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The Stationery Whizz

What was your previous and current occupation?
I previously spent 25 years working in advertising agencies as Executive Assistant to Company Directors and as Office Manager. In the last 5 years I was lucky enough to be able to reduce my days worked to 4 days per week.

I currently am ‘It’ at Nôte Couture, which means I do it all – (except for the actual illustrations). I come up with the concepts, brief the illustrators, then when the illustration is received, place it in all formats (eg: notepad, to do list etc), choose a typeface to go with each pic, upload and maintain the website, write newsletters, receive and format orders, print, pad up, guillotine, stick on labels, pack, despatch and provide all interface and communication with customers.

Do you work full time?
I commit the major cardinal sin of owning your own business – I switch on the computer and work 7 days a week. Generally I would work a minimum of 35 hours per week, but leading into Christmas (Oct/Nov/Dec) this can increase to up to 12-14 hours per day, 7 days per week. (In fact when my birthday came around last November 22nd, I started work at 3am in the morning so that I could take the night off and go out to dinner with my husband … needless to say, the conversation wasn’t very sparkling!!)

Why did you change direction?
My job role was changed and I had lost my passion for the advertising industry – it’s very much a young peoples’ ‘game’ these days. I felt I wanted to do something which provided me with more creativity and not so much administration and people organisation. I was lucky enough to be offered an excellent redundancy package, so grabbed it with both hands and started Nôte Couture.

How did you come up with the idea of Note Couture?
Personalised stationery is very readily available overseas, but is hard to find in Australia, and it costs a fortune. I had made up a number of personalised notepads for friends one Christmas, and when my work colleagues saw them, they all asked me to make some for them and their friends. I researched the concept and saw merit in it, so when offered the redundancy it seemed like a good idea to give it a go.

Where do you sell to? (eg: local, interstate, o/seas)
I sell 90% within Australia, and have regular customers in New Zealand, the UK, Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong with orders even coming from Qatar, Norway and France.

Is it just for individuals
The majority of my business comes from individuals, but I also offer a ‘Custom’ print facility, so that corporates can provide me with a logo and I can use that to create personalised stationery – for example, McDonald’s organized a large quantity of personalised To Do Lists recently for staff at a conference.

What has been some of the challenges?
Working from home has meant I have felt a little isolated at times – it’s difficult to have no work mates to bounce ideas off. But I joined a networking group and meet with them 3-4 times a year, and also make sure I find time to catch up once a week with friends for a coffee or a quick lunch.

And the good things?
The flexibility to work the hours I like. I am a fitness fanatic, so it’s great to be able to go to the gym at 7.30am for an hour or so, and start a little later in the office. Plus on the rare occasion it’s quiet, I can put my feet up and read a book or go to a movie.

The other amazing part is the feedback I receive from customers. I never expected to receive the wonderful emails that I get from people telling me how rapt they were to find the website, how much easier it has made their gift giving, or how excited they were to receive an item of personalised stationery, which is why they’re making their purchase now. People feel that you’ve gone to so much trouble in organising their gift when it’s personalised, when in fact, it’s a simple job of going online, placing an order and getting someone else to do it all (ie:me!)

What is the Note Couture range made up of?
The Nôte Couture range is purely stationery, so the main component is paper, card and envelopes. The range includes everything from Notepads, To Do Lists, Notecards, Invitations, Recipe Cards, Address Labels, Book Labels, Spiral Bound Notebooks and Note Sheets.

The great thing about the way my business is structured that nothing is physically done until the order is received and the money is in the bank. I don’t carry any inventory, so everything is printed to order.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Every day life – you can always find an amusing quote if you look hard enough. The fun of Nôte Couture is organising an illustration which will bring a smile to someone’s face. The only downside is not being able to use the really naughty ideas (eg: “Vodka … not just for breakfast any more!”)

Did you have experience in running a business before?
No – I had no experience at all. It’s been a steep learning curve

What's your advice for anyone contemplating a work change?
Research your business properly – make sure you have all the angles covered and spend the time to get good PR happening and get your business out in the marketplace.

What's your website address?
http://www.NoteCouture.com.au