The women behind E. Frances Paper Inc. are preparing to move into their own place this summer, a renovated former auto dealership and garage that will include room for storing inventory.
They’ll need that extra room, with an expansive product line that includes greeting cards, notepads, pinup notes, gift tags and the biggest seller so far, “Little Notes.”
Featuring high-quality paper, and quirky, hand-painted forms – think a seagull with a sweater or a vintage Volkswagen bus – the stationery and greeting card company created by the three partners in 2013 has taken off quickly.
None of this was what sisters Jenni Laundon and Ali Flippin, and cousin Emily Roberts, thought was going to happen when they started their business.
It all started in a small office in Flippin’s house, then advanced to a kitchen, a spare bedroom and eventually a self-storage unit.
“We actually went to work every day in a storage unit,” Laundon said, complete with a flickering light and no windows.
But more recently, they’ve had a leased office in Newport, soon to be replaced by their own place. In July, they will move into a 4,000-square-foot portion of a newly renovated building that they purchased in Middletown, on Main Road.
Laundon, who is the sales director, said the artwork of her sister, Flippin, has driven the sales. Almost all their work now is sold wholesale, and then to consumers through 600 retail stores in the U.S. They also have distribution in Canada and Australia.
The Little Notes, a set of 85 small cards without envelopes, have proven to be a customer favorite. With the slogan “Use Unsparingly,” they’re helpful in lunch boxes, in suitcases, on refrigerator doors and mirrors.
The business has sold 5 million of the Little Notes boxes so far.
“No one has anything like this,” Laundon said. “We started them as a lunch box note. We all have kids. Growing up, our moms always left us little notes, everywhere. On the back of your window, on your windshield. That was the start of it.”
From the start, E. Frances Paper took off almost immediately. The company named for the partners’ grandmothers debuted at a national stationery show, where a national group was impressed and took them on, Laundon said. They only recently launched a website, which offers direct sale to consumers.
In a competitive industry, what has made them stand out? Laundon credits her sister’s artwork. Everything she creates is hand-painted, then reproduced. The team then spends a lot of time deciding on what words to use to convey the meaning of each item. The words are used sparingly, carefully.
On one card, a horse stands on hind legs and serves a birthday cake of loose hay. “Hay! It’s your birthday.”
Attention to design and detail, and then manufacture on a quality paper stock – 110-pound felt watercolor paper – has worked to create a success story.
“Everything is high quality,” Laundon said. “I think it’s subconscious for most people. You go for the design, what it says. If it feels good and the envelope feels nice, you’re probably going to buy that brand again.”
CORRECTION: The story has been updated to reflect accurate sales statistics for the Little Notes product, and to correct the size of the new building.
OWNERS: Jenni Laundon, Ali Flippin and Emily Roberts
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Greeting card and stationery design and manufacturing
LOCATION: 221 Third St., Newport, but moving in July to 114 West Main Road, Middletown
EMPLOYEES: Eight to 10
YEAR ESTABLISHED: 2013
ANNUAL SALES: WND