Sourcing products is one of the biggest challenges small craft businesses face. How do you find the products you need at wholesale prices? Whether you’re assembling kits, creating a subscription box, or stocking products for a retail store, it’s essential to source the right products at the right prices in order to make a profit. Low minimum orders are nice, too.
Many craft businesses may remember Darice, a craft wholesale business founded in the 1970s by Pat Catan of Lamrite (later called Pat Catan stores) that provided a wide array of craft supplies in bulk to small businesses. Darice carried approximately 100,000 SKUs and had a $75 minimum order, low enough for many small businesses to place orders.
In 2016, Darice was bought by Michaels and in late 2019 Michaels shut Darice down, much to the lament of many craft businesses. Although there are a few other companies that offer a wide variety of craft products at wholesale prices, including MultiCraft in Canada, none of them matched what Darice offered.
JOANN is working to change that with a new site called Inspiration Direct.
How is Inspiration Direct different?
JOANN and Michaels have both offered bulk purchasing programs for several years. JOANN+ launched in 2018, and Michaels Pro, launched shortly after Darice closed, offer a limited number of SKUs and are aimed at consumers that need to place bulk orders for a party or school group. Inspiration Direct on the other hand will be more similar to Darice in that it’s aimed at small businesses and will be more comprehensive than either of these existing programs by including every SKU at JOANN.
Leveraging the Darice team
To create Inspiration Direct, JOANN has brought in several members of the former Darice team through JDM Growth Group, an ecommerce consulting firm based in Strongsville, Ohio, including Jim Petkunas, who served as the chief information officer at Darice, Kort Masteller, who was director of sales at Darice, and Mike and Dan Catanzarite, members of the founding Pat Catan family who worked at Darice as CEO and director of wholesale and ecommerce respectively.
According to Dan Catanzarite, JOANN approached JDM with the idea of building a wholesale site that would give small businesses access to the entire JOANN catalog. “We want to build the Darice 2.0,” he said. Inspiration Direct’s assortment will be larger and more comprehensive than Darice’s.
“JOANN has more warehouse space, more cash, and more sourcing power,” Catanzarite said.
The site will feature JOANN’s in-house brands which Inspiration Direct will be able to white label for customers. (The minimum order for white labeling is not clear on the Inspiration Direct website yet.)
How it works
To qualify for an Inspiration Direct wholesale account, businesses need to submit basic information including an EIN number. Inspiration Direct will run a credit check if the business is applying for terms. The minimum purchase is $50, $25 lower than it was at Darice.
Inspiration Direct is open and taking orders now, although the process for placing an order is manual at the moment. The full website will launch in December 2022 and will allow customers to place orders online on their own. JOANN was not able to confirm whether the JOANN+ program will be phased out at that time, but the JOANN+ and Inspiration Direct sites and programs are very similar to it would seem as though it would be.
Catanzarite said JOANN has dedicated an impressive amount of internal resources to the project and the Inspiration Direct sales team is already at work across the country. He said JOANN CEO Wayde Miquelon is committed to making the site succeed. Josh Belt, director of wholesale and channel strategy at JOANN, described Inspiration Direct as one of JOANN’s “blue ocean” initiatives, referencing a business strategy of pursuing low-cost ways to enter new markets and create new demand and Jim Petkunas summed it up this way: “Truly, we’re focused on taking JOANN’s selection and buying power and filling a niche that went away and no one has touched.”
Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.