Today’s business feature is one that’s very close to my heart. I have known about Pocket Notebooks since it was first founded by Tony & Dan and have had the pleasure of reviewing one of the Calepino notebooks from the store previously. They recently sold the company to a fellow Stationery addict, Stuart and I’m so pleased to see that the company’s legacy continues! When it comes to customer service, this company has always been on the top of the game and it just seems to get better and better at it. When it comes to stationery and businesses, Stuart really knows his stuff so I can’t wait to kick into this Q&A to see what tips and tricks he can offer us.
So, without further ado, it is my pleasure to be able to feature Stuart, the new owner of Pocket Notebooks, today.
- Why did you buy the business? What’s the motivation behind it?
I bought Pocket Notebooks having been a customer. Tony & Dan (Tony Short and Dan Smith, founders of Pocket Notebooks) blogged very openly on the site. I could read how frustrated they were as their other business commitments made it harder and harder for them to give Pocket Notebooks the attention that they knew it deserved. We started talking. I am a zealous convert back to the analogue world. After a few years on a pure-digital diet, I recently got back into pens, paper, and, of course, pocket notebooks. I’m doing something that I’m passionate about.
- Are there any tips or quotes that you’ve been told that have helped you?
There is a truism, often attributed to golfer Gary Player. ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get.’ There is no magic formula to business, or indeed to anything else. It’s about hard work. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Sometimes, getting a business going can be tough. At those times, this next one speaks for itself. ‘If you are going through hell, keep going.’ Winston Churchill.
- How has starting a business affected your life?
Pocket Notebooks is not my first business. I have been here before. It doesn’t get any easier. Maintaining any sort of life-balance is a challenge. I awake, thinking about the business, and fall asleep planning the next day. It is a stress, but it’s also invigorating. In my experience, these ferocious early years pass as the business grows and then I miss them. Starting a business affects those close to you the most. I am simply not as ‘available’ as I was.
- What motivates you to carry on when things are hard?
I believe in the business. Many people find it incomprehensible how much joy stationery lovers take from their tools. Opening a new notebook is almost a spiritual experience for me. (I know, weird.) A blank page, a beautiful fountain pen… Just typing that has made me smile. Pocket Notebooks will be a place where stationery lovers come to buy their favourites and discover new ones.
- What’s your favourite thing about being your own boss or a business owner?
Being able to delight customers. I love it when a customer contacts me when we have got something right. I love it when a customer contacts me when we have got something wrong; because I can fix it.
- What’s your least favourite thing about it?
It’s tough to switch off. There’s an irony in naming a company Loggedoff, then checking social media before bed. 😉 I will need to be more disciplined at that.
- What do you think is most important when it comes to running a successful business?
Enthusiasm. ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- If you could work or collaborate with anyone or any brand, who would it be and why?
That’s the thing. I can. Anything is possible. As a newcomer to the business side of stationery, I can tell you what a joy it is work with a community so brimming-over with passion, belief and commitment. Whether it be customers, the blogging community or the manufacturers, everyone has been so lovely. It’s a pleasure to speak to people like that. I dearly hope that I will be able to continue to work with Tony and Dan, two talented entrepreneurs doing great things.
- If you could speak to your pre business self, what would you say?
“Take responsibility for your own happiness.” There are times when things do not go my way. That’s life. What is important is how I react to those things. Setbacks, problems and failures are the stepping-stones to success.
- Where would you like to see your business go in the next five years?
I want to build a big business that still feels like a small one. I want customers to be able to reach me. Not via several layers of managers and assistants, but directly. I want to preserve that immediacy and responsiveness. I want Pocket Notebooks and Loggedoff to be able to listen to customers, and supply them what they want to own.
Show us how you use your favourite products:
Right now, I have a Word. Bullet format at the front for daily tasks, a Field Notes lined for Loggedoff notes and another Word. dot-grid for ‘Customer-Promises’ and ‘Supplier Orders’ at the back. The pen is a Kaweco brass sport. An indestructible fountain pen. Cool too.
Head over to Pocket Notebooks to check out the stock and to get your hands on some. I don’t know about you but I definitely picked up some great bits of advice from Stuart in his Q&A today. His enthusiasm for business and stationery really does shine through his answers. I can’t wait to see how Pocket Notebooks grows. If you’re excited to see the new products too then be sure to check out the Instagram channel, where Stuart regularly features the latest products or most popular goodies. You should also follow Pocket Notebooks on Twitter because they are highly active and provide fantastic customer service on there!
Want some free items?
I’m so pleased to announce that Stuart kindly donated some products to giveaway. The first one will be up soon – with several more to follow. Watch this space! Sign up to the newsletter to be notified when the giveaways go live!