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Posted: Sunday, September 18, 2016 10:30 pm
Calypso Studios receives orders for one of its comforting clay crosses every day.
“The crosses are the number one item in our line of about 500 items,” said Ed Lawrence, who founded the wholesale gift company in 2006 with his wife, Kathy. “We air freight 2,000 to 3,000 comforting clay crosses every six to eight weeks. We can’t keep them in stock.”
The Chesterfield County-based company began developing inspirational merchandise in 2011 after a large Christian retail chain asked them to consider starting such a line.
In addition to the crosses, Calypso Studios sells a wide variety of fashion, faith and impulse merchandise mostly to retail stores. Items include purses, fashion jewelry and cork laptop covers.
Its merchandise is sold at about 2,000 stores across the country, including boutiques, gift shops and pharmacies. It also sells the items on its website, calypsostudiosinc.com.
The company sells the merchandise throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
“We have 10 rep agencies across the United States,” Ed Lawrence said.
Calypso Studios’ revenue has increased 20 percent so far this year compared with the same time period last year.
Part of that increase comes from the sale of the comforting clay crosses.
The handheld comforting clay crosses boxed with a greeting card retail for $15 to $20.
Ed Lawrence traveled to China to develop a line of crosses people could hold. To make the crosses, artisans use a process called caning where they hand press layers of colored clay together. No paint is used in the process.
“You can feel the fingerprints of the artists in the crosses,” Kathy Lawrence said. “We were the first to come out with a cross in clay.”
Calypso Studios carries a variety of comforting clay crosses, from the large handheld version to smaller bookmark crosses. It recently introduced a color me line where consumers can color the pattern on the cross with permanent markers to create their own color scheme.
“We get feedback from retailers and consumers weekly,” Ed Lawrence said about the crosses. “They have touched people’s lives and given them comfort, faith, inspiration and joy.”
About a year ago, Calypso Studios started giving out crosses to people who had experienced a tragedy. It sent more than 200 comforting clay crosses to a Methodist church in Orlando after the nightclub shooting that killed 49 in June.
“The crosses were for families and first responders,” Kathy Lawrence said. “We also sent about 200 comforting clay crosses to flood victims in Louisiana.”
Annette Doucet of First Baptist Church of Port Allen at Gracepoint, La., appreciates the beauty and meaning of the crosses.
“They have been a blessing to a lot of people,” Doucet said. “A lot of people had lost everything, and they were so happy to have something to hold on to.”
Ann Rose of the High Cotton Uptown store in Forsyth, Ga., carries several items from Calypso Studios, including the comforting crosses.
“They have really been popular,” she said of the crosses. “Working with Calypso has been great. Ordering from them has been very easy.”
The Lawrences gained experience in the gift industry by working as manufacturer sales representatives. They bought the manufacturer rep agency they had worked with in Woodbridge when the owner retired in 1998 and subsequently changed the name to Lawrence Marketing Group.
“Our territory was the Mid-Atlantic from Pennsylvania to Virginia,” said Ed Lawrence, noting the company had 14 sales representatives. “We carried the leading lines of items such as house flags and Christmas ornaments.”
The couple were still running Lawrence Marketing Group when they started Calypso Studios.
“I had been coordinating projects for Walmart where the items were made in China, so I was going to China to discuss and develop products,” Ed Lawrence said. “I got comfortable with the factories over there as well as importing and developing products.”
The couple decided to utilize their skills in sales, marketing and product development to develop their own import company.
“We had been helping other companies sell their product as manufacturer’s reps, and we felt like we knew all sides of the industry,” Ed Lawrence said. “We felt that we needed to re-create ourselves.”
Calypso Studios has a fulfillment center in western Maryland that processes wholesale orders. It also has a stockroom at its sales and product development office at 530 Southlake Blvd. in Chesterfield.