She loved making cards. For her, they were a work of art. She started out making them for friends and family. Beautiful creations of paper, ribbon, tissue, and anything else she could find. People swooned over her cards. She loved watching the look on someone’s face when they opened the envelope expecting a regular greeting card, and instead were stunned by the dimensional, textural beauty of a Julie creation.
By the time she went to college, she had so many people requesting cards she started charging for them. Her sorority came up with a new office for her: Queen of Paper. By then she was charging $12 a card. Every woman on campus wanted to give or get one of Julie’s special cards.
Then came the day of the portfolio show. It was a chance for the college students to show their work to potential employers. Julie had an entire table of cards ready. She heard a buyer for one of the big card and novelty companies was coming to look at the artist’s portfolios. This was her chance. In her dream world, he would be so taken by her cards his company would start a new line of Julie cards.
The buyer came for the show as expected. He took one look at Julie’s table and said, “Honey you’ve designed for a world that doesn’t exist.” She was crushed. He went on to explain, “No one is going to pay $10 for a card. It would cost at least $5 to produce these. The pricing doesn’t work.”
Julie quickly realized he was right. She had been selling $12 cards to college girls; she’d never seen $10 or $15 dollar cards in any store. What had she been thinking? There was no market for her work.
So she packed up her table, and decided right then and there, her cards would just be a hobby. She switched her major from art to social work. She graduated, started a career and was pretty happy for the next ten years. Of course, she still gave her friends, family, and now clients, cards. And people still swooned. Once again, she started charging for them, and could barely keep up with the requests.
Everyone said, you should make a business of this. But Julie had the voice of a true expert in her head, telling her there was no market for this.
The problem was, Julie listened to the wrong expert. The man who said there was no market was the expert in the current business model. The sorority girls who were paying $12 a card were the experts in the future market.
How often do we allow our ideas to die because we listen to the wrong “expert”? If you’re trying to do something new, don’t look to people invested in the current model for validation. Instead look at the people you want to serve. See how they respond to your offering.
Julie eventually did create a card business. She has a beautiful retail store where she teaches people how to create beauty out of paper. Customers line up to pay $25 or more for a Julie creation. As it turns out, Julie was designing for a world that didn’t exist. Yet. What she didn’t realize back then, the world didn’t exist because it was waiting for her to create it.