To countdown to Small Business Saturday, every week we will be profiling fellow small businesses, shining the spotlight on their achievements and encouraging people to shop small! Our first partner is Claire Close producing fun, inventive paper gifts that you can colour in! Even though these products are inspired by Claire’s small children Oliver and Beatrix, they are fun for the whole family! So dig into the current colouring in trend to have a truly personalised artistic gift.
What inspired you to start your business?
My husband, Tarot, opened a print and copy shop in Exmouth town centre in 2007. In between looking after the children, I would help out, and as the children got older I started helping out more and more, but felt unfulfilled and wanted to do something for myself. In 2011, I decided to become a member of the Double Elephant Print Workshop in Exeter, so I could learn to screen-print. Every Wednesday for about a year, I would get the train into Exeter to screen-print designs I had prepared and printed at work. After about 6 months, I had a small collection of art prints & greeting cards and decided to apply to Notonthehighstreet.com to sell them. I was so pleased to be accepted, but for the following 6 months, I wasted this opportunity… I took weeks to upload product and mostly ignored helpful emails from Notonthehighstreet.com …but finally in June the following year, one email caught my eye… they were launching a competition to win a space in the Christmas catalogue for a new product. Racking our brains, Tarot suggested the giant poster of a Christmas tree that we had created and printed 2 years previously as an alternative to a real Christmas tree (we had sold our house, moved to a smaller property and we didn’t have the room for a real tree). We had only advertised and sold it in our little local shop, so it was NEW in a sense! We emailed over a really basic photo of the clip art tree we had used showing my children colouring it in across the floor, but I told Notonthehighstreet.com we would re-design the tree, create a bigger pattern to colour in and personalise it… Anyway, amazingly we won!
That Christmas 2012 was brilliant, it was the best Christmas but also the worst! We were totally unprepared, it was underpriced in hindsight and we lost a load of money on postage. But it was the start of our journey with Notonthehighstreet.com, THAT was the start of our business! Since then we have kept busy designing and creating products with Notonthehighstreet.com at the forefront of our minds. Now I also print my designs on mugs, cushions and fabric bags – not just paper products. Although we do still sell trade and local print work, our main focus is now Notonthehighstreet.com and it has taken over the original business. So much so that we’ve had to move again for more space!
What do you love most about what you do?
I love creating and designing products; some work some don’t, but it is fun trying! I can never tell. There was one product that I had almost given up on, but I left it online because I liked the photo… and this year it was picked for promotion over Christmas, so that shows how much I know! I should pretend like I know what I’m doing shouldn’t I?!! I’ll pretend I’m ahead of the trends, yep that’s what I’ll do!
Tell us about a typical working day.
Once the children are off to school, I’ll walk to our studio (a 3 min commute!) with my pug, Pip, in tow. Maybe grab a latte on the way. The morning is spent checking emails, social media, writing to-do lists, product ideas etc. while Tarot processes the order files and starts printing. After lunch, I start the packing. On very busy days, the orders are processed in the evenings and I have to start packing as soon as I get to the studio. Then home, usually to an evening on the laptop working in front of the telly and worrying I’m not doing enough!
What are your best-selling products?
My best selling product at Christmas for the past few years has been the Colour In Christmas Tree, and my Tree Trunk Card is a popular everyday seller. However, I have also been lucky to be selected for promotion with NOTHS a few times now. I did do well with my Teacher’s Bag this year without promotion. Again one of those times I can never predict! It was a design from 4 years ago, but I think maybe due to the fact it was in the Summer Sale and it had new photography which boosted it. My new Colour In Christmas Paper Sack is on the front cover of one of the NOTHS Christmas catalogues this year, so I am hoping to do really well with that.
What are you doing for Small Business Saturday?
Small Business Saturday will probably be spent in coffee and mince pie fuelled frenzy of printing and despatching orders before the Royal Mail sorting office closes for the day, as we’ll be in the midst of Christmas mania! Customers can also get a discount on our website using the code sbs2015 www.claireclose.co.uk