Flying Twigs are a husband-and-wife business and they make greeting cards. Gift Shop Hub spoke to the Cambridge based duo about their truly individual and quirky cards plus plans for the future…
Hi, Flying Twigs, what do you do?
We make good quality greeting cards! We have respect for companies that make a range of products such as tea towels and mugs – and produce and sell them themselves. I think it’s a logistical challenge, so we stick to greeting cards. We do have one or two designs that we have licensed to firms to make other products, but that is a small part of our business.
Where are you based?
We are based in Cambridge, which is a bustling town for its size and gives us easy access to London. We were in Edinburgh before that, and I have a lot of affection for the city – but it cannot compete in terms of the weather!
How did you start out?
I joke that we should teach classes in how not to start out. We made mistakes with the name, the scope of the products, and everything you can think of. And the ‘learning valuable lessons’ mantra is definitely one that we have learned.
In a nutshell, we joined the Greeting Card Association and they are a valuable resource. And we joined a Facebook group for greeting card publishers and it feels good to be able to ask questions and contribute knowledge.
After that it was a question of having ideas and the means to execute them. Luckily, I use Photoshop daily, and my partner comes up with great ideas and has a terrific sense of colour and design – so it came together quite easily.
That said, I think there is a lot of truth in the idea that it is important to get the product out there and see what people think of it rather than tweak designs endlessly for fear of them not being good enough. As the saying goes, ‘Done is better than perfect and perfect is the enemy of the good.’
The other factor that enabled us to get going was that I am able to build websites. The Flying Twigs website is an ecommerce site. We needed to build in some features such as minimum order value, ordering in multiples of six cards – and it was easier being able to do it myself than explain it to a developer.
Where do you sell your products?
We sell direct to retail – to shops, galleries, museums, and other retail outlets in the UK and abroad.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing small business at the moment?
The main challenge is visibility. With short-run digital printing and the instant visibility of the internet – the logistics have never been easier for publishers. What the internet has not solved is how to get one’s products in front of the eyes of buyers against the competition of many other businesses.
What tips do you have for fellow small business owners?
Write a manual. Write down every step from design to delivery. Get friends to quiz you on it. For example, how are you going to prepare a packing list to send to the customer? Writing down every step helps to make sure you know how the logistics work. And start small and local and expand slowly.
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
Our approach to designing cards is to gently emphasise the positive, whatever the occasion.
Therefore, we don’t make cards that are crass or that ridicule people or would embarrass someone if the card were put on a mantelpiece.
From a design point of view, we think of the typical viewing distance. Cards aren’t always looked at while holding them in the hand – so we aim for greeting cards that also catch the eye ‘across a crowded room’ (to borrow a phrase).
Also, we are particular about the paper we use. If you have ever tried to write a message on a shiny card where the ink stays on the surface forever and smudges at the slightest touch, then you’ll understand how important the choice of paper is. We use a paper called Condat, and one of the reasons we like it is because it has a good writing surface on the inside of the card, so that ink dries quickly without smudging.
All our cards are printed in the UK by specialist printing firms that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as using good environmental methods.
We do what we do so we can guarantee that every card feels great, is great to write on, and is printed with materials that respect the environment.
How important is social media in promoting your business?
Simple: It gives us a higher profile and it helps us contact people we want to reach – and it helps us to support other people starting out. We all have strengths – whether it is in web design, printers, scanners, inks, or whatever – and we all have bits of information – like knowing which company sells the widgets and thingumabobs we need – and we all gain by sharing that knowledge.
What has been your most successful promotion/marketing idea?
That’s a hard one, but I am an advocate of reaching out to potential customers directly. I am not sure how many businesses do that any more?
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to bring in just a few designers and sell on their behalf.
What features/articles would you like to see on Gift Shop Hub?
Keep on rocking – I like what you do.
Quick fire questions:
Favourite song: Not a song, but a piece. It’s Rachmaninoff: Elegie Op. 3 #1 played by Rachmaninoff himself.
Favourite film: The Long Goodbye – I love the bit where Elliott Gould laughs in the middle of a serious scene. I admire the director for letting it through to the final version.
Favourite animal: It’s hard to choose one – probably the Patagonian mara. Tamara too loves animals and birds. She has interacted with giraffes, so she has a soft spot for them – and she loves guinea pigs, and dogs – the list goes on. It doesn’t have to be anything exotic – we can spend an afternoon watching sheep in the fields.
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