Written by Tom Sanderson
Starting a business is really hard. It takes passion, dedication, adaptability and a host of other qualities that most people don’t realize they need until their customers demand it from them. With the advent of digital marketplaces and social media, building a business has never been so easy to start and so hard to maintain. For many young entrepreneurs the battle for market share is a 24/7 struggle to keep the attention of tech savvy consumers from around the world. Unlike the suburban mega malls of the 1980’s, online businesses of the 21st century almost never close and constantly service a global audience. Amidst the noise, brands have to find a way into the hearts and minds of potential customers however they can.
So how does a small, arts focused brand achieve success? What does it take for makers to compete on the global stage?
Questions just like these are ever present in the minds of entrepreneurs like Heather Brassington, the owner and founder of Naughty Florals. She started the small stationary and lifestyle brand in 2018 and has been on a mission to turn it into a successful full-time business ever since.
In under a year Heather has launched an online shop, released over 75 products, in April she won 1st place in a business development competition (hosted by The Nooks) and is now selling her products in 8 stores across Canada with more partnerships in the works. From the outside it looks like Heather has found a magical formula for success. Unsurprisingly, she denies the existence of any such formula and credits her current victories to years of hard work, dedication and determination to stick with it when things got tough.
In 2016 Heather started her first stationary company called The Runaway Print Shop. She built an online presence, learned how to market her products and worked tirelessly to screen print each card by hand. Despite her hard work and passion the business was a self-proclaimed ‘flop’. Her time commitment and material costs quickly began to shrink her profit margins and she struggled to keep up with production while working a full time job. Perhaps most importantly, customers weren’t buying her cards.
As any entrepreneur can attest, the harsh realities of starting a business is often painful and demoralizing. While technology has given consumers unprecedented access to products from all over the world, it has also created huge competition between retailers of all sizes.
How does a small business with limited resources compete in the age of digital advertising, SEO keywords and algorithm driven marketing?
Heather responded with a timeless response: listen to your customers.
In September 2017 Heather tried a new approach with her designs in The Runaway Print Shop. She wanted to wake up her audience, try something new and design a card that showcased her personality. The card depicted a beautiful pink flower with a simple hand drawn message beside it, “Holy Shit You’re Getting Married!” The card was a hit and an instant bestseller for the The Runaway Print Shop. People from all over the world were buying the card, favouriting it on Etsy and commenting on her Instagram posts in record numbers. While it wasn’t enough to save her small Etsy shop, it planted the seed for a new, more cohesive brand that would eventually become Naughty Florals.
Fast forward to May 2019 and Heather has built Naughty Florals into something fun, consistent and unique. Taking cues from her successes with The Runaway Print Shop, Heather made the decision to focus on what she loved to do and what resonated with her audience. She moved away from labour intensive screen printing in favour of hand painted, watercolour designs. After some digital editing, Heather works with a local printer to produce thousands of high quality cards in a fraction of the time it would take her to screen print them by hand. By reducing the amount of time she spends creating each product, Heather now focuses on aspects of the business that mean the most to her. She is always trying to reduce waste and find new ways of producing eco-friendly products without sacrificing quality.
Moreover, Heather is able to focus on building a brand that sends a positive message to her customers. She wants people to laugh when they see her cards and use them as small reminders that they deserve to be happy and feel good.
The juxtaposition of these delicate flowers next to raunchy greetings and backhanded compliments has won her some dedicated fans online and at craft shows. While not everyone is a convert, most of her customers are die hard fans, buying multiple items and often reflecting that they see themselves in the cards and stickers they keep coming back for.
Her tagline says it all, ‘Classic Florals. Modern Sensibilities.’, a motto that seems to have caught the attention of more than just internet shoppers.
As of June 2019, Naughty Florals was officially accepted into the prestigious One Of A Kind Show, held in the Enercare Center in downtown Toronto. Heather and Naughty Florals will make their big debut in the 2019 Christmas show as a vendor in the Rising Stars Section. So if you want to meet the maker, brain and creative force behind this up and coming brand, swing by and see what success looks like.