Despite the doubts of those around her, Allison De Meulder was an early adapter of ecommerce to market the products of her flair for design.
What’s your story?
I started an Ecommerce company at 23 with no start-up capital. We became a pioneer in the online invitation industry.
Fourteen years after perfecting B2B and B2C retail, I ventured into wholesale. Our greeting cards and gifts were sold in over 600 stores. In 2017 I sold my first company.
Through speaking engagements, consulting, and being an author, I have taken my two decades of experience to build a voice that resonates with aspiring entrepreneurs.
In May 2021, the company I sold to left the industry. I am the owner of Invitation Consultants again, refreshed and invigorated.
What excites you most about your industry?
People in the paper and printing industry are usually in it for life. I love paper, events and the process of printing. Then add in Ecommerce and it is the perfect combination. I am so excited that we get to be a part of customers’ special events and celebrations by printing their invitations and cards. I am invigorated by bringing new products to market faster than most industries and love that color and design are part of my business, as creativity is a driving force for me.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
Starting an Ecommerce company in 1999 was certainly not normal and I was questioned by friends and family as to why I would do this. Now buying online is as common as buying milk. It was the first 4 years of my business, when there was doubt from the people I cared most about it, that really pushed me to prove that Ecommerce was happening and that I was going to be a pioneer in my industry. To this day, I push beyond any doubt, if I truly believe there could be success at the other end.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
Patience, perseverance and relationship building are lessons that helped me grow and become more successful. Patience is something that took me many years to learn. I had to teach myself to pace projects and also have the respect to wait on others. Perseverance came easier, as hard work, effort and never giving up is something that you can sort of fall into when business is starting and you are growing as a business. Relationship building and not burning bridges will lay the foundation of success. These relationships can make or break you.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I actually have two pieces of advice I really take to heart.
1. If you love what you do, you will never work another day.
2. If you try to be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to anyone.
The first is easily understood. The second is something I learned by trying to create too many products for our website, and learned that we needed to focus more and truly understand our target markets.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired not by one person but by a collective. Entrepreneurs who start businesses and work in those businesses to grow them year after year inspires me. It is the business owner that is trained in almost all aspects of their company, that knows how to operate machinery or be humble enough to sweep the floors. The entrepreneurs who roll up their sleeves to do the dirty work as well as the glamorous strategy planning; these are the people that inspire me.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
I sold my company in 2017 and bought it back in 2021. I learned that the relationships that I built over 20 years and kept up with served well not only for having amazing people in my life, but these former vendors, staff members and customers were there for me when I sold my business and when I bought it back. Time is everything and there is no substitute for time as experiences were made with these people. By holding on and nurturing relationships I was able to move back to my business seamlessly.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would take more time to learn, and to set aside more time to learn, skills outside of my company, ones where I could grow professionally and personally. I took the time to learn from each department in my company, but I see now how important professional development is for not only yourself but to bring back to your business. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day operations, but having a broader scope is just as important. I plan to do more of this in the future.
How do you unwind?
I am relaxed by spending time with my family, taking walks, traveling, observing architecture, watching Netflix, and being near the water.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
In business it is essential to not put all of your eggs in one basket; for example, don’t rely on one social media channel, one search engine, one news outlet, you have to diversify where your business will be coming from and how your business will be promoted. Contacts leave, channels lose popularity and times change. Don’t spread your efforts to thin, but certainly do not make them to narrow either. Spend the time to learn where your efforts should go and stay on top of new channels and grow your contacts.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Anything can tip the scale and make a difference. That difference could be your business.
Shameless plug for your business:
Invitation Consultants sells personalized invitations, announcements, stationery and holiday cards B2C and B2B. invitationconsultants.com. I also have a podcast where I interview entrepreneurs. emersonbuiltthat.com.
How can people connect with you?
Through social media links listed below, or through email email@example.com.
Social Media Links?
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.