Today’s feature is a business that I’ve been following quite avidly on social media, called Spotlight Stationery. They produce these incredibly well curated stationery subscription boxes, each featuring a range of gorgeous products. I really love that they work with young illustrators, giving them the opportunity to be promoted and they source their products from a range of companies. In fact, I’ve found out about several new products or brands simply by visiting their website. Spotlight Stationery also stocks other products, such as notebook covers. What I really like, however, is their gift sets. All of them have been curated with a lot of thought and love. With their luxurious feel, they would make an amazing gift for any special occasion!
One of the masterminds behind Spotlight Stationery is a lady whose passion for stationery is easily noticeable. Mary was also a judge for the 2017 Stationery Awards, which speaks volumes for her credibility in the profession! So without further ado, let’s jump into this Q&A with Mary herself.
Why did you start the business? What’s the motivation behind it?
I stumbled across a stationery subscription box business during some idle trawling through Twitter. I’d never heard of such a thing and I thought, that looks like fun! Then I thought, well, why not try it yourself? I told Rob, my husband, about the idea and he was so enthusiastic that I suggested we run it together. I’ve had a life-long devotion to all things paper and ink so it’s the perfect opportunity to indulge my own obsession.
Are there any tips or quotes that you’ve been told that have helped you?
Never be afraid to ask for help. There will always be someone who knows more about sales, marketing, accounts, etc than you, and they’ll probably be flattered if you ask for their advice.
How has starting a business affected your life?
I’ve been running a graphic design business for a long time, so it wasn’t new in that sense, but it’s certainly increased the workload! The design business is mine alone so working in a partnership is a new experience, and the two businesses complement each other very well.
What motivates you to carry on when things are hard?
Since setting up Spotlight I’ve come to realise that the stationery community is a rather wonderful one. People are passionate about their favourite pen or notebook or stationery brand and their enthusiasm is infectious! Knowing the pleasure they’ll get from using the products we send them is quite a kick. And in desperate times there’s always chocolate. And wine…
What’s your favourite thing about being your own boss or a business owner?
Well, having a one staircase commute to my office is pretty good! I love the fact that no two days are the same, there’s never any danger of getting stuck in a rut. Some people say that a great thing about being a business owner is that you’re not answerable to anyone, but I disagree; we’re answerable to every one of our customers. And that’s a good thing; it keeps us on our toes.
What’s your least favourite thing about it?
Bookkeeping! Which is why I leave that to Rob… Also running the business from home means sometimes it can be difficult to switch off completely. If I know there’s something I could be getting on with the temptation is always there to go back up to the office, no matter how late it is.
What do you think is most important when it comes to running a successful business?
It’s very important to think of everything from the customer’s point of view. That covers everything from the products we stock, the service we offer, how we respond to questions and problems. The fact that I’m a true stationery lover myself means I have huge enthusiasm for what we do, and I sure that helps!.
If you could work or collaborate with anyone or any brand, who would it be and why?
It would be impossible to choose one person or company, but we met some wonderful producers at the London Stationery Show and were inspired by their creativity, their passion, and their belief in what they’re doing. They’re all making beautiful stationery and it would be great to work with them, particularly as we’re keen to support small artisan businesses.
If you could speak to your pre business self, what would you say?
You’re having so much fun, why didn’t you start Spotlight 5 years ago?!
Where would you like to see your business go in the next five years?
Spotlight is still in its infancy really and although we want to further increase subscriber numbers we have no plans to go beyond the stage where we’d have to outsource the fulfilment. It needs to remain a size that Rob and I can manage between us so that we can maintain a high level of personalised customer service. I’m very fussy about how everything is packed and labelled and I know our subscribers appreciate the personal touches like the handwritten names on the envelopes. I’m afraid I simply couldn’t trust anyone else to do that; a slightly misplaced postage label is enough to give me the jitters!
Apart from that there are no limits! We’re planning a sister business, as it were, which will be another subscription dedicated to a very specific stationery item. I can’t say any more about that at the moment…
We also want to increase the B2B side of the business, which is corporate gifts. We’re suggesting that a beautifully packaged collection of stationery is a better alternative to a bottle of wine or hamper for a favourite client. We’ve worked with a premium notebook company to produce branded journals and would like to do more of the same.
Show us how you use your favourite products:
My Start Bay leather notebook is a constant companion and I keep it filled with lined, squared and dot grid Rhodia notebooks. If there is a finer pencil the Blackwing I have yet to find it and I get through an awful lot of Pilot V5 pens!
One of our most popular boxes was the Black & Gold theme, from December 2016. The Castelli Baroque notebook is an exquisite product, with both blind embossing and gold foil on the cover. We teamed it up with two black and two gold pens and pencils and had to re-order to meet demand!
If you haven’t heard of Spotlight Stationery, I would highly recommend you start stalking them! In particular, I would suggest following their Twitter account. They share a lot of great articles, as well as showcasing premium brands. You can also find a lot of great photos on their Instagram channel.
Mary has also really kindly offered a discount code to you all. Use the code below to get 10% off your first box – only applicable to new subscriptions.
Want a discount code?
Link: Spotlight Stationery
Discount: 10% off
Valid: Only valid on the first boxes for your monthly or bi-monthly subscriptions and past boxes from the shop. Not valid on pre-paid subscriptions or gift boxes.