Scrapbooking, the art of preserving photos, articles and other memorabilia in special scrapbooks, has gone from a quaint hobby to a nearly $7 billion industry, according to the Crafts and Hobby Association (CHA). And that’s up from $2.9 billion market in 2002. Scrapbooking aficionado Julie Swatek believes the Web has played a key role in the surge of interest in the pastime.
“Online shopping has allowed rural America to enjoy the revamped scrapbook culture,” says Swatek, who happens to be president of a growing scrapbooking supplies Website, ScrapYourTrip.com. “People have been keeping scrapbooks for a long time, but up until the last several years most people in rural areas might have driven two hours to obtain scrapbook supplies–and then their selection was really just Wal-Mart, or maybe a local craft store.”
Swatek started Orlando, FL-based ScrapYourTrip.com out of her home in 2002, working with a start-up budget of only $17,000 and, she jokes, the book “Starting up an Online Business for Dummies.” It took her a month to get the inaugural Website–a Yahoo! store site, originally built on a Yahoo! Template–up and running. In the past four years the site has been through two major overhauls, at a total cost of $11,000. “I only sold $200 worth of scrapbook materials in that first month of business,” Swatek says. The first year, she did $30,000 in sales; this year, “we’re on track for sales of over $1 million.”
Swatek says she too was one of those kids who cobbled together her memories, later hoping that her entrepreneurial nature might pay off. “I never considered myself especially creative, but I always kept a scrapbook,” she says. “And as the culture grew, it was like witnessing a new world that for years few knew existed.” What exactly are scrapbook materials? Swatek says there are two major categories – kits, or pre-packaged materials that serve as templates, e.g. “My trip to the Grand Canyon,” and individual components, such as specialized paper, knick-knacks, buttons, and pins.
ScrapYourTrip.com’s customers spend about $33 on an average order. The majority of orders are shipped Priority Mail through the U.S. Postal Service, Swatek says. In addition to selling to customers throughout the U.S. States, the company also sells in 30 countries, with the majority of international customers coming from England, France, Germany, Ireland, and Italy. “Our top overseas business comes from England,” Swatek says. “Between there and Italy, we get a lot of customers requesting scrapbook materials to chronicle U.S. vacations.”
As the business grows, Swatek is considering launching a catalog. “At first I thought that a catalog might not be for us, but then I realized that not everyone out there is online,” she says. “You may think they are…but they’re not. A lot of baby boomers still have a fear of putting their credit card information online, and some are just not that Internet savvy.”