It’s been 3 whole years since Poppins & Co. made its magical appearance into our lives!
A little bit of background for you - our little shop was established in 2016 in our gorgeous attic apartment in Hove. Brighton & Hove is without a doubt the most creative and vibrant place we’ve ever lived. We met so many makers and artists and felt like we were constantly surrounded by inspirational people, places and events- it was easy to get swept away in it all. We spent years living in London prior to this where Sam was heavily involved in the music scene. I loved seeing him work and meeting all the wonderful characters in that crowd but I always existed on the peripheries of that world - always a spectator, never a creative. Eventually we moved to the seaside, found a beautiful home, an amazing job and settled ourselves into Hove life. To cut a long story short I unfortunately became quite unwell shortly after moving there and able to very little other than sit in bed and draw - and so that’s what I did. I have to say - if you ever find yourself in the dreadful position of becoming bedridden there really is no better place to do it than where you can see the sea from your bed and listen to the distant waves and seagulls flocking overhead.
Our first ever designs were our Black Wreath Christmas Card Set. Back in 2015 I carefully inked and delicately hand-scripted this festive collection which was then duplicated using a home printer and scanner and sent out to our nearest and dearest. One of whom said ‘you should totally sell these’ - and that’s what we did! The following year we launched our Etsy shop - with around 10 card designs, packs of Christmas card sets and around the same number of art prints and hit the ground running. It felt so exciting to make something that people wanted to buy and give to someone they loved.
Looking back on our printing methods things have certainly changed over the past 3 years. Our first Christmas I can remember stacking orders up in the home office of Sam’s parents house. We didn’t have our own printer yet so all card orders were created using their home printer and an ivory coloured textured pre folded card stock - which was made more for sticking things to than printing things on. Our art print orders were all outsourced to a wonderful little print shop called Lollipop Print on Portland Road, Hove. We’d trundle along to the Post Office via the print shop and have to package our prints as we went- completing paper dispatch forms and depending heavily on the kindness and knowledge of our local print shop workers and post office staff. These are both teams of people that really know their stuff about the industries they work in. We had our eyes opened to print quality, giclée printing methods, card stock quality, archival quality papers, small business art printing, franking, international shipping, packaging, branding and so much more. When I think of all the knowledge and skills we’ve acquired over the past few years it is genuinely mind boggling. From a background as a Mental Health Nurse and Ward Manager, I can honestly say I never dreamt that life would take me in this direction. I am so very grateful that it has.
Running a small business is at the same time the most challenging and the most rewarding thing I have done in my life to date. The difficulty that comes from having to be a one woman show is that you can often feel like you are constantly having to research and grow your knowledge base to face the challenges of any given day. I don’t have a background in e-commerce, marketing, media, accounting, operations management or any other area of business management. I don’t have accreditation as an artist or creative - I have a Bachelors Of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and a Post Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Nursing. I achieved an E grade at A/S Level art. But it turned out that in my case running a business didn’t come from a place of knowledge or business acumen. For me it has literally been about having a creative outlet for all my happy, sad and whimsical thoughts (I give you Toucan Drinking Prosecco) and finding a way to share that with the world at large. It can be hard when people don’t understand the nature of being self employed or being a business owner. When people think you’ve made a choice not to work - when in actual fact you work more hours now than you ever did in the employment of somebody else. Also when you are learning something new and you don’t always have a team to bounce ideas off or get validation from on difficult decisions!
There are far more positives to running a small business than any difficulties I could possibly list. I’m so proud of what our tiny team of two has achieved over these fledgling years. Last night I was out in our home studio making endless sets of Christmas Cards (these Dinosaur Card’s are EVER SO popular!). I was beginning to get a bit frenzied as the orders were coming in so quickly that I was surrounded by cards on every surface. I was attempting to tot up how much additional stock we would require this season. My feet ached and my back hurt and I realised I had been out in the studio for 12 hours - and that is aside from the time already spent dispatching the morning orders and design hours for custom projects. Then I looked down and saw my illustration of a Velociraptor wearing a Christmas hat and scarf, cheekily carrying off a gift to one of his dino friends. Smiling the biggest smile, this little chap had reminded me of why I LOVE what I do - because each of these creations is designed to give YOU a smile, to raise your spirits and help you let someone know just how much you care. It’s heartwarming to know just how many of our products are out there in the world already and that they bring some happiness to the lives of others.
So a quick recap on where we are now. We moved to the Peak District, Derbyshire and have an amazing home on the farm and a designated detached studio in which to create all our lovely products. We finally have our own website (whoop whoop!), a full collection on Amazon Handmade, a Facebook store (yes its a thing), a constantly growing social media following on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. We’ve rolled out gorgeous teeshirt designs, baby grows, tote bags and cushion covers as well as our delightful range of Christmas jumpers - all on beautiful organic fabrics. We have phone cases and enamel mugs with your favourite designs and all your old favourites are now produced using the highest quality giclée printing methods and archival quality card stock. Absolutely EVERYTHING is customisable if you drop us a message. We’ve helped captured so many peoples important things from their lives, from wedding readings to new homes to immortalising that dream car. And there is more and more ahead of us…
In our fourth year we plan to expand our wholesale directory (hooray!). We’ll also take the final steps in becoming a fully sustainable and environmentally friendly business by replacing the last remaining items of plastic packaging from our products. We’ve come so far in this already but we are committed to reducing our environmental impact as much as possible and are excited to continue this into 2020. Finally - our wedding stationery service will be making it’s debut to this website. A long standing service and part of the business that I adore creatively - we plan to make this service accessible and transparent for all those soon to be Mr & Mrs.
Three special thank you’s this year. Firstly to our Marketing Consultant, Louisa Quinn. Your unique strategies and brilliant ideas have really helped Poppins & Co. to grow into something we are so proud of. Thanks for being our number 3 and for settling our differing opinions on design and business matters! If anyone is looking for a Freelance Marketing Consultant for your small business (or big business) then I honestly couldn’t think of anyone better than Louisa.
Secondly to Sam - thank you for everything and joining me on this adventure. It’s grown and grown, just as you said it would and I am so grateful for your help in getting Poppin’s & Co. to where it is today. Thank you for all the time you give to building the business into something we can be so proud of and for your patience with me as a churn out designs faster than you can keep up with. I promise I will try to be a bit more timely in my request for tech tweaks in the years ahead! Our tiny team of two has created something so beautiful and I am beyond happy that you have joined me on such an amazing journey.
Finally, and most importantly, a massive thanks to YOU. Thank you so much to our customers, readers, friends and family for all your support over the past 3 years. I’m so grateful for the loyal client base we have built and so pleased that we continue to make products that make you happy and coming back to us time and again. I am so excited for the year ahead, this past year has been mind blowing (I mean I gave up the umbrella branding AND started designing non paper products!).
So a HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY TO US - and here’s to many, many more.