't have time to stop and really consider what kind of life I wanted to be living, I was just trying not to screw it up. If I were ten years younger, I think I might have leaned in, doubled down, and whatever other metaphors there are for deciding to keep building everything myself. But after a lot of soul-searching, I came to the conclusion over the winter that I couldn't keep working the way I've been working. I love what I do, but I can't do it ALL the time -- which is what it takes to build a company. I am so incredibly grateful for our success, but also really tired, and yearning for a more sustainable life. And a life in which I spend more time working on the things I love to do. This was a very tough and scary decision, but I am 100% happy with it. It will give me the opportunity to create WAY more stuff (more on that in the next question), and also do things like writing, working with charities, speaking, and focusing on making our website awesome, since Madison Park will only be working on the wholesale end of the business. Oh, and it will also give me time to do other things like put my clothes away, see my friends, and not cancel every vacation.
Q: What exactly is Madison Park going to be doing?
A: Our company has two branches: wholesale, which involves selling our products to about 1,800 stores worldwide, and what we call retail, which means selling directly to regular people on our website. Running a wholesale business on that scale requires many times the money, infrastructure, and staff as running an e-commerce site does, and the wholesale side is where most of the biggest challenges have come in. Madison Park are wholesale experts, so they're taking over the wholesale end of the business, which includes handling our product manufacturing, warehousing our wholesale inventory, receiving and shipping our wholesale orders, and managing our sales reps, showrooms, trade show booths, and wholesale marketing (with my creative direction). Our VP of Sales and Wholesale Coordinator have become Madison Park employees, and they'll be continuing to do their exact same jobs on our brand.
Q: How will this affect the brand and your products?
A: The look, feel, tone, and content of the brand and products will stay exactly the same. I am still in total control of the creative. The big difference in working with Madison Park on our production and product development is we'll be able to make all kinds of new gift products that we couldn't make on our own. In August and October 2016, we're looking at introducing insulated coffee mugs, cocktail napkins, journals, enclosure cards, and a super secret thing I invented that I'm not telling anyone about yet. Future releases are slated to include candles, bath and body products, and basically whatever we can think of. Madison Park already works with some great brands (and friends of mine) like Katie Daisy, Party Partners, and Shannon Martin, Girl Designer, so they have this whole product development thing DOWN in a way that takes many years and many people to figure out. We'll be able to grow the brand much faster and better than we ever could on our own.
Q: Will this affect your website at all?
A: Nope! We are still managing our site and etsy shop (but you should really be shopping on our site by now, cough cough). We kept part of our inventory at our warehouse we built in Las Vegas, and we'll keep running our online shop and shipping those orders from our warehouse the same way we always have. All of the new products we'll be making will be available on our site. We WILL be working over the next six months on overhauling our site and making it really great, now that we have the time to be able to focus on it.
Q: Will you guys still exhibit at the National Stationery Show and NYNOW (wholesale trade shows), and have your own wholesale catalogs?
A: Yep! We are keeping our own separate booth at all the trade shows, and we'll still have our own catalogs. Madison Park will just be managing the logistics with my creative direction. I'll still go to all the shows, and so will Charlie and Alison, my former employees who are now with Madison Park.
Q: So... what happened to your employees?
A: Some of them kept their jobs with us. Two of them got hired at Madison Park to do their same jobs, working on our brand. And a few of them got laid off because their jobs went away. Not gonna lie, that part fucking sucked, and it was honestly the main reason I didn't do something like this sooner. But ultimately, this shift was a necessary thing for the long-term health of the company and my sanity.
Q: If I'm a retailer and I have a bunch of questions about things like sales reps, who to pay, and terms, what do I do?
A: Don't worry! Here is a link to a separate FAQ just for our retailers.
Q: What are you going to do now?
A: Well, I'm doing a photo shoot for our spring 2016 wholesale catalog with our photographer Sarah Deragon this weekend in Sonoma, which is where she lives now, because her life is awesome. Then on Monday I'm getting my tattoo finished. Then I'm going to be editing the book I'm working on with Dr. Kelsey Crowe of Help Each Other Out, called There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love. It's coming out from HarperOne in January 2017, and it's going to be an illustrated, practical guide to being there when bad shit goes down. It's a natural follow-up to Empathy Cards, and based on all the feedback we got, it became clear that the world could use a down-to-earth book like this. Kelsey is an empathy expert, which is great, because I never claimed to be one, I just had cancer and sometimes write funny things. But RIGHT now I'm going to go to bed, because it's 10:30 at night and I'm not supposed to be working this late. This concludes the interview with myself. Do you guys have any more questions? Let me know in the comments -- I'm happy to explain anything. Here's the postcard we sent out to all our retailers announcing the partnership: