JK Designs: Distinctive Cards That Connect

In the News

Playing Their Cards Right
By Lynne Peterson , Rare Reminder Staff

A home-based business in Cromwell that creates handmade cards, invitations, gift tags and announcements began small. Jean Dunning and Karen Gumkowski first started designing mixed media cards in their homes for themselves and friends.

"People told us we could sell our cards," said Dunning. So they created some samples and drove around to area retailers to see if they would sell. The result was JK Designs.

Dunning and Gumkowski met when their children were younger.

"We met while doing volunteer work for the Boy Scouts and Project Graduation. After working together on volunteer projects we knew we could work well together," Dunning said.

After raising their families, the pair now puts much of their time into their business. Both women enjoy creative pursuits. They have always had an interest in many different creative hobbies. Gumkowski also does wood crafts while Dunning enjoys working with fabric.

They scrapbook together for fun and have an affinity for fine quality, acid free paper, fabrics and ribbons, which they incorporate into the cards they design. They also use many everyday items such as colorful buttons to personalize cards.

Dunning is a University of Vermont graduate with a degree in clothing and textile design while Gumkowski graduated with a fire protection and safety engineering degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The business was started in their basements and now they have their own studio in Cromwell. Dunning handles all the public relations and marketing while Gumkowski manages the business concerns. It is a collaborative pursuit that works.

"We like being our own bosses and making our own decisions about how we want the business to grow," said Gumkowski.

Currently, they have about 100 different designs in their collection. All cards are accompanied by envelopes with matching motifs. Although their business has grown since it began in 2004, they are happy being a home-based business.

"We are not interested in having a store front" said Dunning.

"Sometimes if you grow too fast it doesn't work," Gumkowski said.

Working from home suits their needs as well.

"Our business is mainly wholesale, selling to stores in the area, although we do take special orders from individuals," said Dunning.

They are constantly coming up with new designs. "Each season we have new cards," Dunning said.

JK Designs also offers designs that sell well from season to season and year to year. Working together to create new cards is part of the process. They feel that sharing their ideas on each design make each card better. Gumkowski and Dunning take pride in their designs and pay attention to every detail. They also provide personal service for custom designs.

They've done custom shower invitations, anniversary party invitations, birth announcements and graduation announcements. A special order must have a minimum of 10 and the order is custom made. Retail cards include birthday cards, holiday cards, all-occasion cards, sympathy cards and gift tags. Mother's Day cards are also available this month. The cards are standard size so that no extra postage is required.

The pair also does a lot of corporate business. Local businesses have used the cards for extending holiday wishes and showing appreciation to their customers as well as announcements about special events. JK Designs can create greetings to match any company's particular business needs.

It starts with a personal consultation with the design team to come up with custom made items. Often, companies want to connect with clients, customers, vendors and employees in a special way that sets them apart. JK Designs has created programs and invitations for corporate events such as fundraisers, special announcements and presentations. Custom designs will require an additional fee but the fee is waived on any order of 250 more.

"But if customers choose a design from our brochure there is no design charge," said Dunning.

Another product that Dunning and Gumkowski have provided for companies are appreciation cards for loyal customers and outstanding employee performance. Colors can be used to reflect the image of the corporation. JK Designs wants to create unique greetings for any corporate purpose.

"We have streamlined our operations," Dunning said so even though the products are handmade, the process is quick. Once the proof of a design is reviewed and approved and an order is placed by the customer, the order can usually be delivered in two weeks.

The JK Design cards are available at Sweet Smelling Savour Chocolates and the Wild Raspberry in Cromwell as well as Heart of the Country, Itís Only Natural, the Old State House Museum Store, Inside Out Home Inspections LLC, Puritan and Genesta Natural Foods and Tapestry Rose.

They are members of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce and of the Connecticut Small Business Development Centerís Advisory Board. They have spoken to civic groups and attended Business Network International.

On April 26, the pair had a table set up at a reception held at the state capitol for the legislators. The reception was sponsored by Community Economic Development Fund and CSBDC. It served as a way of making small businesses visible to the legislature. JK Designs provided samples of their cards at this function.

More information about the company is available at cardsbyjkdesigns.com.

© JK Designs 2010
Contact Us: info@cardsbyjkdesigns.com