So Go La La! attended its first Ladder Club this week, and what a great experience it was.
As fairly new publishers on the scene, we were keen to attend but were unsure as to whether the first or the second day would be more beneficial to us. It seemed that we are better placed for day one and a half, as we have been around only since the middle of April; exhibited at PG Live in May; have found ourselves agents; are in numerous shops and have discussed licensing with a company in New York. Alas day 1.5 doesn’t exist, so we opted for Day 2, preceded by the Tuesday evening dinner.
Westcliff-on-Sea is around 200 miles and 4 hours from Go La La! HQ and we also had to face the daunting Dartford Crossing on the way. Despite this our journey was trauma free with no severe hold-ups, apart from getting from one side of Southend to the other, which seemed to take ages, and thus we arrived in plenty of time. It was most disconcerting when we arrived in “Sarfend” that our SatNav suggested we straight away make a U-turn, but we ignored that advice.
The 3 course evening meal took place in the Westcliff Hotel, and we found ourselves on a table alongside Jeremy Corner of Blue Eyed Sun, Claire Williams of Paper Salad, as well as neighbours and now friends of ours from PG Live 2016: Cat Faulkner of Jelly Armchair and the girls from Choco Greetings. It was a great chatty table, with plenty of laughter, some good advice and camaraderie and we came away looking forward to the following day’s events.
On Wednesday morning we arrived at the Cliffs Pavilion in plenty of time, and over coffee I had a quick look at the day’s itinerary. For a moment or two I was concerned that in fact we had made a mistake in choosing day two over day one, but as the day progressed I realised that ALL of the speakers had something to offer us and were incredibly knowledgeable and insightful about the Greetings Card industry. The subject matter was varied, never boring and we came away with great advice.
First up Jakki Brown and Lynn Tait, the co-founders of the Ladder Club welcomed everyone, introduced the speakers and sponsors and advised on how the day would pan out, and they then popped up throughout the day to announce speakers, keep us in check, close off the day and send us on our way.
Hannah and Jack of Wrendale spoke about the challenges of growing a business. It was clear from the start that they were not used to public speaking, as they appeared to be quite nervous, but despite this they were very engaging and came across as a truly likeable couple who through determination and focus have managed to grow their business massively in just a few years.
Next up were Hazel Walker and Tish Bas from Paperchase (Senior Buyer Frances Burkle was also there, although not speaking, and it suddenly dawned on us that we had bumped into her first thing in the morning as we were all trying to locate the Maritime Room where the function was being held). It was interesting to hear about the workings of a company that to us appear to be big players in the industry with their 130 UK stores; they imparted some interesting information and were far more human and approachable than we expected.
Following coffee Jessica Hogarth of Jessica Hogarth Designs gave an overview of licensing and included information about marketing overseas as well as advice on protecting yourself from design copying, as well as giving tips on things to consider when contemplating a licensing deal.
Final speaker of the morning session was Jeremy Corner, Managing Director of Blue Eyed Sun, who is a well-respected, confident and established speaker, and he gave a really interesting analysis for those thinking about moving into the export market, and with his company having recently been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, he does know what he is talking about. His advice about cashflow, and the dangers of discounting is something that we all need to be mindful of.
Over lunch there was a chance for us to chat to the lovely Sharon Little, the CEO of the Greeting Card Association (although there was more talk of veganism than the card industry) and Julie Brightley of Enveco (supplier of our envelopes), which is a company we find incredibly easy and friendly to deal with.
The afternoon session kicked off with a very interesting talk by Mark Coulson of Coulson Macleod, who discussed the pros and cons of warehousing in-house, versus using a fulfilment company, and I really enjoyed his presentation, even though we are still at the stage of boxes of cards in the oven and fridge in our home level of business.
There was definitely a lot to consider, and this progression, if and when it happens seems one worthy of careful consideration.
Next up Bob Short of The Imaging Centre (our card printing company) gave an overview of their recently launched fulfilment service, Simplicity, which is definitely something that Go La La! will be looking into in the near future, as it seems to be a simple and intuitive system which could make our life much easier. I know a few other publishers who use it, and they seem to think it is very good.
Before the final coffee break, Gale, Jakki and Warren of Progressive Greetings gave a brief spiel about how they can help publishers to increase their public profile through the PG magazine.
After coffee, Sharon Little talked about the Greetings’ Card Association, and advised how to make the most of it. As a fledgling company that has previously phoned and emailed Sharon, we are aware of how helpful she is, and will do her utmost to answer your query or find someone else who can. The GCA seems a no brainer to join if you are a publisher, and as newbies we found it invaluable.
The day concluded with a question and answer session featuring some of the aforementioned speakers, as well as sales agent Ian Bradley who had spoken on Day 1, Miles Robinson from House of Cards and folk from paper supplier G F Smith. There was some interesting info about potential price increases across the industry following Brexit; and contracts for Agents.
This was a thoroughly worthwhile and valuable Seminar, and it sure feels good to be a small part of such a friendly and inclusive industry. It gave us the chance to reflect upon the fact that many of the speakers and delegates, just like us, came to the industry from totally different backgrounds, started off with their homes filled with cardboard and bubble wrap, swamped by the pull off strips from cello bags that get everywhere (I had chuckled earlier in the day when I had looked down onto the Pavilion carpet and seen few of those strips – if anyone knows the technical name for them I’d love to hear it) and developed their businesses with mistakes upon the way, and that in itself was very comforting to know.