Spring 2020
The Age of Collaboration By Ginny Ball

Retailers, brands and consumers all benefit from creative partnerships

Welcome to the age of collaboration — an era of working together to share our story, differentiate ourselves and stay relevant. And while the opportunities are endless, a thoughtful approach is needed to understand what consumers are looking for, how retailers can maximize the opportunity, and find the right brand partners. How do we do that? Collaborate and listen (Thanks, Vanilla Ice, for the inspiration).

Here are six such companies who are not only creating fresh new products that drive sales for retailers, they’re listening to what consumers are looking for and developing products with their needs (and wishes) in mind.


Over the years, SCOUT has mastered the blend of patterns, color and functionality. And while SCOUT likes a good bag, they love celebrating “the stuff that goes in it.”

Cacti from Scout/Swig
SCOUT by Swig Life, a limited-edition collection in collaboration with Swig Life, includes an assortment of original, reusable drinkware perfect to celebrate the season.

“What’s so exciting about our prints and patterns extending beyond our bags and storage options, is how it gives buyers an opportunity to celebrate people’s personal choices and a great way to make something highly functional also feel fashionable,” said Deb Waterman Johns, co-founder and chief creative officer of SCOUT. “We all use drinkware in our daily lives and felt that Swig Life was the perfect partner to collaborate with.”

Both companies are female-led brands and share a commitment to creating products with color, pattern and functionality for busy, modern women. “We love supporting products made BY women FOR women,” Tracee Martin Mathes, CEO of Swig Life, shared.

Buoy from Scout/Swig

Retailers, brands and consumers all benefit from partnerships like this. Both companies gained new customers on the road and at market, retailers are thrilled to be offering new and exciting products this upcoming season and consumers are in for a treat with this unexpected surprise from two of their favorite brands.


What do you get when you mix color, confetti and happy inspiration? All She Wrote Notes for Mary Square — a collection of paper goods, entertaining and gifts designed for every occasion by author and award-winning artist, Maghon Taylor — the “she” behind All She Wrote Notes.

Mary Square collaboration with All She Wrote Notes
Author and award-winning artist, Maghon Taylor, pictured far right with Kelly Shiley, owner of Mary Square.

Maghon Taylor has graced the world with happiness and color through her handwriting. Many may recognize her signature pink and yellow attire or confetti decorated SUV as she’s traveled the country teaching thousands how to turn their everyday handwriting into art. This collaboration not only gave Maghon the ability to expand her product offerings to her fans, she now has a strong presence within the wholesale home and gift industry through Mary Square’s retail network.

Mary Square collaboration with All She Wrote Notes
All She Wrote Notes for Mary Square features a collection of paper goods, entertaining and gifts designed for every occasion.

“Mary Square is always looking to collaborate with artists, influencers and content developers to create beautifully curated collections. We believe that when two brands combine their resources and efforts, each brand is magnified. Maghon has such a beautiful spirit and authenticity to her, which is a natural fit with the Mary Square brand.” shared Kelly Shiley, CEO and founder of Mary Square.

This duo is just getting started. With a successful launch at the January market, this collection is expected to hit stores this spring and an expansion is already planned for the summer market. Mary Square will also partner with retailers to create branded shopping experiences within their stores and perhaps even a surprise visit or hand lettering workshop from Maghon herself. Magic happens when retailers, brands and consumers lock arms!

Whether you’re a retailer looking to partner with another local business or a national brand who wants to broaden your reach, here are a few helpful hints:

  • Start a wish list of brands, people, businesses you want to work with. Think Big. Think Small.
  • Turn “Let’s do something together” into action
  • A shared vision and strong communication are vital
  • Don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks
  • Have fun!

Whichever mantra feels right to you — “Together We’re Better,” “A Rising Tide Lifts all Boats,” “Collaboration not Competition” — be empowered to explorE this concept within your business. Your next great idea may be right around the corner. Cheers to collaborations!


With over 84 years in business, The Homer Laughlin China Co. and its sister company, Fiesta, have become an American icon with its rich history, unparalleled quality and dedication to American production. It has stood the test of time with generations of fans and collectors from all over the world. Cue nora fleming — the modern day essential in entertaining with its adorable interchangeable mini. They truly have changed the way we look at entertaining. It can be simple and focused on what’s most important — celebrating all of life’s special occasions with family and friends. And while we live in an industry where trends come and go (and come back again), magic happens when brands like Fiesta, nora fleming and others evolve into more than just a product — they become a tradition.

nora fleming and Fiesta product collaboration, Dancing Lady mini
Fiesta and Nora Napientek of nora fleming have teamed up to create a platter to hold the nora fleming minis, like the special Dancing Lady mini created especially for this collaboration.

The first step was for Fiesta to create a platter that would accept nora fleming’s interchangeable mini. Next, nora fleming’s design team created a custom Dancing Lady mini celebrating Fiesta’s iconic logo.

Fiesta and nora fleming collaboration merchandise
nora fleming and Fiesta product collaboration, Dancing Lady mini

“This Fiesta collaboration is a defining moment for our company and is something that was near and dear to my brother Jon Neidlinger’s heart,” said Nora Napientek, founder of nora fleming. Jon, who passed away unexpectedly in a car accident this past November, served as CEO and was the driving force and visionary behind this partnership.

Both companies are even more driven to honor Jon’s legacy through a series of collaborative sets over the next several years. “It’s fun to see both of our audiences interacting and learning about one another,” shared Rich Brinkman, vice president of sales and marketing for The Homer Laughlin China Company. “They’re posting photos online of their Fiesta and nora fleming tablescapes and our online communities have expanded immensely. It’s been exciting to see two little villages come together to form one large community.”

Ginny Ball

With 16+ years of sales, marketing and business development experience in the home and gift industry, Ginny Ball started her own business (ginnyball.com) helping brands and emerging artists reach their fullest potential through business development, licensing, copywriting and marketing and sales strategies. Ginny’s passion is to help brands develop new and innovative ways to reach their revenue goals. Ginny lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two young children.

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