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While many card designers are artists who turn to the greeting card industry to share and market their artwork, Stefanie MacDonald found her way into the world of snail mail a little differently. As an entrepreneur and Marketing Manager, MacDonald dipped into graphic design to fulfill her responsibilities as a marketer. She taught herself by watching YouTube tutorials and experimented with doodles for practice. In 2015, that initial foray into digital illustrating transformed itself into MacDonald’s small side-business, Paper Hearts Halifax. Just three years later she left her corporate job to pursue Paper Hearts full time and hasn’t looked back since.
What started as a hobby selling cards at the Seaport Farmers Market has turned into a national distribution company carried in over 200 stores across Canada. While large scale greeting card retailers like Carlton Cards and Papyrus have been pulling back and closing out stores, MacDonald continues to take Paper Hearts to new heights in the industry. Now, she’s launching a new initiative to bring creatives together to have their work sold in Sobeys stores across Atlantic Canada.
Introducing Paper Hearts Post Office
After successfully developing a partnership with Sobeys Atlantic to have Paper Hearts cards carried in the floral departments of 18 Sobeys locations throughout the province, MacDonald has taken it to the next level by launching the Paper Hearts Post Office. This new collective brings together various local artists to have their work featured on Paper Hearts cards and sold across the province. Each season, new cards will pop-up at Sobeys locations, offering customers a curated experience provided by artists in their own communities.
“There is such a wealth of inspiration and ambition coming out of the maker community right now,” says MacDonald. “Unbridled curiosity and talent pairs beautifully with the needs of our independent boutique owners.” MacDonald says the beauty of being a small fish in the industry is that Paper Hearts can operate at a scale that allows the business to be nimble and responsive to the unique needs of retailers and customers.
How does the Paper Hearts Post Office work?
- Paper Hearts accepts submissions from creatives across the region
- Paper Hearts licenses the artwork, designs, and photographs to print on the greeting cards
- Paper Hearts prints, packages, sells, delivers, and merchandises the completed cards to Sobeys stores throughout Nova Scotia
- Paper Hearts curates new collections each season, to continually offer fresh picks
Collaboration over competition
These days we hear a lot about collaboration over competition, but there are still those who cringe at the success of others. Some of this competition, MacDonald explains, is rooted in fear. “If you’re distracted by what others are doing, you’ll convince yourself that someone else’s win is your loss,” she says. “It’s very hard to create brilliant work from a place of fear.” Paper Hearts Post Office challenges those beliefs, reframing competition into collaboration and encouraging people to recognize that there is enough business for all talented makers to succeed in their own right.
The concept of Paper Hearts Post Office is founded in collaboration. MacDonald explains that collaborating with local artists takes the pressure off her own creativity, and allows her to support the local art industry at the same time. “The idea of creating entire collections of cards for every occasion is very overwhelming to me,” says MacDonald. “I wanted to pair the magic I can create through marketing and operations with the tremendous talent that exists within the maker community.” Paper Hearts Post Office is a win-win for creatives and customers alike.
We’ve been busy little 🐝s over the past few weeks, bundling up & delivering our note cards to 18 @sobeys locations throughout Nova Scotia! Scroll to the right to find the stand nearest to you! 📮 Which Sobeys stores thought Atlantic Canada would you like to see our local artists pop up in next?
Advice from an industry leader
For MacDonald, Paper Hearts is an extension of herself as a creative person, but Paper Hearts Post Office is something more. “The launch of this creative collective feels different to me,” she explains. “It feels like it has a larger purpose driving it. I am acting as a bridge for artists that are wildly talented but might not yet have this level of exposure or opportunity.” While continuing to create her own art, MacDonald also juggles meeting the demands of a national retailer, precisely tracking logistics and strategy, and executing the program with excellence. She is a strong leader in the business industry and has great insight to share with others.
“As creatives, we all have our own perspective and our own voice to use,” says MacDonald. “My advice to creative people would be to let the fear fuel you, let the talent of others push you to go deeper within yourself – that’s where the magic is.” She recommends starting businesses in Atlantic Canada, but not limiting oneself to the local market. MacDonald explains that business owners should take into account the need to balance their desire to scale with their confidence in the sustainability of the project. By focusing one’s energy in creating new products that meet the needs of their customers and prioritizing relationship-building, anything can happen.
Most importantly, MacDonald says, is staying true to oneself throughout the entire process. “If you stay true to your weird, take better care of your mind and body, double down on what’s working and let go of the rest, you can distinguish yourself in the marketplace because no one can bring your ideas to the world quite like you can.”
Halifax Paper Hearts™ started in 2015 with one self-taught designer, Stefanie MacDonald, producing cards and selling them at the local farmer's market. 📝 Four years (and a lot of hard work) later, Paper Hearts™ now works with over 165 retail partners across the country, including a key partnership with @sobeys Atlantic. 💌 We connect people to each other, and to opportunities. Our partnership with Sobeys serves as a platform to showcase the power of collaboration over competition. We're committed to promoting our fellow creatives, while providing our loyal customers with cards created right in their own communities. 🌸 Check out your local Paper Hearts™ Post Office at your local Sobeys Atlantic floral department this July, we can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to.
Jill Ellsworth: A lover of handwritten letters, bottomless tea, and contributing to the chaos.