One of the things I get asked a lot is how I started a wedding stationery business. Since November is the three year anniversary of White Olive Design Studio, I thought it was a good time to share my story, as well as a few tips for anyone embarking on their own journey as a small business owner!
I first got started as a wedding stationer almost by accident. Whilst on maternity leave with my first child, I was asked by a couple of friends to design their wedding invitations. Having never worked on a wedding invite before (although I had designed several other celebration invites), I jumped at the chance! I love to create something from scratch, experimenting with different styles, materials and finishes, so working on these projects was a wonderful creative project.
Of course, this was before I had the skills and knowledge I have now (and that has involved A LOT of trial and error over the years). I didn’t have a business at this stage, or even know I was going to have a business! I also didn’t know about ideal clients or establishing my own signature style. So I just created designs that suited the weddings, and that worked great at the time!
When my maternity leave came to an end, I had planned to go back to work. However (to make a long story very short), this didn’t work out, since I didn’t want to go back full time and a part-time role was not available. So I had to resign from a job I loved, and step into the unknown!
It was terrifying initially. How would we manage on one salary? Also, while I loved being at home with my daughter, having very little interaction with other adults can take its toll on your sanity at times. Was I going to spend all my time with the baby? After a lot of thought, I decided that since I had loved designing the invites for my friends, I would set up my own business as a wedding stationer.
I launched my business (then called Sugar and Spice Designs) in a bit of a hurry. For the life of me, I cannot even remember why I chose this name! It was pretty, had a typical wedding style, and it was fine. But that was it – it was just fine! I created a basic website and spend a lot of time and money creating some customisable collections so that I would have a selection to suit all styles. I didn’t want to miss out on any orders!
After a year of fulfilling orders, building my business, getting new clients, and learning from my mistakes (lots of them!), I knew something wasn’t right. I was spending so much time on my orders, but wasn’t making any profit. It turned out that not only was my pricing completely wrong, but having established my style (botanical, elegant, and influenced by my love of the Mediterranean) my branding just wasn’t a good fit for my business anymore. I was also attracting lower budget clients, meaning the beautiful hot foil and letterpress designs that I loved to create were few and far between.
That’s why, fifteen months after my initial launch, I rebranded to White Olive Design Studio. I created a new set of customisable designs that I absolutely loved, and that suited my style. I worked on my pricing, so I could actually start charging fairly for my time as well as the prints (and making some profit!). I also had a brand new website built by the amazing Becky Lord, which launched earlier this year.
Today, I’m about to celebrate my third business birthday, and after winning the award for Best Wedding Stationery in the 2018 and 2019 regional Wedding Industry Awards, I have just been shortlisted for the 2020 regional finals. It’s been a LONG road with lots of trial and error, time, and money invested in making this business a success, but I absolutely love what I do, and the clients I get to work with! It’s still early days, but I can’t wait to see what the next few years bring!
Thinking of starting your own wedding stationery design business? Here are three of my top tips:
- Establish a signature style. Don’t just create work that looks like what you see trending on Pinterest, or to try and suit every style of wedding or client. Find a design style and mediums that make your creative heart sing, and don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.
- Learn to say no. In the early days, it’s tempting to take on every bit of work you are offered, no matter how low the pay. But taking on more orders than you can handle means you won’t give your best creative work, and you won’t have any time to grow your business. Be selective about which orders you accept, and make sure your pricing is at the right level.
- Focus on branding. Branding your business effectively is a game changer, believe me! I’m so glad I decided to relaunch with a new name and a brand that reflected my style and values. Getting it right involves lots of hard work in identifying your ideal client, and ensuring everything from your website to your social media is on-brand, but it’s absolutely worth it.
If you’re a business owner and you’re looking for a bit of a refresh of your current branding, or a complete rebrand but have no idea where to start, I now offer 1:1 brand consultancy calls! In this one hour call, we’ll go through your ideal client, current branding, and I’ll give you suggestions for how you could update your existing brand identity, with some top tips for getting started. And if you book before the end of November, it’s just £100! I also offer brand photography for your products, so if you’re interested in either of these services, get in touch!