Steph is a longtime entrepreneur with a successful business in the paper products industry at JoyCreativeShop.com. She started right out of school and has literally never had a boss her entire working life. Things are going great, but as her kids have gotten older she’s found herself with more time and wondering if she can’t grow it into something more.
In this episode, we look at a business that is already past the beginning phases and into what I’d call an “intermediate” level. Steph has found her niche, knows her audience, and is successful at selling products to them. Not only that, she’s already hired some help that’s gone a long way toward improving efficiency and increasing her capacity.
One of the things we discover in this episode is how to leverage the resources you already have to figure out which direction to take next. In Steph’s case, she uses influencers to market and sell her products, so it makes sense to reach out to them to develop new product lines that might be a more passive source of income. We also talk about how making the effort to connect with your customers on a more personal level, even if that’s as a simple as an automated thank you email written in your voice but separate from the Etsy or Shopify receipt. Steph wants to take a different approach than most to add that personal touch, so take a listen to hear her unique point of view.
Pat Flynn: What's up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 1084 of AskPat 2.0. This is the podcast where you're going to listen in on a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur just like you, and today we're talking with Steph from joycreativeshop.com. Steph is amazing. She has an amazing story about how she got started with entrepreneurship right out of college and is now in the paper products industry, but she needs some help. And this is what we're going to be talking about today: how to scale her business, what products should come next, and how does she know? Where should she go next? She's built something successful but she knows she can scale. She just doesn't know what to do, so that's what we're going to talk about today and I'm excited to chat with you.
Actually, before that, I just want to give a big shout out to everybody out there who's also starting podcasts. A lot of news has been coming out about the podcast industry lately. Apple's been making some big changes. Spotify is coming on the scene. A lot of people are starting podcasts, and you should definitely start one too. And if you haven't started one yet, I highly recommend you check out my free Podcast Cheat Sheet. All you have to do is go to smartpassiveincome.com/podcastcheatsheet and that's going to give you the rundown. Literally, it's a checklist of start to finish, how to get your podcast up and running, so definitely check that out. smartpassiveincome.com/podcastcheatsheet. Go ahead and check it out there and happy to help you out.
All right, now let's get to today's episode with Steph Weibring from joycreativeshop.com. Steph, welcome to AskPat 2.0. Thanks so much for being here.
Steph Weibring: Thanks for having me. I'm excited.
Pat: Why don't you take a quick moment to share with everybody who you are and what you do.
Steph: Perfect. My name is Steph Weibring. I'm based out of Dallas, Texas. I am a mom to three little kids and a business owner. And I've been an entrepreneur since my first job out of college. I created my own job out of a need, and then ever since then I got the bug and can't go the other way, and just keep trying to learn and grow, and find new avenues to do what I love, as well as make a living.
Pat: That's really neat. Can I ask you what that business was coming out of college?
Steph: Sure. It's actually not far from what I do right now. It was in the paper industry. So I had a greeting card line that was sold wholesale to three or four hundred stores across the US and I'm still in the paper business, more on the custom side where we have an ecommerce site, we sell direct to consumer. We've just launched wholesale last year, but I'm still in the same area. My background is graphic design, so I have a love for good design and typography, and great color. So that's how I start, and then from there we create products that represent our brand.
Pat: That's really cool. And when you say we, who are you talking about specifically? How big is the company and what's the name of it?
Steph: The company's name is Joy Creative Shop and “we” includes myself and one person part-time. So we're very small. I just went into having an employee for the first time, which has been a huge learning curve and it's actually opened my eyes to so much opportunity where I really was happy working alone and didn't think I wanted to go that way or that direction. And bringing her on—her name is Mallory—was the best thing I've done so far in business.
Pat: That's really awesome. Thank you for sharing that. And the URL, would that be joycreativeshop.com?
Pat: Perfect. Cool. So sounds like things are rocking. What can I help you with?
Steph: So I think . . . When I've listened to your show in the past, I listened to all the different stories and I'm so inspired by how people get from A to B, which is so interesting to me because everyone's journey is so different and mine has been long but perfect. And you know, it's worked out as well as it could have. I've had three kids. I've stayed home with them. I've really . . . it's been ideal. I'm at a point in life where I can ramp it up a little bit and I love work. Work's my happy place, gives me something to do in addition to being a mom, but it also allows me to have an outlet for my creative side. My brain is full of ideas and thoughts and I think I'd go a little crazy if I didn't do anything. But I have the paper business and it's growing, which is awesome. We've been real intentional about trying to scale and make plans for growth. The one thing I noticed online that I would like to capitalize on, that I really am a little bit clueless is, we are a product-based business and I would love to chat with you about how do I . . . we've got so much as our base, but how do we capitalize that in other directions such as, maybe not affiliate marketing, but making passive income using what we already have. Does that make sense?
Pat: It totally makes sense, and it's a good opportunity, and it's a perfect time to talk about this because you are doing well and you want to, like you said, turn up the dial a little bit. So there's a few things that I always ask when it comes to people who are successful, who want to do more, and that would be why? And you've already answered that question, which is really great. But then I need to ask you, have you fully optimized what you've already done? Because what a lot of entrepreneurs do . . . I'm just like you, Steph. I have a billion ideas, right? And as soon as I get an opportunity to do a new one, and it won't hurt what I have, then I'll do it. I did this with a physical product recently, a little invention that seemed out of left field, but it scratches that itch for me. And so I want to make sure you're able to scratch that itch but do it in the right way. So the question I want to ask is, do you know that you still have things to do with the work that you're doing now, and you're using this as a squirrel syndrome distraction? Or is everything running pretty smoothly and you do have that extra time and some leeway to start focusing on other things?
Steph: I think I definitely have some time now that I've got someone working with me. She's very talented and doubles my capacity for what I could produce.
Pat: That's really good.
Steph: So in the past I would've said, “No. I really should focus on what I'm doing and kill it.” But now that we're doing well and growing and we've gone into wholesale, we've got our retail, everything's kind of working . . . we can always spend more time doing more, but I want to see if just expanding one direction a little bit, what that does for our brand and for brand awareness and really profitability. Because we tested out a few downloads for a holiday season and were surprised with, “Oh, that's very little time on our part.” And then it just kept selling, and it would either email to them automatically or we made one quick customization and then emailed it to them. But no physical product, no shipping, and we were surprised by that. So we've tested a touch, and I think there is a market for it. So now it's like how do we really take that to the next level?
Pat: Well, when you create a new a card for example, what is your protocol for getting that in front of everybody?
Steph: Right now we basically, we'll design the product, obviously we'll sample it on our end, photograph it, and then get it out either . . . add it to our shop as well. We've got an Etsy shop and then a Shopify, just regular e-commerce store, and put it on social media, as well as a newsletter.
Pat: Very cool.
Steph: If we're doing it ourselves, we get a good amount of traction. But what has worked for me, and is really the way I've grown, is rely on our influencers that we work with for our brands, and they put it out and then we see huge success.
Pat: Now have you discussed with your influencers, or maybe a particular influencer that you have a good relationship, the idea of expanding your product line a little bit and have gotten their thoughts on what their audience might want?
Steph: No, but that's an awesome idea. That’s a great idea. They were the ones that originally came up with the download and part of them were used just for email, getting email addresses and then some were used for sale, and both did really well. So that's a great idea to just reach out to them and see what they're needing in their life that their audience would relate to.
Pat: Yeah. The beauty of that is you don't have to guess. Right? That's a big problem with entrepreneurs. We feel like we know the answer, however, we don't know for sure, but when you have these connections, which is why it's so important to build these relationships. Not just with your customers, which is another place where you can have people answer questions for you like, “Well, what else do you need? Or what else is of interest to you?” But going to your other influencers who have that trust with their audience, who maybe even on a higher level really care to only put the best things in front of their people, so you being able to create, you being able to supply, they would be able to help produce for their audience and it could be a win all around, which is really neat. The other thing is when it comes to your physical cards, how far in advance are you planning in terms of, “Here's the new line. Here are the new things that are coming out.” And do you at all let people know what's coming before they're even out?
Steph: No. And that is something that I am determined to get better at. It's more of a launch format rather than, “Hey, look what we made,” and pop it out, with no warning. We are going to do that. We actually have it scheduled for . . . we have a fall, an everyday release, and then a month later we've got a holiday release, and we are going to actually be real intentional about letting our influencers know so that they too can share that we've got those things going on. But it gives us a chance to trickle in content leading up to—it doesn't need to be a huge launch, but just making people excited about what's to come. I'm hoping that that will also just be—it's new for us, and it’s . . . when it's just you, you get excited about a product that you hold back and you're like, “Everyone needs it right now,” and you let it go. But I think having small collections throughout the year is also great and intentional and will hopefully be well received.
Pat: I would a hundred percent agree with that. And that combined with influencers who, guess what, maybe they get access to those things early and then can work with you to share more of that with their audience, whether that's with an affiliate program or not. I don't know if you have affiliate programs that your influencers can benefit from and get paid back. I mean, think about Apple, right? Apple is the primo example when it comes to products and good design, really expensive products obviously, but they do it right. They let people know ahead of time what's coming. They go all out with that. They do these keynotes and they reveal plans for what's to come, and then all of a sudden you start to see all these tech reviewers getting access to it before the regular consumer can. And it makes us go, “Oh my gosh, I want that. This is amazing.” And then of course when it comes out, it's just gangbusters. Everybody's grabbing it. You don't have to go that far. I mean, nobody's going to be camping outside of your home to get—
Pat: You know what I mean? But you can have that same feeling. And I think that the big thing for entrepreneurs is that graduation from beginner sort of scrappy, a little bit on the fly to intermediate level, which is, “Okay. Let's do a little bit of planning. Here's what's happening for the next six months. Here are when these products are coming out. And based on that, let's create some content now that will lead into that.” Like you said, and I think that that's exactly where you're at right now. And so your powers, combined with the powers of the influencers, combined with the power of planning, I think would be a home run.
Steph: Yeah. No, I think you're right. And I actually just took a few days ago to kind of map out our holiday, which is our biggest . . . the fourth quarter's our biggest season, obviously.
Pat: Oh, yeah. I would imagine for sure.
Steph: And so in the past, it's like I get through summer. I think I'm going to be productive in the summer with kids and I'm not as productive as I would hope. And then September rolls around and then it's like, “Okay, what are we doing?” And then it's October 1st and I'm like, “I have nothing ready,” or I do, but it's not to what I would have wanted. So we have holiday ready. I mean it's about to be photographed. So we really are taking those big steps to doing exactly what you just said, that intermediate level of getting ahead of ourselves, not working up to the minute to get things out when they should be, which is for me, so exciting.
I feel so much less pressure as an entrepreneur to be able to . . . I feel in control that we are doing things methodically, and thought out and not just off the cuff, which—it's worked for me. I can not complain. That was what has worked for me. I was raising babies, I was busy doing other things so I just did what I could, and then I'm in such a good place where I can just do a little bit more, and that's where the passive income or the . . . how can we expand on, “We've got this audience. They love what we stand for. They love our branding, and our design aesthetic. Now what can we give? What do they need?” And like you said, I need to find that out first, that way we can grow our company but also produce content and products that they need.
Pat: I love it. I love it. Steph, who is buying your products?
Steph: I would say probably people like myself. I think our age demographic is late-20s to mid-40s or early 30s. It's not necessarily moms, but a lot of moms buying for their children, or buying for themselves, or buying for gifts such as teacher gifts. I would say that's our niche market. I feel like you spend the most on your children. No matter what they have to have the very best, and so even if you don't have custom stationary, your kids do, which I love. And we love being the first gift that someone gives to a new mom with their baby's name on it. And that's special for us. They might not know that, but we love knowing that they're gifting a baby that just came into the world with new paper goods that have their name on it, and it's special for both the mom and the family to use and send us thank you notes.
Gratitude and joy are the two things we hold close to us. We want to spread joy and promote gratitude, however that may be. If it's in a thank you note or a journal that has a great saying to do your gratitude journaling. Once I figured out those values it was super helpful to be able to come back to those every time we went to design new products. But our age, that's about who we're selling to is mainly women, probably in their 20s, 30s, maybe 40s, and people looking to either buy for themselves, buy for gifts, or buy for their children.
Pat: That's really neat. And I'm curious, how well does your audience know you? I haven't visited the website yet, but is it portrayed as sort of like a, “Here we are. We're a greeting card company. We create these amazing customizations for you and your family for gratitude and thankfulness.” Or do they get to see your face on the website? Do they get to know who you are?
Steph: That is probably my weakest link in business. I am really happy behind the scenes and my voice comes out in content, but it doesn't come out either in person or . . . there's a picture of me on my website and, once a year there's a picture of me on my social media, but I am not in front of the camera or in the daily mix of social media, and I don't know why. I mean, I'm very comfortable speaking, but I just have that little bit of reserve that I don't want to. It's also maybe stubbornness, that it's what everyone does to grow a brand. And when I did that, back in 2000, there was no social media to get in front of. You just did the work and no one knew. It was so different. So although it's been a long time since then, I just have never come around to thinking that that's . . . I know it's important, but I just can't get over the hump to just jump in and do it.
Pat: I think this would be the . . . in terms of importance, people want to do business with other people. You've been able to do it without being so upfront, which is amazing. And I'm not saying that you are shooting yourself in the foot by not doing that, but what I'm saying is as there's more and more noise out there, and you have these customer connections already, you can take that to the next level by creating a personal connection with them. And it doesn't mean—again, you don't have to put your face on camera. It just means that when a person receives your card, there's an opportunity for you to personally thank them, even in a message and a little bit of, “Oh, there's this person on the other end of this company, Steph. She's just like me,” or “She's a busy mom too. This is amazing.”
You get that sort of superfans effect to start to happen. It's no longer just a transaction for a card. It's a transaction with you. And that can bring new customers back that can help surface people who are even more upfront with you about what they want next. It could bring a little bit more of that referral traffic coming in. And I would just encourage you . . . I'm not saying to do anything that you're not comfortable with, but just realize that there's opportunities for more personal connections, even on a scalable level with your customers.
Steph: Well, I know that and like I said, part of the stubbornness in me is like, “Ooh, how can I do this without doing it the way everyone else does?” Which is jumping on stories and sharing everything about my life because I am not comfortable with that.
Pat: Yeah. And then . . . you don't have to do that. No.
Steph: Yeah, but I think I do a good job at sharing about being a mom in ways on social media. I don't necessarily put my face in front of the camera, but I do think maybe even something as simple as a follow up email, once they've placed an order an automated email is sent out, thanking them again in a more personal way than an Etsy reply. And putting our voice, my voice, and the character that I want to show, the genuine, just the content, like the voice I want them to hear so that it's basically me sending them a note, thanking them personally for trusting us with their gifting needs or their kids' stationery needs. That could be a good way to do that, on an order level. I do probably need to just get over myself and bite the bullet, and . . .
I love talking, so I was like, “Ooh, I could do a podcast.” That way they get to know me that way because I'm a lover of business. I help all of my friends and other entrepreneurs in their businesses as well. That's something on the side, and so I have a lot to say. And I've been in business before being an entrepreneur was trendy, you know what I mean? I've been doing it for a really long time. Where most people are leaving corporate world now to maybe go out on their own in the age bracket that I'm in, most didn't just do it. I've never had a boss or worked for anyone and I'm super proud of that. And so I love helping other people. And my thought was maybe a podcast is a great way to talk about our brand, to talk about entrepreneurship, motherhood, again, very saturated, there's lots out there, but it could be a good way to connect in a way that's not maybe on camera.
Pat: Yeah, I would agree with that. And you don't even necessarily need to create your own podcast. There's so many great podcasts out there with audiences that align that you could start with to get a feel for that. You have a great story, you are great behind the microphone, and you could start with with those even influencers who maybe they have a target audience that is relative to your product line but also is interested in business that you have a connection with, and that's where you can start. And I think the automation of the thank you outside of Etsy or your Shopify or whatever would be really beneficial and you can even use that opportunity to in the bottom say something like, “P.S. We're excited for our holiday line. Here's a little preview of what we're working on here.” And it's just maybe an up-close photo of you with an X-ACTO knife just on your hands, so it's like with the craft and wow, people are going to get excited about what's coming next.
And what I would do is for social media, yes, you can share a little bit about your life, whatever you're comfortable with if you'd like. But I would definitely let people in on, “Hey, here's a custom card we're creating for Emma in Wisconsin. Look, she asked for this and this is how we're designing it.” People love to see how, especially physical products are created, and that creates a deeper connection with you. And I love the fact that you're like, “Well, I just don't want to do it like everybody else.” And that's a great thing to ask because everybody's doing the same thing right now and you're zagging while they're zigging, I guess? Anyway—
Steph: I don't know.
Pat: Steph, let me ask you, what were the biggest lessons that you took away from this conversation and what are your next steps?
Steph: Well, thank you for your time, first of all. I'm so excited to just to chat with you.
Pat: For sure.
Steph: Talking to my customer. I need to find out what she wants. I need to lean into her and the influencers that support my brand and find out what their audience wants, as well as what my exact customer wants, and I have not done that. I have a huge customer base over the years of being in business, and just reaching out to them and . . . you're going to get a small percentage of people that reply, but taking what they give us and actually working on that I think is huge. And thank you for making me feel like it's okay to not jump in front of the camera at every given moment and share every detail, but finding really unique and creative ways to put myself out there.
I want my voice to be heard. I do have a lot to say and I just have to find ways to say it that represent the brand and make them . . . I want their experience because customer service is something we pride ourselves on, and it's usually me answering every email and every Etsy conversation. And so I want, once they've purchased, if they never communicated with us beforehand, I want them to get a note that makes them feel like one, they're supporting a person, which is awesome. I am all over that. I buy things solely because I love the person on the other side and so I need to just do more of that in a way that works for me.
Pat: Your rock star, Steph, thank you so much. Joycreativeshop.com and anywhere else you'd like people to go and check you out?
Steph: Instagram is the same, @joycreativeshop.
Steph: That's it.
Steph: Thank you so much.
Pat: Thanks, Steph.
Steph: Have a good one.
Pat: Alright. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Steph. Steph, you're amazing. Keep up the great work. Can't wait to connect with you again in the future to see how things go. Can't wait to see what products you come up with, and with the help of influencers and getting in connection with your audience, it's going to be home run. Super proud of you.
Again, if you want to check her out, @joycreativeshop on Instagram or joycreativeshop.com. And if you want to get coached just like she did today, all you have to do is go to askpat.com and you can just fill out the application there. I may reach out to you and hopefully we'll get on and do the thing. That's what we're here for. Thanks to everybody who's submitting questions. Thanks to everybody who has left reviews. And one more time, if you want to check out the Podcast Cheat Sheet for free so you can learn how to start a podcast like this one yourself. All you have to do is go to smartpassiveincome.com/podcastcheatsheet. All one word. Cheers. Thanks so much and cannot wait to serve you in the next episode. Team Flynn for the win.