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Mother’s Day Cards and the Genesis of Lost Art

Mark McKnight Greeting Cards Mother's Day

Don't forget! Mother's Day 2019 is Sunday, May 12.

Mother’s Day holds particular meaning for us here at Lost Art Stationery. Chris and I both—like all of us—literally came from our mothers, but our business emerged from that annual holiday created to remind children to thank their mothers everywhere how wonderful they are. The special annual day of motherly recognition pushed us to start the company several years ago. At the time, Chris worked for a tiny little stationery store in Chattanooga. He had always wanted to design greeting cards and loved this particular shop back when it was located close to our current design studio on the bustling Southside neighborhood. By the time Chris worked there, It was positioned right in the entryway to one of our boutique downtown shopping areas, giving Chris direct access to a steady stream of customers: locals, tourists, die-hard fans, people looking for directions to the bathroom, and the occasional seedy character looking for the bankruptcy court located upstairs.

The size of the store precluded a huge inventory. In the weeks leading up to this particular Mother’s Day holiday, the card shop sold out of Mother’s Day cards early, but there wasn’t time to re-order from any of the big national greeting card brands. Chris had been designing his own cards with the intention of selling in the store. So, Chris set off to create a few mother’s day designs of his own. He stayed up all night creating a few of the designs that are still among our best sellers in the “cards for mom” category. Combining high-quality Crane paper, clean designs and his snarky sense of humor, the cards took off and many sold well.

The volume of cards we sold in the shop started us down the road of considering making a run at creating a greeting card brand. We knew it would be difficult—and it hasn’t been any walk in the park—but we knew that listening to our customers and continuing to design quickly in response to feedback would help us find our way. In fact, in the next step of our business evolution, we went straight to the public and set up a booth at the always-packed Chattanooga Market on Sundays.

We sold to long-time customers who we recognized but also began to meet a wide variety of new friends who loved Chris’ work and sense of humor. They also shared their own experiences and funny sayings as well as requesting cards for occasions and sentiments that we hadn’t covered yet. As a result, many of the Mother’s Day cards can be used year-round as a note of appreciation and aren’t limited to one day.

Transitioning from working in a retail shop with many brands to being our own shop with only our product took some time and effort before we hit our stride. Eventually, we had several retail shops approach us about opening up wholesale accounts, and over time we made the leap and began regularly selling to greeting card stores all over the country (and one in London). The following year, we officially launched the Lost Art Stationery brand to wholesalers at the National Stationery Show.

The Lost Art Booth at the National Stationery Show


The show itself was a bust—very little foot traffic paired with very expensive exhibit fees put us deep in the red. In fact, we just happened to select one of the last NSS shows they ever produced as a stand-alone; they’ve now combined with a larger gift show now. Our booth materials didn’t arrive in time from our manufacturer and we had to scramble to create something decent looking. We rode the subway over to IKEA in Brooklyn and then had to take a very expensive cab ride back to the Javits Center with the furniture and carpet we had purchased. We even paid something like $300 to have an approved electrician plug in a power strip and sign off on the lights we had purchased. (We had to pay time and a half because it was after 5 pm.)

All was not lost, though. We did come away with a couple of new accounts and a huge amount of learning about the industry and what buyers wanted. We also met talented friends like Party Sally and others who we keep in touch with today. A major chain store gave us very positive feedback on the design direction and quality of production and sent their CEO over to speak with us. Additionally, the two of us have never struggled to find good food and drink, and NYC had plenty to offer in that department. Leaving New York City broke but hopeful for the future, we marked the passing of another Mother’s Day and pushed forward with our entrepreneurial dreams.

We still circle back to that original card shop experience; it still drives us and reminds us to never stop creating. For those customers who don't want to even worry about shopping every month, we created a greeting card subscription box that automatically ships every month to your home or office. It's a great reminder to send a few cards each month to the people who matter in your life.

We hope you enjoy our Mother’s Day selections, and if there’s anything that you don’t see, drop us a line. Many of our best ideas have come from our customers.

Shop our full Mother's Day card collection.


Feature photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash



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