Interview: Whitney Beard of Whisker Graphics

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

Whisker Graphics offers personalized paper goods, DIY printables, and Divine Twine – a new product on the Etsy scene that piqued my interest recently.

Curious about what’s involved in bringing a new product like Divine Twine to the market?  So was I!  Luckily Whitney was happy to answer my questions…

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how Whisker Graphics came about.

I live in Northern California with my husband, 11-year-old daughter, 15-year-old son, and our schnoodle, Lola.  I’ve always loved paper goods – stationery, journals, labels, gift tags, even sales receipt books.  A couple of years ago I was doing an exercise with some friends where we each had to make a list of 50 things that started with “Wouldn’t if be nice if ________”.  One of the things I wrote down was, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a successful line of stationery.”

A friend told me about Etsy, I did some investigating and then jumped in.  Even though I have a degree in graphic design, I hadn’t done anything creative in years, so I still had to teach myself Illustrator and a little Photoshop (and I’m still learning).

How did the idea for Divine Twine come about?

The idea for Divine Twine came out of wanting the product myself. I love bakers twine. I love how it looks, and I love all the ways you can use it. It sweetens up anything it adorns. About a year ago I was on a mad hunt for bakers twine in colors that excited me. I searched all over the web and came up with nothing. I assumed my search skills were lacking and dropped it. A couple months passed, and I tried searching again. Nothing. I figured if I wanted it so strongly others might also, so I started investigating getting it produced.

Could you tell us about the process of finding a manufacturer to produce Divine Twine?

I searched the internet for a manufacturer, and it was a challenge to find someone who would work with me. Manufacturers are used to dealing in HUGE quantities, and I wanted to start small so I could test the waters with Divine Twine.  I ended up having to order waaaaay more product than I initially intended in order to meet manufacturing minimums.

I sent emails, and when I received no response I followed up with phone calls.  One of the first things the manufacturer I ended up working with said to me was “That’s going to be a disaster.”  Rather than hanging up the phone and feeling disheartened, I kept asking questions about why it would be a disaster. Through that conversation the manufacturer decided to do some investigating for me to see what could be done to create what I had in mind.  I think I got lucky finding someone who was patient and kind enough to give me a chance.

What are the most common uses for Divine Twine, and what are some of the more creative uses?

I love to use the twine for gift wrapping, making garlands, hanging gift tags, and tying around baked goods. It’s also been popular with photographers, paper goods designers, and soap makers to use in packaging their products. Really there are so many uses: scrapbooking, as a bookmark, wrap around fresh flowers or a vase, even crochet a doily.

Have there been any major obstacles or lessons that you’ve learned as you’ve expanded your business?

I haven’t encountered any major obstacles (thankfully!), but I have learned that you have to wear many more hats than I ever thought: designer, production manager, bookkeeper, photographer, copy writer, computer tech, shipping clerk, marketing agent.  I wish I were better at so many of those jobs, but there are only so many hours in the day!

Oh!  I did think of an obstacle: myself.  I had a habit of comparing my business progress with that of other small businesses.  I always found myself lacking and would feel awful and uninspired.  For a short while I stopped reading blogs or looking at other shops.  I had to block everything else out and focus only on what I wanted to create.  The comparison still happens sometimes, but I catch it early, shake it off, and focus on the next action I can take to help my business grow.

It seems like I’ve been seeing Divine Twine popping up all over popular blogs recently… do you have any tips for getting your products featured on a blog?

I wish I were full of tips, but mostly I was fortunate that others were excited about Divine Twine.  Jessica on How About Orange posted on her blog a request for suggestions of interesting things. I  sent her an email about Divine Twine, and she blogged about it.  That was really helpful in getting the word out.

What’s next for Whisker Graphics?

I’m in the process of having my own e-commerce website created (thanks for the Aeolidia recommendation!) It feels like a huge step for me, and I’m so excited about it.  I’ll be able to easily offer wholesale ordering for Divine Twine, and customers will be able to instantly download my printables so they won’t have to wait for me to email files to them. I’m also working on having additional colors of Divine Twine produced, plus I’d like to offer semi-custom rubber stamps in the future.

I can’t wait to see how the new website turns out, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for those rubber stamps!  Thank you, Whitney!

7 comments

  1. stacy says:

    I just found Oh my! handmade goodness last night from Whitney’s blog! And here this morning to see your interview was fabulous! Way to go gals! You are both incredible examples of success for so many. Best wishes always. Stacy

  2. stacy says:

    i love this interview…and i love divine twine! i was so excited to find whisker graphics through a how about orange post right before the holidays. i didn’t even hesitate to purchase when i saw the orange/white twine…perfect! congrats on your persistance and bringing a MUCH needed product into the marketplace.

  3. Cathe Holden says:

    How wonderful that you interviewed Whitney of Whisker Graphics, one of the nicest women I have EVER met. I have every color of her Divine Twine and keep in a large jar like candy. I had some fun recently using it with clip art: http://justsomethingimade.blogspot.com/2010/01/divine-twine-and-clip-art.html

    Great information from Whitney. I’d love to have a line of product, but I have NO idea what. I sure appreciate how she found a need and filled it. And filled it with class. Way to go Whitney!

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