by Tina Manzer
During job interviews, it’s not enough anymore for applicants to simply slide a paper resume to the potential employer across the desk. Instead, they should present an “interview portfolio” to significantly increase the odds of getting hired. “In today’s competitive marketplace, everyone can benefit from having an interview portfolio – even those who work outside of art and design fields,” says recruiter.com.
Those of us inside the art and design fields may wonder what an accountant, for instance, would put in her portfolio. Online career platform The Muse suggests these six items: an introduction, summary of professional experience, examples that demonstrate problem-solving skills, recommendations and awards, sample work, and a concluding page.
While it may seem over the top, the practice certainly benefits stores that sell portfolios.
Here, Rachel Solomon from art supplies and portfolio manufacturer Itoya ProFolio outlines the diversity of today’s users. She explains how Itoya ProFolio reflects that diversity – not only in its presentation and storage products, but also in its products for anybody who loves to create.
Tell us about the roots of Itoya ProFolio.
In 1976, ITO-YA (“Ito’s Store”) in Japan sent Shun Takemura to the U.S. The chain of retail stationery stores was interested in exploring the American market for Japanese goods. Itoya of America – now Itoya ProFolio – was founded then, and is currently run by Mr. Takemura’s son, Don Takemura.
Itoya ProFolio has branched out since then to become quite a different company. Rather than bringing in goods only from our Japanese parent store, it now produces its own products. It is a manufacturer and distributor of art supplies, office supplies, stationery, and photo albums.
Itoya ProFolio has also become a large player in the presentation and transportation categories. We developed our core line of portfolios called the Original Art ProFolio years ago, which has now become a staple for artists and businessmen alike who have presentation needs.
The transportation part of our business is also booming. Products like our Midtown Bags and Magnet Closure Portfolio Cases are changing the way people transport their documents and masterpieces.
We have manufacturing facilities all over the world. A good number of our in-house products are produced entirely in Japan, but some are made in Vietnam, China, and Taiwan. Some have parts made in Italy. Our Original Art ProFolio line is produced using materials from three different countries to create the highest quality portfolios at affordable prices.
What are your bestsellers?
The Original Art ProFolio line of presentation books have been our best sellers for 40 years. They were originally created for artists but are widely used in professional environments for interviews, business meetings, and permanent document collections.
Our Oasis Notebook line and Midtown Pouches have been selling so well lately that we almost can’t get them in fast enough!
Who are your end users, and what needs do Itoya products meet?
Itoya ProFolio offers lifestyle products for anyone who needs storage, presentation, transportation or stationery/office supplies. We don’t have a single target market, but many across our diverse product lines. For ProFolio alone, we target three or four different markets. The obvious one is art students who need a slick way to store and present their work. We also have the ProFolio Professional that we market to working professional artists and businesspeople who present work or documents at meetings or interviews. A photo album within the same line is marketed primarily to photographers.
Our PaperSkater line is filled with pens and pencils for elementary school kids all the way through fine pen collectors.
Our distribution brands have their own markets. The well-known Sailor Pen brand is marketed to fine pen collectors and users. Both Sailor and Taccia, another fine pen brand we distribute, are based in Japan, but we have significant influence in the design and color of several of the pens.
Kolo is geared toward scrapbookers, photographers, crafters, and more, but the products can also be used as interview portfolios.
Skutr is our in-house brand designed to target the camera and photography marketplace. We are in the process of merging it with the ProFolio line.
Has the fountain-pen-and-ink trend impacted your sales?
We have seen tremendous growth in that market. Portfolios will always be our bread and butter, but sales of Sailor, Taccia, and some of our in-house brands have been substantial. We have plans to expand this area of our business in the future.
In what ways is Itoya ProFolio an innovator?
Since day one, Itoya ProFolio has been an innovator of quality at an affordable price.
The ProFolio line was among the first we created, and was the first of its kind – an affordable, quality way to store art and photos long-term without concern of yellowing. The product was developed as a “Folio for Professionals” – thus “ProFolio.”
Our pens have always had unique quirks, ranging from our PaperSkater Galaxy pen-in-pen concept to our Doubleheader Calligraphy markers, which still sell well today.
Recently, we were among the first companies to produce a notebook with some of the best Japanese paper at an affordable price, and storage boxes made of acid-free, durable materials at half the cost of what’s been available in the past.
How many employees are there?
Currently, we are a lean, mean team of 18, but we utilize the services of more than 20 independent sales representatives.
A large portion of the Itoya ProFolio employees work at our headquarters in Carson, California. A few others are scattered across the country. We don’t have a factory in Carson, but our warehouse is there, and an incredible team that assembles packaging for our products. Distribution in the U.S. and Canada all comes from our warehouse in Carson.
What tips would you offer independent retailers for selling Itoya products?
Put the product in your customers’ hands. Let them feel the quality. Explain to them how it’s used, and show them the price. Almost every time someone tries an Itoya ProFolio product for the first time, they come back to buy a second or third! Your customers can use our products for everything from presentations at interviews to storing their documents once they get the job.
Itoya ProFolio products aren’t just a brand, but a lifestyle.