Modern Gift Boxes, and the Story of Colorado Crafted

Sarah Welle of Colorado Crafted joined the Stickers on the Mic Podcast. Tune in or read below to learn the history of this modern gift box brand, how they source their unique products, and how their brand is continuing to grow online, and in the gift assortments they have to offer. 

Want to Read it Instead? Check out the Full Transcription Below!

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Jesse: Welcome everyone, to the Stickers on the Mic Podcast. My name is Jesse, I'm the marketing director here at StickerGiant. I'm very excited to welcome on today one of our local businesses just down the road from us, also a customer of ours, Colorado Crafted. We have Sarah here, one of the co-founders, and I'm going to let her introduce herself and tell us a little bit more about Colorado Crafted, what you all do, how you started, a little bit of your backstory.

Sarah: Hi, I'm Sarah from Colorado Crafted. I'm the co-founder and my other co-founder is my good friend, her name is Dulcie Wilcox, and we got started with this business about five years ago. What we are is a gift basket company that sources 100% Colorado made products. We're essentially a Colorado gift basket company, we're completely online so we're in e-commerce.

We started this company because we wanted to make a better gift basket. We saw the stuff that was out there, we were kind of shopping for gifts baskets ourselves and we thought there was an opportunity to make something that was better, something filled with really high-quality products that we would be excited to share with someone, and so that was kind of the idea that got us started down this path.

Before we started Colorado Crafted we had a food blog together, so we were really into food and we got into photography, and we were really paying attention to the local scene of the cool products being made in Colorado today. It just gave us the ideas we needed to come up with this business idea, and also the tools we needed, like, we knew how to make a website, we knew how to do photography, and so we kind of thought, "Hey what do we have to lose? Let's pull this all together, and throw a business out there and see what happens."

Jesse: That's awesome, because the Colorado scene- really all over the country we're seeing it as a producer of custom stickers and labels, especially- there's just people starting all these little craft food, honey’s huge, I know you have some listed on your website. Tell us more about the mission, or maybe the name behind it, like a little bit more about how you came up with the name and the idea for the business.

Sarah: Well, the name, Colorado Crafted, is because everything we sell is made in Colorado, and that goes from the products to even our packaging. We source our shipping boxes in Colorado, our stickers from you guys in Colorado, our custom gift boxes are from a company in Denver, so everything is crafted in Colorado, and we're not making the jam and the chocolate, we're not making it ourselves. We're sourcing it from vendors that are specialists in what they do and are doing these really cool things that we're excited about. That's kind of the story behind the name.

Jesse: Let's talk packaging a little bit. Obviously that's big for you in what you do for gift boxes, and then the companies that you work with and the products that you get for the boxes, talk a little bit just what you do for your own packaging, things you look for in products. I know packaging is a big indicator of what you will or won't have available on your site.

Sarah: Yes, packaging is huge for us. Because this is a gift, we want it to make a great impression, and we've really thought carefully about each step of what a customer gets, so they get a box shipped to their doorstep, that then they cut open and lift out the gift box and open the lid of the gift box and look at what's inside. So every step of the way we've really thought hard about what the impression is going to be for the customer, and we want it to be as good as we can possibly make it, because these are nice gifts.

We want the people who get them to be really impressed, and happy, and excited about what it is. When we first started we wanted it to look as beautiful as we could make it look. We bootstrapped the company, we didn't have a lot of money to throw into packaging, so we started with these basic, kind of cardboard boxes that we just ordered from Uline, and then we were working hard to add details to them to make them look nice.

Literally at the beginning of the company we were buying paper, like kind of design paper from places like Michael's, cutting it, gluing it onto the boxes, we had some letterpress stuff that we would then add to the box and we would tie it with a piece of twine. So it's sort of like a modern/rustic look and so each box that we made took so much time and so much effort, but that was fine because we were just starting.

Jesse: Do you know how much time it took for each box?

Sarah: I don't know, maybe 20 minutes per box at least, and I just- and we started out of my friend's basement, my business partner's basement.

Jesse: It's the best way to start a company as you know, for those who don't know that's how StickerGiant was founded in a basement in the year 2000 as well.

Sarah: We were would just literally be cutting and pasting, and the end product we were proud of. We thought it looked great, and it looked good on the website. Customers were happy with it, but it was a lot of work, and so that was kind of our first iteration of packaging. We have evolved from there every step of the way, making it look nicer and more professional and also not so time-consuming for us.

We're no longer cutting and gluing things together. Right now what we have is a custom set up box, it's teal and we get it from a company that manufactures boxes in Denver. It's teal and then it has like a lid it sits on, and when you lift it off on the inside it is a kind of a graphic mountain print which we love, because that's still Colorado. Then we have- stickers are definitely a part of our packaging.

Right now, the inside of the box, all the stuff is wrapped in tissue paper, and so sealing the tissue paper closed is a StickerGiant sticker that says like our social media handle, love it share and the hashtag, so people can post on Instagram if they're super excited about their gift.

Jesse: Super important to make sure you have those touch points.

Sarah: Yes, and people do, it's been great. What else do we have, we've got another kind of new sticker that we started using that we're excited about. We've always wanted to have a tea but we wanted to have the right price point. We used to have a tea that was like $20 for this really fancy tea and it was awesome tea but it didn't sell that well, so we wanted to find some tea sachets, like a little bags but they didn't come in packaging that we could use.

Ultimately we came up with sort of like an envelope, and we put three tea bags in and then we seal it with a StickerGiant sticker, that we made that says tea trio collaboration with Two Leaves And A Bud and Colorado Crafted. It looks awesome and it fits our needs and we're super happy with it, so it's just- I don't know, I feel like stickers are so flexible and we find they're inexpensive and they make things look good, especially if you have a nice design behind them.

Jesse: This is getting into the nitty-gritty of the sticker label choices, but I know you guys use a matte finish which looks awesome for what you do, is there any decision making process that goes through your mind on glossy versus matte? I know that's something our customers run into, and you're kind of like, "I don't know what I want necessarily."

Sarah: I know that we have had some glossy in the past but we think matte looks the best with our packaging. Our boxes are matte and it just looks cohesive.

Jesse: That makes a lot of sense, keeping that together. That's awesome. Tell us a little bit- I know when you started you were telling me that your boxes didn't necessarily sell for holidays very well, it's summer time right now, we just had Mother's Day, Father's Day is coming up, you were just talking before the podcast about how much business you're getting from these holidays. Talk a little bit-- Excuse me, talk a little bit about how your market has shifted and what people are buying these for.

Sarah: Well that's an interesting question. When we first launched the business I thought our main customers would be people who wanted to sample the best products being made in Colorado, like people like you, like if you were interested in chocolate, to try the best craft chocolate in Colorado. Maybe to try like a really special jam made with Colorado peaches that you couldn't find at your grocery store but you're like a foodie and you really wanted to try it.

That was wrong, that wasn't our biggest customer at all, the thing that started happening is we saw people buying it as gifts for other people, which makes sense for a gift basket company, but actually at the very beginning we were really resistant to calling ourselves a gift basket company. We didn't want to call ourselves that. We thought it sounded bad and old-fashioned, and just embarrassing kind of.

We were like a tasting box, so we did that for a while, but then people just kept buying it as gifts, and I think our true audience are people who want to share a part of Colorado with friends and family that are out of state, or businesses that want to share something unique from their state with their clients or their employees. Anyway, we saw people just kept buying it as gifts, they weren't buying it for themselves, it was always a gift.

We eventually just kind of were like, "You know what, if people want to buy what we're selling, the thing they're searching for online is Colorado gift basket. We need to start using those words so people can find us." So we did, and that was a huge step in the right direction for growth for us. Once we switched the words on our website to say Colorado gift basket and we say something like, "We're a modern spin on the traditional gift basket," because we don't have baskets, but we have a collection of nice products that are essentially like a traditional gift basket, but nicer.

Jesse: Yes, absolutely. You guys definitely shop local, it's in your brand, it's everything you offer and then you're targeting that with the keywords online especially.

Sarah: Once we switched our keywords people started finding us and buying gifts from us, and it was awesome. It was great. We started growing a lot after we did that, and then, from there, I don't know, the audience- it was people buying gifts for friends and family, but a big chunk of our business was business gifting which we did not see coming, but that is something like 55% of our revenue right now, maybe even 60% of our revenue is business gifting.

It's businesses welcoming new employees, giving birthday gifts to employees, hosting events and saying thank you to the VIP's who helped put the event on or to the speakers of the events, or all sorts of business-y things. That was a surprise to us, we didn't know there was so much business gifting happening in the world, but we're a great fit for that because we're unique.

It's products that you can't just go find at the grocery store or online anywhere you know, it's kind of special Colorado products and it fits with what our clients are looking for, those business clients. That's been a big part of our revenue. Then just in April, we launched a new section on our website called build your own box, and so we were super excited about this because it lets any customer online view all the individual products that we offer and their prices, and then just pick which ones they want and build their own box.

Jesse: Which is an awesome experience, I've done it personally, and rolling through the items and just clicking them, putting them together, adding it to your cart is very simple.

Sarah: Good, thank you. We also have filters so people can shop by the city the product was made in, or they can shop by a dietary need, like vegan or gluten-free or whatever. We also have like a new shop by feature that we've added that's like women-owned businesses, up and coming businesses, most popular products, so there's lots of different ways you can filter. We have 60-something products right now, and the build a box is awesome.

It's allowed us to add more niche products, like things that don't appeal to every single person in the world. We have some jewelry now, certain spa products, we've got a whole range of things, it's not just food that- everybody loves chocolate.

Jesse: It's growing. You're looking for more Colorado businesses.

Sarah: Exactly, it's allowed us to pick up more and more products, because we want to have a huge selection of awesome things for people to choose from. Since we've launched that, suddenly we're getting a lot more business for these more personal holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day, because people can go build a box and choose what they know their mom would love, or what they think their dad would enjoy, rather than choosing a nice balanced mix of snacks and chocolates. Which is what it used to be, you were only limited to what we thought was a nice mix together.

Jesse: Right, and that brings us to another thing that I'm excited about. You approached us about doing a co-branded box, which is a StickerGiant and Colorado Crafted gift box where we curate as a business our own box that is an option on your site. That led me down the road of, "Wow, we have a lot of Colorado customers are printing labels for," so I actually went through your site as part of this process and found quite a few of the people that are printing labels with us are customers that are featured on your site.

We are just in the finishing touches of putting that box together, but tell us a little bit more about the co-branded box approach and kind of what-- if any other businesses are out there listening, what that would what they could do with you?

Sarah: Our idea was- and we were just kind of- it's just an idea that we wanted to throw out there and I feel like that's a big part of running a small business, you have these ideas, you do them, you see if they work. This one is cool, because we wanted to work with local businesses or influencers and have them take a look at our build a box website and curate their own box. So for you guys, you chose products that we carry that are also our StickerGiant customers, which is super awesome. It's Chocolove, Sweetwood jerky, Bee Squared Honey, right?

Jesse: Yes, we also added in the tea trio because of the labels you put on those. It was a nice mix.

Sarah: That's right.

Jesse: I think you mentioned the honey, the whiskey honey--

Sarah: That thing is so popular, the whiskey honey, it's very special.

Jesse: I bet. I haven't tried it yet, but I have some here in the office, I've got to try it.

Sarah: It's honey from-- I think she's in Berthoud or Loveland, that kind of area, and she collects the honey and then she ages it in whiskey barrels, so that it gets like this rich, oak-y vanilla-y infused-- But it's not boozy, it's just like a super flavorful honey. She was saying it's tough to get her hands on these whiskey barrels, because all the micro-breweries snapped them up, so she felt like, oh she hit the jackpot to get these whiskey barrels and she was going to age her honey, and it turned out awesome.

Jesse: I can imagine, and just scrolling your site and looking at all the items, seeing something like that is like, "Wow, that's a pretty unique item to get in a gift box." I can see the appeal of the local craft products that are being offered through your site and your gift boxes.

We talked quite a bit about kind of how you've been growing, but how are you reaching your customers, how are you advertising? You were a bootstrap business to start, I'm sure that's changed a lot over the few years you've been in business, but just shed some insight into how you reach people?

Sarah: We have focused a lot on SEO, and I mentioned earlier, the year that we started calling ourselves the Colorado gift basket was great, so we optimized for that on SEO and so now when people search for Colorado gift basket we're on the first page and people can find us, if that's what they're looking for. That's been great. We have a blog, and I think the blog has been really helpful for SEO.

Our articles don't get tons of traffic, and they don't go viral and get shared a million times but they serve more as resources for people who are searching for really specific things. We have a couple that are roundups of great gifts from Colorado that are not necessarily products that we sell, but are other things from around the state, maybe things that wouldn't work in our boxes, bigger things or experiences rather than products. Anyway, we have some blog posts like that that help bring in traffic and help with SEO.

Jesse: For any business owners or people listening that have a blog and maybe think- teetering on whether to do it, do it, because our goal as we talk about our customers like yourself, and then really the goal is the target is just one for us, but that blog authority that you get from an online presence, and just putting out good content is huge from a search ranking standpoint.

Sarah: It surprised me and I think just and we don't update ours we just don't have the resources or the money to pay somebody to update it every three times a week or whatever the optimal number of posts is, we just aim to do ours once a month, which is pretty low frequency but it's enough to make a difference. It's definitely worth that time so kind of the categories we do, we have weekend roundups, we do quarterly round ups about seasonal awesome things to do in Colorado.

Best wildflower hikes was one for the spring or summer, best secret swimming holes, coolest yurts to stay in the wintertime, that was a fun one to do. So anyway, we've done a Colorado traveler experience type posts. Then the third category we've done our artistian profiles, so we will interview one of our makers, go visit them, take pictures of their space and their products and their face and their backstory, and we try to do those once per quarter also.

Jesse: That's great, that's a great touch point.

Sarah: We love that, because I think people who buy our boxes do care about who's making it and they're interested in learning more about the person behind the product. It's a good fit for us, and we like to get that extra exposure for our makers too.

Jesse: That's good. It sounds like you've done a lot of online searching, and optimizing your website, and changing your brand name and how you're found a little to reach people, what other engagements are you using offline to find people?

Sarah: I'd say other than the SEO, the next biggest thing that we've invested in and seen awesome results from is our Colorado public radio sponsors. Maybe two years ago we did it for the first time, and we'd always thought the Colorado public radio audience is our perfect audience. They care about Colorado. They're just right. They seem like pretty close to the right demographic.

We reached out to them and we became sponsors, and we even partnered with them on some of their gifting needs, which was awesome. We were so thrilled and honored that they would want to use our boxes to give to their clients. If you listen, we usually do it around the holidays because that's our biggest time of year, but we have like a little sponsorship blurb on Colorado public radio, and that's been really good for awareness. We get lots of customers calling us, saying that they heard us on the radio, and I feel like I sound like an ad for Colorado public radio.

[laughter]

Sarah: But they do. I even have people call and say like, we're so thrilled that you support Colorado public radio because I love Colorado public radio. We're like, "So do we," I mean, I love it too, I don't know, I sound like an ad, but it has been an effective tactic for us.

Jesse: You target that for seasonality. It sounds like.

Sarah: Yes, we do. We don't do it all year round because it is pricey, and the first time we did it we felt kind of nervous because it was a big investment for us, but it's definitely paid for itself and even if it doesn't, bottom line, you're giving to a nonprofit that's doing good work. I felt like it was a win-win, even if it didn't work out. But it has worked out. I think-- it's hard to quantify the numbers on something like that.

I have these anecdotal phone calls where people are all excited but that's just a few people. A lot of times I don't know how people heard about us. Even when I ask-- it's very interesting. Even when I ask people, "How did you find us?" For like my bigger clients, I always ask that, and the answer is usually, "I found you online."

Jesse: That's our top response, is Google.

[laughter]

Sarah: They just don't have any more information than that, and they're not big nerds about it like I am, wanting to like, attribute it to marketing spend or something. They just say, "I found you online." I'm like, "Okay, that's awesome. I'm glad you found us."

Jesse: Yes, that's a great idea for other businesses out there, to tackle the radio, it's still a great way to advertise your business.

Sarah: For certain types. I think because we're e-commerce it works well for us, because anybody in the state can order from us. If you're a brick and mortar with a location in the Longmont it might not be the best, because--

Jesse: Yes, of course.

Sarah: For the right business. It was good for us.

Jesse: Awesome. Where do you see this going? You've been around for a few years now. It sounds like you're just starting to kind of pick up more steam. Where do you see yourself in a year? Five years?

Sarah: We're happy with what we're doing, we want to keep picking up new products and have more and more things to offer, and just have more people know about us. For growth, I think a lot of people haven't heard of us, there's definitely just getting more awareness our there, that we exist and grow, but keep doing what we're doing and just keep improving.

We've dabbled in ideas, like manufacturing some of our own stuff. Right now we design and manufacture our own coffee mugs and water bottles and that's been fun, because we have our design ideas that we're really excited about. Doing more things like that might be in the future. We're going to collaborate with one of our makers to do-- She makes a granola and we're collaborating with her to do an almond that's flavored with Colorado whiskey.

Jesse: Nice.

Sarah: Yes, we just had a sample batch that was so delicious. We're really excited about those. Maybe we'll launch those for Christmas and see how they do, but we have so many ideas about things we could do and it's fun to try them all and see what works. I think that's one of the fun things about being a small business. How much flexibility you have.

Jesse: Yes, you guys are definitely on the right path. It's amazing to see what you've done in a short amount of time, and to have the opportunity to do our co-branded box with you. We're very excited to get that launched. If people want to check that out, in probably a month or so here, we'll get that up online with Colorado Crafted. But tell everyone how they can find more info. People might be listening, thinking, "I want to get one of those boxes," or, "I might want to reach out and engage with them."

Sarah: Our website is coloradocraftedbox.com, and then on Instagram and Facebook we're Colorado Crafted.

Jesse: Awesome. Perfect. Well thank you for being with us today, Sarah. It was great to hear more about your story, and we look forward to working with you more in the future.

Sarah: Thanks.

Jesse: You're welcome. Thank you everyone for tuning in, and hearing about Colorado Crafted and Sarah's story. If you're interested in telling your own story to us, visit our website, stickergiant.com/podcast. Until next time, have a great one, and remember, every sticker has a story. What's yours?

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