Julie Green of Up Up Creative is doing some revolutionary things with her business this month. I recently chatted with her about her new project and what it means for her, her customers, and the wedding industry in general.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
In a nutshell, I’m a graphic designer and an indie entrepreneur and I run a small in-house print studio. I specialize in modern, bold typographic designs, hand-drawn patterns, and non-sappy invitations and greetings. In the last year or so, sort of by mistake, I’ve shifted almost completely towards wedding stationery — invitations, thank you notes, maps, etc — mostly because I enjoy working with my wedding clients so much.
Tell me about the Wedding Industrial Revolution project (if that’s what you’re calling it. If not, correct me!). What is it and what does it do for your clients?
My project. It has a few different little names. I started out calling it Up Up Yours in my head because that seemed funny and clever and just seemed to suit me. But then I started calling it an industrial revolution because part of my goal is to get a dialog going about how we can change — and by change I mean make more meaningful and more personal and more thoughtful — the wedding industry.
I get a lot of flack for being part of the big-bad wedding industry, and sometimes I’m even embarrassed to tell people what kind of graphic design I do most. But really, I think the wedding industry is kind of completely awesome, or at least it can be awesome.
Weddings are community events. They bring together family and friends but they also bring people together with the professionals who work in their own communities. They bring people together with artists and artisans. They bring people together with indie businesses. In fact, I can’t think of another event or industry that encourages just these kinds of comings-together. When else will most people hire a photographer for anything? And do you think a florist pays the rent and feeds the family on foot traffic through his flower shop?
The truth is, while you can certainly buy elements of your wedding at Walmart (not to pick on Walmart; seriously, I’m not into making that argument now), you really can’t just go buy a wedding there. You can’t have a wedding without supporting your community and the people who live there. Or maybe you can, but it’s hard. You’d have to work hard to avoid supporting local artists, sellers, makers, and doers.
But I think I’m digressing. Back to the experiment.
After a very mainstream greeting-card-industry spring, I found myself very navel-gaze-y in terms of my business. I spent a lot of time with numbers and spreadsheets and articles on business growth. I fiddled. I faddled. I frowned and furrowed. I thought hard about pricing structures and things that make college students fall asleep in their required intro to business courses.
And suddenly I found my own self falling asleep and I realized I needed to do something crazy, and quick.
So I got to thinking about the things that make me tick. The things that make my business tick. The messages I want to send and the questions I want to ask. The conversations I want to start. I considered dying my hair fire-engine red and then instead I decided to do something crazy risky and bold, but something that had real potential to wake me up and get me excited.
I decided to let my customers name their own prices on their wedding invitations. For the whole month of September.
This is not something people usually do with tangible goods because when you’re selling real things that take real time to create, you’re looking at pretty sizable costs. Which is to say it’s very very possible that I could end up getting really screwed with this experiment. Which I can’t even come close to affording.
It’s not a position I recommend putting yourself in, truth be told.
But something about it is really exciting to me, because in my heart I just believe that this is going to be so awesome. It’s going to get people talking to me about things I think about often: things like value. The value of handmade. The value of working with a human being. The value of getting what you want. The value of awesome design. The value of one-on-one.
What inspired you to begin this project in the first place, and what do you hope to gain from it?
Pricing is one of the things we entrepreneurs obsess over, and one of those things brides (and other people involved in wedding planning) do, too. But it’s not something we get to converse about. It’s not something we usually get to negotiate or discuss between us. And I want us to talk about it. I want to see what my work is worth, but also what my approach to weddings is worth. I want to see what indie business means to people. I want to see what happens when I invite people to think hard about what they can afford and what choices they can make with their money.
How can folks spread the word about this project?
I’d love it if my project would get people talking. Even if you’re not in the market for invitations (and by the way, nothing says they have to be for a wedding — you could use them for whatever event you’d like to invite people to), I’d love it if you’d take this project as an opportunity to talk about value. To talk about how we decide what something’s worth. To talk about how we decide what to spend money on and what not to spend money on. How we prioritize. I’d love it if you’d spread the word thoughtfully, in other words. Tell your friends. Let them get in on it, too. But do so in the spirit of getting the conversation started.
What I’m doing is crazy and risky, but I hope that it will have rewards in it not just for me and my business and my customers but for all of us in the handmade community. I hope that I’ll walk away from this month-long experiment with good stuff to share — lessons and advice and thoughts. But I need people to know about it in order for that to work. The more people who participate, the better the results.
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What do you think about naming your own price? Tell us in the comments!
Want to participate in Julie’s project or simply learn more? Check out her project web page (and be sure to watch the cute and informative video – it’s well worth it!).