Last Friday three quarters of the Rock My Style Team (Charlotte, Adam and myself, to be specific) were at the stunning One Marylebone in central London for Paperfest 2014, an inspirational event for small businesses or aspiring business owners, hosted by The Paper Girls, aka stationery mavens Lucy Ledger and Abigail Warner (you can read more about Abigail’s business here and see inside her beautiful home here).
Charlotte and Adam were speaking on an Ask The Editors panel and I was lucky enough to tag along and soak up all the inspiration from a quite frankly awesome line-up of speakers. As keynote speaker Anna Bond of super-stylish stationery company (and one of my favourites) Rifle Paper Co was up first, sharing the story of how, alongside her husband Nathan, she has built Rifle Paper Co from designing wedding stationery for friends to a global brand employing 100 staff in just five years. I couldn’t wait to share Anna’s experience and advice with you. This is what I learned…
Ask yourself what you can do better
When she was starting out Anna looked at the stationery business as it stood in the US and came to the conclusion that the established companies weren’t churning out designs as fast as she thought she could. From the beginning Rifle put out three collections a year, with each collection containing around 40 different pieces, way more than the other stationery companies. Although it can be hard to keep up the pace they’ve set themselves the fact is working at a fast pace has influenced the growth of the business.
Working with your partner can totally work
Anna and her husband Nathan started working together on the business right after they got married. As Anna says working with your partner means you have a business partner you can trust, that you can be vulnerable with and who will be honest with you, which can, of course, lead to, ahem, heated debates.
Say yes and figure it out later
Anna and Nathan have always had a policy of never saying no to opportunities that have arisen and working out how they’re going to make it happen afterwards. They mostly used Google in lieu of having a mentor in the early days and now have good friends in the industry they can go to for support and advice.
Keep changing and evolving but stay true to the brand
Anna admits that Rifle is an extension of her. In the beginning, she says, it was all her, now it’s part her and part brand, with some things, for example the super-simple things she loves, not working for the brand. Self-editing is important and Anna makes a point of taking a step back and with each new design or potential brand extension ask: Is it Rifle? Will it sell? Why are we adding it to the line? Could someone else do it better?
In response to the question what’s been the best piece of careers advice you’ve received Anna said that one piece of advice she loves that she was given early on was to be ok with change and only ever plan six to twelve months ahead in order to let the business flow. For example when French illustrator and fashion photographer Garance Doré approached Anna about working together on one product, Anna immediately suggested they produce a whole collection together, something that someone who was too married to a particular plan might not have come up with and we would have been denied one of the most covetable stationery collaborations EVER!
Employ people who are good at the things you’re not
An early hire for the company was a project manager as Anna admits that’s she’s not very organised.
It was refreshing to hear Anna admit that there have been mistakes along the way, including spelling mistakes that required costly reprints, and she even confessed that there have been times when she didn’t like the name of the company, which she came up with because you rifle through paper. With a whole host of exciting projects coming up including a clothing collaboration, a bag project, gift and home products and book covers for special editions of Anne Of Green Gables, Little Women and A Little Princess (only three of my favourite childhood books, so excited!), the pace of expansion of the brand shows no signs of slowing down.
Who is is feeling motivated? Any other business owners out there who would add to Anna’s advice? Any other fans of Rifle Paper Co out there?! Do share!
You can buy the Rifle Paper Co London art print above here.