The Friday Startup series returns! After a little time away, meeting new innovators and being inspired by a whole bunch of creative entrepreneurs, we have lots of new talent to share with the world! The amount of inspiring startups out there is staggering and we are beyond excited to share some of the companies we have met with all of you! This week’s Startup is Bristol-based Paper Plane, a co-operative shop and gallery which showcases gifts, art and craft from around the UK, all led by design. We spoke to Alice Rolfe, one of the minds behind the brand, about what got her and the Paper Plane team started, how they run their business and who inspires them creatively. In summary tell us a bit about your business and the services you offer.
Paper Plane is an independent shop and gallery showcasing high quality makers and designers from Bristol and the UK.
What inspired you to start the business and how did you get started ?
There are seven core members; we all know each other through shops we stock, and craft fairs. We decided to open a shop together, working one day a week each, leaving us enough time to run our own creative businesses. Who is your ideal customer/target audience?
As the shop is in such a diverse street, everyone is our target customer! We have fun kids body art for children, modern jewellery and homewares for the middle ages and beautiful silk scarves for the older generation.
Please describe a typical day for you.
We open the shop at 9:30, give it a clean and tidy, say hi to our neighbours and do a morning Facebook or Twitter post. Although we’ve only been open for less than a year, we already have regulars who love the shop, and new people come in every day. They like to hear we’re a co-op and make the goods sold in the shop. What would you say is the best thing about having your own business?
Being a co-op, the workload is spread. We all have our own strengths so we can stick to what we can do best. We get to meet our customers, hear all the feedback, and have our full range permanently on show. It is great being part of a team also. As we all work for ourselves, it’s lovely to bounce ideas off each other and give encouragement when trying something new.
And what kind of challenges have you faced when setting up the business?
We didn’t know anything about shop leases. We had to learn fast and managed to find solicitors who would give us a free half hour here and there. It was a steep learning curve.
Where would you like to see yourself/your business in 3 years time?
This year has been fantastic, we’ve had very encouraging feedback from our customers. I hope the shop will continue to thrive, and the exhibition room in the back of the shop develop with many interesting arty activities going on in there! Do you use social media platforms to promote and grow your business? Which ones and how?
We use Facebook mainly, and Twitter too. Our website links to all of our websites and we promote it via our own businesses.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement so far within business?
Opening it! And making it work! We were new to this, so have had to learn as we go. We are always discussing new ideas of display in the shop, so our DIY skills are getting pretty good. It’s so lovely when people come in the shop and say things like ‘oh, it’s like a breath of fresh air in here’ – that’s what we were going for, so it makes us very happy.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own creative business?
Being creative is only one part of it – primarily you are running a business, the creative bit comes second. That might sound utterly boring, but it’s extremely satisfying when people start to buy your work and come back for more; the item might have only taken half an hour to make, but the business involved probably took about two hours or more. Be prepared to be sitting at your computer for hours, it’s not all about making all day (although i wish it was!).
Who/what are your creative business inspirations and why?
I (Alice Rolfe (Rolfe&Wills) – Screen printing) can’t speak for all seven of us, but i’m working with a lot of mine. When i asked people if they wanted to be involved i asked the people i looked up to in the creative industry: Susie Hampshire – Portraits, Alice Shields – Ceramics, Beth Buss (Boodle) – Screen printing, Sally Haysum (MyBearHands)- Jewellery, Ruth Broadway – Lino Printing and Tiphaine – Lamps. All wonderful woman, all talented creatives. Thank you very much Alice for answering our questions!
You can find the Paper Plane team in Bristol at 196 Gloucester Rd. or follow them through their social media:
Shop Address – 196 Gloucester Road, Bristol, BS7 8NU
Website – www.paperplanebristol.co.uk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/paperplanebristol
Twitter – www.twitter.com/paperplane_shop
If you’ve got a creative business you want to tell the world about get in touch and you might just be featured on our blog! Likewise if you feel you need some help with the business side of your creative ventures then why not book one of our free, no strings attached guidance sessions?