Graphic designer and self-proclaimed “Paper Nerd” Heather Klinger has been focusing on greeting cards for half a decade, with holiday cards making up a significant portion of sales for her business, Klinger Creative. With holiday craft and gift fairs cancelled due to public health concerns, she has missed a valuable point of contact with card-buyers this year. At the same time, the inability to gather gives sending holiday cards extra warmth this year. SN&R spoke with Klinger about her love of cardmaking, how the pandemic has changed her business plans, and her biggest seller this year—a card called “Love in the Time of Coronavirus.”
When did you start your business?
I’ve been running my own business since 2016 so almost five years. It started mostly as a graphic design business. And then I added greeting cards for fun and found that I really enjoyed doing the cards. So that became more of a focus about two years ago … it’s really been the last couple years that I’ve expanded to the point where I have over 130 card designs now. It’s greatly exploded over the last couple of years.
Of that 130, what would you estimate are holiday related cards?
I originally started out with just holiday cards, but now it’s probably about, maybe 20% of what I have. I really worked on expanding more into birthday cards, thank you, [a] variety of cards to make my line more valuable for wholesale clients. Seeing people at craft fairs–you know, holiday cards only sell one time of year, so I’ve really tried to expand it to all types of occasions.
Talk a little bit about selling holiday cards in 2020. Obviously the majority of [holiday craft and maker fairs] were canceled. Has that been a hit to the business?
It’s been tough. I’ve been really fortunate that I already had a web store online. I already sold on Etsy as well and I have a wholesale account on Faire. So luckily I was already online. People have stepped up and I’ve seen my web orders, triple this year versus last year, just because I wasn’t doing my regular craft fairs, so it definitely took a chunk out of what I would have made. Because I found a lot of people, especially [at] my November, December shows. A lot of people would pick up holiday cards and stocking stuffers…Not having the craft fairs was a big thing, because people like to see the cards, they like to see the quality and just see what they look like in person. It’s a little harder to sell them online versus in person, so it was definitely difficult, but I’m happy that people bought stuff online.
You said you’ve seen online orders triple. Are they regulars?
Yeah, there’s a lot of return customers which is always really nice to see. Also I’ve seen a lot of local people I don’t recognize but I would say a huge majority of my cards
, go to local people who live in California or just in the outer Sacramento area.
Do you attribute that to anything?
Probably just word of mouth. I’m not exactly sure. I think a percentage of them are people who [usually bought at craft shows]. Some probably come from Instagram
, where there’s a nice community of a lot of local makers. I have friends who are soap makers and make candles and other types of things. We’re all pretty good about sharing each other’s businesses and reposting stuff so I think that maker community really helps boost everyone else.
You said the cards have been a more recent addition. What other products do you do you offer?
The main part of my business is custom graphic design services…I started as a freelance designer and illustrator and that’s still the bulk of my income, but this year especially I found that I really enjoy making the cards and stationery. I feel (like most people were at the beginning of the year) that I was feeling very optimistic and I was trying to kind of turn my business into this different area focusing on the cards, and my wholesale accounts were good, retail was good, and then COVID hit and everything just kind of went nuts. With my cards, I started with holiday and then I met another card maker who actually lived off her card business and she really encouraged me to expand what I’m selling. Birthday cards are huge. I did like a Coronavirus card this year and that was one of my top sellers. People [also] really gravitated towards the generic “thinking of you” cards. I think cards were a great way to do it [safely].
Tell me a little bit about the coronavirus card, what the messaging was there.
It’s “Love in the Time of Coronavirus.” So I made that I was trying to come up with a couple ideas that people could use. I wanted it to be a versatile card so people can use it for a missed anniversary or a missed wedding or a canceled event that was impacted by COVID. So I just made a very simple card like that and people really, really liked it. It was definitely one of my top sellers this year [but] I’m going to be glad when I don’t have to carry it anymore because it’s a sad reminder of the craziness of this year, but that definitely was one of my top sellers.
I think we all have our fingers crossed for 2021, COVID and otherwise. What are what are your plans going into the New Year?
I definitely I’m going to keep expanding my cards. My design business took a huge hit this year…The first thing [businesses] cut was their marketing budget. It was tough but I really got back to my card business, which was nice. I’m really focusing on new designs. I’ve got a bunch of new designs that I’m going to put out beginning of the year. I’m really focusing my efforts to get my cards into more shops. My goal is to get my cards in every state in the U.S., so I think I’m in 22 states right now.
Find Heather’s cards at KlingerCreative.com