Maine MEP Helps Company Picture Success
RAYMOND, ME - When Christine Sutton and Tracey DuBois of Archival Solutions, a division of The Sentimental Playground, decided to develop a new product line to help scrapbookers organize their photographs and memorabilia, the women turned to the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership for help.
"We were having success with direct marketing and Internet sales," said DuBois, "but we wanted to expand our basic product line by designing advanced archival products at a cost that would discourage competitors from developing similar products."
That's where Maine MEP came in. "We looked to the Maine MEP to find technically advanced materials and product sourcing," said DuBois. "In addition, we needed help in developing prototypes, identifying sub-contractors and in developing a commercialization strategy."
Archival Solutions actually began five years ago as a retail studio aimed at supplying products for the $2.5 billion scrapbooking industry.
"We took great interest in this company," said Rod Rodrigue, president of the Maine MEP. "After all, there are more than 40 million home crafters right now and scrapbooking is in a huge growth industry that is expected to more than triple during the next five years.
"Obviously, the more Maine MEP could do to help, the greater chance Archival Solutions would have to grow, increase revenues and add employees in the months and years ahead," Rodrigue added.
DuBois agrees the Maine MEP was a huge help to her and Sutton. "Archival Solutions and the Sentimental Playground have gained credibility through our association with Maine MEP," she said. "As a result, we have been able to progress and grow our company at a much faster pace."
In fact, the women recently introduced their new product line to great reviews at the Hobby Industry Association International Show in Anaheim, Calif. "More than 10,000 people attend the show," DuBois said, "and a majority of them are involved with scrapbooking.
"Everyone who saw our product line loved it, and was surprised at just how simple it is," she added.
The Sentimental Playground produces Photo Pockets, acid-free, lignin-free photo organizing envelopes. With Photo Pockets, scrapbookers can quickly and easily sort photographs, record journaling information and gather layout ideas. "Our product line also includes Negative Pockets, Page Planners and Treasure Your Memories video with a number of additional products currently in development," she explained.
"The key to scrapbooking is organization," DuBois added. "Without it, people get discouraged and give up on the project."
The major problem faced by Archival Solutions was that the pockets had to be acid free and meet all the criteria for archival products as outlined by the Library of Congress.
To solve that problem, the Maine MEP assisted the women in applying for a $10,000 seed grant from the Maine Technology Institute. Once that was received, the Maine MEP led a team of professional designers, manufacturers, materials selectors and industry professionals to conduct the project and utilized the resources of the University of Maine Orono Pulp and Paper Laboratory and Plastics Laboratory to perform product testing and validation.
"We are hitting the market at just the right time," said DuBois. "We have received favorable press on our product, the store owners understand the concept and the scrap booking industry is in the midst of a tremendous growth surge. Our timing couldn't be any better."
In fact, the result of the Maine MEP project has helped the company retain two positions (there are now four employees) and sales are projected to increase from $5,000 a year to $100,000.
The MEP's Rodrigue is delighted with the outcome of this particular project. "It's unique situations such as the one presented by Archival Solutions that keep our project managers moving forward and continually expanding our capabilities to assist small- and medium-sized companies throughout Maine," Rodrigue said. "I congratulate both women on what they have already accomplished and look forward to their continued success."
The Maine MEP is an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2,000 manufacturing and business "coaches" whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits and enhanced global competitiveness. For more information on the Maine MEP program call 1-800-637-4634.