Editor’s Note: The annual Stampin’ Up! convention is one of the largest events of its kind in the industry, but since it is a private event, little is usually heard about it in the mainstream scrapbook media. This year, freelance writer Connie Myers was invited to attend by Stampin’ Up!, and she offered to share her experience with Scrapbook Update’s readers. Her report below provides a fascinating window into the company culture that has created the success of Stampin’ Up! as an organization, as well as an informative look at the company’s latest new products and marketing focus. — Nancy
Thousands of women cheered as the doors opened for the first General Session of the 2012 Stampin’ Up! Convention, held July 18th-21st, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Inside, as lights flashed and party music played, 3500 demonstrators walked, ran and danced through a gauntlet of 500 Stampin’ Up! employees offering applause, hugs, and high fives.
Stampin’ Up! has come a long way. Co-founder and CEO Shelli Gardner and her sister started the company in 1988. Their slender catalog offered stamps designed and manufactured by other companies, and the sisters filled orders from Gardner’s living room. “We held our first convention in Las Vegas in 1989, and we had 50 demonstrators in attendance,” Gardner told me in an e-mail. “Considering it was our first event, and we weren’t as prepared as we would have liked to be, we did a great job. And what matters most is the demonstrators seemed to have a great time. It was a fun event. Of course, it doesn’t even compare with what a Stampin’ Up! event is today!”
Twenty-four years after its living-room start, Stampin’ Up! is headquartered in a picture-perfect 300,000-square foot building in Riverton, Utah, and has a manufacturing plant in Kanab, Utah. The company designs and manufactures its own rubber stamps. It publishes a 200-page core catalog of products each summer, and adds seasonal mini-catalogs throughout the year. Stampin’ Up! has nearly 47,000 demonstrators in a network that reaches the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Consolidated revenue in 2011 exceeded $186 million.
Along with rubber stamps, Stampin’ Up! sells a variety of coordinated inks, papers, cardstock, accessories and tools through its independent demonstrators. Some of the most dedicated demonstrators come to the convention each year to learn creative art techniques, sales methods, and marketing ideas for recruiting. They see new products demonstrated, exchange ideas, and attend a variety of classes intended to help them succeed in their own demonstrator business. Most of all, though, they have a lot of fun.
The 2012 Convention Theme was “I Am.” The first General Session opened with a song titled “I Am” commissioned by Stampin’ Up! and performed by Sounds of Zion recording artist Jessie Clark Funk. The lyrics encourage independence and individual strengths and talents. A lip-synced video featuring Stampin’ Up! employees played on the big screens overhead. Audience members clapped along with the song, dancing in their seats. Singer Jessie Clark Funk came onstage at the end of the video. When Shelli Gardner appeared on the screen and then onstage, audience members cheered and rose to their feet, giving her a standing ovation.
“Our theme for this year’s convention—I am—was one of my favorites by far,” Gardner told me. “I loved the way it was incorporated throughout convention, from the look and feel to the subject matter of all our presentations.”
Gardner talked to demonstrators about the need to expand recruiting and sales to include the age group designated as Generation Y, defined roughly as the generation born in the 80’s and 90’s. Keynote speaker Jason Dorsey, a generational strategy consultant specializing in Generation Y, entertained demonstrators as he educated them on the differences between Generation Y and previous generations, and talked about how best to appeal to them. “Generations are not a box that all of you will fit neatly inside based on your birth year,” Dorsey said. “What generations absolutely are, is they are really powerful clues on where to start to better connect with and influence people of different ages.”
Stampin’ Up! is launching an ad campaign to increase brand awareness among potential Generation Y customers. Ads will run in home, parenting, and general interest magazines in the U.S. and Canada beginning in August.
Demonstrators attended general sessions and classes throughout the three-day convention. General sessions included technique and product demonstrations, prizes, company announcements, achievement awards and on-stage recognition. Classes included several make- and-take sessions using new colors and products. New products were also displayed on Product Showcase boards. Dozens of display boards showcased class projects, general session techniques, and creative cards, scrapbook pages, and projects created by demonstrators. Demonstrators took photos to use as examples when planning their parties, workshops, and classes at home.
Stampin’ Up! has more than 80 new stamp sets and 130 new accessories this year. Many other products have been upgraded. On August 1st, the company will release My Digital Studio 2, an upgrade to the company’s digital design software. Additional downloads for MDS/MDS2 are available weekly.
The company catalog offers Sizzix brand dies that coordinate with its stamps. I was very impressed with the Sizzix Framelits. These open-frame dies work perfectly with stamps, even for a perfectionist like me. Stamp the image first, then place the stamped paper on the Sizzix platform. The process is simple: center the matching Framelit over the image and roll it through the Sizzix die cut machine to cut it out. Framelits can be purchased in a bundle with matching stamps for a 15% savings.
The new heat tool is slimmer and has two heat settings – low for drying ink and high for heat-setting embossing powder.
Ink pads are now made with firm foam pads. This new design keeps ink closer to the surface of the pad and makes for an exceptionally sharp image. I found that I needed to revise my usual inking technique as these pads require a much lighter touch than other stamp pads.
Of all the new products which will be introduced this year, Shelli Gardner says the new paper trimmer is her favorite. The trimmer has a generously-sized platform and cuts or scores to a full 12 inches. The trimmer bar is long enough that both the cutting blade and the scoring blade can be kept on the track at the same time. And there’s a storage compartment under the base for spare blades.
One of the advantages to Stampin’ Up! products is the consistent availability of coordinating colors. The core color palette includes 40 colors which are used in ink pads, cardstock, patterned paper and accessories.
Each year Stampin’ Up! also introduces an additional palette of five current, trendsetting colors. Each “In Color” palette is available for two years, with two palettes always in rotation. Nancy recently reviewed the 2012-2014 In Color selections here on Scrapbook Update.
A portion of Saturday’s closing general session included live streaming to demonstrators around the world. Gardner announced upcoming incentive trips, and Gardner’s daughter/advisor Sara Douglass shared some of her favorite stamping techniques. The Canadian Stampin’ Up! division celebrated its ten year anniversary at the session. Demonstrators were also invited to come on stage for recognition of their landmark anniversary years of service, including fourteen demonstrators who have been demonstrators for 20 years.
Throughout the three days of the convention, wherever I went I made friends. At lunchtime I listened in as demonstrators shared ideas for classes and retreats and found myself exchanging e-mail addresses with my tablemates. At make-and-take classes I found myself sharing inked stamps and technique hints with half a dozen demonstrators who were happy to help me out with the tricky parts. The closing general session was no different. I sat next to two new friends and shared marketing tips I’d picked up from others along the way. The excitement in the room ratcheted higher and higher as party music played and prize patrols roamed the floor giving away thousands of stamp sets. That kind of excitement is hard to resist. By the end of the afternoon my new friends and I were out of our seats and dancing along with 3500 of our closest friends, ready and anxious to go home and create something beautiful.