First off, how has your 2021 been?
Whilst there have been the obvious challenges, it has been a really exciting year for me. In April I left my job in fashion buying and embarked on all things Heather Evelyn.
I also got married in the summer which was the best day ever! Our wedding was delayed from last year but we felt so fortunate that it could eventually happen, so in lots of ways I have had quite an eventful year!
Can you tell us about your background and journey to starting your own brand?
I’ve always been really creative – I studied Art at Central St. Martins before doing History of Art at Nottingham. Straight out of university I worked in retail seven days a week in an attempt to build up my experience (and pay my rent!), and it was definitely some of the hardest work I’ve done!
After a few months, I got work experience in the head office of the store I was working in and eventually landed a job as a buyer’s assistant. Here I helped launch the company’s first homeware range, before moving to online retailer ASOS in 2014. I loved the fast-paced nature of the work and the volume of product was a huge change. It certainly taught me some core skills that I still need for Heather Evelyn – organisation is key and so are supplier relationships!
Alongside my 9-5(ish) I joined a print studio in Peckham and made prints using a technique called screen printing, which was something I had first started at school. When the first lockdown hit my studio closed, but with ample spare time on my hands, I found a local paper supplier in Stockwell, took over my living room and started making cards!
The next step was to create a website to sell my product on, I chose the provider Squarespace and launched Heather Evelyn online in September 2020. It is incredible to think you can create a website so quickly, and immediately have a platform to sell your product via. Instagram has also been a really amazing marketing tool, and I would recommend anyone to start here first! Alongside my own stories and posts lovely customers also share my work in their own content which leads to more people finding out about what I do. Over Christmas I saw the power of Instagram and gained a small following which saw the start of my business growth – I am so grateful for every share and post!
For those that don’t know, tell us about Heather Evelyn?
It began as an online stationery brand selling my greetings cards and notelets. I then added the illustrated candles, which are now best sellers and I get lots of sweet messages from customers about these. I’m always working on new products, including growing my small homeware collection with new table linen and candle holders coming soon, which I am really excited about.
Recently I have started working with a print company called Calverts in Bethnal Green who do a lovely job at printing my designs. Whilst I love the handmade element, larger orders have made this task impossible…I need my sleep! Tradition and craftsmanship are what I love though so I am using a printing process called lithographic printing (which has been around since the 19th century!).
With a focus on seasonal events, the idea of gifting really excites me and gives purpose to my products. I have just supplied my first Christmas order to Selfridges, which was such a proud moment seeing my product in-store! I also supply a few smaller retailers locally which is lovely – one of the first was Wild by Tart in London who have been so supportive, and it is nice to feel I have a wider team with the stockists that I work with.
What is the process like for creating a new product?
Always a sketch! I find I have so many ideas (often as I am trying to sleep or when I stir at night), so I try to keep a note but it is hard when it’s something visual.
What have some of the highs and lows been of starting your own business?
The highs are definitely in the creative process and then at the end when a product finally makes it on site. However, there are lots of steps in between, and these can be where the lows crop up. Recently I have been missing having a team to share ideas with, at ASOS you always worked in large teams and it was always really nice to share your successes.
Getting to grips with the tech and general admin essentials to start your business has been a challenge, but fortunately, there is so much help online and the website provider that I use (Squarespace) is geared up for first-time users which is perfect.
Things take time – as I mentioned there are lots of steps and you also don’t necessarily know if the path you are on is the right one, so the uncertainty can sometimes be daunting. However, having support from your customers and online community is brilliant.
I still remember when I first spotted my product in a weekend magazine, I was over the moon! As a small business, it is unbelievable to see your product sit beside established brands.
What are your tip gifts for anyone looking to treat someone to some Heather Evelyn this Christmas?
If you are going all out, pick a primary colour to base your own Christmas theme on and work from that – my favourites are the red diamond wrap and multi baubles, which work nicely together! I think the last 18 months have also required us to get creative in order to stay in touch, and nothing beats an old-fashioned Christmas card.
How do you create your infamous handwritten candles?
All you need is a fun or loveable quote!
Can you tell us some of your favourite small businesses?
Sleepy Doe, a British brand that has the most incredible PJ sets, they offer matching prints for adults & children which I just love!
Wax Atilier, candle brand that has the yummiest palette
Thread The Word, Sarah offers bespoke gifts, embroidering homeware and clothing. Recently she had a wedding favour commission, personalised Christmas decs which is the best idea ever!
Binibamba, another British brand that has really gorgeous sheepskin accessories for children
What are you working on for next year?
I have just launched my first line of gift wrap which has been well received and I would love to expand this range – I have a real obsession with gift wrap and ribbon!
Also to come are some new candlesticks which a lot of people asked for last year and it’s taken some time but I’m so pleased to have worked with a ceramicist that is finishing my first batch at the moment – they will be launching next month.
Then believe it or not I am starting to think about next Christmas and of course every event in between.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
I love to do something fun on Friday night, if I can get out and into London, it’s great to feel the buzz of the city after spending the week working at home. Then Sunday always feels the most relaxing, a nice walk somewhere, Richmond Park is a real favourite for me and my dog Rudy. Followed by a tasty brunch then catch up with friends or family.
What do you always carry with you?
A notebook for ideas and sketches, plus magazines – I have so many subscriptions plus the free ES & Stylist are great.
What would your last ever meal be?
Probably this mushroom chicken dish that my Mum has cooked me for years, then followed by something sweet for pudding!
What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?
Don’t doubt yourself, take the enthusiasm you have for an idea, run with it and turn it into something great!