Suann Song, founder, Appointed
Suann Song, founder of Appointed, started the company with a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign. — Rachel Lynn Photography

Suann Song, founder and creative director of Appointed, talked strategy with CO­— the morning her company unveiled its first new release of 2019, a limited edition Valentine’s Day notebook with a gold foil heart stamped on a salmon pink cover.

For the purveyor of luxurious desktop goods, this year is all about introducing elegant new products, love letters to customers who care deeply about the feel of ink hitting paper. Appointed’s 2018 milestones – crossing the $1 million revenue threshold and expanding distribution to 400 retail stores – provide the springboard for bigger feats in the months ahead.

“We have grown 50% year over year,” said Song of the Washington, D.C.-based company she launched four years ago with capital raised via crowdfunding. “If all goes to plan, we’ll grow at a faster clip, release more products and invest back into the company. Every team member knows growth is a priority,” she said.

Appointed’s three-phase product release strategy begins with the February debut of classic letterhead and notecards that are gender-neutral, a new category to address what Song sees as a dearth of products on the market for men. Come May, new day planners will be released – some with 2020 dates preprinted and some undated so consumers can customize to their needs. The third release in August brings gift items in time for the holiday season.

 Woman looks at bulletin board
Song believes in incorporating customer feedback into her design process. — Rachel Lynn Photography

Every team member knows growth is a priority.

Suann Song, founder, Appointed

The focus on product this year is fueled by 2018 wins: a successful website redesign; expanded retail presence; and hitting $1 million in revenue—a financial feat achieved by only 1.7% of women-owned businesses, according to an American Express report. “Product releases are more about quality than quantity,” said Song, who likens her philosophy to that of fashion label Cuyana, whose mantra is “fewer, better.”

If Song is thoughtful about her product release strategy, she is even more thoughtful about the look, feel and function of her collection, which she describes as “beautiful tools to inspire beautiful work.” Popularity of her signature notebooks and day planners is credited in no small part to due diligence. It was only after 18 months of research that Song took her idea to Kickstarter in 2015, when she sought to raise capital to launch a company that would offer high-quality, American-made products.

'Thoughtful design'

The crowdfunding exercise raised more than double its $25,000 goal and validated her conviction that luxurious, thoughtful design was wanted.

Thoughtful design requires products be durable and functional. For Appointed, that meant testing numerous types of paper before choosing the perfect 70-pound stock, more testing to ensure ink will not feather when it hits the paper and that lead pencils can glide with ease; and, when a notebook inevitably falls to the floor or gets splashed with coffee, testing proved rounded corners and water-resistant covers are necessities.

Customer input is just as important as road testing. “We keep a spreadsheet of every comment from Instagram, phone calls, emails and in-person interactions,” Song said, and much of the feedback is incorporated into new products.

Appointed also works with social media influencers who sample new products and evangelize the brand through social media platforms like Instagram.

“We are always trying to anticipate what the customer needs and wants,” Song told CO—. “That is how we address product development, customer service, and the experience of purchasing a product. It is a priority.”

“Our goal is to be approachable,” said Song, whose general email is – rather than the predictable “info@.” “I genuinely believe people buy from people. There is a person at your end and at our end. We are always very cognizant of that. As we grow, we make sure that is a core value of our company.”

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