Louise Verity started her own business in 2009 and with a rebrand, two children and a move to new premises all under her belt we thought who better to sit and chat to about running a UK producer business. Louise’s business is founded from her love for words and literary tales and this is evident when you speak to her. Her dedication to finding products that reflect her customers’ passions is evident, from sourcing original vintage pages for her prints to the exclusive font she uses based on her own hand drawn lettering.
“Top Drawer 2015 was a really good show for Bookishly. We had done Spring Fair the year before and just felt it was a bit big and not quite right for my size of business. Top Drawer is a better brand fit for us and buyers seemed more receptive; I love meeting people at the shows and being at Top Drawer feels good, it’s Clarion’s flagship event.
Having done Pulse previously, I knew what I was in for with Top Drawer and I felt that I would be growing what I had already in place.
My tips for anyone exhibiting would be to remember to ask for people’s business cards. I didn’t realise this was the normal thing to do and remember looking round and seeing everyone else doing it. It felt awkward at first but then that’s what people are there to do, make contacts and follow up on meetings after the event. Also have a space for locking your personal things away, Ikea do great lockable cabinets. I’d also recommend pre-assembled foam, pre-printed foam panels. You can stick your cards and prints with Velcro to the panels making it so easy to set up once you get there as most of the hard work is done before you travel. And keep your branding consistent, people recognised us from seeing us online and keeping your branding the same helps people remember you.”
As well building her business, Louise has been busy growing her family. The addition of a new baby has meant Louise has approached the past year and the year ahead differently then she has done previously;
“Being pregnant last year meant I reacted differently to things and I’ve had to plan things differently. Previously we would kick-start the year with trade shows but this year we’ve focussed on getting the best balance for home and work so we’ve employed a new administrator and found new premises so that we could manage the business we’ve already achieved and maintain it rather than push for more.”
Louise is not only the creative influence behind Bookishly, she is also hot to spot opportunities for her brand. Having noticed the growing trend for subscription gifts Louise launched ‘Tea and Book Club’. The gift subscription offers customers the opportunity to purchase a package which includes a vintage paperback, a sample of tea and a notebook which the recipient then receives and can extend if they wish.
“We began the subscription pre-Christmas 2014 as I’d spotted the popularity of subscription gifts on entrepreneurial forums online. It got me thinking what we could do and when I met a tea maker at a trade show it all came together. It’s been a huge success on Not On The High Street and we’ve kept it easy to manage and not complicated for the customer which I think has helped, along with a good value price point. Just after Christmas we had over 700 subscribers per month and we expect it’ll peak again around Mother’s Day.
We’re about to launch ‘Coffee and Book Club’ which will be more male orientated, we’ll be taking the stationary out and this also means the package is VAT free as VAT isn’t applicable to coffee or vintage books. It’s becoming its own business which is great and we’re looking forward to investigating wholesale options for our stockists. It’s also great getting to see all the books coming in, Penguin Classics and Pan Vintage Classics, the 1960’s illustrations are just fabulous and really dramatic, my keep pile is getting a bit out of hand!”
So with ‘Tea and Book Club’ a hit with customers and the print quoting Shakespeare, “Though she be but little she be fierce” still proving most popular, Louise’s products are flying off shelves. Part of the success is down to Louise having come to achieve a consistent look and feel for her brand. Louise freely admits that she’s come a long way since her earliest product shots;
“I cringe when I look back at my first ever Etsy sales, I took the pictures in my front room on an evening with the lights on, no natural light anywhere!
When it came to selling with Not On The High Street I knew I needed to up my game in order to fit in and compete. I practised and looked at trends and with flat-lay being easy and on-trend it became an easy and consistent solution for me. I’ve also worked with a professional product photographer, Holly Booth, and I was really pleased how those shots came out. Now that I’ve achieved a certain look it’s great to be able to go back and replace the old shots and keep developing whilst maintaining my own style.”
With a new baby and new premises all happening in 2016, Louise readily explains how she feels that she doesn’t want to feel restricted and is planning to find a happy balance for her family and her work;
“I was recently part of Not On The High Street’s #maverickmum campaign and it was all about mums doing things a bit differently. Whether that be staying at home and working, working and having childcare or just finding an alternative that works for you, the campaign was all about celebrating the balance. I’ve got the opportunity, running my own business, to find the balance that works for me, I’m planning to have a bouncer chair and travel cot at the new office so that I can keep coming into work. Having a family and working – you should be able to do whatever you like, I want to challenge what’s thought of as ‘normal’ and I don’t think anyone should feel they have to take a break if they don’t want to. I’ll not be working as much now but I’ll still be working.”
Here at The Great British Exchange we’re excited for Louise and her business and we’re looking forward to helping her grow and develop Bookishly. You can find her products on The Great British Exchange and you can keep up to date with new additions via our social media channels @TheGBExchange / Instagram thegreatbritishexchange
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