From The Desk Of … Sweet Caroline Designs
If you google “lots of color + pink buffalo check + powerhouse” you will most definitely find an image of Caroline Frierson. She is beautiful inside and out and has the most colorful spirit. She is gracious, kind, quick witted and incredibly gifted in her ability to create fabulous products. Caroline burst on the wholesale gift scene launching Sweet Caroline Designs with a loud BAM when she launched her first ever wholesale collection this summer. After years of owning her own store she took the plunge and closed her doors to focus solely on a wholesale business which had been brewing in her mind and her heart since attending The Southern C Summit in February. Walking away from he Summit she knew her life was about to make a drastic change and she embraced it just as she does everything in life, with her million dollar smile and her incredible work ethic.
I met Caroline at Americas Market in July and we instantly bonded. I had spotted her at the Summit in a long palm skirt but never had the opportunity to chat with her. As I stepped into her booth in the temporaries I was overwhelmed with her fabulous pale pink set up filled with so many patterns that I adore. It was a sea of pink gingham, palm, roses and the best pink cheetah I had ever laid eyes on. There is something special about Caroline and you notice it immediately. It was no surprise to me or any one else in attendance that she won the Best Display award. Every single thing in the booth along with the space itself was chosen with much thought and research. She was on fire!
Don’t you love every single pattern in this image? It is truly happy overload and every single one of us needs more joy and pretty images to focus on for sure! I have the huge blessing to talk with Caroline many times since market in July as she has become a precious friend. I am inspired by her attention to detail and her ability to instantly decide which products will make the cut for next season and which ones have seen their day and need to be left behind. Always thinking of expanding and the days ahead you will be so encouraged by her spirit and her fabulous business mind. In the business of wholesale you have to be willing to look at the numbers and decided which directions to go for the future. Caroline has the ability to decide in a moment where she sees herself in the next season and it all began with one ticket to a conference. You will absolutely love this story I have for you!
First of all, tell me about Caroline. Where did you grow up and how did your childhood influence your life and your path today?
I born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana and grew up on a cotton farm called Frierson Plantation. My dad is one of four boys and growing up all four brothers farmed with my grandfather. All four families lived out there so we always had a ton of cousins to play with. It was a really fun place to live growing up! We were always playing outside and using our imagination. It was the BEST childhood. Being outside all the time was so inspiring. We were always so creative, building forts, picking flowers, gardening, riding horses, riding four wheelers and just focusing on the simple things in life. Since we lived out in the country, we couldn’t always go into town so we had to be creative and figure out fun activities and ways to entertain ourselves. (For example) After school during Harvest season, we would go over and play in the cotton gin and also play in the cotton trailers. The cotton trailers held all of the cotton picked that day. We would build tunnels in them and houses. It was so fun!)
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I always really wanted to be an artist. I was always doodling or doing some kind of art project. I just didn’t know exactly what kind of artist until college. I took a couple of classes and chose graphic design because I thought there would be more job opportunities.
You owned a store for a number of years. How did that journey begin and what was it like?
After I graduated from Ole Miss, I moved back home to Shreveport and started working at a cute little paper store called The Paper Tulip. I was the in-house graphic designer. While working there I started doing lots and lots of custom designs. Shreveport is still very old fashioned and we love the elegance and the first impression of a fabulous invitation. I was designing such cute and over the top invites. After working there for 2 years, I got this crazy idea and convinced my dad to let me open up my own studio. I loved creating that special invitation for someone whether it was a baby shower or wedding, I did it all! I don’t really know many invitations I have created through the years. Probably thousands, literally! Through the years the studio grew into a store front and most all of the merchandise was designed by me. I had coffee mugs, notepads, stationery and really anything paper. People loved coming in because they could find something unique and special. People reached out to me all the time asking if I did wholesale but at that time I did not. It would have been too hard to have a shop, design custom invites and do wholesale. I did lots of research and knew wholesale was something I was interested in but I just didn’t know if I had the guts to do it. When I do something I like to give my 110 percent and also timing was everything. I had the shop for about 6 years and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Some of my customers have become some of my very best friends and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my them and my shop.
You attended The Southern C Summit in February and everything changed for your business. Tell me about that experience.
This past year, I got married and that was a huge change for me! Luckily, we were able to stay in Shreveport and I could keep running my business as usual. Honestly though, I was really burned out. I was staying up till midnight or later trying to meet deadlines. I worked lots of weekends during my busy seasons. I also knew that kids were in our future and I couldn’t keep up the pace I was doing with where I was headed. The only thing I did know was that I wanted to still create but just wanted to figure out a way to have a life outside of work. I loved designing but I wasn’t getting to design just for me anymore. I really missed that. One day, my mom was browsing Instagram and she found The Southern C Summit. She immediately called me and was like you have to go to this! She is really good at finding cool things on Instagram. Later that day, I read about it and signed up! That was probably the best decision I could have made for myself. At The Summit, I met so many cool, like-minded, creative people. I enjoyed the location, the atmosphere, the seminars, the speakers and so much more. I left The Summit with so much knowledge and encouragement from my peers. On Monday after I returned home, I had a breaking point. I knew in my heart the best decision for myself would be to close the shop down and go completely wholesale. It was always a dream of mine, I just needed that extra push and I got that from The Southern C. When I told my parents and husband, they were all 100 percent supportive. From there, I hit the ground running! I created a plan, closed the shop down in May and launched my wholesale line for the first time at the Americas Mart Home and Gift Market in Atlanta this past summer.
Launching a wholesale business was a risk and an adventure. Tell me about those first few weeks.
Huge Risk! But I really like challenges. I knew I didn’t make my life any less stressful or easier by going wholesale but it was for me so it was completely different. It was very scary. A lot of money on the line but I knew I wouldn’t be a failure. Before market, I decided I would start cold calling stores and see if they were interested in picking up my cute line. I figured if I could get a few stores buying from me before market that would be a great first start. That of course was really interesting. I got a lot of “No’s” in the beginning and that’s when I realized wholesale was going to be harder than I thought! I went into market thinking 20 accounts was a lot and market blew me away. I left there with 130 accounts and met so many amazing and interesting people. I loved every minute of it. I even won Best Display and that’s when I knew I belonged in this crazy world!
How has the business grown and what has the journey been like?
So far the business has grown so much in such a short amount of time! I just hit 10,000 followers on Instagram which was a huge milestone for me. That probably has been the most challenging part of the wholesale business because creating new content and social media is a full time job and I’m trying to do it all by myself. Right now, I have one employee, Mallory, who is the greatest and keeps me so organized! My family and husband still help a lot too, but I do see hiring more help in the new year. It’s just hard because I like doing everything myself but I’m learning to always accept help. You can be a better person by allowing people to help you.
What is your favorite product?
Right now, probably the planner. I love writing lists each day and crossing things off, it makes me feel very productive. Also it’s probably my favorite because I have put the most energy and time into it.
PINK, of course! Pink is a HAPPY color!
My favorite pattern, that’s really tough! Probably one of my palm prints. Love me some palms!
Most popular product?
Again, the planner! Not only does it keep your life together, it’s also really pretty. I like things that are pretty and functional.
What inspires you to create?
So much! Right now, nature has been a huge inspiration. I love drawing plants and flowers. So many shapes, lines and color.
Your Instagram has taken off? What is your secret to the growth you have seen?
Instagram is an area I have worked really hard on. One reason is that it is free marketing! I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is grab a cup of coffee and scroll through Instagram. I also have figured out good times to post. For me 7 am is the best response. I do recommend investing in professional photography if you can because good quality pictures are appealing. I also have figured out how to take flat lays and creating fun images. I think my page is successful because I stay true to myself and my brand.
What is one tip you think everyone should know about launching a wholesale business?
It’s tough work! If you believe in yourself then others will believe in you as well. HAVE CONFIDENCE!
Anything people shouldn’t do?
Don’t say no to people wanting to help you. Always accept help whether its advice or shipping out tons of merchandise. You’re going to need it!
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Spending the evenings with my husband, Brett and our cute pup, George. He is a golden doodle and were obsessed! We love going on long walks in the evening together. I also love to cook and I really love to shop! One reason I work so hard is so I can shop LOL! Oh, and I run about 5 miles every morning. I love my morning runs because it’s my time to think and pray and no one is going to bother me.
Five must haves.
Computer – I think my life is on my computer.
Mascara and Concealer for the nights I stay up too late designing and need some help so I don’t look so bad the next day:)
Running Shoes – Never know when you need to go on a run and take a breather!
Coffee……lots of coffee!