Sweet Design Studio is a contemporary ethnic greeting cards and gift brand that celebrates women through their body shape, race, culture and passion. Gift Shop Hub spoke to Founder/Designer Ese Akpojotor about this exciting range of cards.
Hi Ese, Tell us a little about you or your company…
I am the founder and designer of Sweet Design Studio. Sweet Design Studio is a contemporary ethnic greeting cards and gifts brand that celebrates women through her body shape. I started my business because as a black woman, I was fed with the lack of greeting cards that represented me. I was fed up with the media’s sexualization of the black female body. I am based in Hackney East London.
How did you start out?
I always loved illustration from a young age so I would always just do random illustrations of anything I saw. It wasn’t till after my degree in Graphic Design that I started to create my own style and pushed and practiced on that more.
Describe your average day.
I have a data on the woman I would love to illustrate for my next range of cards so I am constantly on the search for the next one who I think my audience would love. I mainly do this on social media and reach out to them from there. I mostly keep my website up to date by updating information, adding new designs. I work on new illustrations everyday for my cards so I can have a wide range on collections. I’m also going to be exhibiting at this year Progressive Greetings Live trade show (Stand 856) so I’m preparing for that.
Which other artists/designers/real-life situations inspire you?
Women inspire me, my Mum, Sister. Women, who break conventional barriers, fight against injustice, discrimination, and prejudice.
What is your dream project?
I have many: To do an illustration campaign for Breast Cancer Research, do an illustration collaborative project with a fashion designer. To open up my own shop selling my whole collection of ethnic greeting cards because there is just such a lack of them in retail shops which is really sad.
What research do you do?
Searching on women I would love to illustrate for my cards. I LOVE paper especially coloured so I’m constantly roaming through stationery shops on coloured paper I’ll be using for my next illustration because that is the media I use.
How do you work and what media do you use?
Paper is my main media so I would start off using my scalpel to cut out my silhouettes of women and from there I’ll decide which pattern as well as the coloured paper to use to create her clothes.
Do you rage against the machine or use computers to create your artwork?
I use both: using the computer helps to complete my work so without it I’m kind of screwed. At the beginning, I was against computer artwork but we live in a digital age so not use it is impossible (for me it is).
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing small business at the moment?
Being taken seriously. First impressions count so as an independent publisher you have to be able to keep up with the demands of retailers such as stock, ranges, delivery. Finance: having the funds to pay for your products, making sure you get paid on time and doing the accounts.
What tips do you have for fellow small business owners?
Have a niche and embrace it. It will surprise you on the feedback you’ll get as well as the level of demand from it.
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
My style, my use of bright colours, the positive message behind the cards and my concept.
How important is social media in promoting your business?
Very. Not only do I use it promote my business but I find inspiration through it whether through the women I research on to the inspiring quotes that leads me to a design concept.
What has been your most successful promotion/marketing idea?
International Womens Day: As my business celebrates women, I created a gif animation using my illustrations that I posted on all of my social media platforms. Not only did that get such great engagement through re-tweets, and shares my sales on that day greatly increased.
What are your plans for the future?
Open up my own shop selling all my collection of cards as well as gifts.
Quick fire questions:
Favourite Song: Shalamar ‘A Night To Remember’
Favourite Film: Grease
Favourite Animal: Giraffe