In my younger years I dabbled in the card game a bit. Greeting cards, that is. It all began with Paint (the windows application). I was nine and I had already procured a desk in the basement where my dad’s office was. I had an extensive working knowledge of how to use the phone to call every other desk in the basement and leave detailed messages describing business venture after business venture. I knew one thing, I loved making forms. I used to create tests (history, math, etc) for my family on Paint. I loved the idea of having that kind of control…grading and all of that. It did rub me the wrong way that upon grading everyone was always getting a perfect score. It could have been that I didn’t figure out you make all of the blanks in the fill-in-the-blank section equal length. Those jerks didn’t even pretend to get one wrong! Or it could have been that I assumed pulling some of the questions from my hardest 4th grade exams would do the trick. But alas, every time I was dolling out 100%s and A+s. I was using up my best stickers and glitter every time I had to grade a perfect paper. I knew something had to give; I was squandering precious Lisa Frank resources! I started to doubt myself as an educator and I think this is about the time I began looking at other options.
As I mentioned, forms were the driving incentive for me. I needed something that would allow me to create form after form and force other people to fill them out. Thus spawned, my most successful business venture of ’97, Kasey’s Card Shop.
It was genius. The forms included a place for your name, contact info, type of card wished to purchase, personalized message, and even a check box for “glitter,” “no glitter.” I began my hustle by changing all of the phones in the basement to include my logo next to one of the many lines my dad had. He told me I could use it for my shop, though today, I am a little suspicious that it was being used for non-card related business. Dad? Then of course I made a name plate for my desk out of metallic markers and construction paper. Now I could really get to work. My aunt was working for a paper company at the time so she brought me tons of card stock that would have been wasted otherwise. I gathered my tools, Crayola, Lisa, and Elmer’s and began to make prototypes for each season. I figured KCS was like those restaurants that bring out the tray of assorted desserts so you can get a better sensory experience of what you’re getting into. Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Get Well, Congratulations, and my personal fav, “Just Because.” I also think I had a “blank inside” option just in case you wanted to make sure the recipient felt how personal it was, while also enjoying the famed artwork of a 9 year old.
The final step in really launching the business was to order about a thousand free sample “Kasey’s Card Shop” return labels. If my own phone line, desk, and swivel chair didn’t make me official, I knew the labels were going to put me over the top.
I began soliciting in a safe space, the kitchen, living room, bedrooms etc. I also attended open-forum activities that would give me the best chance of discovery, Family Home Evening, Family Prayer, Dinner and so on. I then moved to bigger clients, the missionaries, neighbors, my big brother’s friends. They all seemed so relieved that they finally found a card shop that could meet all of their needs. Although I think some of my brothers friends were more interested in sniffing the glue. But either way, I was expanding. I had orders coming in from all over and between juggling the finances, store front (I did have my own Christmas tree for my office complete with a paper chain and homemade ornaments), using the industrial-sized paper cutter to create the perfect forms, AND cutting, coloring, and gluing, I felt like it was the right time to bring on an employee.* My big sister. She would be in charge of all glitter orders. And man, could she glitter. Such precise measuring of how much glitter was necessary, where and when to shake. She was a great asset. However, late in the year, before the surge of Christmas orders, there was an incident and I had to let her go. The details are foggy but I think it involved a bossy, crazed younger sister trying to manager her older sister who was helping as a favor anyway. After I found myself overwhelmed with orders, I went to our HR rep, mom, to mediate a discussion that would hopefully result in the reemployment of said big sister. Feelings were mended and she took her seat next to me as Glitter Extraordinaire once again.
My big break came when my oldest brother ordered 50 Christmas cards for friends. Kjersti and I went to work. We were pulling out all of the stops, the designs included all original artwork, Christmas trees, gifts, bells, holly, nativities etc. We made our deadline and filled the order right in time for Christmas break. It’s unclear whether or not the cards made it out that year, but I had done my best work and felt pride in what I had accomplished.
KCS would continue to boom for about a year. I made between$10-20 a month. I’m sure the number of cards I sold had nothing to do with the overwhelming evidence that my mom was reimbursing my customers, or that I was, at the time, handicapped with some severe shoulder problems and people felt bad. No, I don’t think they were pity purchases that put me on top. I Just think I exemplified the American dream of a small business owner. I was local, personable, easy to reach (line 3), proactive customer service (don’t like your card, pay me and I’ll make you a brand new one!), and if you worked for my dad you received, free of charge, a handcrafted envelope with your paycheck every two weeks (I believed in giving back to the community).
The years I spent at KCS were some of my best. One day, I think I’d like to get back to the basics once again. Glue, glitter, repeat, break for trampoline time where you pretend you’re in the Olympics and your performing to the Spice Girls, and then back to the grind. Those really were the good ole days.
*I’m not sure she ever received any of the profits, remind me I owe you, Kj.
For the record, that is not an original from KCS (you should have suspected due to the lack of glitter)