How I Started a Boutique Design
and Print Business for the Modern Stationery Lover
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Hannah Rose Shaw, and I’m an artist, designer, and illustrator. I founded Palma Stationery at the start of 2020, oﬀering boutique business stationery created with style and sustainability in mind. My goal is to make creating your personalised stationery simple, with premade colour and typography palettes and professional design templates. Just personalize your details and you’re ready to go!
I mainly focus on business stationery – think business cards and planners, and I plan to grow my product line to include notebooks, journals, posters, and illustration prints. I’m proud to promote print options that are sustainable and eco-friendly, using innovative technology to reduce waste, packaged in recycled and recyclable boxes that use vegetable based ink and water based glue.
My design collections are inspired by nature, travel, and organic materials. Some are inspired by marble, ceramics, and terrazzo, others by the textures of paint and sights from around the world.
Our most recent launch was our Spring 2020 design collection, which is full of fresh tones (mint, cherry blossom, and dreamy soft neutrals) and organic fonts with delicate serifs to give your stationery a refreshing lift. I’m now working on new collections like our terrazzo textured templates, templates with hand-drawn patterns and illustrations, along with offering bespoke illustrations so you can have an illustration made just for you and added to your stationery.
My designs are created in my studio on the South Coast of the UK. There, I can be found chatting with customers and clients, photographing textures, drawing patterns, or working with paint.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
Growing up by the sea in the South Coast, nature and the ocean have always been important to me. I’m also really interested in sustainable business. I wanted to bring all these elements together for Palma Stationery – beautiful design, convenience and usefulness, and sustainability.
I have an undergraduate degree and an MA in Art and Design from the University of Sussex, where I developed a ﬁrm foundation in the theoretical, historical, and practical sides of my creative practice. I then moved to London to work in graphic design and gained experience designing for businesses and large organisations.
While in London, I went to creative meet-ups around Kensington and Stoke Newington. There, I met many talented freelancers and business owners. Meeting other entrepreneurs is what ﬁrst led me to collaborate and step into freelance design, launching my brand design work at River & Tree Studio.
Making stationery design templates began as a way for me to explore creative ideas. I’m always creating based on the things around me. I create patterns and try out font and colour combinations. For a long time though, those designs didn’t go to use and were ﬁled away on a hard drive.
I realised there was a gap in the market for customers wanting more aﬀordable designs, so I began to oﬀer mine as templates. They started to become more popular than I had expected, and as demand grew I created more and added to my collection.
I eventually added printing, with a choice of paper types and special ﬁnishes. My customers were then able to order their stationery in one easy step, without the need to search around for a printer.
After a few months of exploring design styles, getting to know my customers and discovering what resonates with them, I oﬃcially launched Palma Stationery at the beginning of 2020.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Improving sustainability in my business has been challenging. I’m always thinking about diﬀerent methods I can use to reduce waste and energy, and how I can source sustainable suppliers and print options. One example is using FSC certified paper, and not including any marketing materials or unnecessary paper in my packaging.
Launching my website has been quite a mammoth task! There’s so much to consider – SEO, sales funnels, blog posts, marketing, and advertising. This is where outsourcing and bringing in experts in diﬀerent areas is great.
Finance is always a problem for new businesses. At the moment I am a one-woman business and this project is completely self-funded. I plan to hire a developer to create a more advanced version of the website. Hopefully, it will have smoother, integrated features to make the whole process, from design to print, easier for my customers. I also plan to expand my product range with prints, posters, planners, notebooks, and journals.
Who is your target market?
My customers are small business owners, startups, indie businesses, freelancers, and the self-employed. People with a passion or craft they are oﬀering to the world.
Learning about my customers’ work and seeing it come to life through my designs is always a wonderful experience. Whether it’s a business card on a stand in a boutique store or the desk of a freelance photographer.
I’ve had customers in places like London, Paris, New York, and California. Everyone from photographers to stylists, interior designers, jewellers, writers, marketers, therapists, and chefs.
I particularly enjoy working with indie businesses, they have a wonderful personal touch. After starting several small businesses, I know the process is both a work of passion and a challenge. I like knowing that my design templates are able to help other small business owners by giving them beautiful, eye-catching design and a professional face to their business.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I’m focusing on growing my customer base via organic marketing. Instagram is probably my favourite method. It’s perfect for me because it’s so visual and gives me a space to curate my designs in my feed, as well as being an engaging way to interact with people.
I share short videos showing how I create my designs, from going live creating patterns to time-lapses of the process of making illustrations.
Customers often share photographs of how they’ve used my stationery in their businesses. I love seeing how they use and style their designs (plus it’s great to have so much user-generated content).
Pinterest is also great because it’s another visual platform, and there’s the added beneﬁt that pins gain traffic over time. Instagram and Facebook are less useful here because recent posts take priority.
I’m working on my blog, establishing myself as an expert and a go-to voice for design and print. I’m covering topics like choosing colour palettes for your business stationery, and subjects generally useful for small business owners, like how to make your business sustainable from the get-go.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Customers often come back for more printed cards – there’s always new paper types and special ﬁnishes to try.
The nice thing about aﬀordable design templates is you can always mix and match, or regularly switch them up to keep things fresh. I also add a new collection for each season, so there’s motivation to come back and try new designs.
Each download comes with a workbook and checklist to guide the customer through creating their perfect business cards. From design to content to printing. My customers know they can always come back, ask questions, and get advice.
I never use “hard selling” tactics. For me, the best way to gain leads and retain customers is to be genuinely useful and willing to offer help and advise, giving real value.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
As a one-woman business, I do work on my own. At the same time, I like building connections with other small businesses.
I have a network of online creatives and entrepreneurs, and we share each other’s work and collaborate when we need support. I also have lots of creative people around me and go to workshops and meet-ups.
It can be challenging doing everything on your own. You do have to learn how to structure yourself and manage your time so you can get everything done without spreading yourself too thin. You also have to know when to step back and take a break. Keeping up those close relationships, online, in the evenings, on the weekends, is so important for staying on track.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
The software I use most frequently is for design. Adobe Creative Cloud is a must-have for any designer.
I’ve also become a fan of Clip Studio Paint, which is amazing as an illustrator because it’s designed to realistically emulate traditional painting. It has some wonderful brushes and blending tools. For illustration, sketching, and pattern making, I use a drawing tablet.
I also have all my traditional materials which are just as important, including watercolours, pens, inks, and papers. And, of course, never underestimate the importance of a simple notepad for scribbling down your ideas!
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I was unclear about a lot of things when I ﬁrst started, and when it comes to SEO, marketing, and sales funnels, I’m still learning!
Luckily, we have the internet at our ﬁngertips and online courses have taught me so much. It’s really important to invest in your learning as soon as possible because once you know these skills they will not only help you with your current business but any future ones.
If I were starting today the most important change I would make is consistency. I tend to spend a lot of time focusing on one thing, like a new product collection, then my social media gets neglected.
I’ve been taking time to create content in batches, making sure I have some kind of Instagram post or story every day, that I am re-pinning daily, and that blog posts and product collections come in regular intervals, which helps build customer trust and interest.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite aspect is the creative freedom. I create all kinds of designs with my clients (branding, web design, packaging, stationery), but I also create patterns, artwork and illustration, and animation. Being very hands-on, I am always making things, so I’m never bored.
I do try and keep a healthy routine – getting up and going to sleep at consistent times, daily exercise, and so on. But I like that I can take a yoga break or visit the beach whenever I like, I can jump from my computer to my watercolours whenever I want to switch things up, and I can work from anywhere.
Every time you book a new client or sell a product, you know it’s a result of so much learning and hard work. With that, there’s a nice sense of achievement that comes with being an entrepreneur. It’s not always easy, but those moments where you surprise yourself are very much worth it
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The never-ending to-do list! Keeping track of ﬁnances, running your marketing, making new products, exploring ways of improving customer experience, maintaining your website, keeping up with social media. It can be a lot!
It is something you get better at handling over time, but it can be a struggle for even the most seasoned entrepreneur. As a creative, I do prefer outsourcing a lot of these tasks where possible, but I do also try to learn as many of them as possible because it’s useful to have those skills.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Oh, plenty! As a visual person, I like learning from videos. I’ve recently been using Domestika so I can learn from other creatives while on the go. YouTube is a fantastic resource with entrepreneurs sharing their knowledge and experience.
When I ﬁrst launched my studio I consumed tons of books and audiobooks to learn about business. Some that stood out to me were Daniel Coleman’s Emotional Intelligence, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I also read a lot of blog posts from indie businesses sharing tips and what has worked for them.
One of the best resources I use is still Facebook groups. There are some huge groups for entrepreneurs. Answering other group member’s questions and giving your support and expertise helps build collaborative networks and foster opportunists as you establish yourself as an expert within your community.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I plan to grow my product range to include planners, notebooks and journals. And to oﬀer them in physical stores, as well as online.
As my business grows, I would like to build a small remote team. They would fulfil roles like social media manager and blog writer. This would allow me to focus my time on creating new design collections and broadening my product range.
I want to develop a name for Palma Stationery as the go-to place for gorgeous, high-end business cards and stationery. If you’d like to learn how to create your perfect business cards, you can download my free workbook & checklist where I’ll guide you through the process, from design to content, to print.