Once upon a time, back in the days of 2009, I was working for a card and gift publisher; a lovely, independent firm that created greeting cards, stationery and gift products.
It was a great place to work, our office was within the obligatory ‘stone-throwing’ distance of a sweet shop (ye olde variety), a bakery and a champagne bar; yep – sweets, cakes and champagne – that’s all of your major food groups right there.
by 2009 I had worked there for over six years and been through a whole heap of jobs from processing the orders and helping customers to analysing product sales and juggling suppliers.
Over the years working in the industry I met tonnes of people: retailers, suppliers, buyers, artists and fellow publishers. One of my favourite times of year was when we had new products ready to launch. We’d get to visit an exhibition and show off all the new, shiny, glittered and foiled designs. We’d also get a sneaky look at what everyone else in the industry had been developing.
I’m sure you’ll remember that it was in 2009 when all of the credit crunch stuff was starting to hit. The high street and small independents were struggling; it affected a lot of our customers and in turn, it affected us. The result for our company was a need to scale back. Myself and the two lovely ladies I worked with were made redundant. It was a very sad time as I knew I’d no longer be spending my days working with some of my closest friends.
However, in true ‘glass half-full’ fashion I was also a little bit excited about the possibilities of what would come next. My first decision was to return to a role I’d had before my days in the world of cards and gifts and work as a freelance copywriter. Before all the greetings cards, this had revolved around news agencies and sports like Hockey, Rugby and Formula 1; a tad different from the gift industry.
In 2009 however it was all about websites; marketing, social media and most importantly blogging. I loved the idea of blogging, lots of folks all over the world, showing off their lives, opinions, likes and dislikes. The more I thought about it the more it seemed like the perfect medium for the card and gift world.
Over the years I’d got to know thousands of companies, big and small putting out tens of thousands of products, several times a year. With that many products from thousands of talented designers, there would always be lots to blog about. Thinking a little closer to home, I knew lots of friends starting out in the industry that needed a little help getting their products noticed, what could be better than a blog? Free publicity that the whole world could easily access.
I also thought about my friends in their shops and boutiques; they were using the web more and more to search out new suppliers; to discover new designers to visit at the trade shows. Once again a blog that could showcase lots of different designers and products seemed like a perfect fit; a ‘one-stop-shop’ for fabulous card and gift products. So with little steps I resolved to create Card & Gift Blog; not the most imaginative name I admit, more of a… “does what it says on the tin.”
So the online world has introduced me to many brilliant websites, and many talented designers all over the world. After 7 years, well over 1,200 blog posts and more than 1 million visitors I’m still not sure I’ve featured even 1% of what’s out there.
A few years ago however I also started to see possibilities that went beyond the blog. While the blog was perfect for seasonal updates and little shots of publicity I wondered if there was a way to show off the designers and brands I loved on a long-term basis. The answer was a directory. A place where card or gift publishers and related businesses could list their wares; while at the same time finding and connecting with other people in the industry.
At the time our blogspot home however couldn’t offer a directory, so I hunted around for an alternative. After a bit of research I found the perfect WordPress home for the blog and its new directory.
Now Card & Gift Blog was going beyond its blogging origins I decided it was time for a new name; once again there was lots of pondering before eventually Card & Gift Network was born. A new online hub that can continue to unite, celebrate and support the card and gift industries.
Between 2013 and 2014 I moved the blog to its new home and Card & Gift Network was born. I also set about building the trade directory and this is where things went a little awry. Working in my spare time between clients and running the blog I’ve built, dismantled and rebuilt 5 trade directories. Hitting various brick walls and jumping programming hurdles left, right and centre.
It’s not been fun, at times it’s been down right depressing, at one point “third time lucky” seemed like a charm, then … brick wall. With attempt number 4 things were so close, there was even an almost accidental launch! But now I’m on five, things are finally looking good and I have a directory close to completion that could actually help the unite greetings card & gift seekers and sellers.
It doesn’t actually end there though.
As well as building the platform for greetings card & giftware sellers to find customers I also realised that they needed help making the most of that platform.
I’ve been sharing my online marketing knowledge informally and with private clients for years now but going forward I want to make that available to anyone.
Online marketing and online selling are complicated subjects and there’s a lot to learn but but over the next few months I will be building a stash of resources that will help card and gift companies learn to promote their business better and sell more online.
It’s been a long, long journey but as I now look at my 2017 calendar I can see the launch of the next phase of Card & Gift network getting closer and closer.
Card & Gift Blog Launches.
Visitors from across the world.
Fans & Followers.
Card & Gift Images Submitted for Features.
Card & Gift Network gets a new WordPress website.
The website relaunches as Card & Gift Network.