In The Spotlight - Juicy Lucy Designs
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This month emmaheaven.com is shining the spotlight on...
Thank you Emma, for the opportunity to share about Juicy Lucy Designs!
When we first spoke, my initial reaction was to say “ahh, but things are up in the air at the moment and I am not sure about the future of the company and the brand…”
But then I thought “well, it’s a great story, it’s a great brand, and here’s hoping it will be a great inspiration to readers…”
Juicy Lucy Designs is a greeting card and gift brand, which has been sending its quirky messages of love and joy out into the world for more than 20 years.
Having sold millions of greeting cards, gifts and products via independent gift shops, the high street and grocers, Juicy Lucy is recognised and loved by many.
Over the years Juicy Lucy products have been sold in major UK stores such as Sainsbury’s, WH Smith, Tesco, Mothercare, Argos, M&S, Clintons, Accessorize, Topshop, Paperchase, Boots, House of Fraser, Selfridges, Top Shop, Dunelm, Waterstones and even Harrods…
The range of Juicy Lucy branded products included T-shirts and pyjamas, lunch bags, aprons, mugs, calendars, notepads, diaries, watches, birthday cakes, jewellery, baby clothes, toiletries, gift sets, candles, chocolates and even knickers!
Juicy Lucy has also been sold or distributed around the world, criss-crossing the globe from Canada to Korea, Australia to Jordan and the Caribbean. We have won awards and been seen on British TV, including Coronation Street, Come Dine with Me, and EastEnders!
It started out as a hobby. I had always drawn cartoons as a child and had also always believed in fairies! One Tuesday morning, in 1996, I was sitting in my pyjamas. I was a primary school teacher, in between jobs at the time, enjoying a morning of peace and quiet at home!
I drew a collection of tiny Christmas cards with the most gorgeous little characters. I remember hopping and skipping around the coffee table, feeling delighted!
They were stored safely for a year and almost forgotten about until I rediscovered them and showed them to a friend, who said ”you must get these printed!”
At that time, one of my father’s good friends had a printing company in Swansea; he printed them for me. 18 designs, 2,000 of each. Which made 36,000 tiny cards!
We had some of them sent to our little house in Brighton, and as we were a young couple with no furniture, the boxes were covered with throws and became bedside tables and a TV unit… and then filled our spare room!
I was lucky to have the coincidence that my brother had just launched a Gift Directory – a printed catalogue being sent to all the Gift Shops in the UK.
He said “ I am going to give you a double spread!” to which I replied,” I have only got one range of Christmas Cards.” My brother came back with “Well, you had better do some more!”
So this is how it began...Little by little, I received orders. I also took a stand at The Autumn Fair at the N.E.C in Birmingham. I remember that I was more worried about getting my fairy costume sorted out rather than my card display! It was incredibly overwhelming arriving at the N.E.C (in my tutu with my wand!), but the greeting card industry is friendly and supportive and I made friends, learning a great deal along the way.
In the beginning, Juicy Lucy remained a sideline as I had also been busy setting up an alternative learning centre for home-educated children. It was called The Lighthouse Learning Centre and gave me the chance to honour my belief that school is not the best place for many children. We focused on ‘learner directed learning’ and the children loved coming there and flourished.
However, like a fairly typical ‘creative’, the admin side of business didn’t really play to my strengths, and after a couple of years, the learning centre was struggling. I was stressed so much that my psoriasis/ dermatitis became so bad on my face that I looked as if I had been burnt in a fire. People would look away from me when I walked down the street. It stayed like that for months, which created more stress, as I was due to marry Rhodri in the summer of 2000.
Thankfully, through a combination of alternative therapies, which included healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), homeopathy and nutritional therapy, my skin eventually healed, and I was married at Oystermouth Castle in Mumbles, all radiant and well.
Although the Learning Centre did not work out, Juicy Lucy was going from strength to strength. After taking time out to travel for a year around the world, Rhod and I returned to find Juicy Lucy was being joyfully received by shops all over the UK.
Over the next decade and a half we had great success. We had a wonderful team in our office and warehouse and many people packing cards. We always looked after everyone - supporting flexible working schedules, slippers in the workplace, fun team meetings and collaborative work, and at one time, even putting on weekly ballet lessons for everyone!
The recession definitely had an impact. Buyers for smaller shops are always looking for ‘something new’; as for the bigger stores, if you weren’t ‘Hello Kitty’ or ‘Frozen’, they weren’t interested in independent small brands.
Everyone was under pressure to keep sales coming in. For many buyers, they were just too wary to invest in anything other than Hello Kitty. It was tough, especially when one year, our Juicy Lucy, like-for-like toiletry range in Sainsbury’s, outsold Hello Kitty.
Nevertheless, the buyer chose not to renew the order the following year, despite the huge success of that gift range.
I began to be frustrated and disillusioned with the job.
It was tough dealing with China and getting orders made. It was tough dealing with buyers.
I loved the opportunity to meet people that loved Juicy Lucy at some large fairs, such as the BBC Good Food Show. There are some real hard core Juicy Lucy fans out there, and I have been asked on many occasions for my autograph, and have a photo taken.
It is a real honour and joy when people show me a Juicy Lucy card that they have been carrying in their wallet for years, or they tell me about how much it’s meant to them over the years, or how they keep a particular card in their bedside table, or posted on their fridge.
I think the success of the brand has been the combination of the cute images and the wording, which really often captures what people want to say to their loved ones.
I always felt when I drew the fairies that they kind of just ‘come through’ – it’s as if their positive energy is being channeled through me. Sometimes they are cheeky messages and I just love seeing people’s reactions to them.
My husband has always been a little bit prudish and cautious. When right at the beginning I made a card which said “ what I love about you is….. your willy”, he went “you can’t do that!”
This was the late 1990s and there weren’t that many explicit cards out there like there are now. I was delighted with his reaction and said ”watch me!”
I think it is always important to follow your truth and to trust your instinct. I just created cards that I would like to send to my friends, family and loved ones!
I did have to be commercial, but at the same time I stuck to what I believed in. Because I stuck to my guns on my vision for the brand, it did mean that I lost a couple of deals. One company wanted to do what would have been a pretty naff range for a well-known high street company, with furry love cuffs, amongst other items, and I just said no. The woman in charge of that licensing project said “are you mad? This could earn you a fortune”. I just didn’t want to compromise on the vision I had for the little fairies. They deserved better than that!
Over the last 5 years, Juicy Lucy has been winding down, but I’ve not been resting on my laurels!
I have since trained as a yoga teacher and life coach; alongside that, almost two years ago I opened the Swansea Wellbeing Centre, a community centre offering a range of amazing wellbeing opportunities for people from all walks of life. It is good to be working directly with people again, like I did as a teacher many years ago. It is good to really feel you are making a difference.
I am proud of Juicy Lucy and all of the magic that has been spread over the years, and all of the corners of the world. There have been so many touching stories. I loved hearing about my cards being pinned up in a mud hut in a remote village in Africa.
At the moment we have put the Juicy Lucy webshop on hold, while we review what to do next.
Whatever happens, the little fairies will continue to exist in one form or another, spreading their joy with their motto of “always skip and eat your peas”, and the signature strapline “always remember how much you are loved!”
You can see the fairies at www.juicylucydesigns.com AND Lucy’s story continues in next month’s issue with the journey of another inspiring business.
Of course you are!
Remember to visit next month’s In The Spotlight, for what Lucy does next...
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