AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 43 42 AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 HENRI DAVIS reveals the value of entering industry awards, reminding us all you’ve got to be in it to win it. ZAKERA KALI, founder of Peace & Blessings, spoke to Stationery Matters to fill us in on how she built her company and what she’s doing one year on from her LaunchPad Manchester win. “AND THE WINNER IS...” LAUNCHPAD COMPETITION: ONE YEAR ON I HAVE worked in the retail industry for 30 years and I am still amazed by the number of businesses, be they retailers, manufacturers or suppliers, who shy away from their industry’s awards because they don’t perceive the value of entering them. In my role as a retail advisor one of the things I’m most often asked by suppliers is how to get their products in front of a retailer. They recount various stories of unanswered emails, unreturned calls, unacknowledged letters and samples. If it is so difficult My dream of Peace & Blessings originated 20 years ago, following Eid celebrations around Christmas with my very young children. Eid day changes annually, as it follows the lunar calendar, like many eastern festivals. I noticed that there were beautiful Christmas cards, gorgeous giftwrap and lovely Christmas decorations. Disappointingly, in comparison little was available for niche celebrations like Eid on the high street or online. My feelings were shared with my friends who celebrated Hanukkah, Diwali or Vaisakhi. We would improvise by going to the Christmas sales and hack the decorations by buying blank cards and writing in a glitter pen ‘happy Eid, Diwali or Hanukkah’. I always intended to fill the gap in the market and provide cards and decorations for the ethnic market. So the seed of an idea was there and I just wasn’t sure how to make it happen. STATIONERY BIZ:AWARDS SPECIAL STATIONERY BIZ:AWARDS SPECIAL to get a product seen, why would you not enter it into your industry awards if it fulfilled the criteria, particularly when most awards are free to enter? Awards organisers work really hard to assemble a good panel of buyers to judge their awards. Among them there will often be one or two buyers you have been trying to contact, and maybe a few others you hadn’t considered. For a brief period as these judges evaluate the products in the given category, your products will be a point of focus. THE JUDGES ARE ALWAYS WELL REGARDED AND HAVE LOTS OF EXPERIENCE WITHINTHE INDUSTRY. WINNING IS LIKE A LITTLE PAT ON THE BACK. Close up of gift wrap by Paper Mirchi, GOTY 2018 award winner Ten years later, I picked up the courage to pursue a postgraduate qualification in design management, to focus on starting my card business. Unfortunately, the lure of a secure job with a consultancy that I co-founded meant I didn’t develop the idea. Instead I went on to consult companies on their brand and design strategy. Throughout this time, however, my mind was constantly thinking about Peace & Blessings and my vision for it. In fact, I bought the domain name and was already designing the cards. It was only in 2016 that I finally had the opportunity with my consultancy team to start working on my idea, and since the brand and its values had been in incubation for such a long time, I was ready to get going. However, I found that choosing the paper stock, foil colours and getting the colours perfect took much longer than I anticipated, especially as I wanted to create a premium collection that reflected the identity of the person who was giving the card as well as the person receiving it. Furthermore, I spent time looking for companies that shared the same ethos of craftsmanship, caring for the environment and being sustainable, as well as producing in the UK. By May 2017 I was ready to launch at a pop up at the Birmingham Bullring centre. I thought I could test the market to see if people liked my cards. From the word go I had people approaching me saying they loved my cards, and asking me whether I could create similar Jewish or Hindu cards. Thankfully, I already had these in the pipeline and in September I was getting ready to launch my Hanukkah and Chinese New Year cards online on different marketplaces. At that time, somebody suggested I should enter the LaunchPad competition at the Manchester Stationery Show. If I’m honest, I had never contemplated entering as I thought I was a niche brand. I was so happy to discover that I was one of the winners. Since then it has been all go. I won another award – the Greetings & Stationery category of the 2018 Gift Of Year Awards at the International Spring Fair in February 2018. This Eid, one year since launch, I was on Oxford Street on Eid day and my cards were in three retail outlets – Fenwicks of Bond Street, Selfridges and a pop up at John Lewis. It was the most amazing feeling, as I spent my teenage years shopping on Oxford Street and I could not believe my cards were now available on that same iconic street. What is even more exciting is in the last month, as a 14-month-old company, I licensed my collection of cards with The Art File. They are an established publishing house who share a similar vision and ethos to Peace & Blessings, and have a great passion for quality and design. For the future, I have a selection of new products that I would like to develop to complement my existing collection of cards, Hajj/Umrah journal and planners, and notebooks. I am really grateful for the support I have received from the industry since winning LaunchPad. I have made some great friends and mentors – this is undeniably a lovely industry to be a part of and I’m really humbled how so many people genuinely want to help me achieve my dream. This also includes my very patient family and of course my team. My advice to anyone entering LaunchPad is to make sure you are organised and ready, as you really don’t know where winning could lead you.” The next LaunchPad competition will open for entries in early 2019. Look out for announcements on www.stationerymatters.news. The winners will receive free stand space at Stationery Show London 2019.