Gillian Gallant first discovered a paper camera on TikTok and immediately knew it would be a hit in North America. The simple point-and-shoot digital camera captures photos like a disposable camera—but without the hassle of buying and developing film.
Drawing on her marketing background, Gillian contacted the camera’s inventor, George Lin, in Taiwan to discuss distributing the product in North America.
How did Gillian secure exclusive distribution of a viral product and eventually sell Paper Shoot Cameras to over 70,000 customers? Learn in advance their best practices for building a brand and selling a product in a new market.
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Share your passion
Gillion’s challenge? She convinced the inventor that she was the right person to help Paper Shoot Camera enter the North American market. Initially, she and George would casually email, but when the chain fell down, Gillian decided she had nothing to lose.
Gillian wrote George a lengthy email detailing her passion and plans for the product and how she and her business partner would go to the trouble of looking after the business. “I think the passion I expressed to him in that email spoke to him and gave us an opportunity to realize that we would be a really good fit for his product,” says Gillian.
Know your target audience
Gillian knew right away that paper shoot cameras would be popular with younger millennials and Gen Z. “Younger generations that grew up with technology can’t remember a time when they didn’t have it,” says Gillian. “The latest iPhone doesn’t impress them as much as something that just goes back to basics and gives them a break from technology.”
Gillian previously sold disposable cameras on Amazon and used data from her sales to confirm interest in the product.
Market on various social media channels
The first hire Gillian made was a social media manager. Within months, the company was producing a viral TikTok video: a video edited to make Timothée Chalamet appear as if he were holding a paper shoot camera.
But Paper Shoot Camera has further diversified its marketing channels, posting to TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest.
When posting on different channels, you need to understand what type of content works on each channel. “I think of an Instagram profile like a website,” says Gillian. “You want to make sure you have a lot of information that people can access and search.” She says Instagram posts need to be progressively fresher, while TikToks and Reels tend to be more ephemeral.
Be ready to take on the challenges in new markets
Gillian lives in Canada, so one of her biggest hurdles was figuring out how to distribute and ship her products to the US. “We couldn’t get a US credit card, which means I can’t get a USPS account because they require a credit card with a US billing address,” says Gillian.
Gillian ended up hiring an outside logistics company based in the US to help her set up shipping accounts.
Use the possibilities of personal selling
Paper Shoot Camera is still primarily an online brand. Though the company doesn’t yet have retail partners, Gillian has been selling the cameras at festivals like SXSW and Coachella. “It’s really nice to see people in person and see their real-time reactions to it, their eyes light up whenever they see it,” says Gillian.
To learn more about how Gillian built distribution for Paper Shoot Cameras, listen to her full interview Shopify Master.