Rachel Ellen Designs continues to go from strength to strength, with a product range now spanning greeting cards, stationery, bags, homeware, accessories and more. Today, Rachel Ellen products are sold throughout the UK and in over 25 countries around the world. PGBuzz.net caught up with Rachel on she celebrates 20 years in business.
Designer and former ballet dancer Rachel Church set up the business in 1997, creating hand-drawn characters on the kitchen table in her London apartment. A year later her future husband Justin, also a former ballet dancer, joined the company. They haven’t looked back, and Rachel Ellen Designs is now one of the leading children’s stationery and greetings card designers in the UK.
PGBuzz: What were your hopes for the business when you started out?
Rachel: “It was all the great unknown! Coming from a completely different background there was literally everything to learn, all I wanted to do was find something else I could actually do and enjoy doing without retraining!”
PGBuzz: What advice would you give to Rachel 20 years ago?
Rachel: “Don’t worry about not being relevantly trained, trust your instincts and try and get a loyal team around you. Also if you are copied, there’s not a lot you can do about it other than move on!”
PGBuzz: What have been the main industry changes over the last two decades?
Rachel: “Looking back to 20 years ago there weren’t so many greeting card companies and the industry seemed to be dominated by a few big players. There was no internet, which has probably had the most effect in so many ways. But one of the biggest changes has been trade shows – they were incredibly busy, being rare opportunities for retailers to view new product.”
PGBuzz: If you could choose one favourite product from the past two decades, what would it be?
Rachel: “I do have a soft spot for our ‘stained glass’ cards that we launched the company with in 1997. We sold them for over 19 years and only totally discontinued them when we moved last November. They were a labour of love to produce – screen-printed and hand-fed nine times each. Other than that I love our current children’s water bottles which have a similar visual effect with bright colours on a translucent background. Justin and I are like magpies and collect coloured glass!”
PGBuzz: Are there any retail customers that have stayed with the company to this day?
Rachel: “Our computer records date back to 1999 and a few from then who have ordered consistently are The Tokenhouse in Nottingham, Daisy Taylors in York and Everyone’s Designs from Edinburgh. I remember a few of our very first customers, but sadly they are no longer around.”
PGBuzz: Any plans for special 20th anniversary products?
Rachel: “Yes, we have a special logo and will use it on all new products for a year, including new card ranges and a brand new stationery range.”
PGBuzz: How about the next two decades, what are your plans?
Rachel: “To strive to be the best that we can be in all areas.”
Pictured at top: The Rachel Ellen Designs team