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Sasha Gupta of Cheeky Zebra, designs and sells fun and cheeky greeting cards for real life.

EPISODE NOTES

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Today on the podcast I’m talking to Sasha Gupta of Cheeky Zebra. Sasha designs and sells fun and cheeky greeting cards for real life. It was such a fun conversation. Sasha shares why she quit law to start selling cards, how she creates them, despite having very little design experience, and her varied experiences of wholesaling her cards.  I absolutely love how open Sasha is. She also talks a lot about her family and the role that they play in her business.

Listen in to hear Sasha share:

  • An introduction to herself and her business (01:07)
  • Why she quit a job in law (01:38)
  • How she taught herself to create cards despite having very little design experience (03:38)
  • How she prints her cards (5:25)
  • What the key things were which helped Cheeky Zebra to grow to be so successful (9:30)
  • How Pinterest has worked for her (11:18)
  • Her success on social media (14:30)
  • How her family, and grandparents are involved in the business (15:08)
  • How she comes up with ideas for her cards (18:13)
  • Keeping track of a range of a thousand plus products (19:26)
  • Her experiences with wholesale (21:51)
  • The importance of tunnel vision and keeping going when you start out (36:17)
  • Her number one piece of advice for other product creators (38:45)

USEFUL RESOURCES:

Cheeky Zebra Website

Cheeky Zebra Instagram

Cheeky Zebra Pinterest

Cheeky Zebra Facebook

Small Business Collaborative Website

Bring Your Product Ideas To Life Podcast Episode – Wholesale For Small Businesses

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Transcript
Vicki Weinberg:

Welcome to the, Bring Your Product Ideas To Life podcast, practical advice, and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products. Here's your host Vicki Weinberg. Today, I'm talking to Sasha Gupta from Cheeky Zebra. It was such a fun conversation. Sasha shares why she quit law to start selling cards, how she creates them, despite having very little design experience and her varied, um, sometimes quite amusing experiences of wholesaling her cards. Um, she talks about how she was doing that initially. Um, what's changed and you know, now she's doing by her own admission really, really well. Um, and I think you'll be really interested to hear about her journey. I absolutely love how open Sasha is. She also talks a lot about her family and the role that they play in her business. I think you'll really love this conversation. And I'd now like to introduce you to Sasha. So hi, Sasha. Thank you so much for being here.

Sasha Gupta:

Thank you for having me.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, I'm so excited to talk to you. Um, can we please start by you giving an introduction to yourself, your business and what you sell.

Sasha Gupta:

Yes. Hi so I'm Sasha. Our business is called at Cheeky Zebra. I say our business it is pretty much my business, but it's become like a family business. And by that, I mean, my nan helps me pack cards for free. So we sell fun and cheeky greeting cards for real life

Vicki Weinberg:

perfect. Thank you. And we'll talk a little bit more, a bit later about the role your family plays because I follow your Instagram story. So I know your Nan is a huge part of your business. Well, we definitely, definitely we'll talk about that. Um, but let's start right at the beginning, Sasha, and talk about how and why you started Cheeky Zebra. Cause I know that I did see that you quit law to get started. So I'm just really fascinated in the backstory if you don't mind sharing.

Sasha Gupta:

No, of course. It's funny you say that literally every time I get into a taxi, so I'm Indian for anyone listening. And literally every time I get into a taxi, I normally have an Indian Taxi driver. And the first thing they say is like, what do you do? And I'll be like, oh, I've got a greeting card business. And they'll be like, oh cool. And then we'll get talking. And they'll end up telling me about their kid and be like, so what did you do at uni? And I'm like, oh, I did law. And then they'll be like what have you done with it? So, yeah, I, um, I studied law at uni and then I went on to do some corporate jobs in London, and then I actually started doing law. I came back home and I did law. Uh, I think I worked at a law firm for a couple of years. Um, and I started doing Cheeky Zebra at the start on the side because. You know, when you just know something's not for you. And I just always wanted to do something more creative. And like, when I was younger, I'd always, wanted my own business? I remember I used to tell everyone I was going to have a fish and chips shop. I was so proud of myself that I was going to do fish and chips. Um, and then I actually, the truth is I saw a Facebook ad for another card company and they were doing like funny greeting cards. And I literally just remember thinking, oh, I can do that. Um, and then that was literally it like, um, I think. I had also gone through a break at the time. So I just decided that I was going to start doing breakup cards. My first little range was like a bunch of break up cards. Um, and so I did this also while I was doing law, um, on the side. And then eventually I decided like, I can't do this anymore. So I quit law and I gave myself a year to give it a really good shot. Um, and now it's four years later, I think. Yeah.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, wow.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, I think that's right. You know, your brain's like trying to do the math in your head, but yes, I fingers crossed it's been alright.

Vicki Weinberg:

So how did you teach yourself to design and print cards? Because I know that you do them all yourself, um, and I can't make it out Sasha. Do you hand draw them or do you draw them online? Um, how, how do you do it and how did you learn how to do that?

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, that's a really good question. So, um, I taught my, I say I taught myself how to use Photoshop, but I find that anybody who could properly use Photoshop and sees me play around with it, finds it really triggering because I'm playing not doing it properly. Um, but I used to, when I was actually in law or any corporate job I've had, I used to, whenever I was on the phone, I'd open up paint. You know, one, um, and I would just draw like endless pictures. Like I'll be on a really serious call and I'd just be like, kinda in rainbows and cakes. So like, um, I've always enjoyed kind of drawing the stuff. So what I do at the moment is a lot of my cards you would notice are kind of text-based, that's purely because of I'm not a graphic designer, but, um, and if there are illustrations, there'll be really simple. And I what I tend to I used to just draw them on a sketch pad, take a picture and scan it into Photoshop and then color it in. Um, but then now sometimes I'll buy images. And then what I've also done recently, because I wanted it to do cards with people. And I can't do people. And then I found like this way on Photoshop, where you can kind of take an image and then you can kind of distort it and like make it more of an illustration style. And then I can like go over it a bit and change it a little bit. So yeah, I've managed to kind of get around. That way, but I definitely wouldn't say that I'm a graphic designer by any means.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, but that's like clever that you found that way to do it. And I also love the reference to paint because that's so like 19, I dunno, 2000.

Sasha Gupta:

I feel like kids now won't know what paint is.

Vicki Weinberg:

No, I don't think they will either, but I really appreciated that reference because I used to love paint as well. Wow. Um, so that's really cool. Okay. So you had this design, so how did you learn how to like, cause I know you do your own printing don't you youdon't like outsource your printing.

Sasha Gupta:

So that was a massive learning curve. Um, so when we first started our cards, like when I say first started, I mean, like I'd sell them to like people I knew and I got a piece of A4 card and I just fold it in half. I didn't realize that you shouldn't be folding card in half yourself. That crease line is a mess. I'd like, I don't know if anyone's ever tried this, but you won't get a pretty crease. So I, um, I then learned like, oh, I need precreased cardstock okay. That was fine. And then it was. A nightmare, trying to figure out what printer. Um, so I just did loads and loads of research, um, and just loads of trial and error. Like for a period, we had like textured card and that would print awfully, or it was too thin or it was too. So I think it took me about six months and a lot of wasted money because every time I thought I found the right stock. I did this really stupid thing where I was like, that's the right one. I should bulk buy it. And it's like, well, no idiot. You should test it, but you spend all this money on stock. Um, so yeah, it was just a lot of trial and error and we still like have issues now. Like last Valentine's day, we did go on like desktop printers and we had a thousand orders a day and it was a nightmare because they couldn't cope. So each time we kind of level up, it's another case of. Figuring out what the next best solution is if that makes sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that does, do you have to find, do you have more than one printer now? I know that's a really bad question,

Sasha Gupta:

but now we've got three printers. Um, so if, when we're really busy, it's a lot easier. And like my granddad, he gets up when it's like, Valentine's day, he chooses to do this. I do not force it he insists, he bans me from being near the printer. Cause he thinks I'm bad luck and he'll start at like six in the morning and he would like get his three printers going and it will have them kind of like all printed by say 10. So it's just like four hours of him just like standing at the printers.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, wow.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah. It's intense. He gets really angry. If you get near him, he doesn't want my help. He's like, get out like.

Vicki Weinberg:

Oh, that's commitment. And you print your cards on demand don't you, which I think is really, really smart. And have you always done that or did you just like used to print off cards and hope they'd sell?

Sasha Gupta:

Uh, so originally I use a company called I think I'm shouting them out because they're really good. They're called, um, The Imaging Centre and like, I know a lot of people get their stuff printed, but. So what we did that at first, but I found it really hard for that reason. I didn't know what was going to sell. I have over a thousand designs, so I literally don't know what's going to sell until I put them on platforms like Etsy, Amazon, and the ones that take off will take off or I'll do them on Facebook ads. And again, just don't know till we test. So once I decided to print in-house, it just made it easy because it means that we could offer so many designs. Um, and it just doesn't matter to the customer. They get more choice. Um, and we're not limited as to like what we can give them because then we're not holding stock. So if I know it's Valentine's day, for instance, and we're going to run a Facebook ads, which I hope go well this year. And if we know like what our traditional bestsellers are beforehand, we might print a couple of thousand, just so cause we know they're going to go but, I've learned the lesson now, if I just won't print it, unless I'm like a hundred percent sure, whatever.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense. And it's also nice as well, but I know that you can print messages inside the cards as well as it's like, I guess that's another benefit of printing them for the customer is that you can put what they want in it. And that's really nice as well.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah. It allows us to, occasionally we don't do it too often because it does take so much time, but like a couple of the designs that we can change the name on the front as well. But even like figuring out this is so silly, but even figuring out like how to print a message inside a card was so difficult. Like I kept flipping the paper the wrong way, and then like having to like teach my granddad. No, we flip it. This, it was like, it was such a minefield, but like eventually we kind of got our heads around it and I would say operations are quite like quite slick now.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. It sounds like you've made massive progress since you just first started out like selling cards to your friends. So how do you, how have you, do you think apart from like all the trial and error that you've done, what else have you done that you think has helped you grow to where you are now?

Sasha Gupta:

Uh, a few things to be really like that the truth is hire a really good Facebook ad manager. Like I'd be lying if I said that that wasn't the biggest thing that grew our business. I think, um, I hired Carly Stringer does our Facebook ads and like, I only hired her to prove that they didn't work just to tick it off my list of like things that don't work for us. And we did every day cards with her and we lost money, like quite a lot of money. And then we did. Father's day campaign. And I think we made like 17 grand in revenue for three weeks, which was huge considering like, ah, our average item is £3.95, like that's a lot. And that's when I was like. Oh, wow. So basically Facebook ads is something I continually invest and try it and that's been like huge for us. Um, so that was probably one of our biggest growth things. But then the other things have been like, um, social media. So definitely showing my face on Instagram. Cause a few years ago I was terrified of showing my face. And if anyone sees my Instagram, now you won't believe it because what I do is show my face and let's be, but, um, I found that kind of showing more of the personality and the people behind the brand. It can be a bit, well, for me, it was quite scary, but actually that's been really helpful because people like to buy from people and they actually are interested in like your story and stuff. That's really helped us. Um, and also Pinterest, weirdly, um, I did, uh, I spent at the start a lot of time pinning and a lot of time, like setting up a scheduler. And actually that brought us in a lot of organic traffic that we weren't getting from anywhere else. So that's been really helpful. So I'd say those are the three things that's definitely helped us.

Vicki Weinberg:

Well, that's so interesting. Thank you. And do you know you're the first person I think I've spoken to, who's mentioned Pinterest, which I find really useful. Is that still working for you now? Do you still get traffic for your pins?

Sasha Gupta:

Yes, I do. Um, I've been actually it's on my list right above me here. It says Pinterest in capital letters because, I have like, not scheduled for ages. And then, but even though I have not scheduled for ages, I would say we get 300 000 views to Pinterest our Pinterest account. And from that I get uh, a good few sales a month from Pinterest organically, still, even though I'm not pinning. So like when they go viral, they kind of stay in the atmosphere somewhere and it keeps bringing us traffic and sales back. So it's been so helpful. Um, I would say that I get the most benefit from it though, when I've got a scheduler running. So I use tailwind and when I've got pins like scheduled in the background, then, then it definitely helps our sales, especially for when things are a bit quieter. It's nice that you've got something kind of working for you without having to think about.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense. I guess it does. I guess Pinterest is, I know it's a search engine, but I guess it's also kind of social media and I think it is true, isn't it? That the more consistent you are, the more views you get and the higher you rank in the algorithm for them and all of that, I suppose it probably the same.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, I think so. I think the way I would see as a search engine and not as a social media, particularly, I know some people use it as branding, like as a name, but I, my most controversial Pinterest tip that helped us the most was I pin competitor products which I know a lot of people would probably not do. I think it's counter-intuitive, but actually I found that really helpful because it teaches Pinterest to associate your products with the same stuff. So it teaches Pinterest that like say this is a funny birthday card that does really well. You can pin that one. And then you pin your own. Pinterest was like, oh, this board's already full of like, other funny birthday cards so Sasha's pin must be a funny birthday card too. Um, and I've actually found, like having that approach to it has been like the biggest game changer for, us for Pinterest. I definitely helped raised our traffic.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you. That is so interesting. I think, yeah, that sounds like a scary one to try, but I'm so pleased that's worked for you and I think though that in a way they, we shouldn't all be scared of competition because it's always going to be there. So I guess acknowledging that yes, there are other people that sell funny birthday cards, for example. I mean, people know that anyway, so yeah, it does make sense.

Sasha Gupta:

I probably am getting other people, having traffic to their sites too from pinning them. But every time we pin, it's almost like you get more authority for your own pins. So it's sort of, I just don't think about it, but I don't know if it's obviously different if like, you know, we have so many cards. I think it's maybe, I don't know if the same strategy would work for other products, but I definitely think it's something that people shouldn't be afraid to try.

Vicki Weinberg:

That was really interesting. Thank you. And I've never spoken to anyone. I think I'm feeling like I need to get a Pinterest person on at some point. Yeah. I've heard that pinterest can be great for products, but you're the first person I've spoken to. Who's gone. Yeah, actually it has worked. So that's really interesting.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah definitely I want to talk to a Pinterest person. I'm always quite scared that I'll tell them what I do and they'll be like, that's not what you should be doing, but it is what's worked for us. So practice or not. If it's worked for us, I'm kind of like, you can't really tell me that it hasn't worked.

Vicki Weinberg:

And coming back to your social media, which I will link to your Instagram and in the show notes for this episode, actually Sasha. Cause I really, I love your stories. Um, and I found you I can't remember if you found me or I found you, but we found each other on Instagram and I love watching you. I think your story is so funny and so engaging and yeah, I'm definitely not gonna buy cards anywhere else. Um, you've convinced me that you are, that, you know, the world's best card company.

Sasha Gupta:

Literally, I've learned that if you say something enough then it just becomes true. It's fine.

Vicki Weinberg:

One thing I loved seeing in your, in your well, your stories and in your social media in general is like the role your family plays in your business. I think it's so sweet. I think your Nan is so funny. Um, do you want to talk about sort of how your family involved? I mean, you've mentioned your granddad's a bit and your Nan.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, I think so. I am really lucky. I have like a very supportive family. Cause I know like sometimes when you're starting a business can be really difficult. I'm not saying that it was easy for me to explain to my granddad. Who's like a quite strict Indian man or who was at one point to be like, Hey, I'm quitting law to sell cards like that wasn't the easiest thing. But, um, basically what happened is when I said I was going to take a year to give it a full, basically my granddad actually said to me, he pulled me aside and was like, you're obviously not happy doing this law thing. You seem to like this card thing it's actually seems to be making you some money, so you can do it. So I always say, I gave myself a year, but the truth is my granddad was like, you have one year and if you don't sort it out, you have to go get yourself a job, basically. Um, and so what happened was with my family involvement is like, so first I think my grandparents were like, this is like, my gran's always been really sweet, sweet, and supportive, but I think they were like, this is this cute thing that's Sasha's doing. And then when the Facebook ads happened and we suddenly started getting like 300 orders a day for father's day, I think everyone was a bit like, oh, okay. This might be a real thing. Um, and then from there. They just, because I needed the help, they, everybody chipped in. So like my auntie, um, my grandparents, like everyone, like chipped in and then as it's grown. My grandparents actually have a travel agent and they don't have a lot to do. They just sort of keep it open for something to do almost. So now it's like this weird thing where it's become. Something that they enjoy doing for something to do. So it sort of gives them purpose, but I never want to say it like that. Um, and it's become more of a family business. Like now my gran helps pack the cards. My granddad prints the cards, um, and they do it alongside their own job and they very much love it. Um, and it's funny because they have their travel agents downstairs and like they'll have customers. And my gran will say to them customers like one minute, I'll come to you in a minute. I'm just packing this order that.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's so funny.

Sasha Gupta:

And so, yeah, no, it's, it's really fun. And like, we're really, I'm really close to them. So like, it's nice for me to also be able to spend that much time with my nan. We do the cards together. It's quite fun. And like putting on my social media, I really enjoy, but I'm also like very mindful that she's like the queen of the show. So if she doesn't want to do it, then I'm not going to like shove a camera in her face. Um, she is hilarious and she is a Savage. She like pretendes to be so sweet and it drives me insane, but this woman bullies me. She's like 70 and she's. Um, but it's funny as well as some of the cards are quite rude. And I used to think like she wouldn't understand them, but I caught her one day laughing to herself at one of the really rude ones. And that for me was like a really turning point in my life. And I was just like I'm not, I'm not going to discuss that with her.

Vicki Weinberg:

Did you just assume it all went over her head?

Sasha Gupta:

Genuinely, I think I asked her cause on my Instagram, every so often I'll do a chat with her, we'll film a chat together. And I asked her, I was like, what do you think of like these rude cards? Do you understand them? She was like, I wasn't born yesterday. I was like, well, okay.

Vicki Weinberg:

Where do you get inspiration for your cards, by the way?

Sasha Gupta:

Uh, just life. Like, I think I'm one of those people where a lot of the things in the cards of things that I would, that I would say in there very much in my voice, if that even makes sense. Or like sometimes like my friends will like have an idea or message me about, what about, have you thought about something like this, but generally like, they're just, I'm quite like, um, I give compliments in quite a sassy way. Like they're very backhanded, but it's just like who I am as a person. So I think a lot of it just comes from like, just how I would speak normally, if that makes sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that does make sense. And I guess I can see as well from some of your newer cards that like yours take like cultural things, you know, things that are going on. Like, um, I'm trying to think of an example. So I've seen your Squid Games cards, for example, cause that's kind of a thing that's happening.

Sasha Gupta:

That's definitely been newer. That's been since I wanted to try something different and I never thought I could do the pop culture cards on the count of like, not being able to draw thing. But since I found like these Lyft app thing that kind of helps you turn it like a photo to a drawing style, I was like, oh, I'm in. And so since then, it's been really fun to be able to play around with. More of like topical pop culture type cards. That's been really fun.

Vicki Weinberg:

And do you have cards that come in and out of the range or like once they're there, are they there forever because you were mentioning early, you've got over a thousand cards and that's a lot to keep track.

Sasha Gupta:

It is a lot of spreadsheets a lot, but, um, no, I think this is a difficulty and I actually want your opinion on this because if you go to our website, like, I, I sometimes think the ranges can be a bit big, but now I feel like separated them out into mini ones. It's not too bad, but I always have this view of like, if it's one person's perfect card and they've bought it, I don't want to get rid of. Because even if it just works for one person, at least they've managed to get that card that fully significantly matches their situation, even if it's quite niche, if that makes sense. But if like I have, so I tend not to, if there's some, cards that are like really out of date that I will get rid of them because it's like, if the joke's a bit dead, like I've got a card. That's like Netflix, you're the chill to my Netflix. And I feel like that was kind of a thing years and years ago, but less so now. So I think maybe a couple of years from now that might make the cut, but generally, um, I would say they're quite evergreen and obviously these topical ones that we've just spoken about, like for Squid Games and stuff, that's different they all have an expiry date, but otherwise I kind of think like if they work, then I'll just keep them up.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I would say, say, I think as well. I think the main thing is when you've got a massive range is just, like you said, they need to be easy to find. I think as long as people can find the card that they want, and they're not just like scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, then I think it's fine. But as you said on your site, the cards are really well organized. I think people would know where to go. And I mean, let's face it as well there are card shops probably have an even bigger range of cards, but it's just like, it just comes down to how you categorize them and break them down.

Sasha Gupta:

I think having your own website is magic for that, because actually I can have an unlimited amount of cards provided there, like packaged in the right way because I still look at cards and I'm like, oh, actually my home range is missing a bit more sass or like I could do with a few more funnier birthday I mean a baby cards. So I think I'll always. Loads of cards, but when we did wholesale, that was tricky because I realized then that shops don't care. They don't want to like go through a thousand products. So I did just have to like massively cut it down. Um, but I just went with the bestsellers for each category. So it didn't feel too painful.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's actually, that's a nice segue. Actually. Let's actually talk a little bit about wholesale, cause I know that's something, um, that you've had quite a journey on, shall we say? Um, and I know it's something you started and then stopped and then have just recently picked up again. So do you want to talk about home wholesale and sort of where you started and where you are now and what's happened in between and I might interrupt and ask the questions.

Sasha Gupta:

Of course, please do so. I've always been skeptical of like trade shows and stuff. Cause I just thought, why am I going to spend two grand for no one to buy my cards? That was like very much my attitude probably wasn't right. Um, I've been since working with Therese, the wholesale collaborative, no what's she called Small

Vicki Weinberg:

Business Collaborative. She was actually, um, I'm just going to mention on a podcast episode recently, which I'm also going to link to in the show notes, because I think you'll, don't mind me saying Sasha. she's amazing when it comes to wholesale, she knows everything. She's got some great advice. So I'll link through to that. Cause I think that's really relevant.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah. She completely changed my life wholesale wise. So before I worked with Therese, I cold called. This is funny. Sometimes don't you find not knowing is great because it makes you just take action, becauseI didn't know anything about how it all works. I just caught a shop and I was like, hi, I've got really good cards. And then turns out they were a national store and they had 50 stores didn't realize, um, and they were like come to our place. So I went to the place and I had some of the toughest conversations with I, and they were like, obviously everything will be barcoded. I was like, obviously didn't even know how you get a barcode. Okay. And I was like, sure, of course it'll be barcoded. Um, and then they gave me a price that I needed to get to and their price was outrageous. And I was so excited to have got the order because I think they would have liked 7,000. I took the price and I think, I can't remember it, but I made pennies a card. It wasn't worth it. I think for the amount of cards they ordered, it wasn't worth it. Like, I think I might've made a couple of grand in total, but the amount of labor and stuff, that was it, just, my family became a sweat shop and we got these cards out. So like ever since then, I was like, um, it was so funny because to the outside world, it looked so successful. Like everyone started seeing my cards, like in these shops everywhere, but for, from a bottom line perspective, it just wasn't worth it..

Vicki Weinberg:

And presumably you had to print all those cards, put them in envelopes packaged them up, put them in boxes, send them to these stores.

Sasha Gupta:

It was awful Like we had. Uh, the first order was about, I think, 7,000. We were handpacking. And also we don't just put them in envelopes because when they're going to stores, you have to put them in cello wraps and our house is full when you, I don't know if anyone's ever had to do this, but when you seal a cello wrap, you've got these little flimsy bits that come off the end and you can never get them off your hands. And like, I think weeks after the order, I was still finding them like in cupboards, like just these little package bits. So it completely like took over my entire house. Um, And yeah, so it was, it was one of those things where it looked really shiny on the outside, but actually just wasn't worth it. So I was really cynical about wholesale. Then I started working with Therese and she was kind of. Made me see that it is possible to make it work profitably. Um, and it was interesting because selling to a normal people's fine. I obviously I'm proud of my cards. I think they're great, but it made me realize I had a lot of insecurity in myself. You know, when you're trying to sell to a shop, I started to think like, oh, oh, are cards even funny? Are they as good as other people's cards? And then Therese kind of said to me, like, Sasha, you sold 50,000 cards to people. Like online. So why is this different? Like, it will be fine. And I think it's really interesting, but once you get over, like the mindset stuff, um, touch wood, I think it's going to be really helpful because say so at the moment, I think we're hoping, I think the target is to hopefully get to like 10 customers by the end of this year. Like regulars and it's not too far off. Um, but imagine I can grow that to 50 by like this time next year or a hundred this time, next year. And you realize like, it would take so much pressure off, like your income a little bit. So yeah, that's been a bit of a journey for me

Vicki Weinberg:

and it'll put you in front of more people obviously as well. Yeah, it all sounds good. Have you, what have you learned about sort of like the process side of things? So, cause I'm, I'm guessing, so if you do end up with 10 regular customers, have you thought about what you might need to do differently in order to actually fulfill those orders as well as fulfilling your everyday orders you get through your website? Cause it sounds like that could be, want to say a big jump. I hope, you know, how, how, I mean that, I mean, in terms of the number of cards you're having to produce on like a daily, weekly, monthly basis, that could be a huge jump. So have you thought about that at all?

Sasha Gupta:

Um, not yet, because I think I'm a little bit like deal with it when it comes to at the moment. It's not too crazy because you to do a hundred cards, isn't too time consuming for us to manage, but I've had to put in separate processes to be like priority each day is to get today's orders done then it's the wholesale order afterwards, if you know what I mean? Because, um, so if we think of them as two separate things, and then I've got a system in place now, so like I kind of, I do need to make our invoicing system a lot smoother. Cause it takes me a long time to manually copy in each line of what everyone's orders. So there's definitely things that need to be. Fixed within that. Um, but also weirdly where I do have a system is more for the selling thanks to Therese than anywhere else. So now I use Trello and I have like a board that tells me like all of the leads and like they're all into different columns. So like this week is like contact. So one section is like, have contacted that after I've contacted to the first week. I put them in section two, which is like send a sample pack as, so it gives me a really. clear view what's really cool is what she's done is for my existing customers. I have like columns, like months. So when do each month, I know when the last ordered, so say somebody last ordered in November that I set a reminder on Trello to email them in January for Valentine's day, or if they last ordered in like August, I'd have a note in October to say, Hey, how are the cards going? By the way, we've got these new shiny Christmas lines. Um, and so actually I found that having a system for selling. One of the biggest, because you don't have time to second guess yourself when it's like already systemized. Does that make sense? You can't talk yourself out of like approaching somebody if it's in your diary to approach them about.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense. And it sounds like, so first of all, it sounds like you weren't too worried about contacting people. You were saying you were just picking up the phone and not really know what you were doing, but after you'd had some sort of, I don't want to say that. I don't know if they were bad experiences, but let's say challenging experiences. You can tell me if they were bad. I don't know.

Sasha Gupta:

Oh they were awful.

Vicki Weinberg:

Did that change how you felt about picking up the phone and talk to people?

Sasha Gupta:

Definitely, definitely. Like I said, one person the chat was doing really well. Then I told him that I'd need him to pay pro forma invoice instead of 30 daycredit terms. And he swore at me and hung up and I was like, oh, okay. So that one was pretty shit. Then I had, um, yeah, not making people out of the monsters. I'm really not like most people are lovely, but after doing, I imagine when you're calling and calling and calling like, you know, you've had like 30 phone calls in a day and they will no, one's really been that interested. It, it does make you feel a way, but I think I had to like, realize, like, it doesn't matter, like there's like however many shops in the UK, even if I can get 2% of them. Then I would be happy, like I would making loads of money. And so I had to realize that I almost started telling myself that every person that said no, I'm just closer to the person that said yeah. And almost just like not well, so I don't know if this is true for you. I know you had your own business but like trying not to see it as a reflection of you. So people said no to the business. I'm like, they said no to me. And it's like, well,

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I think that's a really good attitude thinking like every no is getting close to a yes, because, and I really resonate with what you said about taking it personally, because when it's your products and you've designed them and you've put like your heart and your soul and your time and your money and everything else into them, it does feel like they're rejecting you. So if they say, no, I don't want your, your things. It does feel like you got like. This is, you know, the saying no to me, but then not, of course, you know, it might just be that they've already got their own stocks of cards or whatever the product is that it is really hard not to take it personally. Um, and yeah, and, and not to take, but for me, anyway, I remember feeling like when I was getting nos for anything, I just used to feel like, oh, they don't like me, but it's nothing to do with you. And like, I think once you get sort of your ego out of the way, it really does help.

Sasha Gupta:

It's weird because it's like, obviously in that situation, you're upset because you're. Your ego, if anything is diminished, it's not like you're being arrogant, but it is the case. It's still, you need to just get your ego out of the way in the sense of, it's not about us, but like I found that hard. I didn't necessarily have but even like friends, like when I was like, oh, they're just, they don't love like they're not super interested in my business or they don't love my cards. I felt really like sad. And then I realized like my friends are dentist. I don't call her and be like, how was picking teeth today? Like, I don't do that. I've never done that. So why just because I've started my own business. Do I expect that same level of thing. Um, so I have to deal with it with that. And then I had to deal with my ego with wholesale tier and just be like, you know, you're just not going to be everyone's cup of tea in the same way that I don't like everything, but that doesn't mean I hate people.

Vicki Weinberg:

Does that make sense? For me is I really don't like it when people don't respect what you do, because it's your own thing. And they kind of think you've got like a, I'm saying little in air quotes. I think you've got like a little business or a hobby and they don't take it as seriously as if you were employed and you could be doing exactly the same thing. But if you worked for Clintons, they take you really seriously. But because it's your own thing, they're like, oh yeah, Your little hobby or your little side business or whatever. That's what I find quite offensive. Other than that is fine.

Sasha Gupta:

I get that a lot.

Vicki Weinberg:

Do you?

Sasha Gupta:

No, no. I think I can understand what caused, why that would like not be okay because they are just dismissing your kind of livelihood. But like, I definitely get a lot of that but I don't know. There's something a bit like unhinged about me, but whenever someone's like that with me, I just sort of enjoy it. I just kind of like save it in a bank of my head of just like motivation. And I'm just kind of like, yeah, that's fine. That's really good.

Vicki Weinberg:

Possibly it says you've got more self confidence than I do. I think to be honest, it hasn't happened to me for a long time, but when it did, I used to take severe offense to it. So yeah. Maybe emotionally.

Sasha Gupta:

I mean, I've had a lot of therapy as well although

Vicki Weinberg:

I'm really pleased that that doesn't get you that because I feel like it's really like having your own business is hard anyway. And when like everyone around, you isn't, even if they're not being dismissive, if they're not being fully supportive, it can be hard. So I'm really glad that you don't have those feelings about.

Sasha Gupta:

Did you ever have people have like quite intrusive questions that they wouldn't ask you, if you didn't have your own business,

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah like how much you earning.

Sasha Gupta:

And I was like, when I was working in law, you never once asked me how much I earn, but today you're going to be at lunch. It'd be like, how much money have you made this month? How much money have you made bitch? Do you know what I mean? It just felt a little bit like, excuse me. I just wonder if that was the same for you. Like just this thing of when you start a small business, people just suddenly think that the other it's a weird, like perception shift in terms of questions that you got.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I know what you mean. And like the generous part of me that it does feel like some, I think part of it is genuine curiosity because I think, I think there are lots more people who would like to have their own business to do their own thing than actually do. And so there's a part of me that thinks that some of these questions are like, they're going, I wonder if I could do that, but would I make enough money to cover my mortgage? You know, you know, like I think part of it is I think part of it might be that, I mean, some of it, it, I think it kind of depends on who's asking you know who's asking and where they're coming from, but I do I think a lot of people that I speak to, I think are more, I think are coming from a place of oh I would quite like to do that. And they're just trying to suss it out, trying to think, okay, is she making a living? And you know what I mean? And I kind of get that? Um, because I think that is such a scary thing to do. And. Uh, when I started my business before that I hadn't, I'd already left my corporate career and I've been doing something else. It didn't, it wasn't a, as much of a big leap, but say you're like working a full-time corporate job as you were. And you're thinking of leaving that, that slightly.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, it's really scary. I mean, like I moved back home as well, which helped like, yeah, I can't deny, like I can't pretend that it isn't scary and I think you're right, actually maybe I'm being a bit cynical. Well, no, some people would just being nosy, but I agree that like there's those that want to ask those questions from that perspective.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. Cause it is so scary to do isn't it?

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah. It's scary. I don't think as well, that it's a case of it doesn't work because obviously sometimes it doesn't always work, but, you know, there were times for me where things have gone horribly wrong, but I think if you're consistent enough and you keep at it for long enough, I don't know anyone where it hasn't, they haven't figured it out. Whether they've had to pivot a lot or not, like if they might've had to change a lot of things. But I think if you're willing to change and learn, I think you can kind of figure out.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I think I see what you mean. I think that's right. I think that, like you said, even if it is a big, you know, even if it's a big pivot, like a complete 180, I think that, yeah, if you keep, I think there's a lot of sense of consistency. Isn't there. Um, And I was talking to a friend recent, he starts up a completely different business and she's a few months in and we'll say, no, she hasn't made a lot of money. And I was saying, well, if you keep going, I truly, truly believe you will. But the main thing is you just have to keep going. And it's, I think it's getting through that hard, early stage where you're not quite sure. What's working. And that's what I think that's when, I mean, we also make mistakes now, but I think that early bit where you're making mistake after mistake, potentially. I know noteveryone does. I did mistake after mistake. It's that's a bit where it's like, am I cut out for this? Should I be doing it? And I think if you can get through that, Then I think you, you know, you do stand a much better chance, but I read the statistic. I think a lot of businesses do, um, stop fairly early on. And with some of them, I do feel like, and obviously everyone has their own reasons, but I do think with some of them, if people sort of kept going, you never know, do you, what might be around the corner? Where if you give it another six months and not everyone can can for various reasons. But, um, I do think for lots of us and almost everyone I've spoken to the beginning been really, really tough for different reasons.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, no, I completely agree. I think, I think back to the, when I first started, I quit law. I thought we had that kind of year to go. Those first three to four months were awful. Like, because nothing was fully kicking off to where it needed to be. And I had, like, I was working at my grandparents' office. I work upstairs and like they were watching over me and they could see, you know, now orders were coming in. And like, that felt really scary. And I remember that time, it was really hard. I kind of had. I have tunnel vision and almost not care about the results and just keep putting in the consistent action. I'm just focused on the action and not let my fear of the results kind of cloud me if that makes sense.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that does make sense because I think everything takes much longer than you think it does. And you see people on Instagram and you feel like they've come out of nowhere but they haven't have they they've probably been plugging away for years and you only. You know, you've only just noticed them. It's not that they've been an overnight success. I don't think there's such a thing.

Sasha Gupta:

I don't think so. I think it can definitely look that way. I'm sure people look at our card shop actually, because I remember when I was first starting, so I look at loads of people card shop and be like on they've just instantly come out of nowhere and they're huge and I'm sure, like we're not huge at all, but I think people might think like, oh, they seem to be doing like making more sales, like overnight and it's yeah, it's just not.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. And that's why I love having these conversations because I think it's really good for people to hear that, you know, yes, you're, you know, doing well now, but actually there have been those hard times, you know, in the outset. And I think that's really important for people to hear that because sometimes it can get, especially on Instagram, it can look like everyone's do better than you. Everyone's further ahead than you. Um, and not everyone shares the hard stuff.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, and to be fair, they're not going to, but I think I'm really glad that you do stuff like this. Cause I listened to things like this, just to remind me that same thing. And then I have to think about my own life. Like I love my gran to death and I love my family business and I love that we worked together, but sometimes it's infuriating at times. Like things will go wrong and like, you know, but that's just part of it. Isn't it. And it's both. Do you think it's easy to forget that when you kind of think only you have the hard stuff and then when you're looking at other people's businesses.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. You're really good about being honest about things like that, actually, which I think is great.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah. I have to be careful sometimes. So I'm like, there's only so honest I can be in for like somebody, like my grandparents like my gran will hit me. So like I have to try and find these like weird balances between like what's. Okay. What's not.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that must be like a fine. Very fine line.

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah. I do sometimes think I veer a little close to the edge.

Vicki Weinberg:

So one final question, Sasha, if you don't mind, which is what would your number one piece of advice be for someone else who wanted to sort of start up their own business, particularly one selling products? What would you say? Um, that'd be something you'd want people to take away from this.

Sasha Gupta:

I want it to be useful. So I'm thinking I'll be honest, practically for me, is it before Facebook ads kicked off about the best thing that I did for my business and it won't be the same for everybody, but as I felt, I felt I sold on third party channels. So to start with, um, putting yourself on whatever's right for you, whether it be Amazon cos I know you do a lot with that or Etsy or eBay, I sold on all three of those. Um, and that was probably the best thing I did because it allowed me to get money in fairly quickly with low effort and get kind of low costs and get an immediate answer as to like, does anybody want this which designs do well? So I think before you, cause like doing all your other marketing takes a lot of time to build, so wherever you can kind of bring revenue in kind of straight away, I think you should definitely do.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that's really good advice. Thank you. And I think that makes sense. I did the same initially I started off, I thought we were asked back before I started off selling on Amazon. Um, because like you say those, those marketplaces, whatever ones they might be for your products, there's customers there, because the hardest thing initially is getting customers to come to you wherever that's your social media, whether that's your website, um, they don't know you. They've never heard of you. It's much, much harder to get traffic to your site. Isn't it than it is to get traffic initially.

Sasha Gupta:

And like, you should still a hundred percent, I would say, do your social media, but your social media is going to be frustrating in my experience, at least at the start, it's a slow build and it's going to be frustrating. So I would definitely make sure that you're getting increments where, where you can, and then still working on your social media, because at, at least as that building it's. You're still getting money. And also the customers that are coming to you from you, the platforms, you know, it's the basic stuff like giving them a thank you note that kind of references either your social media or your main website, and then bringing them over. But if you didn't, if I think back and I didn't have any of that kind of third-party benefit of traffic and it was just me doing my social media from scratch, I would definitely find that quite disheartening.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I think you're right. And I suppose at the same about website as well, I still think if you start selling on Etsy, for example, have a website anyway. Even if it's quite basic, you might not have everything on there. Um, just have your own place as well, because while you're making your sales on, let's say Etsy, you can be building up your website. That's something you can do it in the background. Um, yeah, you definitely don't need to have it all from day one. Um, but like you say, you need to be getting some money from somewhere. So yeah, I think that's fantastic advice.

Sasha Gupta:

Um, and I guess the other thing is just kind of, it's like, I'm sure that you'll have people that talk about this a lot better. Like I am, and I'm sure you've made this cause it sounds like both of us, at least we didn't have the most confidence, like what we're doing at the start. Um, cause like also your own insecurity, et cetera. But the biggest piece of advice I'd give you is just like tunnel vision and just keep going almost like turn off the part of you. That's like, cause you don't really have time to explore the part of your. What if it fails, like you just, don't, it's a waste of your time, that entire thought process. And so just try and have as much tunnel vision as possible, and just keep focusing on the next task and the next task and the next task. And then like momentum will start to like build. I promise you it will build it feels like it wont but it will. Yeah, well,

Vicki Weinberg:

that's fantastic advice. Thank you. And I'll also, if you don't mind, I'm just gonna add one thing to that and say with that tunnel vision, try not to pay too much attention to what other people are doing, because if you're constantly comparing yourself, I think that nothing can drain your confidence, that looking at competitor on Instagram or whatever that. But, you know what I mean? However well you're doing, if you start comparing yourself to other people, I don't think you're ever going to win that one.

Sasha Gupta:

It can happen to me now. I'll see like, oh, the card shops are even okay. I'm a bit ridiculous. I'll see Moonpig and then I'll get really upset. It's like, well, they're Moonpig Sasha calm down but like, yeah, I just, I don't think it's a healthy, a healthy space. Like, I don't think it's beneficial

Vicki Weinberg:

yeah, I don't, I don't know either. And I think, and also I think my hope for you Sasha I would say as well, and I'm sure you, like, you do know this, but for you, I think what you can offer that Moonpig can't is great. Cause they're like fake. You mean what you do is pretty much the same. You offer really good cards and you can offer the personalization and everything, but what's special about you is that your card and that your personality and there's like a face behind it. And we see you and we see your nan and they can't do that and don't do that. So yeah. That's what I'd say to anyone. Who's sort of comparing themselves to bigger companies, as well as it you've got something that they can't have. They're too big for that now, do you know what I mean?

Sasha Gupta:

Yeah, completely. I'm really glad you said that actually, because somebody else had that's when I started out. Cause I was like, no, I don't want to show my face. it's like unprofessional. Like, and then somebody said to me, like, think about why you buy from people. And actually, when you think about it, chances are you do like buying from a business, you a small business where you knew the face and you're like, I like what they do. And so then you realize like, oh, well the people will feel the same way about you. So if you think about how, what you like to buy, why you like to buy from places that might help you like, realize like, oh, actually that is a thing.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, thank you. And I also realize saying this to you. I'm a little bit of a hypocrite, cause I'm really scared of to put my face out there as well. So I'm just probably reminded me that I need to start doing it as well.

Sasha Gupta:

I actually really enjoy your content. You did. Um, what did you do? Was it like you did quizzes as well where, you could tell from like the branded the bottle and we had to work out what brand it was. Was it like something, but I also think it is worth saying that if you don't want to show your face. You can still build a brand online without doing it. If you're so against it, like there are ways to do it. Like you've had some really good, I really enjoyed that. And it showed me that I learn about what you did, but you weren't showing your face.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. I'll thank you. But I'm still going to try and show my face. Oh, thank you so much for talking to me. Thank you so much. Everything you've shared. Um, I'm going to link free to everything that you do in the show notes, so people can come and find you and find your cards and yeah. Thank you so much.

Sasha Gupta:

No seriously thank you I've had a great time.

Vicki Weinberg:

Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please do leave me a review that really helps other people to find this podcast. Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes and do tell your friends about it too. If you think that they also might enjoy it, you can find me at www.Vickiweinberg.com. There you'll find links to all of my social channels. You'll find lots more information. Well, one of the past podcasts, episodes, and lots of free resources too. So again, that's Vicki weinberg.com. Take care, have a good week and see you next time.