It's your nephew's birthday, he is going to be seven. He likes dinosaurs, Transformers and mud. You have already brought his present and you just need to get him a birthday card before your visit for his birthday party. Now, do you get him a card with a little girl on the front blowing daisy's or one with a picture of a dragon like this one from Orchard Cards?
Of course you get him a 'boy' card. One, he is too young to be bothered with girls and two, you get him a card he can identify with. And that is the simple motivation behind Strange Fruit. Greeting cards that visually represent people of colour and which can be identified with.
I thought about starting a diverse greeting card company for years! But at our wedding party in October 2009 I was so sad that none of the lovely cards our friends and family had kindly chosen for us actually represented us that I started writing a business plan, in my head, that very night. It took one year from that day to our first day of trading and in that year I learnt everything takes longer than you think it should. Even the simplest things like finding a printing company. It took three months to find a company, based in England who could print quality cards on decent card stock, who were willing to do short print runs at a price that was competitive. I am starting a business, so no actually I don't want 3000 cards per design.
And the logo, OMG who would have thought a little logo would be such a big job, it's a logo not a contender for a Turner prize! I knew what I wanted, I could draw it, but I couldn't design it electronically in the right formats. I also didn't have any friends who were graphic designers with nothing better to do so I either had to pay the going rate or wait for the universe to bring me a nice person who was willing to help me out. The 'budget' was limited so I chose to wait for Danny, a friend of a friend who spends his days creating comic book characters, to come into my world and be my little (6ft 4) graphically designed star.
Finally, there was the budget (laugh). The business plan was fine, I was competent and capable but nothing was happening without a start up budget. We had just got married so the savings account was down to £0.56p and sadly British Gas and HMRC were not as supportive as I would have liked to my entrepreneurial spirit; they still wanted to be paid? And as I don't believe in debt unless it is absolutely necessary so there was only one thing for it - the boys had to go.
The boys; Manaolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo, lived in my wardrobe. We'd had some really fun nights out together but I figured if I can't make a sacrifice how serious I am. Anyway, when I'm making oodles of money I can go straight back to Harvey Nichols and buy all the shoes I like.
I sold a few other things too to fill my start-up-pot, it's amazing what I had but didn't need or use, and I miss none of them. And being able to start my business is so much better than knowing some (beautiful) designer shoes are in my wardrobe! The satisfaction of seeing my cards in the shops and the lovely feedback I get from customers who say their Mum loved getting a card with a black woman on it is one of the best feelings there is.
'til next week, Denise xx