This post has been long overdue, I’ve had a few questions about how I started my little business, how to tackle the tax and where I get things so I hope this post will help anyone who’s looking into venturing on their own self-employed journey. Working from home has always been a goal, working from my home with my own stationery business was my ultimate dream. Here’s how I set up PaperChicCo.
If you’ve been around a while you will know back in October 2015 I started a little Etsy store called PaperChicCo selling printable planners. From there it’s grown into two websites, one for downloadable items, one with physical planners of my designs and other stationery. And then very recently I started a new venture of planner stickers. It’s been a very bumpy road, I’ve wanted to give it all up so many times and I still feel like that but I’ve powered through because this is what I have always wanted.
Growing up I was stationery obsessed. I loved buying all my new gear in the summer holidays, ready for the new school year. I kept my school books in immaculate condition and I have always collected pretty notebooks, post-it notes, pencils, rubbers, pens, the lot, I loved it all.
A couple of years ago I worked in a cafe/card shop in my village, I loved seeing all the pretty cards and one day I just thought, I wish I could sell these cards myself from home. I started to write down the names of the company’s and started to find wholesalers online, I wanted to sell stationery as well and started finding wholesalers for that too. But then I came to the realisation that I didn’t want to sell what other people had made, I wanted to make my own.
Whilst looking for a printable planner for my own use, I bought one from Etsy and just thought I could totally do this myself! And that started the journey. I began designing new planners like a mad women, weekly, daily and of course my blog planners, found a name, set up my Etsy shop and began selling downloadable planners in October 2015.
DESIGNING A WEBSITE
I’m lucky that my brother designs websites and he did my main shop www.paperchicco.com for me. I sat with him as we designed the whole thing together and I still love the way it looks, easy to navigate, clean looking and simple.
PIN IT!FINDING A NAME
I’d had a name in my head for a long time, Paper Boutique, but when it came around to setting up the Etsy shop, the name was already taken and I couldn’t find a similar one that I liked. Then Brent came up with Paper Chic which I loved, I loved how it linked with my blog but also sounded like a stationery business. However, sadly that was taken too but I wanted that name and nothing else once he said that so I suggested PaperChicCo and there we go, PaperChicCo was born.
I’d had a few people telling me that they didn’t have printers but wanted my planners and asking if I was ever going to make them into physical planners. I wanted to but I had to fund it myself so come January 2016 Brent kindly invested into my business and bought my first set of blog planners in notebook form. Seeing your designs as a notebook is crazy, when I first opened the box and saw my design staring back at me it was such a great feeling. I then added gold foiled pencils with quotes that I had chosen, washi tape and greeting cards that I had designed. I decided to also sell some products from a shop called Mink Studio. Natalie’s designs were so beautiful and exactly what I wanted to make had I had the equipment. I also wanted to support another small business so I bought a lot from Natalie and started selling Mink Studio as well.
PIN IT!FINDING A MANUFACTURE
Finding a manufacture to make my designs into notepads was one of the hardest parts. It took me months of researching before I found my company which I use. I needed a company that let you buy small quantities without costing a fortune but also had excellent quality. It’s such a gamble making your first order as you just don’t know what you’re going to get and I have had a couple of issues with them however they had always been amazing at sorting things out.
In terms of selling other peoples products such as the MT washi tape that I sell it’s all about the research. Simply typing in “MT washi tape UK wholesale” into Google will send you in the right direction.
My pencils I found on Etsy, I stumbled across a shop which offered wholesale items. I could have the option of selling her own products or she would make my own for me to which she was just a manufacture for my design.
This part can take hours to research, it took me months to find a printing company and a lot of looking for the pencils as well. I just dedicated all my spare time to searching the internet for exactly what I was looking for. It can be hard and really disheartening when you can’t find what you are looking for or if you do, they turn out too expensive and you’re back to square one, but power through, you will find what you’re looking for eventually.
I’m not going to mention my manufacturers just because it took me months to find them myself, I also don’t want to give away my secrets 😉
PIN IT!HOW I DEISGN AND PRICE MY PRODUCTS
Being a blogger I know just how beneficial organisation can be so I designed my planners with information that I would find useful. I included everything I could think of to make a bloggers life easier and help them keep on track with everything.
To find a price for my items I obviously need to make a profit after all the expenses have come off, but I didn’t want to be ridiculous. I had seen planners in PaperChase for £15 and I would never pay that so I didn’t want to charge that. From working in my card/coffee shop, I had to price up the items so I used their system and if the price came out too expensive, I would take a hit on the profit and charge less. I wanted to be reasonable and still be able to make a living from it.
Brent has helped me out so much with buying stock and making my dream a reality, without him I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. Funding a small business with just your partner is so hard, you constantly need new stock to keep people interested or coming back for more. Products on the main shop have dried up recently because we don’t have the spare money at the moment for anything new, I have products designed and ready to be printed but I just can’t afford it at the moment.
Doing my own tax is a drawback because it can be so confusing however I’ve managed to keep on top of it so it’s not been too bad. I have written a whole post about being self-employed and doing your own tax here if you fancy taking a little look.
I get emailed or messaged a lot from bloggers who want to work with me and I would love to work with everyone but I just can’t, what I give away for free I loose out on that money and constitutes to a loss. Some people have contacted me thinking I’m a big corporation, I’ve had other people swoon over my stuff promising a review or post an Instagram in return for products only to never hear from them again or see my products shared. I know you don’t have to review products but in one particular case it was promised by the blogger. I don’t know how many Instagram messages I’ve had of just “Hi, I’m a blogger, can you send me some free stationery?” Once it was even “Can I have some free stuff?” Taking advantage of a small business is just not cool and has upset me quite a bit on numerous occasions.
On the other hand though, so many bloggers I contacted or contacted me have been amazing and helped me and my little business which is amazing. Also seeing a huge blogger, Zoella, Snapchatting my stationery was so surreal and left me a bit teary. I sent emails to numerous “big bloggers” and heard nothing back, I decided to send some stuff to Zoe’s PO box because I knew she liked staiontery and didn’t expect anything to come of it, then I started getting tweets saying “Isn’t this your planner?” with a photo from Zoe’s SnapChat, it was amazing. She also shared this image on Instagram of one of my planners and people where asking where it was from and some blogging babes were just constantly linking my shop, Olivia from Lust Living was incredible, linking me in so many comments to let them know it was my store.
PIN IT!WHAT NEXT
I very recently ventured into making planner stickers, specifically sticker kits for the Erin Condren Life Planner (if you’re not sure what it is then check out my YouTube channel) and also some other stickers (here) which are perfect for bullet journals, diaries or any planners. The planner community is very vast and already built up so trying to squeeze in and make an impact has been hard but my products have been going down really well already which is such a great feeling, and also a relief as I wasn’t sure it would work but so far so good. I have so much fun making these stickers as I get to be so creative with them and I really enjoy the whole process. I also have an idea for another printable planner collection and some other bits so the ideas are still flowing it’s just finding the time to execute them.
I hope you have enjoyed the little insight into my little business and also, I hope I’ve answered some questions for you! If you want to ask anything don’t hesitate to comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try and answer as best I can.
Thank you so much who has supported my shop, it means the world to me and because of you I get to stay at home with my son and follow my dream ♥