Growing your Business through Collaboration with other Small Business Owners

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

When Jessika announced this month’s theme, I knew right away that I wanted to write about three successful collaborations that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of over the past few years.

sarah + abraham gift labels, calling cards, and return address labels available at honeybunch

The first was with Nicole at Honeybunch. Nicole and I met online shortly after I launched my Etsy shop in 2007. We got to know each other a little, and she expressed an interest in selling my products in her shop. Unfortunately, my pricing structure doesn’t work well for wholesale accounts, and Honeybunch is based in Canada, which meant higher shipping costs. Over the next couple of years we tinkered with products and pricing, continually trying to work out arrangements that would be mutually beneficial.

In August 2009 Nicole had a great idea. She was in need of a new color printer, and she asked me what I thought about her buying the same printer and materials that I use so that I could email PDFs to her instead of printing and shipping products to Canada. This has worked out beautifully. I’m happy selling PDFs to her, and she’s able to make a decent profit and deliver the products to her customers faster by printing them herself.

a few items from the olliegraphic collection at sarah + abraham

Later in 2009, as I was looking for new product ideas, I came across Meg’s Olliegraphic shop on Etsy. I fell in love with her illustrations and noticed that she didn’t offer printed items, only printables. I contacted her to see if she’d be interested in working together, and we were able to work out a royalty-based arrangement that has been great for both of us. The Olliegraphic line that I offer has been well received by my customers, and in addition to paying Meg royalties, I provide a link to her website on my Olliegraphic product pages so that my customers can contact her for custom designs and/or printables.

My latest collaboration was with a friend, Jen Doerzaph, who approached me with an idea to make high-quality, completely hand-sewn pillows featuring Olliegraphic designs. I ran the idea past Meg, and once she approved the designs, Jen made a bunch of samples to photograph, and we were quickly able to begin offering the pillows.

I’ve been so pleased with all of these collaborations. I think that they’ve worked out so well because all of us have been respectful of each other, flexible, and truly interested in creating arrangements that we can all be happy with. None of us are trying to get the better end of the deal or succeed at someone else’s expense. I believe that when two (or more) people enter into a collaboration with honest intentions and a desire to create a win-win situation, they can accomplish so much more than they’d be able to on their own.

Have you collaborated with other small business owners? Please leave a comment and let us know about your experiences!

  • http://zoegirldesigns.etsy.com Donna Kirk

    Thank you for a great article! I have been thinking about one or two ways to possibly approaching a seller about working together. This has given me the knowledge and approach. Thank you and best luck to you!

  • http://www.greencard.etsy.com Katherine Kelly

    Thank you for this information! I have always wanted to know how you and Meg got together. I have been thinking of approaching a graphic designer I buy from alot to see if she’d be interested in collaborating. Would you mind sharing if you and Meg agreed to only carry each other’s lines or refer customers exclusively to each other?

  • http://www.imaginationkidstoys.com Erin of Imagination Kids Toys

    I’m am lucky enough to have done some great collaborative projects with Jen of Sewn Natural. It has been an amazing opportunity to work with such a talented and creative mind. It is fun to see our ideas come to life- creating with fiber and wood together.

    The best part I would have to say is the wonderful friendship I have gained from our projects.

  • http://newjerseyknits.etsy.com allie

    i love sara’s company and i love that all of her collaborations work so perfectly with her original store. i’ve bought from both of her lines and will definitely be buying a pillow soon!

    thanks for continuing to offer such great content! even if i never let my business take off, i know i have the resources here to let it if i want!

  • http://www.sarahandabraham.com Sara Tams

    Katherine – the license agreement that Meg and I signed only addresses ownership and usage of Meg’s illustrations and compensation. Everything else we’ve worked out informally. For now I’m the only company that Meg has licensed her olliegraphic illustrations to, but she’s free to license them to other companies in the future if she chooses to. I only refer custom illustration work to Meg because I love her work, but I’m free to refer customers to other illustrators if I choose to.

  • http://www.greencard.etsy.com Katherine Kelly

    Thanks for the reply, Sara! Maybe one more question? May I inquire are you free to purchase other’s graphics and use them on your site – or are your graphics a mix of yours and Meg’s?

  • http://drawntoletters.etsy.com Joanne

    Thank you so much Sara.
    I have long admired the way your collaboration expands all your product lines and mutually benefits your business reach. I am very interested in collaborations but also worried about the arrangements. You make it sound easy if the mutual desire is there.

  • http://graciegirlnotes.etsy.com Bevin McSorley

    Wonderful article! Keep up the beautiful work!

  • http://brittanylaurendesign.blogspot.com Brittany Lauren

    Loving hearing the story behind the teamwork! Its amazing how making friends and networking can really help each other and make a business grow. Customers enjoy the range of product I’m sure. One day down the line I’m hoping to do that too.

  • http://www.sarahandabraham.com Sara Tams

    Katherine – I’m free to purchase graphics from other artists.

  • http://www.smidgebox.etsy.com lesley {smidgebox}

    what fun! i’ve always loved your shop, sara, and have also long been a fan of olliegraphics, such cute drawings!

    i have done a couple of one-time collaborations with fabric designers, and that has been a lot of fun.
    I worked with Daisy Janie with her new fabric line last summer, and created some really fun storage bins which Jan [owner/designer of Daisy Janie] used for product promotion + display.
    This past January, I worked on the same sort of arrangement with Laurie Wisbrun, and her adorable fabrics, making another set of storage bins for her!

    I really would love to expand my collaborations with more artists, I find it incredibly inspiring to work with someone and develop a relationship, and it is always mutually beneficial when both parties are on the same page. thanks for sharing your experience!

  • http://www.cecepost.com bee (cecepost)

    I am currently working on two collaborations. Each artist works in different medium and we are taking their designs into letterpress. I am always open to working with someone . Very interesting article Sara and always willing to do a collaboration with you. Currently I have no children’s’ products. Bee