Today is a pretty special day. It's just an ordinary Thursday really, but for me it's special. A day that feels good. Feels right. And a day where I am right now feeling really quite proud of myself.
It started with this grumpy little lady. It was and is always about her. Clara. The grumpiest little character that seems to have captured so many hearts. I am truly, truly overwhelmed with how many of you adore her.
I never started this journey to make millions or even run my own business really. I wanted to show publishers that I had a character people could fall in love with. One with merchandise potential. I wanted to pitch a series of Clara and Macy picture books to them, and knowing how tough the industry is in today's market I knew it wouldn't be easy. So I thought if I could prove to them that the characters already had interest, that merchandise was already selling, then they might just take a chance on them.
But you know what, it kind of backfired. The business has taken off so well that I haven't even had time to finish the picture book proposals never mind contact publishers!
When I joined Noths a year ago I was terribly nervous. It felt like a huge leap. And a lot of money that I didn't really have. Tom and I sat down and talked about it, and decided that if I made my joining fee back after twelve months then it would be a success and a good decision.
Well, I have turned over 67 times that amount in the first year. I think I might be able to consider it a good decision!
When I went live on the 25th July 2012 I had no expectations of how much I might make or how much I would sell. And when I was invited to have my products featured in the Christmas catalogue six days later I had even less of an idea about how things might go.
I think it's safe to say that they went very well!
Being featured in both Christmas catalogues and numberous magazines led to this...
Throughout November and December last year this was a regular sight in our dining room. Stacks and stacks of boxes as the orders just kept pinging through. It was amazing. I couldn't believe it. And it's fair to say I was completely overwhelmed. I just hadn't expected it to take off in the way it did.
I seemed to hit milestone after milestone without really pausing for breath, and kept expecting it all to disappear from under my feet any minute. But it didn't. It stayed strong, and it grew.
In the new year I qualified for a Royal Mail business account, which felt like another huge step.
Another rather large step was being commissioned by several magazines to create projects for them including two cover projects for Crafty. And I even worked with Disney & Pixar on a super special promotional project for Monster's University (more about that soon!).
Spring brought new product launches and a packaging redesign. And I was filmed by printed.com for their customer campaign.
Then I was lucky enough to be featured in the Noths Spring catalogue too which was just brilliant.
The support from family, friends, and Noths has been amazing. It's a strange thing to say but I think I finally feel as though I belong somewhere. I've always been a bit of an outsider and haven't quite fit in anywhere as well as other people seemed to. But since joining Noths things have changed. I've found a group of people who are just like me and who are so generous with advice, help, support, and everything else you could imagine.
Running your own business is hard work, especially when you work alone with no one around to bounce ideas off or to help you get through the trickier days. But having this connection with other Noths sellers and creative folk across the web changes all that. Making some wonderful new friends has definitely been one of the more unexpected delights of this year.
Another very unexpected delight was winning one of the prestigious Make Awards. Little over nine months after I had joined Noths I won the award for Storefront Success 2013.
It was amazing. Like seriously amazing.
I didn't in any possible way expect to win, and still today it doesn't quite feel real.
I've launched several new product ranges over the past year, including the very popular bamboo hearts. When I launched them I thought they might sell well as people seemed very positive with their feedback, but crikey I didn't expect them to do quite so well!
They were a huge success for Father's Day and even without any extra promotion I ended up as busy as at Christmas. Now that really was unexpected!
I can feel my own style developing and growing in confidence as I design each product. I used to be quite nervous about doing things wrong (and I still am really) but now I just enjoy it so much. I love the whole process from designing to photographing the finished product. I don't love accounts so much, but hey who does?!
Recently I took the huge step of changing my business name. Out with the cupcakes and in with Macy. I have to admit that I was terrified about changing the name, which is silly really. But I had been putting it off for so long - despite Jo Fairley (founder of Green & Blacks who mentored me for a while) recommending that I do it asap last year.
It just felt like such a big thing to do. But you know what, it really wasn't. And I love it. I feel like I've gained a whole new level of confidence since changing the name.
I am so excited about what this next year will bring. The future is feeling very bright and I really can't wait to get started.
Lots of new products will be launching over the next few months as we head towards Christmas.
Again I have absolutely no idea what to expect this Christmas. It could be ten times as busy or I might not sell a thing. Who knows. It's not always super busy and that's scary too. As much as I need a break sometimes, we still need to eat. I think sometimes it's just a case of being brave and ploughing through.
It's hard work, and it's stressful, and I panic about it every day. But I also get to create every day, and make people happy, and inspire them, and do what I love. I think it's safe to say that joining Noths has changed my life. In a very good way.
I truly am so, so proud of what I have achieved since this day last year, and if I can do it so can any of you.
But you know what I'm most proud of...
Managing to actually do any of it with these two little monkeys around!
A few months ago I was commissioned by Crafty magazine to design some Wind In The Willows inspired finger puppets for the cover of issue five.
It was published last week. Doesn't it look fantastic? I am absolutely thrilled to see my designs and teeny stitching on the front cover.
It has been very much a family time week, which is just lovely.
Scooting to school in the sunshine, making things for the school fair, and then winning the exact same one back, testing out samples of new product ideas, uploading new products to noths, joining the #teaandbooks day on facebook, buying treats with my birthday money, loving the elephant drawings Matilda has been creating, some Saturday morning ipad time, and going to irthday parties.
It's been a fun one.
And now it's the last week of term before the big six week school holiday. I am excited and terrified in equal measure. Yikes!
I'm so excited that my new baby range is now available. I've been picturing, designing, testing and working on these illustrations for ages.
Don't you think they would make a lovely "welcome to the world" gift for a special new little one? I hope so.
I'm so thrilled with the frames I've sourced too. They're made by a family run British company from solid FSC wood and the print is mounted in an acid free mount with safety styrene glazing. The glazing is ideal for use in a child's bedroom as it is much safer, but totally indistinguishable from glass.
You can even add a matching personalised tag for the perfect finishing touch.
And of course there is a little blue and green version too.
I don't know about you but I think there is something really special about those teeny tiny baby clothes drying on a washing line. I remember the first time I hung Matilda's tiny clothes out, it felt so special, and then when I hung out Theo's even tinier clothes I was terrified of them getting germs!
The prints are printed onto beautiful creamy 190gsm FSC certified paper. It's a really luxurious paper, and the watercolour texture really highlights the charm of the original illustrations.
Don't you love the cross stitch style font?
And matching tags are available in this colour scheme too.
Etsy - http://claraandmacy.etsy.com
Facebook - http://facebook.com/claraandmacy
And take a peek at the "welcoming new little ones" pinterest board I've created, which is full of gift ideas for celebrating new babies and a few helpful things too. What's your favourite new baby gift?
Today I turn thirty one. I love that. When I was younger I always thought my thirties would be the best time of my life. So far it's definitely true. It has been an amazing year. The past few years have certainly had their ups and downs, some of the downs were very difficult to bear but we made it through, and this year has certainly been a bit more even! It's been amazing really.
I can step back today and look at all I have achieved since turning thirty. I hadn't even joined notonthehighstreet.com this time last year, and that alone has changed my life. Our children are close to being five and three, with one in school already. I've been married for almost six years. How did this happen?!
So to celebrate this day of awesomeness I'm offering 30% off my entire product range. Both noths and etsy shops have got 30% off for today only. Use the code "hellothirtyone" on etsy and just buy as usual on noths.
The offer finishes at midnight so if you've had your eye on something for a while, today is the day!
P.S. How lovely are my presents? And how bizarre that they are so colour co-ordinated!
P.P.S. How unbelievably cute are the insides of my new Toms?
P.P.P.S. But even more adorable was this card from Matilda which totally made up for the card she made me last week...
Yep. I'm a bad non-window waving parent.
Oh my dearest readers. I am so ever so sorry for disappearing for a while. I'm fine, we're all fine. I think I just got burnt out for a while with all of the Father's Day madness, kids, and the general work-life balance, and something had to give. Unfortunately that something was this something.
But I'm back. Refreshed and ready to get my blogging groove back. I think the break did me good. I was losing my confidence, focus, and finding my way with it all felt tricky. But now I feel ready to make the leap forward.
Thank you so much for sticking with me.
Anyone following me on facebook or twitter will know that I'm also in the process of changing my business name. Cupcakes for Clara is becoming Clara and Macy. Not much of a change really but dropping the Cupcakes part of the name is something I have needed to do for a while. You know, because I don't actually sell cupcakes!
So other than the name changing, the only other difference will be the proper introduction of little miss Macy, and a fancy pants new website. A few things have changed already, and others will be changing over the summer.
These are my new logos which you may have spotted around already. And these are the new links you need to keep with Clara and Macy...
Not On The High Street - http://notonthehighstreet.com/claraandmacy
Twitter - http://twitter.com/claraandmacy
Instagram - http://instagram.com/claraandmacy
Facebook is a little trickier to change, and etsy will be changing soon too.
Gosh, I've missed blogging so much. It's only now that I realised what a huge part of my business it is. I really love it. My blog will soon be changing over to the new name soon too, but as with big things like this it always takes more time than you think it will.
I'll be sure to keep you posted as to what changes when, but I really hope you'll follow me along with the new name.
P.S. I'll be doing a few posts over the next week to catch up up on some of the incredibly exciting things that have been going on around here lately. I can't wait to share!
On Wednesday it was the annual Make Do & Meet event hosted by Not On The High Street for their sellers. It was at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and was a day full of workshops, inspirational talks, meetings, chatting, cake eating, and finishing with the Make Awards.
I was incredibly lucky to have been shortlisted for the storefront success award, so when I rolled out of bed at 3.50am for my 5.13am train I was completely excited and *incredibly nervous* about heading down to London.
I started the day by meeting a few other Noths sellers in a coffee shop nearby for a pre-event breakfast. It was lovely to meet so many people that I chat with online.
After coffee we headed to the Opera House for the start of Make Do & Meet. Goodie bags were handed out, and Noths staff made us all feel so welcome. There was plenty of tea (which I was very grateful for after my super early start), and plenty of time to mingle with each other. I think there were a few hundred sellers there so it was quite busy. Thankfully everyone had name badges on!
The day properly started with a talk by Holly & Sophie, the founders of Noths. It was pretty exciting and the plans for growth are huge.
I had a meeting with my account manager who was even lovelier in real life than I had imagined. She talked me through how things have gone since I joined, my sales forecasts for the year, what the team thought of my Christmas product range, and the plans for growing my business.
I was introduced to the product development team, and spoke with the Christmas planning team. It still feels a little strange to be working on Christmas in May, but would you believe I'm already thinking about my Spring 2014 range!
I went to workshops, and talks, and my phone started going crazy with messages and tweets from other sellers when my shop was used as an example of good branding in one of the most popular talks by Pretty Little Head. How awesome is that?! Noths even tweeted Tom to tell him - isn't that lovely?
I'm sad that I didn't get to see the talk, but everything has been filmed so I'll get to watch it at some point soon.
At the back of the main hall was this huge banner with all of the Make Award shortlisters on. The photos looked amazing!
The Make Awards section was fast approaching and by mid-afternoon I was a nervous wreck. I was so thrilled to have been shortlisted, especially given the amazingly high standard of the other shortlisted sellers. But the thought of winning, which would mean walking out in front of hundreds of people, got me pretty nervous.
But guess what...
I couldn't believe it when my name was called. I still can't. I am so new to the site, and am seriously just making all this running my own business stuff up as I go along. I am absolutely over the moon to have won the Storefront Success Award. More than over the moon, I'm over all of the stars and out of the universe!
And do you know what else - when my name was called out people started cheering and whooping. Cheering and whooping for me! For little old me. I have never felt so special and so proud.
It was amazing! And look at those beautiful prizes.
People were so kind and have congratulated me with such genuine joy, it's really blown me away. I still feel quite overwhelmed by people's reactions to me winning the award. On facebook, twitter, emails, in person, the response has just made me feel so special.
And I would like to thank every one of you from the bottom of my heart.
I still can't believe I won!!!!
Last week Matilda brought a letter home from school to say that her class is doing a dinosaur themed assembly in June and that she could dress up as a dinosaur or explorer. She instantly ran upstairs and grabbed this costume out of her dressing up drawer.
My mum made this costume fourteen years ago when my sister Amy was a little younger than Matilda is now. Then my sister Katy used it, and then it was passed down to Matilda. How cool is that?
What's even more awesome is that my mum found the photos of Amy wearing the dinosaur costume fourteen years ago. And crikey doesn't Matilda look just like her? When Tom showed her the pictures she thought that they were both her!
I love family hand me downs don't you? Especially hand made ones with such a history.