Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas 2012.

It's that time of year again. My Christmas sales have been up dramatically this year compared with last, due to the fact that I had a much more developed product to sell and a wider audience to buy. Exhibiting at trade shows, four in just over a year, and sending out catalogues throughout the year has certainly helped to attract more customers. There was also that unexpected email from Paperchase last year, and a new relationship built with my overseas distributor in New Zealand so things are definitely moving forward.

The greetings world is much like fashion in that we design months in advance for the seasons ahead. So this may seem strange to some readers, but I have designed my Christmas cards for 2012 already, and here they are.

My Christmas singles have been a real hit this year, I have seen a huge demand for my Snowman, Rudolph and Puppy, so I have built up my Christmas Crackers collection to meet further demand. These cards are 10.5 x 14.8cm and are printed on to a glistening high quality FSC board. They come individually wrapped in a biodegradable bag with a matching festive envelope. They are all blank inside for your own message.
















I have also introduced a new range called 'Christmas Elegance' (inspired by my everyday 'Elegance' range) in a larger square format (14.5 x 14.5cm) that are designed specially for close relatives. For the new range I have kept the colour palette to black, white and red, so that they have a strong presence on the shelves and spinners and are completely different to my existing range.








These designs will be printed on to a high quality FSC board. I have opted for a special embossed finish to give extra surface texture, and I am now choosing a specially made envelope to match with the same embossed finish and hopefully a red colour to compliment the card. The retail price will reflect the quality of the product, and I cannot wait to see these in print. I hope you will like these just as much as my Christmas Crackers range. They are huge step away from my other Christmas range and will appeal to a completely different audience, so I hope they are well received. I will be adding more relations in when I can.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Product Launch 2012 'Sweet Treats'.

Alongside my new 'Milestones' range launching in the New Year will sit 'Sweet Treats' a summery card collection, inspired by cocktails, cakes, icecreams and lollies. This vibrant range will be in the same 14.5 cm square format as 'Milestones' and will also be printed and foiled on to carefully selected FSC board. Each card is blank inside and comes individually wrapped in a biodegradable bag with a matching envelope. Perfect for everyday Birthday cards.
Here is the 8 card range, I hope you like them too.

Celebrate with a Pina Colada!
Enjoy a slice of cake and strawberries. 

Indulge in a glorious treat.
Splash out with a Birthday cocktail.
For the sweet-toothed.
Spoil yourself with the ten scoop cone.
Here comes the icecream man!

Feast your eyes on these retro lollies.


Product Launch 2012 'Milestones'.

You may remember back in September I was working on a new range of cards designed specifically for special Birthdays.


I decided that this range was going to be extra special and of an especially high quality due to the fact that when we celebrate momentous milestones, the things we receive are often keepsakes for many years to come.

With this in mind, I spent weeks creating the designs and thinking through how they were going to be made. I finally decided on two special boards of superb quality and I took days to put together files which would go towards making the dies for foiling. The dies are made by a specialist company who produce a foiling block which is then used to add foil during the printing process.

Foil blocking machine.

As this was a first for my products, the whole project has been enormous, and I had to get my head around many new functions on the computer software when preparing the files for print. It was no easy task to get things just right.

I am still waiting for the foil samples to be returned, and then I will make my final decision on the board I think is right before going ahead with a large print run. The whole process is very expensive, one of the biggest commitments and investments I have made for the business since starting up. But hopefully it will be a step worth taking, and I hope they will achieve the sales I have in mind for them when they are launched.

Although I don't have the final products with me to photograph, I can however show you the final colour outcomes of my designs. The cards will be 14.5 x 14.5 cm and come wrapped in a biodegradable bag with a complimenting envelope. So here are a few tasters for you of my new 'Milestones' range.








Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Logos.

For a while now I have wanted to take a look at my branding and logo, but like most enormous tasks they get put to the bottom of the pile of things to do. Just recently though I have had time to sit back and think about lots of new products and designs, along with the release of my first ever foiled ranges of greeting cards that are being launched in the New Year.

I don't confess to being a graphic designer and so coming up with a logo for my own company has taken weeks of thought, research, planning, development and design. I wanted a logo that says everything about my work ethos, that being designed by hand, personal, and products that consider the environment. I received some good advice from a graphic designer friend who gave me lots of pointers. My initial ideas all got thrown out quickly from the early sketches, until I came up with an idea to illustrate a pencil (the hand-drawn element) which would bend right round in a circle (to emphasise the biodegradable material used and my plee to the customer to recycle afterwards). The personal part comes with hand-drawn letters and I have cleverly incorporated my name into the end and tip of pencil.

Take a closer look at the logo and you will see F A Y in the design. I think I have spent too long on the Nintendo DS playing Professor Layton, as with so many puzzles, it made me think about how I could hide my name in the design.


I now have a logo to add to all of my products, website, blog (eventually), business stationery (another cost to consider) which I hope says more about who I am and what I do, and this hopefully won't date.

Let me know what you think about it.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Fundraising.

On Friday Mum and I travelled to London to meet the Ernst & Young team who had purchased over 800 of my Christmas cards to sell to staff and the public to raise money for the Prince's Trust. In the end, they weren't able to secure the public locations in Covent Garden etc (as mentioned in my previous post), due to some complicated licensing they would have needed. However, they still achieved hundreds of sales with proceeds of £1600 going directly to the charity.


By the time Mum and I had arrived to the head office at around 11am, the staff had almost sold out of cards. There were 14 teams out at different locations altogether, many had dressed for the occasion as spotty dogs, and we even spotted a banana collecting money. One of the teams managed to collect £240 in just 45 minutes, so sales were really strong. It's also great to know that now over 800 of my cards are circulating thanks to this event and the very friendly staff that made it all happen.

By London Bridge - A human cow collecting money for the Prince's Trust

The Ernst & Young staff even won a prize for being the most organised team which they most definitely deserved. A great day all in all with brilliant sales results, and an invitation to do the same thing again next year. I'm already designing Christmas cards for 2012, so I am well prepared.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Grab-a-Grand for the Prince's Trust.

The Prince's Trust 'Million Makers' is a national competition, challenging teams of employees and university students to come together and raise £1 million for the Prince's Trust and make a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged young people across the UK.

Million Makers teams pitch their business plans to a Dragons' Den style panel, in order to secure an initial investment from the Prince's Trust.

Teams from companies and organisations across the UK then implement and promote their own mini enterprise. Aspiring Million Makers entrepreneurs must work together to turn seed funding into profit for the Prince's Trust over the course of six months, competing against each other to run the most profitable mini enterprise.

My involvement with the Prince's Trust as a Young Ambassador and success story of the Business Enterprise programme, means that I get to meet a lot of people that support the charity through their fundraising ideas.

In the past year I have been to many Prince's Trust events organised by Million Makers teams. One company I have presented to are Ernst & Young, who have raised huge sums for the charity.

This week Ernst & Young have been in touch with me again, quite randomly, as they have been on the lookout for Prince's Trust funded businesses who have Christmas products to sell. Their plan is to sell these products in their next fundraising event, they've called 'Grab-a-Grand'.

'Grab-a-Grand' is going to take place in several busy locations across London on Friday 25th November, where the Ernst & Young staff will be setting up Apprentice-style stalls selling a selection of my Christmas cards and some delicious Christmas cake, all in an effort to raise £1000 in a day for the Prince's Trust.

One of my Christmas cards just right for the occasion.

From what I have heard so far it is going to be a really buzzing event which I am thrilled to be a part of. It is a privilege to have been selected due to my connection with the Prince's Trust and also for the quality of my products! For such a large company to be invested and excited about what I design and create, and for them to be so enthusiastic about selling my cards, it's a wonderful endorsement for what I do.

I am hoping to visit all of the locations on the day (yet to be confirmed) and take lots of photographs documenting the event. This is such an exciting opportunity because it means that my products will be on sale at some great locations. At present, the locations in the plan are Charing Cross, Kings Cross, Waterloo and London Bridge stations, near to Canary Wharf tube station, Leadenhall Market, Covent Garden, Westfield-Stratford, and even possibly Selfridges/Harrods.



Leadenhall Market - Often used by Lord Sugar's Apprentices.

I'm not very good at travelling around in London, so I am hoping perhaps to have a close friend/relative to keep me company throughout the day, and it will be someone to also enjoy sharing the buzz with.

We are hoping for some great PR for the event. We want to generate more awareness of the young people and entrepreneurs that the Prince's Trust can only support with help from people like the Million Makers.

So, I will keep you updated on the final date and locations, and you may even spot me serving out the pudding!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Palace of Westminster.

On Halloween, the day of my speech at the House of Lords, was perhaps not the day to be ill with a throat infection. But, with some strong painkillers I made my way to Paddington station where I met two lovely members of staff from the Prince's Trust. Together we made our way to the House of Parliament discussing the agenda for the day.

We found our way to the entrance as instructed by the guards where we were given access to enter the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. After our photos were taken by the guards, and access badges printed, our bags were scanned and we got through the metal detectors to then be escorted to our venue for the day.




It was a really strange experience to be entering through the side of the building and to be watched carefully by the armed guards. Although we didn't get to look into the main house, as discussions were already in progress, we were shown to a very grand dining hall that looked out over the Thames. I imagined seeing myself in one of the tiny windows at Parliament from the other side of the river. It felt very peculiar to be there in such a grand venue.



At 12 o'clock all 40 of the guests arrived, including Lord Young and the director of the Prince's Trust, who were there to start proceedings with their stories about the Prince's Trust. Lord Young has been involved with the charity from the very beginning. It was interesting to hear the history behind the Trust, but needless to say all the while I was beginning to feel very nervous about addressing the audience in the shadow of a Lord just two seats away.

After a lovely lunch and lots of chatting with some very interesting people it was my time to speak. I had enjoyed speaking to one of the people from the production company that made Channel 4's 'Educating Essex' and BBC 1's 'Highstreet Dreams' and joked about making about a programme about my business start-up. Well, I passed on my business card, so they have my number!

Surprisingly, my speech went well. I covered all aspects of what I was doing before I contacted the Prince's Trust, how they have helped and supported me over the past two and a half years and how business is doing now. The audience was really inspired, and extremely thankful afterwards that I had shared my story with them. I just hope that having inspired them, they will go on to support the Trust, which will help lots of other entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running. With just £1000 from the Prince's Trust I was able to make my business what it is today and I hope I get invited back to keep on telling my success story for many years to come.

A box of chocolates given to me as a souvenir of the day.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The House of Lords.


The Prince's Trust have invited me to speak about my business at a very prestigious venue on Monday. Like many of the other events I have attended as a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador, I will be speaking to a group of 40 very important people about how I started out in business, what I was doing before, and how my business is now.

With recent news back from my distributors in New Zealand that my cards are selling steadily, and as they have put in a new order this morning, it will all add to the story I have about my business, and the experiences I have had along the way. It is only a couple of months now before my designs are made into greetings cards for sale in Next across the country, so there will be a lot to tell the audience.

The purpose of Monday's event is to encourage new trustees to support the Prince's Trust, and I hope the story about my business will encourage them to help more young people start their own businesses. The truth is that you can really start up with very little, and the support from the charity makes it all happen. I have not found any other form of support out there for young people wanting to begin a business, especially if they have been out of work for more than six months.

I will have ten minutes to speak to the audience of 40. I am quite pleased that the house won't be as full as the picture above, but having said that, I get nervous talking to any audience.

It will be such a great day, a one-off experience I could not turn down. I will try to take lots of photographs and tweet throughout the day, so please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Drawing Board.

If you follow my tweets you will know that lately I have been spending lots of time designing new cards. I have made a start to 24 new designs, these include a really fresh summery range which is going to feature lots of tasty summertime treats and a special age range for 16th, 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th Birthday etc. Taking a break from my usual sized cards (10.5 x 14.8cm) these will be square 14.5 x 14.5cm, but still made from luxurious eco-friendly card and envelopes and wrapped in biodegradable packaging.

I thought I would treat you all to a sneak peek of some of these new designs. The photos are taken at odd angles so you can't quite make them out. I am still adding colour to these, but here are some close-ups of my black ink drawings.


SWEET 16TH BIRTHDAY CARDS.

KEY TO THE DOOR - 18TH BIRTHDAY CARDS.

21ST BIRTHDAY CARDS.

30TH BIRTHDAY CARDS. 

FABULOUS AT 40, BIRTHDAY CARDS.
I would love to hear your thoughts on these, so please do leave your comments below.