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High way to mark Rachel Ellen’s 25th

Very special boss dances her way through Truly Wicked party enjoyed by staff

 

High tea and high jinks are always enjoyable and particularly so at Rachel Ellen Designs where the whole company was treated in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

And the team had great fun in the gorgeous weather at a beautiful country house near its Nottingham base, even replicating Spex, one of founder Rachel Church’s award-winning products from the early days, and enjoying a Truly Wicked party.

Above: On Spex – Truly Wicked fun with a re-run of one of Rachel Ellen’s early designs
Above: On Spex – Truly Wicked fun with a re-run of one of Rachel Ellen’s early designs

Rachel herself had to prove just how good a boss she really is – and that’s very special according to the staff’s social media posts! – as she was subjected to a How Well Do You Know Your Staff quiz, collecting almost full marks, with many of the 30-strong team having been working with her for over a decade, while print finisher Elaine and platen operator Darren clock up almost 40 years between them.

And there was a surprise This Is Your Life video montage with messages of congratulations and thanks from staff, agents, suppliers, customers, friends and distributors from around the world.

“It was overwhelming and very humbling,” Rachel said, “the video somehow condensed 25 years into about 20 minutes which was incredible, I feel blessed to have such wonderful customers, work with such fantastic people and have such a great team, the day was about sharing something special together.”

Above: Family firm – Rachel with her parents and her framed 25 years of designs
Above: Family firm – Rachel with her parents and her framed 25 years of designs

There have been many changes in the industry over the past quarter century, with the emphasis on sustainability being one Rachel has embraced, along with the move to digital.

She said: “For years I worked without my own email account which seems unbelievable now, the move to a more digital way of both working and selling is obviously a massive change compared to those relatively simple early days! We do still however still hand finish all our greeting cards in-house, so some things haven’t really changed at all!

“The one thing you can never tire of is lovely feedback from both customers and consumers, that makes all the hard work worthwhile. And a major highlight is the people I’ve had the pleasure to both work with and deal with, it’s a fabulous industry to be a part of.”

Since founding the company back in 1997 when she started hand-painting cards at her kitchen table having retired as a professional ballet dancer, Rachel moved back from London to her home town when interest in her unique products grew.

Above: Then and now – the first stained glass range and the latest Tiptoes designs
Above: Then and now – the first stained glass range and the latest Tiptoes designs

With help from her parents and husband Justin, who she met when they both performed in Phantom Of The Opera, the company has grown from just cards to cover many gifting products, and is particularly well-known for its children’s ranges.

All Rachel Ellen greeting cards are 100% British made – they’re designed in-house and printed and flittered within a 2½-mile radius of the company premises so there’s virtually no carbon footprint, and then die-cut, hand-finished, cello-wrapped, checked, picked, packed and despatched by the team.

Rachel added: The last few years have obviously had more than their fair share of challenges but I’m working on lots of newness at the moment which is lovely, I want more than ever to create products that bring joy and make people smile.”

Although now probably best known now for her unmistakable children’s ranges, Rachel had a unique start to her card-making career in her London apartment.

“At the time I was hand-painting glassware,” she recalled, “and loved how the bright colours looked on the clear substrate, something I wanted to try to replicate as I ventured into greeting cards – Rachel’s stained glass card range was born and, being so different, was an huge success.

Above: Loyal staff – Elaine and Darren have 40 years’ service between them
Above: Loyal staff – Elaine and Darren have 40 years’ service between them

“I have so much to thank that range for as its popularity was the springboard we needed in those early days. It was a real labour of love, screen printed on acetate with each sheet fed through the machine nine times! The scrap rate was enormous too as print register was technically so difficult on an unstable material, but it was very innovative and unique for the time.”

And there may be a wee nod to her ballet career with the latest Tiptoes range, which includes children’s ages one to nine while showcasing all the things Rachel has made her own – bright colour palettes, striking neon inks, gold foil, emboss and die-cutting, alongside her signature fun characters and unique illustrations.

Top: Loving their boss – Rachel with her team

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