Today I’m doing a different kind of post. I’m going to give you a little peek into a project I’ve been working on in the last few months and which I’m very excited about! If you’ve ever thought about launching your own brand/shop you might want to read on…
At the end of last year, after years of dreaming but not doing anything about it, I finally decided to launch my own online shop selling beautiful products printed with my designs, and ‘Republic of Happy was born.
I’m sharing this journey because I know many pattern designers out there have the same sort of dream but feel that it’s not achievable for some reason or other… I felt the same way for a long time, but feel very differently now. So if I can help even just one of them (and that one might be you!) to get rid of the fears and achieve their dream, then my job is done.
I’ve been a surface pattern designer for a few years now, doing licensing and collaborations with other brands, but all that time I had this nagging feeling about wanting to create my own range of gorgeous products using my prints and patterns.
The appeal for me isn’t only in creating the products, but also in creating an outstanding brand that reflects my personality and my values, and where I can pour all my creativity without editing anything out. A brand where I, being the control freak that I am, have full control over every detail, from product choices to website to logo to newsletter – the whole shebang!
After spending years spreading myself too thin, trying on every project that crossed my path, I realised that this wasn’t a sustainable way of working or growing my business. I’ve since discovered that this is not uncommon behaviour amongst surface designers. We want to do it all because there are so many wonderful opportunities and choices, we feel we might miss out. Shiny Object Syndrome is serious stuff for some of us.
I was working hard but not seeing the results I wanted. A lot of busyness but not much moving forward. My focus was almost non-existent so I decided to tackle the problem. I’ve been using all the physical, mental and emotional tools I can get my hands on to learn to focus and take my finger out of most of the pies. It’s definitely not been easy but I’m glad to say it’s paid off and I’m doing a lot better nowadays. Still a work in progress though… I can always do with more of that slippery thing called focus, particularly now that I have a very specific goal in mind: to launch a shop.
The next thing I needed to do to achieve this goal was to find help. I’ve always been reluctant to ask for help, believing that I can work most things out if I give it enough time and effort. But I slowly realised that time is precious and really, who wants the effort if it can be avoided?
If somebody has already achieved what you want to achieve, and they’re willing to mentor/coach you, I say do it. Luckily I found an amazing mentor, Ali Mapletoft, who has helped me enormously, not only with the practical side of launching a shop and creating a successful brand but with the most important thing you need to achieve it, the mindset.
Ali is an artist who has gone through it all herself. The fears, the doubts, the mistakes, the transformation and the success. She’s built an incredible brand and is committed to helping other designers and artists do the same faster and with a lot less pain.
There are so many mental and emotional blockages that get in the way when we want to achieve things that are out of our comfort zone. Paying attention to, and working on, our mindset is an absolute priority if we want to make it big and far. Some of my own beliefs, fears, and stories were/are:
- I’m not a good enough designer
- I don’t have great ideas
- I’m not different from other designers, so there’s no real uniqueness to my products/designs
- People don’t like my products/designs
- I’m a procrastinator
- I’m scared of failing
- I’m scared of succeeding
- I’m scared of the responsibilities and busyness that comes with a bigger business
- I can’t handle a medium/big business on my own
- I don’t know enough about running a proper business
- I don’t know where to start
- I don’t know how to produce what I want to sell
- I don’t know what products to sell
- I don’t have the money to start the business
- I can’t keep designing awesome things all the time
And this is an edited list because I don’t want to bore you to death! Can you relate? This was one of the first exercises Ali asked me to do. To list all the reasons why my project won’t work. Then to have a good look at it and cross everything out that was untrue, unproven, or a belief based on fear. Not much left after that… Most of the obstacles are created by us and not external entities. We create them, we can obliterate them!
While working on the mindset I’ve also been working on the practical side of creating products and launching a brand. Defining what kind of brand I want to have was one of the first things:
Republic of Happy is a brand of home goods printed with my designs, that brings happiness and smiles through colour and pattern. Offering beautifully made products that are unique, quirky, fun, graphic and bold. Made for people that want to be that little bit braver, that don’t take themselves too seriously, and that would love to own something original and different.
My brand believes that what you surround yourself with impacts your behaviour and your happiness, from thoughts and people to spaces and products. It believes that family and home are top values for a happy life and that all good things start at home. It believes in the power of surrounding yourself with beautiful things which reflect the unique creature that you are and help you thrive in the world.
In the last month I also started working on the branding. It’s been tough, to say the least. I’m an awful perfectionist and nothing seems to please me. It’s one thing to design something for someone else, but for your own brand, that’s another story!
After I decided to launch Republic of Happy, I looked everywhere for a workflow or launch plan I could follow step by step and neatly tick off, so I didn’t have to think too much or make many mistakes. I’m very methodical and organised, and love my to-do lists and spreadsheets. The bubble burst pretty soon. There’s no such a template because every business, and every person behind that business, is different and the process is never linear.
You can have a rough plan, and I recommend you do, but you’ll end up jumping from here to there and back again, depending on what needs doing at specific times. It’ll be more trial and error than anything else. We learn from that experience and hopefully, everything will get more predictable and it’ll be easier to make reliable plans in the future. Just go with the flow and try to enjoy the process!
I’ve also decided that I’ll be launching with two types of products, cushions and art prints. Focus played a big part when making this decision. Better to offer a couple of outstanding products than many of dubious quality. Narrow your offerings so you can do them excellently. There’s plenty of time in the future to bring new products in. The world is my oyster, and I’ve got loads of ideas… It makes it all very exciting instead of overwhelming!
I did a lot of manufacturing research at the start of the year. At first, I thought about using dropshipping as my business model, but I soon realised that the quality of the cushions offered by the dropshipping companies was not up to scratch. I ditched the idea and got cracking getting quotes and samples from digital fabric printers and cushion manufacturers. I’m happy to say I’ve now settled for a supplier and luckily don’t have to think about that anymore.
Starting to get the word out is another thing I’ve been working on. Sharing the process and the progress on social media is a very important way to create a bit of buzz. I don’t really want to launch to the sound of crickets, so I’m making sure that people know what I’m up to and to get them as excited about it all as I am.
Visibility plays a huge part in all this and my mentor has made sure that I keep showing up, not only in the usual written posts but also showing my face and letting my audience get to know me better. We all like to see the person behind a small brand. We like to make a more personal and intimate connection. You can see on my Instagram the number of live videos I’ve done recently. It was petrifying at first but I kind of like doing it now!
I’ll be building the shop with Shopify, as I believe it’s the most robust option for what I want to achieve, thinking long term. I haven’t started building the website yet but I did create a landing page so I can start collecting emails from interested people. As most of us know, our mailing list is our most important marketing asset. We must start building it, even before our websites are live or any products are ready.
The last words
So as you can see building a brand and launching a shop have a lot of moving parts. You need focus, planning and a lot of commitment. I won’t say it’s easy but up until now, it has felt like a very rewarding experience. I’m only in the early stages, but every little step I take makes me incredibly proud and gives me that push to take the next. Progress is the best motivator!
Next, I’ll be working on getting the print collection ready to send to the manufacturer. That’s so absolutely nerve-wracking! I want these cushions to be out of this world. So amazingly delicious that people just have to have them… No pressure then!
I feel so excited (and scared) about all this, but I’m so happy I took the plunge and now I’m in with both feet. I’ve told the world so there’s no going back. And if you’ve ever thought about launching your own brand, I hope I’ve managed to transfer a bit of that excitement to you and quieten some of the fears you might have had. Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are!
If you want to join me on this adventure (and I’d love for you to!), please sign up to my newsletter at republicofhappy.co.uk, so I can let you know when the shop launches. I’ll also send you a special launch discount for being so lovely. And the awesomeness doesn’t stop there because once you sign up, I’ll be sending you the most colourful, fun and happy newsletters on the internet… What do you say then? Are you in or are you out?