Today is the day, my seventh business birthday, anniversary, biz-versary? I shall be celebrating with a few homemade cocktails and a night in. How times have changed! Anyway, it’s one of those times when you think about your journey from where it all started to where you are now (hello 10k Instagram followers, finally) so I’m going to reflect on the story of Kelham Print.
The Very Beginning
After being made redundant from my job as a men’s high street designer, I took on an office job in a solicitor’s office whilst I was making my mind up of what to do with my career. It wasn’t long that I discovered that I missed being creative and so Kelham Print was born. After my nan’s passing, I used some of the money she left me to purchase a heat press, a cutting machine and some supplies. I got myself set up on Etsy and had my own small business! The business was born in our tiny flat in Kelham Island, Sheffield so that’s the reason behind the name!
To begin with, I wanted to design hen party T-shirts because the designs already in existence tend to be a bit tacky. From there, I just thought about what I’d want to wear to my own party! (I also print Hen Party T-Shirts for the wonderful people over at Team Hen too) Following those thoughts, I started printing my favourite song lyrics and quotes from my favourite TV shows and somehow, they proved to be popular and still are! It’s so nice to know that whilst I’m designing for my own interests, my customers and I have so much in common. It really does make coming up with designs so much easier.
Collaborations and Stockists
Once I’d got my shop up and running properly, I thought that collaborations would be a great route for me, not only to work with others but to increase my reach online too. My first proper collaboration was with ballet blogger @mama.does.ballet (now @mama.does.life) and together, we came up with a small range of ballet themed T-shirts and sweatshirts, such as the Oh Plies sweatshirt. This was later stocked with online retailer Move Dancewear, who sell UK wide and across the world too! It was so fun to bounce ideas off someone else as well as make designs that are suitable for both my store and her brand too.
Then I got an amazing opportunity to stock some of my products locally in Sheffield’s oldest department store, Atkinsons. Here, you can find a small range of make-up pouches and aprons in their homeware section. When you shop somewhere growing up and then you see your own designs there later in life, it’s definitely a full circle moment.
More recently, I’ve partnered with wholesale website Faire to stock my products in US stores, which is a huge deal! For now, I’ve just got some of my most popular products on there but you never know what’s next!
Even though I started Kelham Print as an online retailer, there’s nothing more I love than setting up pop-up shops and market stalls to meet some of you IRL. I held my first pop-up shop in 2019 as part of Amazon and Enterprise Nation’s ‘Clicks and Mortar’ initiative. It makes use of unused city centre retail space, which is often too expensive for local businesses to afford to rent. They open it up to multiple local businesses so I shared the store with a handful of other creatives selling their products too. Not only did I meet some amazing fellow small biz owners, I also got to see some of your lovely faces too! It’s always so nice to see my customers in person, see my designs out in the wild and hear what you have to say about my products. Doing that first pop-up gave me so much more confidence in what direction I wanted my business to go in as well as meeting new people.
Pre-pandemic, I signed up to a few more local markets and got to meet even more of you. I managed to get featured in the local paper a handful of times too (hold the paparazzi, please) and it’s definitely taken my business to the next level.
Lockdown Business Ideas
Of course, when Covid hit, all my market and pop-up shop plans were cancelled. That meant investing more in my online presence and focusing more on social media and my website. In a way, that allowed me to focus even more. After reviewing my current designs and stock, I set up lots of plans and my creativity was at an all-time high, full to the brim with ideas.
One of my favourite ideas was launching the letterbox subscriptions on my sixth business birthday. As I’ve grown as a business, I noticed just how many loyal customers I have (yes, I see your names lots on your order forms!) and wanted to try a new idea. With an exclusive design every two months, it seemed like it was a way to brighten up your mail deliveries with a new T-shirt! After the first one, I got so much positive feedback that now we’ve been doing it for over a year! The next one looks to be a favourite with many of you already and it’s yet to be sent! You can still sign up here if you want to join the Letterbox crew!
Lockdown also helped me to do a tonne of reflection on the business and up my game with new collections. It can sometimes be difficult to come up with new designs but other times, they just flow! My favourite collection is probably my most recent one, Take It Easy. I released this in January after the whole ‘New Year, New Me’ hype had died down and the colourful collection really resonated with lots of you. I shared my focus on habits rather than resolutions and you all said you feel the same way this year too. I'm not even joking when I say I live in my ‘The grass is greener where you water it’ sweatshirt, which, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know!
I have a craft market coming up in Crosspool on the 26th June for those local to Sheffield and today I have launched our new bundle boxes... curated boxes of themed gifts for every hard to buy for person in your life!
Finally, I just want to say a massive thank you to each and every customer. Whether you’ve made one or twenty orders or even just follow me on Instagram, your support means everything.
Now let’s raise a glass for my 7th biz birthday, Cheers!!