Like most parents of elementary school-aged children, Meg Ragland and Carolyn Lanzetta were drowning in their kids’ artwork. Paintings, macaroni projects and sculptures were piling up fast, and the cousins soon realized they needed to make a decision: either keep the artwork at the expense of space, or throw it out completely. Unsatisfied with either option, the two searched for a simple, more elegant solution to their problem. But when they found nothing, they took matters into their own hands.
Lanzetta, who was an equity trader at JP Morgan, spent endless hours scanning and photographing her daughter’s artwork and compiling it into a book—one that displayed her child’s artistic talents in a beautiful, space-friendly format.
She and Ragland, previously an editor at Women’s Day and Family Circle Magazines, soon realized they had a marketable idea on their hands.
“Parents have tons and tons of their kids’ artwork,” Ragland says. “The average child creates 800 pieces of artwork by the end of their elementary school years. So parents are obviously inundated. What are they going to do with all of that artwork?”
That’s when they came up with the idea for Plum Print, an easy-to-use service that turns creative clutter into timeless keepsakes.
“We put up a pretty basic website to get started, and it quickly confirmed that there was a need for Plum Print—the orders started coming in,” Ragland says.
They initially got customers from word-of-mouth referrals. But as business picked up, the challenges began rolling in.
“Our first hurdle was dealing with the onslaught of business at the end of the school year and again at the holidays,” Ragland explains. “We adjusted quickly by scaling up seasonal labor and creating standardized practices and training.”
In the first year of the business, Plum Print’s staff consisted of Ragland, Lanzetta and one or two part-time digitizers. The company now has seven full-time employees and six part-time employees, not including a reservoir of remote designers.
“Our next biggest hurdle was marketing—a broad challenge, but a very real one for us,” Ragland continues.
In addition to traditional advertising methods, Plum Print currently utilizes brand ambassadors to represent their products, which have now expanded to home decor items like pillows and shower curtains.
“Our formal brand ambassador program helps to take Plum Print into schools and to put our products in front of parents so they can actually touch and feel them,” Ragland explains. “It also makes it super simple. The parents can put all the artwork into a bag or a box and bring it to these parties or to the school and hand it off to an ambassador, who then ships it all to our studios.”
While Plum Print has a satellite office in New York, their headquarters are in Asheville, North Carolina. According to Ragland, the burgeoning startup scene in Asheville was what initially attracted them to the area. “The entrepreneurial fever is palpable in this city,” she says. “Venture Asheville, an initiative from the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, has contributed to the city’s growing entrepreneurial energy… It’s been a great place to be, with amazing support from individuals and organizations, locally, state-wide and beyond.”
As for the future of Plum Print, Ragland says they plan to grow and expand in the coming years, landing their Series A investments and generating a wider customer base through their brand ambassador program and their new refer-a-friend program.