Tammy Smith has been an artist for some time. The Westwood resident has worked in ceramics, acrylic painting, 3-D mixed media and wire sculpture. She’s worked for several large international corporations and small, eclectic companies.
Now Smith is creating artistic and usable gifts through her own company, Tammy Smith Design
Recently, Smith displayed her works at the Holiday Boutique at the Overland Park Convention Center.
Q: What is Tammy Smith Design?
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“I make goods that help you celebrate where you’re from, where you’re going and where you’ve been,” Smith said. “I produce tea towels, pillows and pillow covers, prints and cards and a few other things like cutting boards and tablecloths.”
Smith works from a studio in her Westwood home.
“The work you see comes from my passions and interests,” Smith said. “I illustrate subjects that inspire me or mean something to me, not just what I think will sell.”
Q: How did you start the business and why?
Smith started her company in July 2014 after a long career with Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards. Smith spent 20 years with Hallmark as an artist and art director before being laid off six years ago.
“After that I actually did fine art — I did clay sculpture and wire art,” Smith said. “I was in the Plaza Art fair and shows around the country…but I got tired of the traveling and realized it was too difficult to travel with a family.”
The idea for her current business came from a sculpture.
“I created a flat wire sculpture of the Nelson and put it on canvas and put it out there and it sold quickly,” Smith said. “Then I did another one of the Plaza and it sold quickly…People started suggesting doing a Kansas City print of all of the things in here. I said it will never sell but I did it.”
Smith produced the tea towels in her home and sold them through the online site Etsy. She also put them up on her Facebook page, and the resulting publicity helped her business take off. Smith also attended area craft shows selling her line.
“The Kansas City stuff started selling well and people started suggesting other cities…first Chicago and then St. Louis,” she said.
Q: Who does what in the company?
Smith is the only full-time employee, but she does have help.
“I have a number of seamstresses that work with me now who cut my fabric,” Smith said. “I also have a part-timer who is a high school student who packages things for me, cuts fabric and edits my photos.”
Smith does all of the design work, shopping for fabric, shipping and billing.
Smith hired C Squad Solution of Overland Park, which specializes in small-business bookkeeping and taxes.
Q: Where is your product produced and what’s the process?
Smith does some of the production in her home studio.
“Everything starts with wire sculpture but now, because of all the cities I’m doing, I start sketching in ink and I take it to the computer and add color digitally,” she said.
Smith creates a digital file and sends it to a digital printer that puts on the cloth and returns it to her for order fulfillment.
In the design phase, Smith does extensive research on each city looking for top landmarks.
“I will even read blogs for different cities and then I will go from there,” she said.
Tammy Smith Design carries products featuring 22 cities. She does market research to see what products are selling. Products range in price from $8 note pads to $85 Kansas City tablecloths.
This year, Smith did a special design featuring the Kansas City Royals World Series championship. It has been the top seller. Smith also designed the official Plaza lights banner, and items with the design are selling well.
Smith’s products are sold through her website, on Etsy and at 29 retailers around country as well as at craft shows.
“Shows generate about 65 to 70 percent of my income,” Smith said.
Q: How do you handle inventory?
“Inventory is the bane of your existence if you are a small biz person,” Smith said. “You don’t want to keep too much but as cities are added there is more….When I add a city, I only order about a dozen to see how they will sell. If they sell well I will order more but it is truly guess work.”
Smith’s inventory is housed in her garage.
Customers have been primarily women, but Smith said that changed with the introduction of her beer and wine towels and one for carnivores for Father’s Day.
“Then I was asked to do Boulevardia, followed by some different themes that came up and then after that came the custom work for Shatto Milk.”
Smith uses social media outlets to promote her products.
“I love Instagram and I use Facebook ads and I also use Twitter,” she said. “Then just having a presence at shows helps a lot and strengthens your brand….I will see an uptick in sales after a show.”
In a nutshell
COMPANY: Tammy Smith Design
BUSINESS ADDRESS: Home in Westwood
WEB SITE: www.tammysmithdesign.com