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Kelly Hughes Designs Ecwid
Posted Sep 27, 2019 by Anastasia Prokofieva

10 Years With Ecwid: From Note Card Designs to a Thriving Retail and Wholesale Business

As you’ve (maybe) already heard, this month Ecwid celebrates its 10th birthday! We’ve come a long way — from humble beginnings as a tiny e-commerce widget to a seriously impressive omnichannel e-commerce platform, supporting 10+ ways to sell online and helping over 1.5 million merchants begin their small business journeys.

To celebrate the big day together, we decided to share some of your stories — successes, challenges, and where your amazing ideas began — starting, of course, with those merchants who’ve been with us from the very beginning. If you’d like to join the celebration by sharing your journey, shoot us a message at blog@ecwid.com!

This week, we bring you stationery queen Kelly Hughes, owner of Kelly Hughes Designs. Find out how Kelly’s obsession with paper, art, and color inspired a boutique brand that started as a small collection of notecard designs and grew into a thriving retail and wholesale business.

Kelly Hughes designs


Kelly Hughes at National Stationery Show (Image: @kellyhughesdesigns)

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Kelly Hughes, Kelly Hughes Designs:

“I started my business in 2003. I knew I wanted to have a creative business of my own — I always had a love for paper and knew it was something that I would enjoy. I started with a small collection of notecard designs that I sold at local craft fairs and markets. In 2005, I attended my first National Stationery Show in NYC and began a successful venture in the wholesale business. The launch was so much more successful than I anticipated — and the first major milestone in my business. We picked up a lot of customers at that show and still work with many of them today!

The second landmark for me was the launch of our Tabletop Collection for kids in 2007. It was one of the first of its kind in the stationery and gift market and remains the bread and butter of our business.

Kelly Hughes Designs tabletop


Personalized kids tabletop from Kelly Hughes Designs

The business continued to grow, and the third major milestone happened in 2014. It was the shift to utilizing fulfillment companies, which allowed me to refocus my efforts on design, marketing, and direct-to-consumer sales.

However, every business has its ups and downs. I think for me, the biggest challenge was getting through the tough economy from 2009 to 2011, combined with the shift to everything going digital. Many of our small brick-and-mortar wholesale customers struggled during this time and closed their stores. But I learned to scale back and stick through a tough time, which made us stronger in the end.

Kelly Hughes Designs at National Stationery Show


Kelly Hughes Designs at National Stationery Show 2019 (Image: @kellyhughesdesigns)

As my business grew and changed, so did my team. It’s had many versions over the past 15 years. Back in the beginning days of producing all of our products in-house, we had a full production and shipping team on staff. As my business has evolved over the years, I’ve outsourced much of our production, which has allowed me more flexibility in my work hours and location.

Customers say our line just makes them feel ‘happy.’

No matter what changes we faced, our customers were always pleased with our products. My customers are mostly women who love our colorful and whimsical designs. Moms and grandmothers, in particular, adore our tabletop collection, blankets, and stationery for their little ones. And our modern stationery collection offers brightly colored monograms for those who keep up with the tradition of writing letters. Customers say our line just makes them feel ‘happy.’

Kelly Hughes designs tray


Monogrammed lucite trays are one of Kelly’s most popular items

Ecwid helps keep our customers happy too. We chose Ecwid for its capability to easily personalize products and use our storefront on multiple URLs, which allowed me to have a retail and a wholesale website. And the best part is that Ecwid makes it easy to manage both. The order management system helps keep me organized and my customers up-to-date on the status of their orders. And the product details allow me to offer customization options to my customers, which is a necessity for my personalized products.

With Ecwid, I was able to easily set up a secondary website to sell products directly to consumers — which contributed to a 20% growth in overall sales over two years. That’s pretty huge for a small business like mine. And that happened with minimal marketing and promotion, so there’s still a huge opportunity for growth to be had with this portion of my business.

Kelly Hughes Designs gift


A baby gift from Kelly Hughes Designs

At this point, I promote my store through social media (Instagram/Facebook), scheduled customer emails, and paid Facebook advertising — all through Ecwid’s platform. And I’ve seen the biggest increase in sales from email collection and regular communication. I email my customer list on a weekly basis to communicate new products and promotions. It’s just a simple reminder that we’re still here when they’re ready to shop!

My formula for success is to stay current and communicate.

Over the years, I’ve found my formula for success is to stay current and communicate. We stay in touch with customers on a regular basis and keep our social media updated, and I update our designs and our website yearly to offer our customers something fresh and new. You have to constantly be putting yourself out there, so your customers don’t forget that you’re there.”

Subscribe to the Ecwid blog to read more inspiring stories like this one and get free e-commerce tips for growing your store. If you’d like to join the celebration by sharing your journey, shoot us a message at blog@ecwid.com!

About the author
Anastasia Prokofieva is a content writer at Ecwid. She writes about online marketing and promotion to make entrepreneurs’ daily routine easier and more rewarding. She also has a soft spot for cats, chocolate, and making kombucha at home.