Guest Blogger : Carina Murray of Crow & Canary

Crow and Canary

I know that many of you who read Paper Crave are stationery designers and business owners who are always looking for new ways to grow your lines. Some of you may already have a representative for your line, but others may not know much about what it means to have your line repped. I know that it’s something that I’ve wondered about for a while, and I’m happy to say that we have someone who is not only an expert but who is willing to share with us her knowledge about what she does as a rep and what it takes to acquire a rep for your stationery line.

I’m very excited to introduce guest blogger, Carina Murray, of Crow & Canary, a fine art card and gift representation firm that covers the Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco markets. Carina founded Crow and Canary in 2006 and currently reps lines including 9SpotMonk, Jezebel, Paper + Cup Design, and Seraph. Now, without further ado, here’s Carina!


You may be thinking, what exactly does a stationery rep do? Believe me, you wouldn’t be the first person to be a bit fuzzy on the details. The majority of my friends and family are still a little unclear about my profession.

Reps are essentially a liaison between the designer and wholesale buyer. I show samples to buyers and forward the orders on to the lines I represent. I’m not responsible for production or shipping. My job is strictly commission based, 10-25% is the industry norm. Most reps only take commission on orders paid, meaning if a retailer cancels the order or does not follow through with payment, the rep doesn’t receive commission.

I work primarily as a traveling rep. I visit stores in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, much in the fashion of an old-school traveling salesman. I also exhibit at one to two trade shows a year. Trade shows are optional and require a participation fee, along with standard commission. This is an excellent option for most designers because exhibiting at a trade show as a single entity is a rather large undertaking and expense.

I can’t speak for all independent reps, but I’m pretty specific in what I look for when I consider adding a new line to my repertoire.

  • The line must be complementary to my current collection; if it’s too similar to designs I already represent, I risk competition within my own collection.
  • I’m always on the lookout for innovative products. If I see a line and think: “Wow, that’s so unique.” — it’s definitely a contender.
  • Good product photography, a comprehensive website and catalog and flexibility are key.
  • I find it easier to rep lines that have at least 25 unique designs, though this is not a hard and fast rule.
  • Lines that work with eco friendly goods are also a plus.

The second part of my Paper Crave guest post will feature answers to my most frequently asked industry-related questions. Please feel free to post a comment with any question you may have and I’ll be sure to respond in the next post.

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14 comments on “Guest Blogger : Carina Murray of Crow & Canary

  1. David Paul Seymour commented //

    Altough my company/cardline has been featured twice now on PaperCrave (Thanks!), we still find it to be quite challenging as a new card publisher to get our line even on store radars. We consider what we do very unique in terms of themes and art style, while hitting our kitschy, midcentury modern niche, which isn’t so unique as you know. It’s more in the way we approach it. That being said, and perhaps if you took a peek at what we do, what would you recommend for an attack plan to get noticed by buyers and the appropriate or typical ettiquite way to approach…especially with out-of-town/online stores who we obviously can’t approach in person?

  2. Leigh commented //

    I’d love to know how you got into this line of work or tips for a beginner rep.

  3. Jennifer commented //

    Words of wisdom: Even if I you don’t plan to have reps for a while (or ever), make sure that the wholesale price isn’t so low that you can’t afford to pay out commission to a sales rep if you chose to get one later. Plan ahead and build it in-You don’t want to eliminate options for yourself down the road. I am eternally grateful to the kind woman who shared this info with me when I was looking to launch my line.

  4. Melanie commented //

    Really interesting! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the rest of the series!

  5. Carrie S. commented //

    What a great idea for a guest blog – it’s fantastic to get the perspective of a sales rep.

    Carina, I would like to ditto David’s question above, and also inquire about how to actually FIND reps. It seems that very few people post their sales reps online, and mysteriously…many reps don’t seem to have a web presence. Any recommendations on a good rep-finding resource?

  6. Adrienne commented //

    Hi Carina,

    If one hasn’t had representation opportunities yet but would like to continue to try to get into stores until getting to that point, is there a polite way to call a store and get the buyer info for sending out a media kit or samples?

  7. megan commented //

    Hello Carina! My question just echoes Carrie’s.

    I feel so spoiled having lucked on to finding you as my first rep. Now that I’m seeking out reps in additional areas, I’m having such a hard time finding not just repping companines in the markets I’m looking for, but specifically ones that I’m compatible with.

  8. Pingback: Questions for Carina of Crow & Canary

  9. erin commented //

    I am VERY interested in hiring a rep for my line of stationery. I just have no idea where to begin!

  10. eva jorgensen commented //

    thanks for the info! we don’t have any reps yet, but have been approached. i’m sure i could use any tips and info you could give, but one thing i was wondering is: once you sign up with a rep for a certain region, do you have to pay them commission for any and all shops you have product in within that region? what if you already had shops in place before you signed on with them? what if shops approach you directly without having ever interacted with the rep? thanks again!

  11. Bespoke Letterpress commented //

    This is brilliant – such a wonderful idea! Thankyou for sharing!!

  12. Karen Miedrich-Luo commented //

    What skills are necessary for becoming a rep and making yourself known and trusted to suppliers?

  13. Karen Miedrich-Luo commented //

    This is so embarassing but I wrote in the website incorrectly for my website Paper Trails above. It is corrected here.

  14. Pingback: Crow & Canary, Part 2 : Q & A with Carina