As soon as you mention that you are a Graphic Designer people always turn around and ask “can you make this for me?…” In my case I was often being asked to create baby shower invitations, birth announcements and custom birthday party stationery.
It was 2011 and I was at home with my first born son. Like many stay-at-home-mums I was looking for something I could do to keep my creative and business mind occupied. This is when I started an online business called Print A Party.
Through my previous work at PixiFoto I was used to working with photo printing. At the time it cost so little to print 6×4″ photos through online suppliers and have them delivered to your door.
My concept for Print A Party was to create fun, personalised party stationery that people could easily print and assemble themselves at home. It enabled my customers to have bespoke party stationery at a cost effective price. By making the kits DIY they could print in any quantity they needed, minimising waste. By giving them the knowledge to assemble the items themselves, it minimised labour costs. This kind of thing is quite fiddly and time consuming, so to have someone make it for you can be quite expensive. The idea was well received by my target market and I had a steady flow of customers over the duration of the business.
I ran the business through Facebook (remembering that this was in 2011). Back then, (I sound old!) Facebook business pages ran completely different to what they do now. You could navigate Facebook as your business page (instead of as a personal profile) and really interact with people and other business pages on the app. It was *real* social networking stuff.
I had generated a really great community of not only customers, but also complimentary businesses to cross promote with – such as cake decorators, event stylists, handmade clothes and toy makers, photographers and more.
Whilst we are talking about old school social networking. It is interesting to note that a large number of my “followers” were contacts that I had made in the old days of internet forums, some of these people are still my friends to this day. We were all forced out of our chat rooms and into Facebook as many of the forum sites closed down. I would definitely credit those forum days to my ability to create quality online communities. Without this, my little business would not have been so popular.
Once I had a range of popular designs I created ready made packs to sell at markets and direct to customers online. Some customers loved the idea but lacked the time or skills to make them themselves.
We were in the throws of creating a website to sell them on… using html and CSS. This makes me laugh. I’m quite sure my husband did the heavy lifting on the coding, I just supplied the graphics and slices. (How did we survive online back then? Haha, can anyone else relate?)
I also liked to share party styling tips, DIY projects and free printable pages to my Facebook followers navigating the new frontier of social media marketing. I found quite quickly this kind of content connected with my audience as they were able to take away some benefit without having to be a purchasing customer – although many did convert to paying clients. I tried to keep the ideas low cost and simple to execute.
I took a break from running the business in 2012, to have my second child. As much as I enjoyed the community I had created and the joy of crafting and illustrating, it was time consuming and with 2 toddlers it would have been impossible to give it the attention that it deserved.
I think if I was to have continued forward, I could have pushed further into the ecommerce space. Potentially manufacturing more ready-to-party pre-made kits, however, these days large retailers like Kmart are filling the gap that was once there. Or alternatively, I could have gone to a more automated route and developed a way for people to self service and put their name customisation onto my set designs and download a file ready for them to print and party at home. I guess we’ll never know!