Losing all my savings on a plan

Losing all my savings on a plan

As you may have read in my last post,(read here) I didn’t start my business in weddings, or even intend to work in weddings. So what was it that made me transition into the wedding industry and away from cards and prints?

I had always focused on card sales. Creating my own range of greeting cards, selling to hallmark and other similar companies. I had focused all my energy there and was sure it would happen for me. I dreamt of having my own stationery shop, with all the cute arty stationery items, diaries, notepads, cards, wrapping paper… oh.. it was going to be so sweet and then go worldwide.

Going to the markets was a starting point, trying to build my brand and name around the coast. The markets were going well and gave me a lot of confidence. When I say well.. I mean in retrospect, I made very little money for the effort, but I didn’t realise the possibilities back then. My standards were low!

Around the time I launched my business, I happened to meet a new man, hehem.. cue a whirlwind romance. I ended up pregnant with Maddie, which came as a huge shock and I spent around 5 of those months in denial. After my divorce, I had wanted my independence, to be better in life than I had been the last relationship and make sure it was all safe for me and Aidan. My womb had other ideas.

By the September of 2013, Shane and his two children moved into my little house in Tugun. It was busy! I tried to take on this new step mum role with so much energy and enthusiasm, it was wearing. They weren’t in contact with their own mum at that point, so it was all on us. And I found the merging of quiet and controlling me and Aidan with the loud and wild life of Shane’s kids hard to manage. But we did. And the following March, less than a year after Shane and I had met, gorgeous Maddie was born to complete our family. Or create our family.

baby announcement

Our baby announcement and gender reveal


Baby Maddie

Where my savings went..

Because I had been working the markets before the birth, I was able to qualify for maternity pay. This was so much more than I would have made with the markets and online sales that for the first time we had a bit of leeway in our budget. I was so used to living off nothing at that point, that I decided not to splurge, and continue living off peanuts, and hoard the money.

I used the money to buy a booth at the Reed Gift Fair in Brisbane. It was a fair where stockists came to discover new products for their shops, and I was sure this would be the big break I needed. The booth was around $5000, which was huge. It was half the maternity pay I had received, and more than I had made in 2 years! It was a big gamble but one that I was sure would pay off. If not, I would certainly make the money back with the stockists I picked up.

I had an eye opening weekend at the fair. I secured a few stockists throughout Australia, but nothing like I had imagined, or needed. I was certainly not about to make that money back in the level of buying they were going to do. I had lost my money and was no further along my journey in business. It was so disappointing.

I spent the last day at the fair feeling sad and deflated. A feeling that I had failed and wasted my money and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. This was hard.

I lost all my savings Losing all my savings on a plan

Thinking on my feet, I decided that I needed to pivot. I researched a bunch of wedding expos in the area and decided to book the Gold Coast bridal expo at the convention centre right then. Another risk, it being $700 entry fee, and I didn’t have that money, but something I needed to do to get out of this slump.

Did I create wedding stationery at the time? No. Did I have anything to show? No. But I would worry about that later and just work it out. I needed a new direction for the business and clearly the prints and cards were not going anywhere fast.

In between booking the fair and actually going, we had moved into a new house in Currumbin Valley. An acreage house where we could all have our own space and thrive. The landlady had started following my socials and recommended my designs to Summerset College, creating stationery for their mothers day lunch.

I did, and it was awesome. This is where the idea for wedding stationery came from, and I started following other stationers from the US and UK on Instagram for more Inso. When this moment to pivot my business came, I felt like this was a calling, something I had never considered up until now.

Fast forward the first wedding expo.

I created 5 mock weddings. I designed a full stationery suite for them, with 5 different vibes. I used nearby venues so it appeared like they were real weddings, and had a few different styles, but all using hand lettering, and painted imagery. My point of difference.

It worked! This expo was so much better than the gift fair. I booked a few clients straight away, and everyone seemed to love my work. I was pumped!

Wedding expo

My first wedding expo at Gold Coast Brides

wedding expo

QLD brides expo, my first one

It was so good, I booked another expo, this one being the QLD Brides in Brisbane. This was to end up being the place where I got most of my business from over the next few years, and to create a well known brand of stationery around the coast. I also was introduced to networking at these events. Not because I intended to, but because it naturally happened when you spent a weekend in a convention centre together. And positioning myself in a very boutique, diamanté heavy, clean and crisp  environment made my art business stand out like a sore thumb, much to my advantage.

I had lost money I could have used to visit family back home, buy a new car, or keep us going for a few months, on an expo which failed to get me anywhere. I lost it all… which was a hard punch to take. But without that, my change into wedding stationery would potentially not have happened. I took the loss, and turned it into a win and some lessons too. I was good to fail. It meant the fear of failing had already happened, and I survived, pretty much unscathed. So now the possibilities were endless!

Next time, I delve into my stationery journey a little more, where I win awards, make a ton of money and lose my family…