A Chat with Paulette Jarvey, Owner and President, Hot Off The P
© Profile of Success, Catalog Success magazine, May 2006
Interview by Sharon R. Cole
Catalog Success: When was the catalog established?
Paulette Jarvey: The first issue went out February 2002.
Catalog Success: Where are your headquarters?
Jarvey: Canby, Oregon with distribution out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Catalog Success: What is your primary merchandise?
Jarvey: Supplies for scrapbooking: patterned papers, kits, embellishments and idea books.
Catalog Success: Number of SKUS?
Jarvey: 1,100 per issue
Catalog Success: What are your primary customer demographics?
Jarvey: Women who are passionate about scrapbooking, cardmaking and papercrafting. Our customer is usually college-educated with a job and family and a healthy disposable income.
Catalog Success: What are your main sales channels?
Jarvey: Our Paper Wishes sales are direct to consumer, but we also sell our proprietary products to independent scrapbook stores and chain craft stores across the US and Canada and through distributors in the UK and Australia.
Catalog Success: How many employees do you have?
Catalog Success: How did the company get started?
Jarvey: Hot Off The Press celebrates its 26th year in business this year! We've always sold our books and products direct to consumer as well as to retailers and distributors, but in 2002 we decided to offer them an easy way to buy coordinating scrapbooking supplies. The result was an immediate hit!
Catalog Success: Had you any experience in cataloging?
Jarvey: None except for having our standard trade product catalog. Certainly the catalog terminology like "squinches" was new, as was the idea of sourcing and seeding names. But we did our homework! We worked with Lois Boyle (through Jack Schmid & Associates catalog consultants) before getting systems in place like fulfillment and customer service.
Catalog Success: What was your biggest challenge in the first few years and how did you deal with it?
Jarvey: Managing the growth and learning the ropes! It was a major learning experience and we did experience a few bumps along the way, especially because the growth was so phenomenal. We eventually partnered with catalog expert Herrschners, who now does our fulfillment out of Wisconsin. The creative and buying is done here.
Catalog Success: What has been your biggest career challenge and how did you deal with it?
Jarvey: Over 26 years you can imagine there have been lots of challenges! Managing growth is always a tricky one. When we first developed papers for scrapbooking nearly 11 years ago, our business quadrupled that first year. We were running so hard and so fast we had no time to develop and implement systems—it was all we could do to make the product and ship it out the door. And while that kind of growth is a fun and exciting challenge to some employees, it's scary and stressful to others. Looking back, there are lots of little things I would have done differently, but under those frantic circumstances I think we managed pretty well. Now, of course, we have systems in place—and those systems have proven invaluable in getting us through quite a few challenges.
Catalog Success: What sets your company apart from others?
Jarvey: Hot Off The Press has two really key competitive advantages. First of all, we know our customer—and we develop product to suit her needs (even before she knows what her needs are!). We know our customer is a busy woman who wants great-looking scrapbooks, but doesn't have the time or inclination to search all over town for the newest supplies. Second, we make top-quality, color-coordinating products—all of which are developed under the watchful eye of our product development and quality control. We have the capacity through our product development team, graphics department and close relationship to our printer (who's just a few miles away from us) to create papers and embellishments that coordinate—and for a scrapbooker, that's a big deal. After all, she's creating handmade keepsakes that she plans to pass down to future generations—quality is very important, but so are ideas and creativity.
Catalog Success: What is your biggest business challenge and how do you plan to resolve it?
Jarvey: My challenge, both personally and professionally, is to always look at how we can do things better. I'm always searching for ways to improve what we do, and I count on my team of employees to come up with suggestions for making their jobs more efficient. It's an on-going challenge!
Catalog Success: What are some key points to your success?
Jarvey: Spotting trends early. For example, we sensed that scrapbooking would become a big part of the creative industry while it was still in its infancy—and we were the first to bring it to retail. Similarly, we've spotted the impact web media is having on customer buying trends, so we've developed Paper Wishes Weekly webisodes, an online "television show" with a new segment each week that teaches customers how to use various scrapbooking supplies. Of course, customers can then click to buy the product we're showing. It's been a giant success in selling product and branding Paper Wishes.
I'd have to say another key to success is the talented team here at HOTP. We have a dedicated Paper Wishes buyer, amazing graphic designers, and people who feel personally vested in the success of the catalog. It's great to work with such talented and creative people every day.
A third key to success is the variety of new product. Because scrapbooking is a fashion-based industry, it's important to the consumer to have new and exciting product all the time. HOTP creates new product three times each year, so we always have something new—and our vendors are great about showing us the newest things first.
Catalog Success: What goals do you have for the catalog?
Jarvey: We're continuing to grow at a steady pace, both in number of customers and number of pages. I'd like to continue expanding beyond scrapbooking. Our customers have become avid cardmakers and it's fun to bring them even more creative products.
Catalog Success: Have you had any mentors?
Jarvey: Nancy Drew! Okay, maybe she's not your typical mentor but as a little girl she inspired me because of her independence and intelligence. Being a woman business owner can be tough, and very often I felt I was going it alone. Now I feel I'm very much supported by a team of fabulous employees and business associates, who make it much easier (and more fun!) to lead the business.
Catalog Success: What about the business appeals to you?
Jarvey: The challenges and the results! I love seeing how we can make each book better, and the game of what to leave in and what to take out, where to put this product and how to show that one. Of course, I also love poring over the latest book to see how things did and whether the hunch I had about that new product played out.
Catalog Success: What's your definition of success?
Jarvey: Being happy in what you do. Being proud of what you do. Making a difference to your customers and employees.
Catalog Success: In what ways do you feel you've succeeded?
Jarvey: I'm delighted to own a company that provides women with supplies and ideas that make them feel creative and successful. I can't tell you how deeply pleased I am when I get a letter or an e-mail from a customer who tells me, "I never thought I was creative, but I bought some of your products and made really great scrapbook pages!" That's one more woman who feels just a little more successful—which means I've succeeded!
Catalog Success: If a new cataloguer asked you to name the keys to success in business, what would you say?
Jarvey: Know your customer and serve her well. Grow according to your core competencies but don't be limited to them. Stop every now and then to look at your business from a strategic perspective—it's amazing how the landscape can change while you're buried in the details.