Almost from the moment that E. Frances Paper made its National Stationery Show (NSS) debut in 2013, it was a hit. So, was it their dreamy watercolors, luxe materials, or maybe those vibrant color palettes you just want to jump into?
Those certainly don’t hurt, but in this case, I think the secret sauce is the loving lifelong bonds forged between three sisters. Actually, let me back up. They’re actually two sisters and one cousin, but tellingly, that’s what they call themselves.
However they’re related, Creative Director Ali Flippin, Director of Sales Jenni Laundon and Director of Operations Pippi Robert described it best on their “about us” page:
Every living being on our planet is good inside. (except ticks)
It feels good to see the good in everything, and everyone. And we want to share that feeling.
E. Frances is like a big ol’ cookie that is made from three simple ingredients: love, kindness and positivity. We want to share this huge cookie — the more you give, the bigger it gets. And we like our cookies BIG. We have not invented a new recipe — it’s one handed down from our grandmothers. Help each other. Be kind. Spread positivity. Write a letter!
Our mission is to make the biggest, fattest, chunk-filled cookie in the world, so that everyone gets a huge piece. We want to help you write to your oldest friend and thank them. Smile at someone who needs a smile. Reach out and connect. Let your good shine. Eat cookies!
I know I’m not the only one now wanting a cookie, but in the meantime, Ali sat down with me to chat about E. Frances’ origins, inspirations and the role NSS has played in their growth.
SS: E. Frances is the quintessential modern stationery business in that is a family operation — even named after two grandmothers — but I am curious what inspired you to initially start a paper company?
AF: We really really really needed place cards for Thanksgiving one year.
SS: Right now everyone is talking about 18 Million Thanks! Please share how you got involved & the response you have gotten so far.
AF: We have major crushes on Juju, Ryan, and the cheeky (in the literal sense) baby over at Good Juju Ink … so we were on board from the beginning. When they do something, they definitely give it their all and this campaign was just such a great way to send good juju into the world. It is so impressive how much work went into it, and we hope that it really makes a difference for a LOT of healthcare recipients. What an awesome thing to be in a position to do! Send cards to people we want to thank… it’s a brilliant idea for card companies. We have had great response. It’s a simple thing people can do at a time when a lot of people are wondering what they can do to help the world.
SS: I am so curious about the process through which your 6 Feet Away Collection was designed and released under the gun as it were. Can you give us a glimpse at the timeline, process and the response it garnered?
AF: One day we were planning our next collection and interviewing to hire four new staff members, and then — like the rest of the world — everything shockingly stopped. I think in the darkest part of this crazy time, the best of humanity has come out. We knew that everyone wanted to reach out to others to make sure they were ok, to send smiles, just say hi.
We thought postcards would be a great way for people to easily keep in touch, and we include a postcard stamp with each one so that no one has to make a trip to the P.O. Through lots of brainstorming sessions over the phone, we designed seven different postcards that included a range of sentiments — from “sending you a socially-distant hug” to a thank you card for healthcare workers.
They have been a huge hit and we have had to restock multiple times. I do think that snail mail replaced a lot of in-person hugs over the past few months. We have heard from so many people telling us how much joy these cards have brought them.
SS: Please describe anything else that is upcoming in the house of E. Frances!
AF: We’re planning a huge dance party at our factory that will happen as soon as we can all be sweaty in the same vicinity. We wish the whole world could come.
SS: How many times have you exhibited at NSS and NY NOW? How have your booth location/configurations changed through the years, ending with the space you found yourself in at the February Show?
AF: We debuted at the 2013 NSS, so that’s six years of NSS, one year of NY NOW (2019), plus our rep group has exhibited our line every NSS and NY NOW from 2014-2019.
We’ve tried a little of everything in terms of a booth. Our first year we were in a 8×10 booth with foamcore walls. We look at pics of that one when we need a good laugh. I think the only thing in the booth besides the three of us and our eager smiles was a hideous cheap white chair. But it was a great show!
Since then we have slowly added space to the booth over the years. One year we rented a truck and drove our handmade walls to the show, which we learned was something you do once and never again.
Then we purchased and shipped a crate that held a corner booth that we built. Which was interesting as our office at the time was on the third floor of a building so the rainy forecast on crate-packing day was further proof of Murphy’s Law. (Who IS Murphy and how is he always right?) The next year we decided to treat ourselves and rented walls and shelves. Glorious. And finally last year we debuted at NY NOW in a big fancy 12×20 booth.
SS: How have your NSS/NY NOW experiences shaped and nurtured your brand?
AF: The biggest and most valuable experiences we gain at shows, year after year, are the relationships we make with our customers as well as other companies. These connections really drive our decision to exhibit, as it’s the only time we ever get to be face-to-face with everyone in the industry. You gain so much from talking to other companies!
And hearing from customers what shoppers actually say about your products is the BEST. When you make things and ship them out to stores, you don’t know how they’re received. The stories from shop owners make our hearts burst with happiness.
SS: What are your favorite memories, on and off the show floor, from your past NSS/NY NOWs?
AF: By far, seeing our dear friends and stockists! The stationery community is THE BEST! Going out with awesome people after a long show with amazing NYC food … yes.
SS: What were your most successful releases at at the February Show?
AF: Little Notes! We have almost 50 different designs of Little Notes, and displaying them all on one wall of the booth was a great visual. We also debuted the Little Note Holder, which is a beautiful, handmade ceramic holder that fits the Little Notes perfectly.
SS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with TPC readers about #NSS2020 and NY NOW, or your thoughts on the show generally?
AF: If you bring treats to our booth we will tell you the location of the secret bathroom …
Thanks so much Ali for taking the time to virtually sit down with me! I can’t wait to give her a non-socially distanced hug and see all that glorious work in person. Speaking of which, National Stationery Show will next open its famed doors from October 18-20. I sure hope to see you all there!