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At the start of this year I set a little challenge to myself to start keeping a blog, mostly as a record for myself, to kind of document how this little business progresses. I've kinda been failing at that a wee bit over the last few months, as I've buried my head in work and kind of let 'internetting' take a back seat. So here's a little recap of what I've been doing...

Going Full Time

So if you've been following me on social media or on the blog, you might know that I quit my day job back in April (wow - nearly six months ago now!).

At the time I was really beginning to notice my business reaching this stagnant state - I could only really dedicate about half of my working week (most weeks actually a lot less than that) to my own work, and I knew that something really had to change if I wanted the business to grow. So I quit my day job. I hadn't really saved up, I hadn't really got a plan B, I just knew I had to do it!

So when I became full time self-employed I started by making a list. A huge list of all of the changes I knew I had to make to take the business from 'glorified hobby' and part-time wage to a real functioning small-business that I could make a living from - because after all that's the aim!

Branding

From my to-do list I immediately started with branding. I wanted a fresh new logo that more clearly represented the brand, and me. The old branding had originally been designed really quickly as a place-holder, and it was beginning to hold that place for a little bit too long. 

Another key part of the branding process was updating the backs of my cards. I had previously used a little hand-stamp that basically just said 'Paper Picnic', so I felt I needed to communicate much more about the product in this space. The new card backs explain how and where the cards were made and a little about the quality of the quality cardstock they're printed on. 

Screen Printing

Next on my to-do list was to look at the production process of my work, and how I could use my time more efficiently!

When I started out I was hand-stamping each card with lino blocks, not to mention hand-carving each design on to the blocks in the first place. It was super time-consuming, especially as order quantities began to increase and I knew it wasn't sustainable forever. That said though, at the time it did serve its purpose!

Just before I quite my day-job I had started taking a short evening course in screen printing at the Belfast Print Workshop. As soon as that course had finished I signed up for a membership at BPW and set about re-designing and screen-printing my entire range.

This was a mammoth task! There are now 44 designs in the range and I took each one back to the drawing board and re-designed most of them from scratch. Also now (geek moment!) all of the cards now have SKU codes to order them in my wholesale catalogue and make it easier for shops to place orders as well and get exactly what they want. 

Now looking back at old photos, I can't believe how much has changed...

Wholesaling

This was a big 'next-step' goal for my business - I wanted to progress from selling online and at craft fairs to selling in shops. This all kicked off back in April with Studio Souk in Belfast city centre. They're an awesome collection of over 70 independent creative businesses, most of whom hand-make their own products, and Studio Souk gives them, and me, a city centre platform to sell their work. 

In the last month I've also landed the amazing Kiln and Loom on the Ormeau Road, Belfast. I've been an admirer of Kiln & Loom ever since it opened a few years ago, and when Rene, the shop's owner approached me last month, I was over the moon! It gave me a real confidence boost as she was the first person I showed my new range to, and to have her seal of approval was huge!

Now that I've come to the end of re-designing and screen-printing the new range of cards, I designed my first wholesale catalogue and sent it out to a handful of my favourite independent shops across the UK and Ireland.

Wholesale is something I really want to focus on in the next few months and into the next year. For now Christmas is beginning to take my main focus more and more as I start to develop new products and my Christmas range!

If you'd like to take a wee look at my wholesale catalogue, you can see it here!

September 16, 2015 by Emma Jackson

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