If Siena had listened to everyone in the beginning of her starting ‘Cards by Siena’ we wouldn’t be here today.
I hold my hands up with this one too… I left Uni, started working in the city, Siena was at home making cards and I did say to her one day, maybe it is a good idea to keep the card business as a side hustle and you get a ‘proper’ job … Looking back I feel terrible. I am so sad even to this day that I said that! She had the vision, it was a risk she wanted to take and we both wouldn’t be here today doing what we love if she didn’t risk failure to succeed.
After the first lockdown 2020, I had been helping Siena out for a couple of months as I was furloughed, absolutely loving it… I was flexible around my work, I was getting to know you guys, learning about the business, which at the time was hand drawn and Siena painted with watercolour paint.
Life was slowly getting back to ‘normal’ and two things came at once … does Ellie go back into industry which at the time was HR or does Siena take the leap to turn digital which means the workload ‘could’ increase and it ‘might’ keep us both busy full time.
I was unhappy in HR. I knew deep down it wasn’t for me, but I was scared of possibly losing a stable salary and scared of the unknown and doing something totally different. Siena and I had endless conversations, playing all different scenarios out… our parents both said girls just go for it. The passion is there, we know we can work together because we had been during lockdown and just run with it. Fake it until you make it hay!
And that is what we did … in August 2020 I officially became a partner in Sketched by Siena (eeeks pinching myself still!!!) and we transitioned everything over from hand painted, to digital.
We thought we’re turning so much work away each day, how can we improve efficiency, stop turning our lovely customers away and also alleviate the crazy workload and actually have a life? Digital was our answer and the only real option. Siena was nervous and really dragged her heels with this for around 6 months – just fearful of the unknown, but I just thought we have got to do it. If our customers hate it, we can revert to plan B… which was non existent so it had to work!
1 year went by, we were busier than ever. At full capacity 99% of the time and we started creating ‘collections’ for each occasion just to increase our volume, better our efficiency and stop turning customers away. We wanted to build our brand, not turn people away. And it did work… customers went wild for our collections and we were selling THOUSANDS of cards and our feedback was amazing. We were able to keep a high quality and service very consistently throughout the whole time.
Christmas 2020 was approaching and Siena and I were so stressed. We’d take it in turns to cry each day because of how busy and stretched we were. We always had a vision about a website where customers could go in and build their own card. Allowing the customer to be creative, design exactly what they want and just run free with their own illustration. I wish I kept all of my mock up website ideas… I must’ve drawn out how I wanted it to look about 1000 times. It took from around October 2020 to January 2021 to even start looking for web developers. I suppose we were both nervous, the business was running great how it was, why change it? Websites are also VERY expensive so it was a huge financial risk too, but we HAD to. If we kept avoiding the risk (which is what we did for months) we could’ve been missing out on something amazing.
I think one day it all just got too much with how we were running and enough was enough something had to change and we just went for it. Full steam ahead with our ACE web developers which started in February until our launch at the end of October. Our website has cost us TENS OF THOUSANDS of pounds. Siena and I have had no investment.. at all. Not 1 penny from anyone else. It’s been a long journey but we have built Sketched from the ground up and I am so proud of us to be able to say that!
And here we are today! Our website has been live for 3 months now and I can hand on my heart say it was the best risk/leap Siena and I have ever taken.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all plain sailing. We rely on technology and technology is not always our friend. We do have days where we feel like everything is just crashing around us, one thing after another. But that’s business right? Got to keep pushing, tomorrow is a new day.
The feedback we’ve had from the website has been outstanding. Better than we could’ve ever imagined .. EVER. And seeing your designs day in day out, I could cry. It’s definitely a pinch myself moment every single day. And yes sometimes two young girls, it’s hard … we don’t always get taken seriously… but we believe so heavily in our products and service, we won’t ever stop. We want to be sending our illustrations all over the world, putting smiles on everyones face and we will do whatever it takes to get there!
We both work so hard to ensure we’re happy, but more importantly you guys are happy too. We’re one big team, one of our customers always says we’re a Sketched Army and we really think that’s true! We couldn’t do it without every single one of you. Every time an order comes through it makes us so happy! So thank you thank you thank you for allowing us to do what we love and build a fantastic business!