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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


Understanding Artisan Entrepreneurs

"Just had the hands-down-best hot chocolate of my life here." Monique’s Chocolate in Palo Alto, CA, gets amazing online reviews (159 rave reviews on Yelp to be exact) giving the small boutique chocolatier at 4.5 star rating.

Monique’s doesn’t advertise on TV or any other big media outlet. Yet, their following is growing steadily, and the chocolates are NOT on the cheap side...believe me.

Monique’s is a lone ranger. Well, a lone ranger in the huge chocolate industry, but part of a growing group that may be your next big market—artisan entrepreneurs.

Artisans of the new economy
According to the Future of Small Business Report, “The next 10 years will see a re-emergence of artisans as an economic force. Like their medieval predecessors in pre-industrial Europe and Asia, these next-generation artisans will ply their trade outside the walls of big business, making a living with their craftsmanship and knowledge. But there also will be marked differences. In many cases, brains will replace brawn; software and technology will replace hard labor and raw material.”

These artisan entrepreneurs are not just bakers and chocolate makers, they’re designers, authors, manufacturers of small but exclusive lines of luxury items, niche consultants, life coaches...the list goes on.

A focus on quality at all levels
Now, before you jump to conclusions, yes, some of these artisans might not become your clients. Some will order cheap business cards in small quantities from online sites (I dare not mention any names here).

But overall, these new artisan entrepreneurs are focused on quality—high quality—and not just when it comes to their products, but also in their labeling, packaging, business cards, marketing collateral, stationery, etc.

Take a look at James Beard Award-winning chef, Nicole Plue. She chose letterpress printing on craft board for the packaging of her pastry creations. And how about the acclaimed Gather Journal that is printed (PRINTED) on Via Linen and Lynx Opaque? This inspiring new food magazine was intentionally designed to be kept and savored by subscribers.

Where do you fit in?
Since many of the artisan entrepreneurs are not trained design or print professionals, they will rely on your help to set their businesses help them stand help them create impact.

I know you know better than to approach this new breed of client with the cliché line: “Do you want to buy some print today?”

These artisan entrepreneurs will expect you to get their mindsets, to understand their role in the new economy. And they’ll be looking to you to provide suggestions and guidance, answers to their questions...What print technique will be enticing? What paper choice will best reflect my brand and what it stands for?

And while the print quantities might be smaller, they will expect the same high level of quality that they expect from their own products and high as the price I paid for those chocolates at Monique’s. (Worth every penny by the way!)

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