When Celina Chase began making hand-sewn felt toys, she soon realized she was on to something bigger than the occasional gift for a friend. “After years of telling every crafty person I know that he or she should start an Etsy shop, I had finally developed something I could sell on Etsy myself.”
Using 100% pure merino wool felt she purchased from Janet Wieczorek at Felt on the Fly, Celina’s business, Garden Birdie, began to take off. But like many home-based artisans, finding enough time was always her biggest challenge. “Most of my items take two to four hours to create. I work part time in the evenings while my children are sleeping and I am limited in the number of orders I can fulfill. Then one day I started thinking about the die-cut flowers Janet attached to her thank you notes included with my felt orders.”
Celina followed up with questions to Janet: where do those perfectly cut flowers come from, and could she purchase any of her felt pre-cut?
“My cousin is the owner of a small local company specializing in making custom dies,” says Janet, who has a die-cutting machine in her workshop. “I’d been thinking for a while about how to tap into my cousin’s expertise. When Celina came to me with her questions about die-cut pattern pieces, the opportunity was just too perfect.”
“We worked through options, possibilities, and realities and came up with a perfect plan. I swear I wore out my calculator and went through more than a few pencils figuring out the details,” says Janet.
Those details involved everything from pricing to fulfillment to intellectual property rights. “I sent Janet a PDF file of the owl pattern I designed myself, and she worked with her cousin to create the custom cutting die,” says Celina. “Janet keeps the die in her workshop with the agreement that I am the sole recipient of the die-cuts and that I can retrieve the die from her at any time.”
“Purchasing die-cut pieces from Janet has enabled me to cut my production time 30% to 50%,” says Celina. “My work is higher quality thanks to the die’s ability to keep everything uniform and symmetrical (no more cutting those small owl eyes by hand!), and I am able to focus my attention on designing, sewing, embroidering, and stuffing.”
Currently, Celina purchases die-cut pieces for her reindeer and owl toys, and sees more opportunities to use Janet’s custom services in the future. “I just sold 100 angel ornaments to a hospital in New York. After cutting the wings I’m beginning to realize how valuable it would be to purchase these die-cut as well,” says Celina.
“This collaboration involves trust and integrity, as all successful partnerships do,” says Janet. “The end result is a terrific, mutually beneficial relationship that supports each of our businesses.”