Ten years. I still can't quite believe it!
Way back in 2012 when Clara and Macy started, I never intended to run a business - I worked in animation as a puppet maker for stop motion TV and film. The business just kind of happened.
I had a very specific (and different) aim for my own work. To design two picture book characters, Clara and Macy, and develop their world enough to send out to publishers in the hope of getting a picture book deal. I knew that it was a tough world, as so I set out to share my characters and prove that there was an audience for them.
So I designed some Clara paper dolls and a few craft kits (of Clara and Macy's toys) and shared them online.
I was, amazingly, spotted by notonthehighstreet to sell on their marketplace, and on July 25th 2012 the business was born. We had two young children at the time, who were three and one, and our dining table to work from. My Noths shop took off like I could never have imagined.
As things got busy, my picture book idea was put on the shelf while I started to grow this business - with NO IDEA what I was doing!
I definitely wasn't prepared for what was coming!!
Our craft kits were invited to feature in the 2012 Christmas catalogue and that blew me away! Long nights working in the dining room, orders stacked along the wall, and the daily walk to the post office queuing for postage.
The crazy Q4 tiredness got the better of me, and working oaths huge new thing with two tiny children, my brain was scrambled! It was so bad that I sent poor Matilda to school in fancy dress on the wrong day!
2013 brought new products as I got into the swing of designing and finding me business feet. Our doll kits came along that year as I worked towards personal products not simply personalised.
The bones of the Clara and Macy business were forming as I found my feet and got to grips with the core of my brand 💛
The business had well and truly taken over our dining room and our house by this point. There was stock everywhere!
We won a notonthehighstreet Make Award for Storefront Success in 2013, which was presented during my first big business event, Make Do & Meet. That felt amazing!
2014 is summed up by Black Friday. The first one we ever experienced. WOW! We were definitely not ready for that, and we took our highest number of orders in one day ever!
Still working from home but luckily we had hired our first staff that year, so we had help. We could not have done it without them.
That year we launched our first wrapping paper design - Christmas carrot - and it went wild!
Being thrown into the seasonal business rollercoaster without expectation, the highs and lows were big that year. I still have no idea how to figure that out!
2015 was a BIG year! A lot happened in business and in life.
• We won a luxury holiday to Zanzibar through a competition notonthehighstreet ran for their sellers. What?!
Seven years on and I still can't believe that happened! It was AMAZING! And such a crazy lucky thing to happen. I'm forever grateful that Tom and I got to experience such wonder. Thank you Noths!
• We moved the business out of our dining room and into our very first studio. It was a huge leap and I was terrified to jump. What if we failed? What if I didn't know how to run a business outside of the house?!
Deep breath, it worked! It was the best thing we could have done. Our studio gave us a huge opportunity and was a gorgeous place to spend our work days.
• And Martha was born! Our third child. Born in early November, she was peak Christmas season baby so she spent her early weeks and years at the studio.
Sleeping under a desk, packing orders in a sling, and being snuggled by an array of happy-to-help family!
A little quieter, 2016 brought new products, new plans, our own website (finally!), and then a huge piece of press.
Joules and Jamie Oliver announced the birth of their baby River using our Dream Big Print. It went nuts! Press, orders, emails, it was chaos! And we were so grateful for it 💛
2017 gave us a toddler in the studio! Everything ended up on the floor!
And it was the beginning of enamel pins. This was the year that we took a huge turn in our product range, ending our engraved bamboo gifts and bringing in fresh new pins.
It was a good decision!
The I Believe pins were our first design, and the range has grown and grown since then. They're SO fun to design :)
In 2018 we brought in our hug pins 💛
And you absolutely blew us away with your orders for them! Within weeks they became our bestselling product ever!!
Wholesale orders brought a few all-nighters, and we worked our socks off to get through everything that year.
Animal stockings took over!
It was another year of growth as we expanded our studio into the downstairs space, and turned a dark room into a lovely pink and grey studio space complete with a Christmas tree photography area.
2019 was a HUGE year for us as a business and a family, and the beginning of a rollercoaster few years that I don't think we'll ever forget.
• Our fourth baby was on the way, but a very difficult and complicated pregnancy put me on bed rest for the first few months of the year. Our tiny Miles was born at 29 weeks and he had a very rocky start to life.
As you'll know from my Instagram he's doing amazingly now!
2019 was dominated by hospital visits and neonatal. But we all got through it, and we're stronger for it.
• While Miles was still in neonatal we had to find a new studio at quite short notice. It was a double stress blow, and a definite dip on our small business rollercoaster. My family and staff were INCREDIBLE during that time. They moved everything, and set us up brilliantly.
We found the lovely studio that we're still in now, it's location is amazing, and looking back we're SO glad that we moved.
• Another Christmas with a new baby, but Miles couldn't be with us at the studio much like Martha could, he was still on oxygen and had more complex needs due to being premature, so we juggled!
Two parents, four kids, two businesses, me expressing breastmilk every three hours, in the peak of Q4! I'm still tired just thinking about it!
And then just as we started finding our feet again 2020 happened.
After our 2019 that felt like a kind of lockdown, Covid hit and we went into actual lockdown. That was one of the biggest challenges we had ever faced in our business.
Keeping our staff safe, families safe (Miles was on the shielding list), homeschooling the kids, and as everyone turned to online shopping our orders rocketed!
• It was the busiest we had ever been. We were incredibly lucky, and incredibly freaked out! The team were amazing, as always, and while we all worked from home, social distanced in the studio, wore masks everywhere, we somehow managed to send out more orders than ever before.
• We took on additional freelance staff for Christmas, and came up with our genius system of freelance prep boxes for our stock to be made outside of the studio. Thank goodness because that Q4 was absolutely manic!
• And we joined Friends of Joules, which felt like such a great addition to our lineup.
2021 brought more lockdowns and more juggling.
Our systems were stronger this time though, and we were able to cope a lot better. 2021 also brought the big online slow down when high street shops were able to re-open again.
The uncertainty was a challenge, but we focused on what we love - designing new products that feel just right for Clara and Macy.
We launched, what was quickly to become another bestseller for us, positive pencils. Along with a really special Christmas range that I loved designing and making.
We also had our very first proper Christmas photoshoot. It was so fun!
In 2021 we also added a new strand to the business, our Faire wholesale shop. It has been brilliant to grow our wholesale side, and we've gained some gorgeous new stockists over the past year.
We've been very lucky!
And here we are in 2022. Our ten year business birthday. I can't quite believe it!
Since Clara and Macy started we've sent out more than 100,000 orders, moved from our dining table into two wonderful studios, and we've gone from two children to four!
I never dreamed ten years ago that I would be here running a double-figures aged small business, with a beautiful studio, products that I love, super supportive customers, and a team of staff who amaze me every day.
Add to that an incredible family, and small business support collective, and it's feeling pretty wonderful 💛
Running a small business is exhausting, confusing, amazing, thrilling, and utterly unpredictable! I've learnt so much and still have SO much to learn - even ten years down the line I'm winging it most days.
Thank you so much for being part of this journey. We couldn't do it without you, and your support means so much 💛
I can't wait to see what comes next for Clara and Macy... maybe that picture book?!