There’s a thousand stories in the big city, so the saying goes, but there are also most likely a thousand stories behind each greeting card line. George White is the president & COO of Up With Paper, probably the first company to turn paper engineering into a miniature art form.
The award-winning line of cards and books is meticulously engineered like no other line I’ve seen, and is available at thousands of specialty retail outlets throughout the U.S., Canada and beyond. Every time I buy a book at my local Barnes & Noble, I see at least one person lingering in front of their display (conveniently located by the cash wrap); if it’s a child, you can be sure they’re begging their mom to buy them one. What I love about their cards is that they are about so much more than movement; incredibly detailed, the more you stare, the more you see.
But George has done a lot behind the scenes, both for the industry and every stationery lover. He is a very active member of the Greeting Card Association (GCA), where he was chairman of the GCA’s Postal Affairs Committee. George is very passionate about what we can all do to help the USPS, and he holds the singular and rather lofty honor of not causing my eyes to glaze over when he waxes eloquent on the subject.
This is because he has a sense of humor about it all — at last May’s 25th anniversary LOUIE award gala, I had the honor of presenting several awards onstage with George in front of 300 industry guests. George completely stole the show by going off script several times, editorializing about the USPS. That’s why nearly every picture the GCA sent me for this piece depicts the two of us giggling.
1.SS: Briefly, can you explain your GCA role in regards to the USPS?
GW: I was chairman of the GCA’s Postal Affairs Committee for the last five years. I just stepped down, replaced by Brenda Turner of Dayspring, who will do a great job. Like me, she has a political background, which will serve her well in her dealings with members of Congress and the Postal community. The committee, along with the GCA’s Postal staff leadership in DC, interfaces with the Postal Service and members of Congress to support a financially sound Postal Service, offering universal, six-day service at affordable rates. Many don’t realize the importance of the Postal Service to our industry, but since 60% of greeting cards are delivered to the recipient via mail, the USPS is am integral part of the greeting card giving “process.”
2. SS: What inroads have you made on behalf of the stationery industry with them?
GW: The GCA has really built itself up as a significant player in Postal issues in the last few years. Our opinion is not only listened to by those who establish USPS policies —Postal Service leadership, the Board of Governors, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and members of Congress and their staff — but is actively sought out. As a result, our efforts in support of things like the Forever stamp, the Butterfly stamp [an idea that originated with the GCA and is used for oversize or square cards requiring extra postage; several companies, including Up With Paper, print the silhouette on envelopes so consumers can stamp accordingly], reasonable First Class postal rates, and postal reform driven by the interests of the citizen mailer, have generated favorable results for our industry. I am very proud of (the Butterfly stamp) — it’s hard to believe we went from an idea to a new stamp in about 18 months, and it has been incredibly effective at reducing confusion among consumers wanting to mail square cards.
3. SS: What is the biggest thing you would like to change about the way the USPS operates?
GW: I would like them to be more focused on the citizen mailer in all aspects of their business. While the bulk of USPS volume is advertising and other direct mail, First Class mail from citizen mailers not only provides the operating profit that enables the USPS to continue to operate, First Class mail like greeting cards and personal correspondence also enables the entire mail system to function. Such mail is the “content” of the mailstream, without which advertising and other direct mail would be completely ignored — just like TV shows are the content that enables the advertising around it to work.
4. SS: What can invitation & correspondence lovers to do help out?
GW: Use the US Mail! It sounds silly, but that really is the truth. Whether it is mailing an extra thank-you note or card, or mailing that bill payment rather than paying online, each additional piece of First Class mail not only helps the Postal Service from a revenue aspect; it also increases the volume of personal correspondence in the mailstream, giving it more “weight” and increasing our leverage at the negotiating table.
5. SS: Not counting Up With Paper, what are your three favorite paper lines?
GW: That’s a tough one, as not only is there a ton of great product in the market, but I also have lots of friends at many companies! So, in the hopes of not offending any of my fellow publishers, all of whom produce exactly the right card for the right person at different times, I have always been a fan of Avanti’s humor line; I just think their humorous animal photos and clever copy work, time and time again.
Amy Smyth of Ecka & Pecka’s copy always makes me laugh; at the Toronto show in August I went through her entire deck during some down time and she really had me going.
Finally, I am a fan of letterpress, and think Elum’s products consistently deliver the look that I like. I hope that list does not cost me too many drinks at the next GCA convention …