January is National Paper Crafting month. For Roberta Stafford, an independent consultant for Close to my Heart, an online-based store that specializes in paper crafts and scrapbooking materials, January means being able to show people that paper is not just for coloring on and cutting up. Close to my Heart allows customers to shop online or at one of Stafford’s home parties. She has been a consultant with the company for four years. It allows her to combine her loves of wearable paper art, scrapbooking, and making home decor.
Cello in a Box sells gift wrapping — from ribbons to tissue paper and gift boxes to printed cellophane with sparkly twist ties. Owner Maryellen Baughman purchased the company three years ago after she had a stroke. She was looking to keep busy and fell in love with the products Cello sold. She hired her senior design coordinator, Stacy Vesely, and revamped the website, starting the business anew.
“We focus on the small customer, not the large order,” said Baughman. “Say a mom is making gifts for a birthday party and she only needs five or six little bags. When she goes to Target, for example, she spends a lot of money for 12 bags when she only needs six. We sell in smaller, more affordable quantities. No one else does this. At Walmart or Kmart, you spend more money, sometimes for more materials than you need.”
Genuine customer service is why Stafford believes that customers should purchase their paper products from Close to my Heart.
“I think one we have excellent customer service,” said Stafford. “We can provide customer service that the big-box stores can’t. You can call Michael’s about why your adhesive runner doesn’t work and they will just tell you to buy a new one. You could call me and I can figure why it doesn’t work — maybe you’re using it on the wrong fabric or paper. Maybe it’s clogged. Secondly, all the paper color coordinates with each other. Everything comes packaged together and works well with each other. You don’t have to stand in the store comparing different sheets of paper. Plus, there is something for everyone, design and color-wise.”
For the moment, Baughman only sells her products via the Cello website but she dreams of one day having a physical location.
“Maybe we’ll have a shop once we get our name out,” said Baughman. “Right now, we just want to introduce everyone to Cello.”
Stafford hosts parties to sell merchandise, ranging from stamps to binders, from cut-outs to photo bins.
“Everyone does something different,” said Stafford, referring to how each consultant hosts a party. “All the parties are fun. I play games with my guests, introduce them to each other with an ice breaker. We always, always make something that the guests can take home. Everything is free -- free for the host and free gifts for the guests.”
Although a good chunk of Stafford’s hosts and guests are older women, she also holds parties for children’s birthday parties and girl scout troops.
“We do a lot of outside-of-the-box crafts,” said Stafford. “For example, we made a calendar. Each month has a different theme and color palette. Everyone has a calendar, and it was different than making cards. The women learned different techniques and had fun.”
Business is picking up for Cello, with 139 new customers who purchased from the website since January 1.
“We’re now getting about two to three orders a day,” said Baughman. “It’s really exciting. We have customers all over the United States. We hope to start working with the local schools and the after-school clubs. We have a lot of fun colors that match your own school’s colors, and day cares and such. All our products are FDA approved and are just really fun. That’s what we’re all about, having fun.”
Baughman helps teens from local schools by employing them for simple tasks like counting cards and folding ribbons.
“It’s good to get kids off the street,” said Baughman. She lives across the street from Sparks Middle School and recruits students from there, gives them jobs once a month to earn some spending money. “It’s important to help each other and I do what I can; give them $20, $30 to help with their cell phone.”
Subscribers to the Cello website receive coupons and the e-newsletter. The ladies also have sales and specials.
“Stacey picks out three or four items each month for a special,” said Baughman.
For those who want to become a consultant with Close to my Heart, they can sign up with a current consultant. For $99, the new consultant receives paper goodies -- “about $300 worth of product,” said Stafford -- a free website and free online training. Stafford takes it a step further with new consultants. She helps host their first party but gives all the sales from the night to new consultant.
Cello also has sales affiliates all over the country, selling products through various product parties and online.
“They can own their own little business,” said Baughman. “Anyone can do it. Just sign up on the website. It’s free to do so. They receive training from our representative in New Hampshire and start receiving commission right away. It’s a great way to earn a little money and have some fun.”
For more information about Close to my Heart, visit www.closetomyheart.com or call (775) 750-7809. For more information about Cello in a Box, visit www.celloinabox.com or call (775) 813-3016.