Things By Bean make cards for occasions and non-occasions. Got a friend with a beard that is just too awesome to go unacknowledged? There’s a card for that. Several actually. Want to express your affection for someone by way of a Venn diagram? Now you can! Things By Bean cards are characterised by their bold colours and curious one-liners. And you just have to touch one of these cards because the paper is amazing!
But just who is this Bean who does these things? Bean is the nickname for Jo Power, a Melbourne based entrepreneur and writer. I first met Jo over 7 years ago when she was newly arrived in Australia from the USA. During this time – 2 years of which we spent living together – I’ve come to know her as an excellent whistler, a maker of fantastic vegan desserts and now a successful business owner. Today marks the first in what I hope will be a series of posts where I pick the brains of a clever person who can help me answer an unusual “how to” question. And today that person is Jo and the question is how the heck do you turn a cool idea into a business?
Can you share a little of the background of Things By Bean? How did you go from thinking “That would make an awesome card” to actually having the cards printed and eventually in stores?
It was in the works for quite a while in my brain! In high school, I used to give out hand-made cards for real occasions and made-up ones. After that, I stopped dabbling in cardsmithing for a few years until I started keeping a notebook of one-liners I thought would be cool on cards. The original vision was to make the range super-specific and make cards for people with a defining characteristic like a loud laugh, a certain hair colour, great height, small stature and that sort of thing. The first card I ever had printed was ‘Happy Birthday, Red-Haired Girl’.
I knew I wanted the aesthetic to be super simple because I’m better with words than design! So I came up with the solid blocks of colour, one-line greeting and a heart-cut out on the envelope to give the colour extra purpose.
I got ten different designs printed to begin with, which I kept in a biscuit tin and carried with me everywhere I went! My plan was to sell cards at weekend market stalls and pitch the line to shop owners in person. The first shop I approached rejected me and I cried a little bit, but then I got a yes and confidence was restored! From there, I got my cards into a few more shops around Melbourne, then did two trade shows to reach interstate shops.
A lot of people say things like “I have the best idea for a ” or “I really want to start a “. What was it that made you actually go for it? Did you hesitate much?
I think I just wanted to be productive. I didn’t think about it as a money-making thing in the beginning; I just wanted to create a new creative outlet for myself and make people chuckle. I didn’t hesitate at all because luckily, starting a card business takes very little start-up costs. I think I was in the black by my third or fourth month of existence as a business.
I get SO excited when I hear people say they have a great business idea. There are so many possibilities for an entrepreneur in Australia!
Best moment in the history of Things By Bean so far?
Can I pick three? When I saw my cards on the shelves of my first stockist, when me and my cards got featured in Frankie Magazine and when I received an email from Urban Outfitters saying they’d like to stock Things by Bean!
Ok – time to spill the beans (sorry)! What are your top 3 tips to share on how to stop dreaming and turn a cool idea into the real thing?
1. Motivation is definitely the most important thing. In the beginning, you’ll probably have to spend evenings and weekends working on your idea, which is tedious if you’re working a full-time job all week. You’ve got to stay motivated or the whole thing will trail off and chances are, you won’t come back to it.
2. Make it super-easy for people to work with you. Whether you’re working with shop owners, reps, suppliers or whoever, respond to emails promptly, be very friendly and send your samples, orders, etc. out quickly!
3. Always be on the lookout! Constantly look for new opportunities in the media to get your name out there through features, product giveaways, etc. Send out heaps of sample packs, try to collaborate with people to get extra exposure and pluck up the nerve to approach anyone that might help you get more business.
Shop for Things By Bean here.