Adaptability Saves Startup: Gingiber Uses Creativity to Boost Revenue During COVID-19

Jul 8, 2020

In the midst of coronavirus (COVID-19) when people lost their jobs, were in isolation at home, and the death toll was rising, social companionship was substituted with an artistic outlet. Whether expressed through illustrations on TikTok, homemade face masks, a DIY craft or a project to occupy your kids, there has been an influx of artistic expression while confined at home. 

While the art supply isles of big box stores have been barren and resemble something from a  scene of an apocalyptic film, a local Arkansas business based in Springdale has created one of a kind craft kits available for order that spread encouragement during this pandemic. 

Gingiber encompasses the designs from owner Stacie Bloomfield’s creations of colorful animals fit for a nursery or positive messages for fellow creatives. These designs have been transformed into fabrics, wallpapers, home decor and books and then are manufactured for wholesale orders to distributors including West Elm, Crane and Company among others in more than 600 retail stores.

Wholesale orders immediately halted in March with the onset of the virus, and Bloomfield’s impromptu embroidery kits, coloring books and virtual art classes are truly a testament to her adaptability. 

“Prior to COVID we were planning on having a huge year for wholesale,” Bloomfield said. “Everything was tracking really well. We’ve been working on that for years. We had just gotten back from the New York trade show, which is really important for the gift industry and had just landed with a big retailer to get our products into 50 of their stores. When COVID hit, we lost almost every single wholesale order from that show, so the first thing I did was make digital products. I put together a coloring book that I sold with my illustrations as a digital download. I sold enough coloring books to cover payroll for my team, because my goal is to not have to lay anybody off.”

While Bloomfield had to cancel her in person classes at the Gingiber maker space in Springdale, she launched approachable online classes that serve as step by step guides through crafting with her kits and supplies. Her free class “Creative Powerhouse” targeted for visionaries became a turning point in expanding her audience with nearly 8,000 attendees. 

“The courses were free, you just had to enter your email to access it. We grew our newsletter list from maybe 6,000 in January up to 21,000 people by June, which is pretty crazy because in 11 years of business, we only had 6,000 people on our list.” 

The free courses were just a glimpse at the master teacher Bloomfield has become in her 11 years of turning her artwork into a successful company. On June 29th, the Leverage Your Art eight week online training course was launched to educate creatives how to license their art and market themselves effectively. In just one week, the Leverage course has had over 500 students who receive video lessons with special guests and live Q and A sessions. 

“The workshop has allowed me to keep my whole team employed. In one week of sales of that course, we brought in more revenue than we did in all of 2019 for our whole business.”

Bloomfield’s pliancy to the current economic environment coupled with her personable marketing strategies have equated to her recipe for success. 

“Even before COVID-19 I had started making a lot of art that was just for social media in terms of engagement to keep my audience excited about my work. I don’t do social media to directly sell very much anymore. it’s more about connecting my art with my ideal customer and hopefully we create a connection there that my work is encouraging them. When people sign up for my newsletter, they’re not immediately being sold to, we have to go through a nurture sequence where I have a series of emails where I’m just letting them get to know me as a creative, letting them get to know my business and my dreams and what I want to do in the creative community.”

Creatives flourish with ideas and designs, but converting those into an effective business model requires a different skill set. Bloomfield now shares her expertise with others wanting to follow in her footsteps, but her knowledge did not come without trial and error and consulting assistance. 

“I found Startup Junkie at a very pivotal time in my career. I had focused my whole business on Etsy with a little bit of licensing and wholesale. Etsy had gone public as a platform and changed their algorithm and my sales were plummeting. I got an email from Startup Junkie that they were taking applications for Scaleup Ozarks.”

Gingiber started in 2009 and Bloomfield profitably navigated branding herself in a post recession stricken economy and working with Startup Junkie in 2015 ensured that Gingiber did not just thrive by happen chance but through profit and inventory focused planning. 

“Because of working with them, I walked away with a new realization that I could actually take charge of my business and create a profitable business model where I saw a place to grow. Jeff helped me create a semi budget and a projection for how long it would take me to hit a million dollars. I think at the time it was going to take me about 10 years by the rate I was growing to get to a million dollars. And I think this year we’ll hit a million and I’m really excited by that because I’m beating it by five years.”

It’s no wonder that Bloomfield’s personable connection to her customers is paying off as her beginnings to Gingiber originated from her vision to create a modern take on vintage children illustrations for nursery decor. As a mother pursuing her dream to start a women-owned business, the encouraging messages in her designs reflect the inspiring story of setting up her business to not only enrich the Northwest Arkansas community but creatives all over the world.

“This year, with everything that’s happened, it’s been more important now than ever to take a look where you’re actually making the money and where the idea of the best profit margins could be and really lean into that.”