Stampin’ Up! has informed their consultants that they are in the early stages of launching a new direct sales company called Apostrophe S.
In a video featuring company founder Shelli Gardner and her daughter (and company executive) Sara Douglass, the new venture was described to current Stampin’ Up! consultants as a U.S. direct sales company that will sell self-contained limited edition project kits in craft areas such as paper crafting, metal, leather, wood and glass. No individual items, with the exception possibly of a few basic tools, will be offered.
Gardner and Douglass say the intent of Apostrophe S is to target an entirely different demographic than Stampin’ Up!’s current market. The new target is a young, twenty-something who is highly interested in DIY but wants convenience:
We are targeting a different market segment, and we want to see how successful we are at reaching out in an entirely new way to an entirely new audience. (Sara Douglass)
This appears to be the same demographic that Creative Memories is trying to target with its new Ahni & Zoe brand, but Apostrophe S is making clear the intent to approach it from the angle of the current “maker” trend that is hot in that demographic, rather than trying to repackage their existing product and mission to appeal to them. Stampin’ Up! are also, unlike Creative Memories, hedging their bets by holding onto their existing business and demographic while trying to build the new one. From a business standpoint, it’s a deliberate and measured approach. With a healthier base than Creative Memories had to work from, it’s a choice they have the option of that their competition really didn’t.
The entire process is being built from the ground up to appeal to the new demographic. Because of this, Apostrophe S will be turning the traditional direct sales model on its head. All ordering will be online (no paper catalogs), and ordering will take place before the parties. Once the orders are placed, then customers will bring their kits to parties to assemble together socially – creating essentially a kind of pop-up maker space as attendees assemble a variety of kits and share what they are doing.
The maker approach is even encased in Apostrophe S’s new mission statement: “Apostrophe S empowers everyone to become a maker – even those who may not believe it’s possible. Make friends. Make stuff. Make money. ”
A representative for Stampin’ Up! when asked about Apostrophe S, stressed to Scrapbook Update that Stampin’ Up! is continuing unchanged:
Stampin’ Up! will continue to operate the business the craft community has come to know and love for the past 25 years. We have seen positive growth over the last year and are excited for the rest of 2014 as we prepare to release our annual catalog this June.
Apostrophe S will apparently not be looking to grow by capitalizing on the extensive network of Stampin’ Up! consultants. In the video announcement and accompanying FAQ, it was revealed that Apostrophe S will not, for now, be accepting anyone who was an active Stampin’ Up! consultant on February 1st, 2014, or who joined after that date, even if they drop their Stampin’ Up! affiliation. Apostrophe S will be building a small corps of a limited number of consultants to start.
As Shelli Gardner explained, “There is clearly some risk behind this new venture: The company is new and dynamic and will change as we learn and improve. Only a limited number of people will be able to join initially so that the company can remain nimble and make changes quickly to ensure a positive experience.”
Ground floor opportunity is not critical to success with Apostrophe S, however, as it is being built on a compensation structure that emphasizes immediate income over building a long-term network and career. Consultants will earn commission on their own sales, and then “lifestyle rewards” on their network’s sales – but networks are limited to only one level.
So what are “lifestyle rewards”? Gardner and Douglass didn’t specify, but typically the term refers to the sort of loyalty program like airlines and other companies have where you accrue points that you can exchange for rewards like travel and gift cards. Of course, in the direct sales industry there is a long history of offering travel rewards, something that is likely to appeal to a twenty-something demographic if offered.
So where do Shelli Gardner and Sara Douglass fit into all of this? Gardner will be what she describes as a “cheerleader” for the new company while continuing to shepherd Stampin’ Up! through its ongoing period of growth brought about by the fall of Creative Memories. Douglass will head up the new brand while continuing in her role at Stampin’ Up! as well.