“Don’t beat yourself up for not getting it all done” – lessons learnt from design-focused stationers Papersmiths

Papersmiths was a natural extension of Studio B, a design firm founded by Sidonie and Kyle in 2011. They already spent their days talking about design, taking notes and sketching ideas, so who better to start a design-driven stationery store?  

They moved to Bristol and launched their first store, outfitting it with just £500. The pair specialised in brightly coloured and elegantly patterned notebooks, pens, and all manner of other creative tools, sourcing their collection from talented designers around the world. 

Seven years later, they have added five bustling brick and mortar shops, including branches in Brighton and London, and a buzzing online presence. 

Taking uncertainty in your stride

Papersmiths, like many small businesses all over the country, has been hit hard by coronavirus and the lockdown. All of its physical stores are shut indefinitely (all of which are ready to spring back into action as soon as it is safe to do so), and the company’s 33 employees are all furloughed. Sidonie is single-handedly sustaining the business, not from any of their beautiful contemporary stores but from a spare room in her Hackney home. 

The business is still operating online, which means Sidonie is going to and from one branch to collect stock to mail out. The cycle over is downhill, but it’s uphill on the way back – and hauling 15kg of stationary is a serious challenge. “At least it’s good exercise,” she laughs. Sidonie is also trying to squeeze in some extra marketing, and is applying for government support for the business and its employees.  

Taking care of yourself 

Now that Sidonie is the entire staff of Papersmiths, she’s taking more time to look after herself. During the first few weeks, she says it was a mad rush, but all of the stress is starting to subside as she has learned to pace herself and be realistic about her goals. Now, Sidonie begins her day with half an hour of mat exercises, usually Pilates and yoga, which allows her to clear her head and calmly approach the challenges of the day. She has also set a strict 6pm end time for her working days, and she spends an hour each evening on wellbeing, usually in the form of meditation, a sound bath, or image streaming. 

Reflection and lessons learned

Fortunately, the business is doing well online. Sales have increased by 30 percent over the previous week, and that’s before rolling out full marketing efforts. Sidonie has learned that she loves the personal experience of shipping out online orders, from carefully wrapping the products with colourful tape and stickers to leaving a sweet handwritten note for customers. It’s a satisfying way to create a human connection, even at a time when that’s difficult. 

The company always intended for 2020 to be a year of growth for Papersmiths’ e-commerce sales. Still, the opportunity to focus solely on this is “an unexpected silver lining,” according to Sidonie. She has even noticed the impact of small changes to the e-commerce store since she’s had the time to focus on the details. 

“Rather naively,” says Sidonie, she “expected to have plenty of time to focus on marketing and product development,” but quickly found that this was not the case. Instead, she became the only employee from the 33-member team and has been busy the entire time. 

She advises other businesses in a similar position to accept their circumstances – even their limitations. She recommends doing what they can to keep the business afloat while balancing it with tasks they enjoy and will have a positive impact. She concluded with advice that is useful for every employer, particularly now: “Don’t beat yourself up for not getting it all done!” 

Visit our dedicated site for more inspirational stories, webinars and resources to help you navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.


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