Are you wondering what happens to my LBU or BHB alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum + new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work? This week we’re continuing a new series in which we’re catching up with graduates who are truly “leveling up” their creative businesses. I hope you’ll join me in cheering on these makers + product designers!
This week we’re talking to our very own Melissa Wert of Print Therapy, who-just-so-happens to be Operations Manager here at Lucky Break Consulting! Melissa, who runs her stationery company along with her husband Nick, has participated in both LBU Live and Brick House Branding as a student. These experiences spurned an internal brand repositioning at Print Therapy, as well as a complete product line makeover, which launched this past January. That up-leveling led to a successful pitch for a series of in-store pop up shops at West Elm, and I’m honored to share the transformational experience here with you!
LBC: Was this your first time participating in a live pitch?
Melissa: This was our first live pitch, and, in all honesty, one of our first pitches … ever. We are just starting to pitch to wholesale accounts and this opportunity presented itself at the very beginning of our outreach efforts. Might as well go for the big fish first, right? When your dream store pops up on your social media feed looking for small businesses to submit their information, you just have to go for it.
LBC: What did you do in advance to prepare?
Melissa: I knew that the key to nailing this opportunity was all in our preparation. I cleaned up our catalog and I had our catalog and order form professionally printed. I went over our numbers backwards and forwards so that, if needed, I would be comfortable talking about them, and comfortable discussing margins. I knew that excitement would be running high and, presented with the opportunity, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t blindly agree to something that our numbers just wouldn’t support. I pulled information on our best sellers, pulled some samples, and put all of the information together in a folder for the West Elm manager, complete with a personalized note and a little thank you gift that I hoped would make us memorable. Months later, both of the managers we met with still mention the package we put together for them. Physical samples are key – and a little gift never hurts, either!
I also did a little research on West Elm, getting comfortable with their price points and product categories, and understanding who their customer base is. It may have looked like online shopping, but it was research, I swear.
LBC: How were you feeling as your prepared?
Melissa: N-E-R-V-O-U-S. I had completed their pitch application process not expecting to hear back, as West Elm does not carry stationery on a national level. Being asked to do a live pitch by two West Elm stores really set my nerves into action, but it up-leveled my confidence, too. While preparing, I knew that this was a big opportunity and that the work would pay off – if with nothing else – with a great opportunity to pitch to someone face to face who makes buying decisions for a large brand. I kept the experience as the end goal. I think that helped keep my nerves in check. In check-ish, anyway! It was West Elm!
LBC: What was your mindset as you walked into the pitch?
Melissa: I was nervous, of course. My husband and business partner Nick and I pitched together – he loves Print Therapy so much that I’m pretty sure he could sell us to anyone. I was confident in our presentation and I was confident in what drives our company and what sets us apart from any other stationery brands they might be talking to. I felt like we were as prepared as we could be, and we looked damn cute, too.
We walked in and had to wait a few moments so that we could fill out a short questionnaire for the buyer, and my handwriting was a little shaky, indicative of my nerves. There was definitely a moment of “Holy sh**. We’re at West Elm.” But secretly, I hope to always feel that before every pitch. It put us on our A game, and I don’t think you can play in the big leagues if you’re only on your B game.
LBC: What kind of questions were asked of you during the pitch?
Melissa: The buyers we met with asked us a lot of questions about our product – how it was produced, the inspiration behind it, the price points. They asked about being open to exclusives, and what products were coming next for us. They wanted to know what drove our company, and what set us apart from everyone else. They were really curious as to our why, and about us. It was incredibly clear that they weren’t just looking to bring on products that would sell. They wanted to bring on local business owners that they could, essentially, sell to their clients. Our story was so important to them.
They also asked several questions about what we thought about West Elm. Who did we think their clients were? Why did people shop there? Who was their competition? Why did people choose to shop at West Elm and not elsewhere? How did our ideal client align with theirs? Why would a West Elm client want to buy Print Therapy products?
They wanted us to be not only confident in our brand, but also in theirs. It really felt like partnership is important to them.
LBC: How long did the pitch session last and who was present?
Melissa: We pitched to two separate West Elm stores. Each time we met with one manager. We sat right on the showroom floor at a dining table, which I thought was really cool. Each meeting lasted about 45 minutes.
A “before” shot of a Print Therapy card, pre-BHB
LBC: What was the outcome of your pitch to West Elm?
Melissa: Since pitching at the end of June, we’ve done four “pop-up” events. We’re also scheduled to meet with the West Elm LOCAL corporate buyer, for further discussion about having permanent shelf pace in nearby locations in the West Elm’s LOCAL section. I have to admit – it’s going to be pretty magical to see Print Therapy products on a shelf at West Elm.
LBC: What role has Lucky Break played in the evolution of your business?
Melissa: Lucky Break has been pivotal to where Print Therapy is today. PIVOTAL. We re-launched our company in January, after a lot of Brick House Branding work and some heart-wrench deep diving into who we are as a company, and what we do. I cannot put enough emphasis on how important this work was. Brick House Branding will change your business, if you let it. Your product is important, but you know what? Your story and your why are becoming equally as important. That’s something I didn’t realize before Lucky Break. That understanding is the only reason we’ve been able to grow our company – it revolutionized every aspect of our business.
We also use Price-O-Matic religiously for our pricing, even though our industry is almost completely standardized for pricing. And without LBU, we would never be wholesaling. We would not have the knowledge or the confidence. Through LBU I learned how to set up wholesale pricing, how to build our catalog and our wholesale terms, and how to reach out to buyers. I’m a member of the LBU Alumni Community and I swear, those members help me make so many business decisions. It’s the most uplifting and supportive business community I’ve ever been a part of. We now also use Wholesale Matchmaker to not only find new stores to pitch to, but to track all of our pitching efforts.
An “after” shot of a Print Therapy card, post-BHB
LBC: What was the most important business lesson you learned last year?
Melissa: That’s a tough one. I feel like in the last 12 months I’ve learned so much about reinventing who we are as a business, how to craft our story into every single thing we say and do, and how important it is to pay attention the the details of what is – and isn’t – working for our company. We learned that yes, a business can survive and grow even with a tiny baby on your hip who needs more from you than you ever imagined. But the most important lesson is that our business can be whatever we want and need it to be. It doesn’t haven’t to follow some set rule or be what everyone else’s business is. We get to decide how Print Therapy unfolds. And, every day, we should act in accordance with that dream and do something to help that unfolding along. Every. Single. Day.
LBC: If you were given the opportunity to live pitch again, would you?
Melissa: Yes! Y-E-S. It’s amazing to talk to people in person about your products. Not only do you learn what they think about your company, but you also learn so much about yourself. Putting yourself out there is a great reminder of how much you love your business and why you invest your all in what you do. I’ll take that reminder any day.
Many thanks to Melissa for spending a few minutes with us. The entire Lucky Break team is cheering you on!
Are you an LBU or BHB Alumni with some big news to share? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “LBU/BHB ALUMNI” as the subject line. We love to celebrate alongside you and shout out your success…
Psssst! Enrollment for BHB + LBU is now open! I’ve opened up enrollment for both of my flagship programs + this is the last time they’ll be open for enrollment in 2016. Class will begin in January of 2017, but now is the time to reserve your seat. I’d love to save one for you!
Ready to build your brand, brick by brick, from the ground up? Learn more about Brick House Branding.
Ready to build a wholesale program that will wow buyers and keep them coming back for more? Learn more about LBU Live.