Don’t panic – PG Live is worth it

Newbie publisher Klara Hawkins reveals all on taking the plunge at UK’s largest greetings trade show



As a fitting finale to the PG Live 2023 exhibitor preparation meeting, which took place on 2 March at the show venue of London’s Business Design Centre, Klara Hawkins, founder of the eponymous greeting card publishing business which debuted at the 2022 show, gave an inspiring impromptu speech about her run up to last year’s show.

Here she shares her experience…

“Exhibiting for the first time at PG Live? This was me last year – so here I’m going to share my experience to hopefully help others who are perhaps feeling anxious.

“I agonised over signing up, torn between running for the hills and pushing myself. I knew I ultimately had to do it though as the idea had been in my head for several years – I’m a serious procrastinator and lockdown made me realise how short life is. If you want to do something you just have to do it!

Above: Klara gets busy to turn her stand dreams into reality
Above: Klara gets busy to turn her stand dreams into reality

“I contacted PG’s Tracey Arnaud in October 2021 but, despite her reassurances, I dithered and tried to avoid the inevitable. Eventually I took the plunge, paid the deposit and signed the contract. There was no going back!

“I don’t think I slept that night at all, a million things were going around in my head! I didn’t even have any card ranges at the time – it was utterly terrifying!

“After calming down, I made a detailed calendar plan from December to May to ensure I would design all the cards I needed, get everything photographed, a catalogue done, and planned how my stand was going to look. It felt like a huge and overwhelming to do list, but I am so glad I did it and stuck to it.

“I loved designing my ranges though and everything slowly came together. I was still terrified at this point but also excited and full of anticipation, although my worries and fears were huge. What if no one liked my cards? What if it was a disaster? What if…? What if…?

“It wasn’t just the thought of the investment I’d made but the impact it would have on me mentally and how it would affect my confidence if things didn’t go well. But I had to remain positive and not let the fears run away with me.

Above: Andrea Pinder, of Presentations in Barrowford, was one of Klara’s first customers – she received four special tickets from retailers at the show which added to her confidence!
Above: Andrea Pinder, of Presentations in Barrowford, was one of Klara’s first customers – she received four special tickets from retailers at the show which added to her confidence!

“I had a successful freelance career and had previously designed greeting cards for Marks & Spencer for 16 years with many bestsellers – these thoughts helped me to keep my head where it needed to be and trust in myself that everything would be fine.

“As the show approached it was all I thought about, worrying about every little detail as is my nature. The sleepless nights were endless but I had my time so meticulously planned to reduce any stress from not being prepared. What’s worse was that we were going on holiday the week before the show! A trip booked pre-covid and postponed for two years! That meant I had to have everything ready a week early and, thankfully, all went smoothly though with no panics or last-minute disasters. I even enjoyed the holiday and managed to relax and almost forget about what was coming the following week!

“The day before set up, I was a ball of nervous energy and spent my time fussing and checking everything thrice. I even cried several times! I am a born worrier – never been laid back and relaxed about anything – but it’s the way I am so I’m sure most won’t like I did. Nerves can be a good thing but do need to be kept in check!

Above: Encanto (left) and Isabella are two of Klara’s ranges
Above: Encanto (left) and Isabella are two of Klara’s ranges

“The set up went smoothly and looked just as I’d visualised it. Well, of course it did as I’d done a to-scale drawing and planned where every card went exactly – obviously…serious over-thinker, worrier etc!

“By the time show day came I was over the nerves a little as I’d exhausted myself from all my worries so was in a more what will be, will be state of mind. I was surrounded by such lovely exhibitors who all have since become friends and it really felt so reassuring that we were all in the same boat.

“The show was busy and it wasn’t long until I got my first order – I wanted to do a happy dance but restrained myself! The first day was non-stop, a complete blur. So many old colleagues came to say hello as well as lots of people I’d freelanced for but never met. It honestly felt like one big family and I loved every minute.

“Orders and enquiries flowed in, and I did find it hard to keep track of everything that was happening – making notes, taking names, etc, is a must!

Above: Meeting up with old Tigerprint pals at the show
Above: Meeting up with old Tigerprint pals at the show

“Day two was quieter and more relaxed, it was nice to have time to take it all in. Overall, I have to say it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. Definitely a career highlight.

“After the show I was emotionally and mentally exhausted but beaming from ear to ear. I was on a high for quite some time but also suddenly realising I didn’t really know how to pack an order, get all the cards on my invoicing system, manage stock, etc. A whole new set of worries and conundrums presented themselves which took a lot of energy and time to solve.

“During those following weeks I was so overwhelmed that I wondered at times if this was truly the direction I wanted to go. I felt like I was just doing admin all the time, packing cards and managing stock but, slowly, everything got easier to manage and my time was freed up for illustration – my true love.

“Now, I’m preparing for PG Live again and feel very differently about it. I’m actually really excited and can’t wait to see everyone. I still worry about details but am much more relaxed.

“There’s a saying I try to keep in mind to keep pushing myself: “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” If this is your dream, your passion, then you just have to go for it. You’ll never know what could have been otherwise.

“I still have a way to go to fulfil all my dreams but lots have been ticked off and I’m on the right path at last – I’m so grateful and happy that I finally took the plunge at PG Live!”

Above: Klara’s branding for her PG Live debut
Above: Klara’s branding for her PG Live debut

Klara launched her brand at PG Live 2022 with the tagline “charmingly illustrated greetings cards”. She landed what she calls her “dream job” after graduating from Kingston University with a degree in illustration, and spent 15 years working as an in-house designer for a top UK greeting card company.

After going freelance as an illustrator and surface pattern designer, Klara has designed for children’s clothing, wallpaper, fabrics, greeting cards, children’s books, packaging and toys. Her clients include Selfridges, Harrods, John Lewis, Waitrose, Penguin Books, The BBC, The British Museum, Tigerprint, Hallmark, Gallison, Marks & Spencer, JoJo Maman Bébé, Janod, Waterstones, Paperchase, Moonpig, and Scribbler.

Klara Hawkins will be on stand 111 at PG Live 2023.

Top: Taking the plunge earned Klara Hawkins a sunshine ticket from Roy Beswick, of The Card Collection in East Molesey

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