The Mother Hub Meets series is dedicated to showcasing incredible, inspirational women here in Essex who have a story to tell and wisdom to share... And today's interview is no exception! We've been chatting to Jenna Collier, multi-award winning stationery designer and founder of Wonderland Invites, based in Leigh on Sea.
Alongside running her successful wedding stationery business, Jenna is also a full-time mum to her daughter, Darla (and is currently expecting number two!), so she knows a thing or two about 'the juggle'! And three years after setting up her business, she has some really juicy tips to share for anyone contemplating a similar path. This post is a must-read... grab a cuppa and enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about your career journey and the story behind Wonderland Invites.
Bit of an odd one to be honest... Stationery and branding is something I fell into! I actually studied Media & Television Production at University, so graphic design was never on the cards for me. Straight after University, I moved to London to chase my (crazy) dream of finding romance a la Notting Hill style... and of course, a job in television. I ended up working for ITV in their ad sales department, which was great but never what I wanted to do. After taking a year out to travel with my partner, Rich, I returned and worked for an education marketing agency.
It was just over three years ago that a couple of my friends asked me to create some stationery for their weddings, knowing I had a creative streak, and this was the catalyst behind Wonderland Invites. I set up an Etsy shop and began selling printables. After having my daughter last January, I took some time during my maternity leave to make some plans to grow my little business. Over time, as I began to receive more and more custom orders, I knew I needed a website, brand identity and more of a presence on social media. I officially launched my website in March 2017... The same month I quit my job. I’d always wanted to work for myself and have the flexibility to be at home to watch my children grow, so I knew I had to push on and make it work.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
This year has been a real whirlwind. Would it be crazy of me to say the whole of 2017? Well, to narrow it down, I would say my top three highlights would be winning the Bridebook Wedding Stationer of The Year award, being asked to guest speak at The National Wedding Show and being published on Rock My Wedding.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Hands down, being a mum juggling a business. Which brings us on nicely to the next question...!
As a parent, how do you juggle motherhood alongside running and growing your own business?
Being a mum, house-girlfriend, business owner and writer is really tough. I am also pregnant with our second... so more challenges to come! It can be quite lonely at times, and I also live 200 miles away from my family who are based in Manchester. That being said, I have a great support network here in Essex, made up of my partners family and our close mutual friends. I am also hugely lucky to have a couple of really close NCT friends who are all massively supportive of my business.
It isn’t plain sailing running a business and juggling a small person but I just crack on with it... Yes, some days I may be exhausted but to be able to watch my daughter grow whilst doing something I truly love makes the late nights worth it. I try and organise my time as best I can, through multiple spreadsheets and an amazing day planner and sometimes, I have to just say no to some work. This is something that has taken a while for me to accept, but my business is all the better for it.
In terms of motivation, I am part of the UK Wedding Stationery Collective alongside some of the best stationery talent in the UK. They provide me with daily creative nourishment which is truly invaluable. I recently became involved with The Wedding Creatives too; an amazing bunch of Essex-based wedding creatives; again, just another great resource for me to bounce of.
There are lots of late nights. And Darla’s naptimes consist of me racing around like a headless chicken trying to squeeze as much work in as possible. I get the occasional free day when Richard’s parents look after Darla but I don’t rely on this help. But is it all worth it? 100%
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
There are two really... “Value yourself” and “you can’t win everyone”. When I first started out, I tried to appeal to everyone and equally, I would not value myself or my time enough to make any money out of what I was doing. I think it boiled down to naivety and also to thinking it would build my profile.
Over the past year, I have worked really hard to define who my ideal client is, work out my pricing structure and to raise my public profile. I made some educated choices about where I would market my business; choosing select wedding blogs and cherry-picking which wedding fairs I would attend, constantly thinking of where my ideal client would be hanging out.
I’ve had to learn to say no to work that doesn't fit in with my aesthetic and equally, learn that I cannot possibly be everyone's cup of tea. This has been a tough learning curve but I am all the better for it now. I also understand my value, and always try to encourage younger stationery businesses to value both their time and their talent.
What is your favourite quote?
I try to live by the quote “a rolling stone gathers no moss”. Purely because, in business, you cannot be too chill. You have to stay on top of your game, and always be ‘there’.
I am also really big on supporting my industry, and as such “we rise by lifting others” is a quote which perfectly sums that up. Whilst there are many stationers out there who will massively undercut and rip off other designers, often to their own financial detriment, I have found a community which is truly supportive. Being a cheerleader for your industry shows that you have integrity, and will only serve to create a better working environment for others who do the same work as you.
What's the one thing you wish you had known in the early days of Wonderland Invites that you'd like to share with any budding entrepreneurs reading this?
That things take time. Success won’t come overnight... it takes a lot of hard work and periods of self doubt. But you have to really knuckle down and chase your dream. I was so keen to start making money and I thought it would happen pretty quickly, but I had to really toughen up and accept that it would take a while to start getting regular business.