Starting a Stationery Business
I’ve been asked a lot about how I started my stationery business, and though I am in no way a business guru, I would love to share my experiences on how I got here and how I grow my business.
How I started my business
If you’ve read my first blog post: An Introduction to Nicety Studio, you’ll know a little bit about my journey and design career so far! I started as a print designer in a small studio, for luxury brands like De Beers and Selfridges. Working with such amazing clients was what introduced me to the luxury world of design, paper, and printing, and whilst living in a world where design is increasingly digital lead, I loved being given the opportunity to work in a niche little pocket of design.
I always knew I wanted to start my own business, and not in the entrepreneurial sense that I wanted just to start a business, but I just wanted to design all the time, for myself and for people that have the same outlook as I do. I come from a family of designers (literally), my mum, dad, grandpa, and sister are all graphic designers, and my brother is a character illustrator for games. I remember growing up and still to this day my dad will say ‘if the client is happy, it’s a job well done’, and even though I agree, I only agree to a point. I’ve always been a little greedier in the sense that I wanted people to work with me to do what I do best, and to work collaboratively in creating a unified vision. Maybe that’s a crazy idea and maybe it sounds cheesy but it’s what I always wanted.
Nicety Studio was born when I got married and moved to California after my pressed flower designs were featured, shared, and repinned enough times that I thought maybe it could work. It certainly ticked all the boxes in that I would be able to design for myself and work with luxury materials. I’m also pretty much one of those people who can’t sit still and always seeking improvement whether in my personal or professional life, so I think that kinda helps in starting a company.
Mistakes I made
So far it hasn’t been easy, but it has been getting easier and more enjoyable as I find my feet and progress as a designer and business owner. However I wouldn’t have had it any other way as I think the mistakes I’ve made have been the key to learning more about myself and my company, what makes sense and what doesn’t. I learned within the first year that I’m easily influenced by others, after creating several designs that didn’t speak to me but were more of a reflection of what I thought potential clients might want to see in a wedding stationery business. It took me the best part of my second business year to reverse this, which is when I really stripped back to what inspired me.
Changes I made to my business
I started with gathering design references and creating mood boards. These were mostly focused on design within the fashion and luxury industries which is what I trained in. I knew I wanted to release a line of semi-custom invitation designs, and like with every design brief I’ve had from a client, I decided to create briefs for myself to answer. This really helped me create designs that were a true reflection of my style and vision.
In this time I also bought a foil press which is something I wanted for so so long and had finally found the right one for what I do. I’d never had any experience with printing, but I love seeing a project through from ideation to the finished product and am also obsessed with foil, so this step felt very natural in my business and its growth. There are some amazing resources which is what made it possible and logical for me to do, such as being able to order sheets cut to size directly from GF Smith, which has made the transition to becoming a design and hot foil studio that much easier.
The growth of my business has felt quite organic since these changes were made. I’m happy to share that the only kind of advertising I do is through Instagram, after trying and testing other ways to market what I do. Everyone has different experiences of course but for me I tried Pinterest first, which made sense as it’s where every couple or bride will start their first wedding board to source inspiration. It was a positive experience for me and I know that some clients still find me through Pinterest, but overall it didn’t amount to a full inbox! I also tried out google adwords, thinking that perhaps it would in turn help my google ranking if my site was being clicked on more overall, but this unfortunately didn’t do much. Instagram is now where most of my business and site views come from after I worked really hard on my photography and instagram layout/theme, which is why it’s where my advertising budget goes!
Other ways I grow my business I think is just through general interest and fascination, which I think is important if you want to succeed in starting a company. This morning I listened to a podcast about simple ways to improve your SEO, and then assigned a couple of hours to implement the suggested changes. I also love listening to ‘How I built this’ which is a podcast about some of the biggest business owners, the struggles they’ve had and how they overcame them.
Like I said at the beginning of probably my longest blog post, I’m in no way a business guru and I don’t have any secrets to success (I wouldn’t even call myself successful, but maybe one day I will!), but I hope this has been insightful and/or helpful to anyone considering a solo path in the creative industry! I still consider myself to be at the beginning of a very long, fun, and interesting venture, but I’m also completely overwhelmed that people reach out to me for advice and want to hear more about my journey - so thank you so much to everyone reading!!!