Behind the Scenes of Explosive Growth with Empathy Cards creator Emily McDowell on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

It’s tempting to think that “lucking” into explosive growth is all that’s standing between you and the lifestyle you dream of as a small business owner.

All you need is a tap on the shoulder from a big influencer, or a blog post that goes viral, or a product you create to appear on Oprah. But explosive growth is often uglier than it is exciting or lucrative.

On this episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., my guest is Emily McDowell the founder of Emily McDowell Studio and the creator of the wildly popular greeting card collection Empathy Cards.

When Emily realized that the Valentine’s Day cards that were on the market didn’t really reflect the relationships many people found themselves in (ya know, dating–sorta–but only if that’s okay with you), she decided to try her hand at producing an alternative.

It said, “I know we’re not, like, together or anything but it just felt weird to just not say anything so I got you this card. It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t really mean anything. There isn’t even a heart on it. So basically it’s a card saying hi. Forget it.”

Etsy–kingmaker for independent designers and makers–put it on their Facebook page and Emily was inundated with orders. She received a whopping 1700 orders in 1 week and had to refuse to sell more.

What would YOU do if you received 1700 orders for your product overnight? Could you fulfill them? Do you have the customer support to keep everyone happy and informed?

It would be easy to say that Emily’s success was a fluke, a stroke of luck.

But Emily tapped into a key strategy for product design.

She says: 

“I was really focusing on what I didn’t see versus what I was seeing and what I was seeing done successfully.”

Whenever you’re trying to “get creative” about what you’re going to bring to market, when you’re trying to innovate on something as ubiquitous as a greeting card (or an online course, a coaching package, a wedding photography package, or a t-shirt), you might think the best plan is to shut off the internet, go into a cave, and wait until lightening strikes.  

Emily had the opposite approach.  

As a former creative director, she knew the best way to create something new and remarkable was to really look at the market. By examining what else was available, she started to see the hole–the opportunity–where there was great need. 

It wasn’t luck. 

It was a process. 

And because Emily had a process for tapping into the market with her products, explosive growth didn’t stop with that one card. Emily created a line of 40 cards she presented at the National Stationery Show and received an order from Urban Outfitters. 

Each time she’s experienced that kind of explosive growth, she’s had to figure out how to make things work… even as what she knows might feel like it’s crumbling around her.

Now, her company’s mission is to identify universal emotional truths and observations on being human and turn them into products that help people feel understood.

Emily and I talk about the other side of explosive business growth. We talk about what went on behind the scenes when her very first greeting card design went viral and sold 1700 units in one week. We also discuss how things have evolved from landing a big order for Urban Outfitters at her first trade show to licensing the production of her gift line to another company.

Click here to listen on iTunes and, while you’re there, be sure to subscribe & leave us a 5-star review.

And, find Emily’s new book, There is No Good Card for This, on Amazon.

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