#O2SmartaBiz winner: The London Studio

Soula

Proposition - One sentence explanation of what your business is

The London Studio is a design company with two specialisms:

1. We design, manufacture and license greeting cards and giftware which are sold direct to retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges, Fenwick, Tesco, WHS etc.

2. We provide graphic design & branding services to clients ranging from multi-national companies to start-ups.

Why are you a smart business?

Creating fantastic design work and great ideas is at the heart of what we do - whether it's designing a logo for a client, or whether it's creating a new range of giftware for retailers - it is the ability to push the creative boundaries and come up with a winning idea that makes our business special.

Winning a number of small business awards and design awards over the last few years has also been great recognition in the quality of our design work, creativity and the ability to think up great ideas.

For example, one of the ideas I had was for a range of greeting cards called The Wisdom of Kids, which is based on the funny things kids say. High-end retailers like Selfridges and Harrods initially bought the range and as it's popularity grew with consumers it's become a top seller, selling now in over 500 shops. It has mass appeal, so companies from Australia, Singapore, Canada and the USA have come on board to distribute the range worldwide.

As it had proven success in cards, I expanded the range into gifts so that retailers could cross sell. This has worked really well so recently I begun licensing the range into other areas. We are launching several products this month through licensing deals, including a book, titled "The Wisdom of Kids" which is available in Waterstones, WHS, Foyles, Amazon.co.uk and all good bookshops.

What's the smartest thing you've done to help your business grow?

Expanding into licensing has really helped the business grow. The London Studio has never received any outside funding, it is growing organically, so licensing my designs to other companies has been fantastic as it means I can expand into new markets, new territories and produce new products without the associated marketing, sales and manufacturing costs. 

By utilising the greater distribution and manufacturing power of the larger companies I license my designs to, I'm not only growing my business through increased sales, but it will also build brand awareness of key ranges such as The Wisdom of Kids.

What smart things do you do for your customers?

I work with some retailers to build customer loyalty for them and for my products in their stores. For example, I have won several awards for design, innovation and small business, so creating point-of-sale that highlight this (i.e. showing the consumer why they should buy the product) help boost sales for my retail customers. I also sometimes run competitions in their stores or on their websites that involve their customers and build loyalty.

What smart technologies do you use to run your business?

Using social media for my business is very important. I use Twitter to network and people can chat with me directly by tweeting @theLondonStudio This is a great way of building connections and has worked well for the graphic design side of my business, as well as for the greeting card side of the business as it keeps me in touch with retailers.

However, as the popularity of The Wisdom of Kids grows, I realise that I should be reaching consumers as well, and not just retailers. So I recently created a dedicated twitter account just for that range: @wisdom_of_kids and have just launched it's own facebook page as well - www.facebook.com/TheWisdomOfKids

The facebook page is focusing on posting fun things that make our followers laugh and interact. We are already connecting with thousands of people and it's their interaction with us that makes it all worthwhile for me - they are messaging us, posting on our page etc. It will help me see what they like from The Wisdom of Kids and how they'd like to see it evolve.

What's your smartest tip for other entrepreneurs?

Enter awards for small businesses. If you win or get shortlisted it can help your business immensely. A great one is the Smarta100, which we won last year - it has helped my business in several ways, so I encourage people to enter. And don't forget the power of social media - it is a free way promote your company, do market research and connect with your target market. There are some terrific awards on Twitter too run by organizations as well as successful entrepreneurs and celebrities who support small businesses. As I found when I won some Twitter awards run by Jaqueline Gold and Theo Paphitis, they can help grow and promote your business, so make the most of these amazing opportunities and enter!

Wisdom

 

The Wisdom of Kids, designed by Soula Zavacopoulos, is one of The London Studio's ranges being licensed onto other products including a humorous new gift book

For more information about The London Studio, click here.

 

For special offers, news & chuckles from The Wisdom of Kids, "Like" their Facebook page here.

Get more details on how to be this week's #O2SmartaBiz here.

Follow @O2BusinessUK and @SmartaHQ on Twitter and tweet us using the #O2Smartabiz hashtag

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