July 24, 2019
When Karen Sobolesky visits shops, museums, and tourist attractions to market Xplorer Maps’ hand-drawn Alaska maps, she often has to fly instead of drive. The largest state in the U.S. in land area and the most sparsely populated, Alaska’s road system makes it difficult – if not impossible – to drive from city to city.
These challenges are just one of the many reasons Xplorer Maps decided to work with Sobolesky’s team after rolling out three hand-drawn maps of Alaska, the Inside Passage, and Denali National Park in 2018. Greg Robitaille, co-founder and president of Xplorer Maps, decided that to reach the massive Alaskan market, the company would need the help of a professional representative group to make inroads.
Since the beginning of 2019, Xplorer Maps has been working with Sobolesky’s rep group to make sure the company’s maps that feature the stunning landscapes, mountainscapes, and wildlife are visible to the nearly 2 million tourists that visit Alaska each year.
Robitaille first met Sobolesky at a Seattle trade show. After several conversations, he said he realized that her group would be an ideal fit for Xplorer Maps.
Specializing in art, books, and unique, native-designed souvenirs, Sobolesky and team represent 40 companies. Since starting the Anchorage-based business 20 years ago, she has grown it from one to four employees and moved from a 200 square foot to a 900 square foot showroom.
Buyers travel from Seattle, Juneau, Ketchikan and other places to visit her showroom, and she has 125+ showroom appointments each year. In the summer, she travels to the major tourist destinations to visit potential buyers.
Most tourists visit southeastern Alaska, Sobolesky said, with Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Sitka being particularly popular destinations.
From April until October, cruise ships come into Juneau and other Alaskan ports. The population of Juneau is about 30,000, and there are days when the city has seven ships in port, she said.
“With ships carrying as few as 200 passengers to as many as 4,500, there are days when Juneau has 21,000 people walking into stores,” Sobolesky said, adding that on those days there are almost as many tourists as city residents. “Odds are really high they’ll walk into a store, and I want to make sure they see Xplorer Maps’ hand-drawn artwork.”
While Sobolesky has only been working with Xplorer Maps for a short time, she said she feels enthusiastic about the relationship.
“It’s working out well,” she said. “I’m very drawn to art, and I appreciate what Xplorer Maps is doing. Their hand-drawn maps are unique and made in the U.S., which is important to me and others. They are also expanding their product offerings.”
According to Robitaille, it’s a benefit to work with a rep group that knows their territory so well. “Their motto is ‘we live, work, and play in Alaska,’” he said. “That attribute sets them apart and is helping to make a tremendous impact on sales. We are looking forward to more opportunities with them as we roll out new products.”
Caption: Pictured above is Karen Sobolesky's team. From left are: Alicia Jewett, Lyn Kelleher, Karen Sobolesky, and Toni Quantick.
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