Pillow Talk: Tips for Success from National Small Business Award Winner Eric and Christopher

By Adam Wisniewski

In 2012 when artists Eric Fausnacht and Christopher Kline began making canvas pillows by hand in Doylestown, PA, (about 40 miles outside Philadelphia) their basements housed the design, production and sales departments.

baby-goat_medium-pillowDuring their first six months together, Eric created the pillows’ monochromatic animal designs, while Christopher handled printing duties. After selling 1,000 pillows at regional craft fairs, the pair realized their business could scale nationally, but not from their basements.

As their eponymous company grew in sales and size, it moved production into a 7,000-square-foot facility; added tote bags, wall art and custom printing jobs to its product line; and wholesaled to customers like the L.L. Bean flagship store in Maine, The Plaza Hotel in New York City, Pine Cone Hill and the White House Historical Association. All while still making products by hand in Bucks County, PA.

The duo capped off four years of tremendous growth with the 2016 Outstanding Encore Entrepreneur Award from the national SCORE Foundation, a nonprofit network of business experts who volunteer free time and expertise to mentor small business owners.

Learning to handle that growth was one of the most important lessons Eric and Christopher took from their SCORE mentors.

“We experienced explosive growth as the business took off – 50 percent and 70 percent year-over-year,” says Christopher. “We needed to take control of it because things could have spiraled out of hand, but we learned not to be fixated on the numbers, slow down and reevaluate our positions.”

“Our mentors helped us recognize the point to invest more in equipment and people and management,” says Eric. “Christopher and I were doing everything. At some point, we had to stop doing that.”

Erpaco_chihuahua-toteic and Christopher never envisioned wholesaling would be an evolutionary force for their product line. When they first displayed at shows like The Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market®, some buyers were reluctant to pull the trigger on a large order because they didn’t know if the company could fulfill that type of volume at its current size. But returning in following years and reconnecting allowed those relationships to bear fruit.

“Now our vendors ask us to expand our line,” says Eric, who describes new offerings like aprons, tea towels and other textiles. “And up to 30 percent of our business now is custom jobs. I didn’t foresee that. We are actually being approached to print yardage, and because we manufacture here in Pennsylvania, we may not be cheaper than their overseas manufacturers, but we can do smaller runs with quick turnaround to get them to market faster.”

What advice would the duo give their past selves about attending Market?

“We spend so much time and effort on the product that market often sneaks up on us,” says Christopher. “We need to set aside more time to prepare and really dig into the retail sales cycle.”

On a more practical level, Eric recalls driving his truck down from Pennsylvania stuffed to the brim to stock his first AmericasMart® booth. “I didn’t know about direct shipping or that AmericasMart could store our booth. We should have done that from the start and put extra effort into making our booth presentation more professional and clean.

“We love our products and respond to what our customers love about them,” says Eric. “People like the cleanliness, the simple images and the quality of construction. Cute, but not kitschy. Sophisticated – that is us.”

Congratulate Eric and Christopher in the newly integrated Home Accents, Home Furnishings, Fine Linens & Home Textiles and Rug collections in Building 1, Floor 7. ANTIQUES in Building 1, Floor 2 closes at 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 15. Temporaries in Buildings 1, 2 and 3, including Temps for The Atlanta International Area Rug Market® featuring The National Oriental Rug Show sponsored by ORIA are open through 2 p.m. on Monday, January 16.

More Father’s Day Spending Predicted

By Christina O’Flaherty

Reservations to favorite dinner spots like JP Atlanta are filling up and the wrapping paper is at the ready: this year, dads are getting more expensive gifts than ever before.

The National Retail Federation’s annual Father’s Day survey predicts Americans will spend a collective $14.3 billion—that’s an average of $126 per gift giver. While not as high as Mother’s Day ($21.4 billion), it’s $5.3 billion more than consumers spent on dad just ten years ago in 2006.

“Our own data and analysis suggest that, while Father’s Day still brings in less revenue than Mother’s Day, it’s gaining traction with consumers,” says Ivy Shtereva, director of marketing at Yes Lifecycle Marketing.

So what’s big on the list for Father’s Day this year? (NRF)
Greeting Cards: 64.5%
Special Outing: 47%
Clothing: 43%
Gift Cards/Certificates: 41%
Books or CDs: 23%
Electronics/Computer Related Accessories: 20%
Personal Care: 18%
Sporting/Leisure Items: 16%
Tools or Appliances: 16%
Home Improvement/Gardening: 15.5%
Automotive Accessories: 15%
Other: 17%

Check out some of the latest trends for dads from AmericasMart’s own floors below.

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On Trend Gifts Collection = Fun, Functional & Profitable

BrandNewNoise (4)Finding that perfect gift, often one we didn’t know we needed, caters to our emotional, impulsive side. It’s the same heightened, happy feeling you’re likely to have when you visit the On Trend Gifts collection of Temporaries at AmericasMart during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market in July.

The very idea of “trending” gifts is creating buzz among buyers. These exhibitors, some making their official AmericasMart debut in July, represent all parts of the globe, with products that elicit oohs, aahs, OMG’s and most importantly, sales. This new grouping of almost 20 exhibitors is clever and affordable with an eye for stellar design and packaging. AmericasMart Sales Manager Laura Dadisman explains, “The main focus is on form, function and also fun. Many products are quirky and off the wall, done in a high-end, gift boutique way.”

Freaker USA, as seen on the TV show Shark Tank, is already extremely popular. Based in North Carolina, this innovative company works on “preventing moist handshakes and sweaty beverages” with their line of playful and functional drink insulators.

The widely successful UK based companies, Mustard and NPW are all about quirky, fresh and fun. At Mustard’s booth, check out the zombie stickers, a bento box shaped like a refrigerator and the bullet shaped ice cube trays (for that killer drink). Plus, dozens more. An ever-evolving line is necessary, as Juliana Giliberto, sales manager for North America says, “Customers want everything that’s new, new, new.”

Mustard - New Product - Key KongOver at NPW, they’ll debut 50 new products with a focus on party celebrations, stationery and tech novelty gifts. Their products, most of which retail for $12 or less, are the epitome of affordable fun with gift ideas such as Mini Party Hats, Painless Piercings and Finger Printing Art Sets. Jules Vertrees, vice president of Sales for NPW, shares her perspective on the new category, “For NPW, the On Trend Gifts collection means that little feeling of must have. We add a bit of irreverence too, that nugget of the unexpected.”

But that reaction doesn’t come easy. Many of these companies consult with trend agencies and scour small, independent shops, magazines, blogs, pop up shops and flea markets to find out what’s trending. What do shoppers love? Which price point is good? They’re hearing a slight buzz and with a delicate mix of skill, experience and gut feeling, they’re designing items that people want. Right now.

Unemployed Philosopher's GuildIf the product is smart and cool, then the packaging should follow suit. In this collection, you’ll find a lot of color and eye catching design, but not too much. These products are not meant to be too kitschy, rather a refined, well-designed must-have.

The Jim Spinx brand exemplifies this philosophy. Spinx sells a customizable product line inspired by vintage graphic art and music and as he shared, “The design aspect sells it.”

If these examples sound intriguing, check out tons more during Market. There’s a lot to see at AmericasMart but it’s even more fun when there’s a must-see. Check out the On Trend Gifts collection on the Floor 5 of Building 3. It’ll be easy to find…just follow the squeals of delight.

The Barks Live up to the Bites

Toffees, Brittles and Barks are the artisanal sweets for 2013 seen at the September 2012 Atlanta Fall Gift & Home Furnishings Market℠ and The Atlanta Gourmet Market®.

E.V. Oh Oh

From right here in Georgia to Uruguay to Italy, olive oils are sizzling at the September 2012 Atlanta Fall Gift & Home Furnishings Market℠ and The Atlanta Gourmet Market®.

JingleNog Awarded “Best in Show” for Market Temporaries at Spring Market

AWH_PHOTO-3641The Atlanta Spring Gift, Home Furnishings & Holiday Market inspired retailers with fresh product, ideas and creativity. You could especially feel the engery and excitement Market Temporaries where more than 140 booths were positioned to attract retailers from around the nation. And, there was one booth in particular that stood out above the rest: JingleNog.

JingleNog’s booth at the Spring Atlanta Gift, Home Furnishings & Holiday Market caught the eye of judges, who were tapped to identify the best displays in the Market Temporaries, with an unexpected and fresh take on holiday product. The winner of the AmericasMart “Best of Show” Visual Display Award this spring, JingleNog showcased the best use of space, product arrangement, lighting, flooring and signage overall.

JingleNog’s handmade glass ornaments are the product of owner and creator Melissa Byrne’s stories and drawings. The glass blown ornaments showcase her twenty years of experience in the Christmas and Gift Industry, as well as the tradition of European glassmaking.AWH_PHOTO-3645

The JingleNog booth brings the product packaging to life as a whimsical, winter circus wonderland on a green and cream palate. Against the candy green striped curtains lining the space, white wire display trees and unexpected faux-grass flooring, JingleJog ornaments came to life and transformed this temporary booth into a fanciful fairytale.

This outstanding and unique display showcased JingleNog’s creativity and supported the playful nature of their product. Congratulations, JingleNog!

Be sure to join us for more creativity and excitement next Market!

January Market Jump Starts the New Year!

Fine Linens_Gerry_NicholThe  Market Temporaries—at the heart of the January 2011 Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market—will start the New Year with a bang, highlighting the newest trends, latest styles, and rising stars in gift, home and apparel/accessories. With more than 31 temporary product categories and nearly 4000 booths spanning AmericasMart’s four buildings, the Temporaries is a unique buying destination for retailers and interior designers.

The New Year will bring new categories and new companies to Atlanta, including the launch of four new and newly re-branded product centers and the introduction of more than 500 new names of the 2500 companies in the Market Temporaries. Making their category debut at AmericasMart this January are HD Home, Birding & Backyard Nature, Global Designs, and Homemade Designs & Handmade Jewelry.Home_Accents_ateliers C&S_3

The Market Temporaries support and enhance the product showcased in AmericasMart’s 13 permanent product centers that also extend across its four-building campus. Together, the permanent showrooms and temporary booths produce a powerhouse for buying and selling.

Experience the first market of the year and discover what’s in store for 2011! For more information about the January Market, click here.

To read the entire release, click here.