September 29, 2014 • Sarah Schwartz
Two Decades of Fabulous
When I started working on Stationery Trends’ inaugural spring 2008 issue, as far as I was concerned, there was only one option for our very first Designer Profile: Anna Griffin. Now, as her 20th year in business winds down, it’s an opportune time to look back over her industry tenure and see what the future holds.
ST: How long did you think about launching a business before you actually launched?
AG: I always knew I would have my own business. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs means that it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when. I spent several years after college working for different companies to get an understanding of what my strengths were. It took approximately three months to get my company started once I decided it was going to be a stationery and gift company.
ST: While antique engravings, botanicals and fabrics have always defined your designs, did you always know your core line would be paper?
AG: Yes, paper was always the plan. My degree is in graphic design and I have always loved paper. Beautiful flowers, antiques and exquisite stationery are my passions. I am very lucky to get to work with these things everyday.
ST: Looking back, what do you think were your most important early decisions?
AG: Some of my most important decisions early on were:
1. Choosing to be a manufacturer of my products versus licensing my designs — it set the course from the beginning.
2. Launching with a plan for multiple product releases. It’s not enough to have one great idea, you’ve got to have 10 more right behind it that are better.
3. My dad always says to hire to your weaknesses — my first hire was a bookkeeper.
ST: Is there anything you would have done differently?
AG: This may sound funny but no, there isn’t anything I would have done differently. I try to adapt and learn everyday. A seminar leader once told me, “Choose and love what you choose.” I work with a sense of urgency and I trust my decisions. I know that tomorrow I will have another chance, and I don’t let challenges stop me from getting the job done.
ST: How did the idea for the vellum and ribbon imprintable first come to you?
AG: I have always been attracted to texture, layers and bows — whether for paper or decorating. When I graduated from college, my first resume was printed on vellum. At that time vellum and the handmade floral inclusions papers were all the rage. I designed invitations with these elements as if I were designing them for myself.
ST: Today you have more than 1,000 licensed items from names like Lenox and Department 56. To your mind, is there a winning equation to a licensed product? What do you look for in a licensing partner?
AG: Licensing has been part of my business from the beginning. The year I launched my first wholesale collection I also launched an Artist’s Collection with Crane. The Anna Griffin brand has been licensed for everything from Christmas tree ornaments to dinnerware. It has been an honor to be licensed by some of the top brands in the country. When choosing a partner, we look for established companies who offer high quality traditional products.
ST: Conversely, your paper line features the work of several licensees, including Maude Asbury and Khristian Howell. What do you look for in a licensee?
AG: Three years ago we started Blend, our licensing division, to provide a wider range of products to our customers. We work with contemporary surface pattern designers that are prolific and have a commercial appeal. Each of these talented artists has an identifiable style.
ST: What does the future hold for Anna Griffin?
AG: I’m always working on what’s next! The new year brings the launch of Anna Griffin bedding in both the U.S. and the U.K. Our continuous success on television shopping channels like HSN and QVC UK has afforded us the opportunity to branch out into other markets. It’s very exciting.