Nov 16, 2015

An Interview With Concord & 9th

As soon as I saw an add for Concord & 9th on Splitcoaststampers, I had a hunch that this new paper crafting company would make a big splash.  The products, and the samples made with these products, are fabulous.  I was intrigued.  Plus, I'm fascinated by folks who take risks -- and starting a small business is a big risk. So, I asked the owners of Concord & 9th if they would agree to an interview, and I'm glad they did.  I think you'll agree.


Question:  Who are the folks behind Concord & 9th?  What are your graphic design, paper crafting and/or marketing backgrounds?


Angie: a single-mom to a beautiful 21 year old! It’s been just the two of us until about two years ago when we added Millie & Max, two morkie puppies, into our lives. I was never a dog (or animal) person, but it’s ridiculous how much I love them (and spoil them). I have been a paper crafter as long as I can remember! I think I won my first scrapbook page contest a few decades ago. It was punch art. I had punched probably hundreds of little flowers and glued them on to my page showcasing my cute Grandma. It may have been that day that I thought I might actually be good at the craft. I remember embossing over the stove too, not with some fancy heat tool. Wow! I am dating myself, I know. 

But, since then it was my passion to do something that I loved. I’ve only had 6 jobs in my life, 12 years with my last corporate job, which was in the crafting industry, but this new one of co-owning Concord & 9th is by far my favorite! In the 12 years I spent in corporate crafting, I spent the last 9 years or so teaching the art of stamping & paper crafting and 2 years leading a team of paper crafters. Dreamy, right?!? Yes! This is also where my path crossed with Greg! Our personalities clicked & we often had the same ideas. But it was time to take it to the next level which led us both to Concord & 9th.

Greg: Married to my my wife Allyson for 12 years, and dad to our 11 year old daughter and 4 year old son. I’ve always had a passion for creativity and creative people. I studied industrial design (product design), business management and Chinese in college, which naturally led to a career in product development. I’ve worked for two larger corporations in the craft and hobby industry, but have always been intrigued and impressed with the smaller companies industry. I couldn’t be happier with this new venture working with Angie. It is hard work, but I can already see it paying off!  

Question:  Starting a small business is a challenge.  What risks did you have to take and where did you get the courage to take them? 

Answer:  Starting a new, small business IS a challenge, but one we were both willing, excited and a bit nervous to take on (Angie more so than Greg!). We knew we worked well together in the past. We knew we both loved the crafting industry. We knew we both had the drive and determination. We knew we had the product development and crafting backgrounds. We knew we both shared the same dream of running a small business- so, why not jump in with both feet? It was a nerve-wracking leap leaving good-paying, secure jobs with many benefits, but without risk there is no reward, right?

Question:  What has surprised you (unanticipated roadblocks or things that were easier than you expected) since you began Concord & 9th?

Answer:  Oh, where do we start? There is SO much to learn when you venture out into the land of entrepreneurship! It’s more than just having great ideas! We literally learned new things day by day, even hour by hour at times.  We read books, talked to other small business owners about their experiences, educated ourselves on legal matters, setup the studio space, worked on finding manufacturers and suppliers for products, then we finally got into the fun part of designing our first product release!

We set a lofty goal of releasing our first launch in mid-July. Keep in mind, this was only 6 weeks after leaving our corporate jobs. Things took a bit longer than expected (as they usually do!) but we were able to hit a new, realistic date of August 9, 2015, which was about 3 weeks after our initial launch goal. We knew we wanted to release new products each month, and figured the 9th is a great tie-in to our name. We hope that when the 9th of each month rolls around, a little bell will chime in crafters’ minds to remember to look at Concord & 9th’s new release!

The biggest challenge (besides the long hours at times!) is getting your brand/name out there. Social media is a HUGE help. However, it only works if people know we exist! We dove in head first and started asking crafters to use our products, share their creations with others and mention us when they used them. Then there are others (like you Joan!) that discovered us via one of our marketing attempts, and have been so great to share all on your own! We are so honored to be doing this interview, and love your idea of sharing different companies once a month! The crafty community has been SO kind and welcoming! It’s worth all the ups & downs that come with a start-up!

Question:  Paper crafting seems in transition -- some companies are closing and new ones are popping up all the time.  What qualities does a paper craft/stamp company need to succeed in this environent?

Answer:  Creativity has existed since the beginning of time, so we don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon! However, as with any industry, it evolves and you have to be aware of how it is evolving. So much of the paper crafting community is connected online, so that’s where we need to be. 

Another key to success is differentiating ourselves. While we didn’t invent the stamp and die, we are constantly looking for ways to innovate within the details. It would be easy to follow along with what others are doing, but then you don’t stand out. We are trying to stay true to who we are, and we are confident it’s going to be successful.

Question:  What does Concord & 9th offer to consumers that we cannot get elsewhere? 

This goes back to the question above. We know we need to stay true to the look & feel we love, and want to offer. We want our products to make sense to those that use it. When you send a handmade card, the sentiment should be meaningful. The imagery should work well together and be versatile and offer different techniques too. We ask ourselves with each and every product if we have come up with at least 5-6 different things you can create. We want people to get their money’s worth and to work for more than one occasion.

Our Take a Bough dies from our October 9th release help illustrate our creative process. We wanted to offer a paper crafting product for the holidays that would work well for home decor, 3D gifts and on cards. Many ideas were thrown around, along with a hefty amount of research. The end result was our Take a Bough die set. 

Trust us when we say the end result isn’t where it started. We thought through many things like “how many times will it need to be run through the Big Shot?”, “how can we maximize the die and still make it cost effective?”, “what else can it build besides a tree?”. We LOVE the outcome of the tree, and that it can also make snowflakes, mistletoe, wreaths for fall, winter and Christmas. We also LOVE how well-received it has been. We’ve received great feedback on its innovation, which is EXACTLY what we were going for!

Also from our October release, the Tree Ring stamp (hand-drawn by Greg!) makes
for a beautiful, rustic-yet-chic background detail. We hadn’t seen a stamp with that type of imagery and it’s been a hit! 

Our 3 mm sequin strands have also been performing well. There are a lot of sequins in the market, but we couldn’t find ones small enough for the look we were going for, so we developed some that are half the size of what you will normally find on the market. So cute, and perfect for paper crafters!

Now for November! Let’s Chat is a coffee/tea/cocoa set from an overhead view.

You get a saucer & a mug, but many ways of crafting up different designs. You have a creamy heart swirl just like the latte you might order in your favorite coffee shop, marshmallows in your cocoa, a spoonful of sugar for your tea. The large sentiments all fit inside the mug or also look great on their own. The little sentiments fit great on tiny tags like the ones you can find in our Bags & Tags die set. We even thought through the size of the mug so that it works with our Lots of Blots stamp set. We love being able to coordinate back to other products we carry which gives you yet another reason to pull previous purchases back out of their storage containers ... more for your money!  

Shine Brighter is a stamp set & die inspired by all the light bulb DIY projects that are trending right now.

If you have not seen this trend, just search DIY light bulb crafts on Pinterest! Wow! Our stamp set was designed to cover many occasions like Christmas, birthday, graduation, and even well wishes! You can create a vase with a beautiful flower, a terrarium with succulents, a snow globe, hot air balloon, lantern - oh, and even a regular light bulb with a fun filament! The size of the light bulb was also considered so that it also works as a tag from our Bags & Tags die set.

Question:  What are your future plans?  Do you anticipate shipping outside the USA?  New products?  Kits?

Answer:  We actually just offered shipping outside of the USA to Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia & New Zealand! This was a few months in the making (another ‘new’ thing to learn) but so happy we are now able to ship to more places. We have had many requests, so we’re glad we can offer that now.

We are always on the lookout for innovative ideas for future releases! We would love to offer kits, and may be able to do that in the future. We LOVE the ease of kits for crafters! When we have the opportunity to grow our team to more than just the two of us, it is certainly something we want to explore.

We also hope to start a design team soon! We feel a design team could really help bring out the versatility in our designs. Ultimately, our goal would also be to partner with up-and-coming designers. We help them, they help us. It ties back to how our name Concord & 9th: Where Creativity Meets came about. We are passionate about our ideas intersecting with other creative and artistic people!

We are always open to ideas & suggestions too! Is there something you wish was in the market place? Feel free to share it with us - maybe we can work together on the next ‘big thing’?!? 

 *Just a quick THANK YOU to you Joan! You were one of our initial supporters & we couldn’t be more grateful! Again, we are so honored you asked to interview us! Your questions were great, which led to lengthy replies (sorry about that), but it was almost therapeutic to answer them. It reminded us how far we’ve come in just a few short months and inspired us for what the future holds!


Thanks so much to Angie and Greg for taking the time to answer my questions!


Susan said...

Great interview Joan! Now to go check them out....

~amy~ said...

Joan, I thoroughly enjoyed this interview! Love reading the backstory on companies and how they came to start their businesses. I'm absolutely SMITTEN with Let's Chat (big surprise)....

Anonymous said...

did a good job here, but wondering. did the company pay you for this? it sounds like a free ad

Joan B said...

Glad you enjoyed the interview. Concord & 9th did not give me anything for doing this interview. Thanks!

Rubeena I. said...

Such a fun interview to read!! Thanks for sharing :)

Giovana said...

I love Concord & 9th!! I just ordered 2 more sets ;) Happy me. Thanks for the fantastic interview and wishing Greg and Angie a lot more success!!

LauraJane:) said...

got to LOVE a NEWBIE company! Great interview Joan:)

Joan B said...

you were the first person I thought of when I saw that stamp!

Susan Raihala said...

Great interview!

Deepti said...

Great interview and I totally loving the creative stamps and dies from Concord & 9th :)

Meg M. said...

Love this Joan and I have been enjoying my Concord & 9th products too. Love this company.