[Please note: The suggestions in this article are general in nature. They do not constitute legal advice. They do not cover all details of business development. You are responsible for discovering and complying with local and national laws and regulations related to your business.]
Creating Your Own Products and Services: The Hot-Selling Pop-Up Greeting Card
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
A number of years ago, I was helping my parents out with their craft business. They had a booth in a local craft fair for a fire department benefit. I noticed another booth, in a good location not far from the entry, that had a long line of customers and went over to investigate.
The guy in the booth was doing demos of his techniques for making his pop-up greeting cards. He had both regular flat cards as well, but, while they were selling well, it was nothing compared to his pop-ups. He had not only a large, entranced audience for his demos, but the long lines I already mentioned, clamoring to buy his stock. He needed three assistants to take the money and fill the orders. (I think he was using his teen-aged kids, so he was keeping the money in the family.)
His cards were exquisite works of art. Heck, I bought one myself and have kept it in my idea swipe file ever since. It seemed to be a perfect solo entrepreneur business notion.
There is a lot of good news in this for potential business start-ups and add-ons:
1. It's actually quite easy to do, once you get the idea.
2. You do need to be clever with your hands (and steady), but you don't need much in the way of artistic talent. Of course, the more creative talent you have, the better the cards. But you can buy instructions, patterns and kits that will get you started. And the simplest cards can still bring solid sales and good prices. (About using other people's patterns and designs: The caution here is that you must make sure that the patterns and instructions are commercially useable if you want to sell your end result. Otherwise, you can only use them as practice pieces and for personal gifts and greetings.)
3. Once you've mastered the pop-up card, you can go on to the pop-up book. Very short pop-up books (as few as 8-12 pages!) can command very large prices. I've seen 12-page pop-up books selling for $40.
4. In addition to using other folk's patterns and instructions, you can get art from the public domain to decorate your cards.
5. The process lends itself to automation.
6. You can subcontract out some parts of your projects as piecework.
7. You can teach others to do it and have your own workshop with employees to do the work while you do the design. It's a business that can grow to any size.
8. It's a quick-to-start enterprise. If you're already good with crafts, you can start producing and be selling your product in a week.
9. It's a business you can do at any age. Teens can do it, with business help from adults. It is so physically undemanding that you can do it when you're 100.
10. It's perfect as a home business start-up or add-on.
11. It lends itself to marketing online or off. Locally or globally.
12. It can incorporate other skills, like writing, so you can add value your competition might not be able to provide. That is, if you want to go from simple pop-up greetings to pop-up story books, you actually have to write the story that goes with your art.
There's lots of information for free online, including instructions, patterns and tutorials (including video tutorials.) If you're seriously interested, however, you'll probably want to invest in some hard copy books and DVD's. Here's a list of links for some online info and some suggestions for books:
Sites to check out:
Kirigami Pop-up Greeting Cards http://www.moddidaypeople.com/easy_cut_pop_up/perennial_moments.html has some free patterns and some patterns and instructions that you must buy. If you want to sell your end-product, you must register as a crafter with them. These are excellent designs and a good introduction to the craft.
Robert Sabuda http://www.robertsabuda.com/popmakesimple.asp has posted some wonderful tutorials on making pop-ups, but don't just go there for the instructions -- his site is filled with his products and gives you a good idea of what you can do and what you can charge when you become skilled.
PopThatCard.com http://www.popthatcard.com/index.html has some printable designs for you to start learning, complete with both written and video instructions.
Extreme Cards and Papercrafting http://extremecards.blogspot.com/ has some beautiful designs with instructions and templates to download.
Graphics3 Inc http://www.graphics3inc.com/ is a great example of what can be done with mass production in the pop-up field. You might get started by doing handmade items, but eventually, you may want to move from sole crafter to commercial producer. Also, the site gives you an idea of some of the variety of products that you can make as pop-ups. It also serves to remind you that there is a large business market for pop-up greeting cards.
To search for more helpful sites, try these Google searches:
- Pop up card making
- Pop up card design
- Pop up card patterns
Books to consider: