It’s this weeks supplier spot light and I am chatting to the lovely Clare Simpson Designs, now me & Clare actually went to secondary school together all them many moons ago, its funny where life leads you as back then I don’t think either of us thought we would end up working on weddings! Clare creates gorgeous stationary and greetings cards & here she is to tell you about Clare Simpson Designs….
Can you tell us why you became a stationer and your previous career experience which let you into it?
I’ve always been a creative person. I always make instead of buying what I think I can. From fancy dress outfits (although some phenomenal disasters) to full on matching papier-mâché head masks, to simple Christmas present tags. I began my love affair with stationery in my teens when I paid a whopping five pounds for a really average Mother’s Day card. Of course, I didn’t begrudge my wonderful mum a penny of it (despite my pitiful pocket-money budget) but I did feel cheated paying over the odds for something that, quite frankly, I could make better myself. The rest as they say is history. In 2002 I began selling my small collection of handmade cards to family, friends and a few local shops. I’m sure at the time, the lady in Paper Lane on Chislehurst High Street just felt sorry for me. I stood unannounced at her till point (I still cringe that I didn’t even make an appointment) clutching my box of ten designs and boldly asked “Would you like to buy some of my greetings cards? I’ve made them all myself”. She made an order for five. Not multiples of five designs. Just five cards. But I was over the moon! It was a hobby I kept up throughout my A-levels, Drama degree and first full time job in advertising, but I always knew I wanted to enter the gorgeous and beautiful world of wedding stationery. At the beginning of August 2010, after a year of business planning, redundancy from my then TV advertising job, encouragement from Dan and a rather healthy dipping into our “house fund”, I gave Clara’s Cards a bloody good makeover and Clara Lou Designs (now Clare Simpson Designs) was born – a wonderful hub of all things stationery and alike.
What is it you love the most about what you do?
This is a tough one because as cheesy as it sounds I’m lucky enough to love it all – except the inconsistent cash flow that goes hand in hand with running your own business, of course! I love designing. Thinking up new ideas and bringing them to life. I also equally love a challenging bespoke order. When my creativity is really tested and I manage to pull it off, see how happy the client is, is when I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.
You recently re-branded, tell us more about that…
It was LONG overdue! However, I’m pleased I waited. I didn’t have a website at all in the first three years of the business, I relied heavily on Facebook to showcase my samples. This was for a few reasons; I couldn’t fund it, I attempted to do it myself and failed (miserably) and even in all that time I didn’t feel I had a complete collection to share. I went on a course in November 2012 which prompted me to rethink the entire business. My production process was long and expensive – I needed to outsource many things to make the processes faster and more economical. I also realised that my designs were typically ‘wedding’ and all the while would mean I’d never stand out from the crowd and was open to the shameless copycats out there. So I decided before I could do anything else I needed a collection I was truly proud of and really represented what I was about and at the same time was more economical and could grow into a business rather than always be limited to a hobby. I spent nearly a year working on a new collection of fifteen designs. Once they were done and I was happy I could think about my website and my re-brand. First was a name change. I decided ‘Clare Simpson Designs’ reflected the new and permanent changes in the business. Clara Lou stood for all my old designs and so I needed to rename to make a completely fresh brand. I worked with the wonderful and very talented, Lucy Ledger, who came up with my lovely logo which promptly led to the completion of my website! I am thrilled with my re-brand. It’s been tough launching what is basically a whole new business but worth it. Because of the rebrand, I am so much more confident. I’m proud of my style and I know who I’m targeting and where I fit in the market. It was expensive, but totally worth it.
Ooh lots! I’m so excited about 2014. I’m working on a huge PR campaign at the moment and so will hopefully see the rewards of that in 2014, which includes trying to get featured in magazines and blogs etc. I also have a greetings card collection on the way and have just signed up to Not On The Highstreet to sell them. Eventually, I want to sell to trade and have plans to do a trade show – but that will probably be more 2015 in all honesty. I’m launching my new designs at the Bluewater wedding fair in February which will be slightly scary to see people’s responses to my new collection face to face and I’m also signed up for the autumn Bluewater wedding fair too. My biggest challenge of 2014 is my target to pull in at least 15 weddings a month. I also have some collaborations I’m working on in 2014 but more will be revealed about that in the next few months. But it’s all exciting stuff!
My passion is to provide couples with stylish, high quality and design-led wedding stationery that is packed with personality to complement their wedding style combined with a unique and personal service. I truly love what I do and it shows. Clare Simpson Designs is individual, original and fun. Specialising in weddings with a specific style or theme. If you feel uninspired by the usual wedding papery in magazines or disheartened by what you didn’t find on the internet then check out www.claresimpsondesigns.co.uk.
Thank you to Clare for guest posting for us today, please feel free to leave your comments.