If you love picking out and sending just the right card for every occasion, and if you're a whiz at designing that perfect card yourself, then niche greetings cards is the business for you. This is a field with room for growth, and while the big players like Hallmark do tend to dominate the market, most of the country's more than 1,800 greeting card companies are small ones. You can help businesses develop and maintain a rapport with their clientele by sending customized cards for special occasions. You can also send cards announcing clients' special events and even embellish cards with your customers' signatures and logos. You'll purchase blank cards at wholesale prices and, depending on the size of each project, imprint the message on your own printer, have them imprinted commercially, or design and print each card on your own computer system. Or you can go the retail route and design cards for the regular consumer market. The advantages to this business are that you can start part time, it's fun and creative, and it's a warm, fuzzy, feel-good business--even though you don't see the recipients of your cards, you know they're enjoying them. For this business, you'll need a sense of fun, creativity and--the flip side of the coin--good organizational and time-management skills. When you send out cards for business clients, you need to stay on top of things. But you'll need to stay far ahead of the calendar with a retail design business, too. Winter holiday cards hit the stores soon after Halloween, and Mother's Day missives appear soon after St. Patty's Day--which means that you'll have to have yours designed, printed and ready to ship even earlier.
For custom corporate cards, your clients will, of course, be other businesses. You can target just about any type, but your best bets will be those who need to stay firmly established in their customers' minds, like doctors, dentists, insurance agents, real estate brokers, apartment managers, car salespeople, hair stylists and shopkeepers. And don't forget those corporate types with customers, vendors and suppliers all over the country. Sign up these clients by--how else?--sending them greeting cards. Design a catchy card that explains your business, then follow up by phoning for an appointment to show your card portfolio. Send a one-time mailing of your cards for a charitable organization free of charge--make sure the cards mention your company and what you do. Use this same mailing to get write-ups in local publications. While out and about town, ask business owners if they're planning a sale or promotion, then offer your services to send out card announcements. If you choose the retail road, you'll sell to retailers or distributors. You can start out small by selling your wares to local specialty shops and boutiques or shoot for sales reps and distributors by displaying your products at trade shows like the National Stationery Show held each May in New York City. (Call George Little Management at 914-421-3200 or go to www.glmshows.com for more information.)
You'll need a computer, a high-quality color printer, a scanner, greeting card or desktop publishing software, and--if you'll be taking the custom corporate route--database software for maintaining mailing lists and a resale license for buying cards at wholesale prices.