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Very few people thought Shelli Gardner’s vision would be successful. Early on, business advisers told her the idea behind Stampin’ Up! would never work. But in October 2013, Gardner’s revolutionary direct sales company will celebrate its 25th year.
With more than 40,000 Stampin’ Up! demonstrators from all 50 U.S. states and six other countries, the company will spend the next year celebrating and recognizing the hard work that has kept the business moving forward.
It all started with custom-designed rubber stamps and accessories, then went on to include a complete line of color-coordinated papers, markers, fabrics, inks, buttons and tools to help people create personalized craft projects, scrapbooking pages or greeting cards. Stampin’ Up! Vice-President of Sales Amy Swartz says even women who don’t think they have a hint of creativity find themselves entranced with the concept of customized design projects.
“Once they get a stamp in their hands or sit in front of their computer with our design program, they become creative. There’s something magic when you put a stamp on paper,” Swartz says.
During the last quarter-century, the company has evolved to incorporate digital media and online sales. As a direct sales organization, Stampin’ Up! always relied on person-to-person demonstrations and interactions with customers. But with online ordering, customers have a choice and a control in how they can order products.
Some demonstrators were hesitant to embrace online sales but now see the value of having an online presence. Demonstrators are given online tools and services to support their business, and Swartz says if demonstrators had been threatened by the online sales trend, the company would never have succeeded.
To compete with new online technologies, Stampin’ Up! also introduced digital software to help customers create personalized projects online that they can print up and embellish.
“This gave us a huge opportunity to branch out,” Swartz says. “We can’t alienate [the technology]. We had to promote hybrid creativity. We’ve seen a great support and success, but most certainly there was anxiety.”
Social media has been a huge factor in the company’s success as many customers are active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and other social sites. Stampin’ Up! has an active following on all these sites and also created its own social media platforms with Stampin’ Connection, My Digital Studio and Gardner’s “So Shelli” blog to further personalize the customer’s experience while creating brand awareness.
The company continues to expand as the do-it-yourself movement embraces the idea of homemade gifts, cards, stationery and scrapbooking pages. “The success [of the company] has a lot to do with Shelli and the values she has built the company around, and she won’t alter on those values. She stays true to why she started this in the first place.”