During this past edition of the National Stationery Show, I was thrilled to again be asked to judge the Best New Product Awards, this time in a new home at the other end of the Javits concourse — but still just as dazzling as ever! Checking out the display is always my first stop the first morning of the show after I get my press badge — but I’m by no means alone in that strategy, as the area is typically jam-packed.

Nearly 200 entries were on display, and while I can’t speak for the other judges, the process is never easy, especially if you are like me and are prone to second guessing yourself. My judging sheets are typically full of cross-outs, and I must apologize to whoever has to decipher it!

At any rate, the results came in, and it’s my pleasure to share a little bit more about the winning products and the makers behind them.

In the All Things Paper category, 417 Press took top honors for its Infertility Sucks greeting card (I’m showing the entire range here, which I’ve already written up here a while back.) The messages themselves are a study in simplicity, offset by colored envelopes.

Testament to the idea that necessity is the mother of invention, Michelle Secondi told me that she was inspired to create the range after a friend of hers miscarried. “While I had sympathy cards in my line, none of them were specific to that particular kind of loss. Having gone through infertility myself, I really wanted to say that I understood what she went through. That is when I realized that there were no cards like this in the market and I knew I had to change that.”

Michelle told me that at the show, “some buyers got it right away, I suspect because they either struggled with infertility personally or knew someone who had. Some had stories of their own to tell. Others commented that no one ever asked for infertility cards, but then realized that no one would ask for something they didn’t think existed! Interestingly enough, almost every single buyer added at least one infertility card to their order.”

Michelle said she was completely surprised she won! “While this card [shown below] — and the whole series — is near and dear to my heart, you never know if it will truly resonate with wholesale buyers — or judges for that matter! Thanks to this recognition, and based on the feedback I’m getting from wholesale and retail buyers as well as social media engagement, interest in this new genre of card is catching on.”

Congratulations to Michelle on her award — and for opening the doors to conversations that need to be had. Greeting cards by their nature are supposed to show support, and these do just that. 

 

Sea Urchin Studio took the honors for the Life/Style category with its adorable Nature Scavenger Hunt Notepad. I must say, this jumped right out at me because I am always trying to take my 10-year-old on hikes, walks, bike rides, what have you — and like most of her peers, she’d much prefer to watch YouTube videos than listen to Mom wax eloquent about the wonders of flora and fauna. But putting a game to it gives me some hope yet!Sara Ardeleano told me she was inspired to create a range of Woodland-themed products, including the Nature Scavenger Hunt, after moving to Connecticut. “After living in New York City for twenty years, moving to the suburbs and seeing nature up close was an amazing experience. As many products start out, I created the Scavenger Hunt to keep my daughter occupied (and hopefully interested) when we went on hikes. It worked, she loves to take it along! The nice thing about it is that found items will vary by season, making it a new game each time.”

Sara heard one phrase consistently from NSS buyers: “That’s so cute!” In addition, she heard a lot of different ways everyone thought the Scavenger Hunt could be used. “I’d planned it as a simple kid’s game, but buyers and customers have had great ideas beyond that.”

Sara was thrilled with the award, not only because there are so many talented designers who exhibit at NSS and there were some really great entries in the competition, but because she’d never won a blue ribbon in anything! “I’m very appreciative to everyone who thought my product was worthy of a vote.”

To continue to celebration, Sara is offering TPC readers a discount on all her adorable wares through July 1. Just use the code TPC2017 for 20% off! Next up, we have Frankie & Claude, who bright and clever Everyday Award Ribbons took the ribbon themselves in the Let’s Celebrate Category!

Sam Bearbower told me that she’s had a long-standing love affair with all things vintage, nostalgic and antique. “And as much as I love paper, there is also a special place in my heart for alternatives to the traditional greeting card. I constantly joke with my friends and family about ‘You get the award for blank,’ of course always something sarcastic, but real life. From these things our line of Everyday Awards were born!”

At the show, “We loved all the love our customers have been throwing their way. Winning Best New Product for these little lovelies on day 1 of the show was a tremendous way to kick off our debut, and I seriously could not have asked for anything better. We had great feedback from our retailers old and new! My favorite part about the feedback was hearing people recall someone in their life ‘perfect’ for a particular ribbon — it was hilarious to hear how many husbands are apparently deserving of our ‘Most Likely to … diagnose their cold as a rare incurable disease’ ribbon.”
Sam was absolutely shocked she won. “The last time I won an award was in 8th grade and won ‘most likely to get the munchies during cheerleading practice.’ When Kelly came over to my booth and asked if I had heard who won, and then said it was me… there are really no words. I was speechless. Then there were all these cameras and people stopping to watch; it was an amazing experience. When you put so much of your heart into a product that you really believe in, its a truly amazing feeling to have your work validated in this way.”
Oh, and look out for new Everyday Awards this fall!

Last up, Lily & Val took the honors for Craft It Up/DIY and Best in Show for their Chalk Lettering Tool Kit. This super-cute natural canvas pouch is filled with goodies, including Crayola White Anti-Dust Chalk, Chalk Ink Marker, sharpener, wooden ruler, microfiber cloth, felt eraser, pink pencil, cotton swabs, and a helpful guide with exclusive tips and tricks written by the company’s own Valerie McKeehan.Valerie told me that she was inspired to create the range because whenever she posted a piece of chalk art to social media, “I was constantly getting asked about the specific tools and supplies I use. This became especially true after The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering came out and people became more interested in DIY hand lettering! This inspired me to create a kit that combined all of my favorite chalk art items in one place. Not only did I want I want to make it easier for people to get started in chalk lettering, but also provide them a convenient kit for their continued projects. I constantly use mine!” At the show, “We heard a great response from buyers!” Val told me. “They were impressed with the attention to detail and completeness of the kit — even down to cotton swabs tied with a cute twine bow. They also appreciated the quality of the canvas pouch and packaging showing everything inside.” What is so great about the kit is that it makes the art form accessible to anyone, Val told me. “You don’t have to be a pro or even an artist to try your hand at drawing chalk art! We hear SO many stories of people enjoying chalk lettering as a stress-reliving hobby. It is one of the most no-pressure art mediums out there since everything erases. Not only that, the imperfections are what make it charming and rustic. Fans have even tagged us on Instagram to share their creations and we love hearing the joy in their words when they draw something they are really proud of.” When the awards appeared at the booth, “I was incredibly surprised — the entire team was!” Val told me. “I think I immediately gasped and then started crying. It was just so overwhelming to receive that honor out of all the creative and amazing products at the show. It was a surreal moment I will never forget.”

Congratulations again to all the winners — and of course all the finalists! It’s all of you that give the show its splendor.

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