Made in Britain: Lonetree Cards

What does your company do? What products/services does it provide? 

Lonetree makes cards and gift wrap. Our 150-strong card range takes inspiration from the beauty of everyday objects and is stocked in stores across the country including Waterstones, Liberty and Paperchase.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
We came up with our business idea when we spent six months living together after I relocated back to Yorkshire from London. With my previous role as a Fine Food Buyer and Emma’s as an architect we begun to realise that our skills could be very complimentary. Emma is very much the creative force behind Lonetree, while my buying experience has given me the skills to manage the operational side of the business.

When did you start up, and what support were you given?
We started up in 2011 using our own savings (just £10,000) and a small business loan from Natwest.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

We have been amazed at the response to our designs and were of course delighted when the cards were selected by such lovely stores as Tate Britain and Liberty of London. We are also now widely sold in Canada, Germany and Australia and I think it is this distribution in other markets, and knowing that we have customers so far afield that is the most satisfying.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?
In 2012, when the business was established and we had a little more time to stand back from the everyday running of things to see the bigger picture, we decided that the time had come to investigate getting a company website.

These days, if you aren’t online, customers won’t find you. As this was not an area that either of us had expertise in, it felt like a big challenge. Being online wasn’t something we immediately knew how to do. But with a little bit of research, a fantastic local web designer, and a small financial investment, it has definitely empowered us hugely, enabling us to reach new customers and to do things more effectively and efficiently.

For other small companies thinking about making the leap into the digital era, there’s lots of information on the Do More Online website, which we found extremely helpful.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Lonetree takes its inspiration from life and at its heart is the capture of the everyday object on film and the interpretation of that object to create beautiful and dynamic greeting cards. We often get told that our cards are unique and beautiful which is a huge complement.

What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
Following the example of bigger players in the industry we set up a Twitter feed and Facebook Page shortly after we launched in 2011. As hoped, this has brought us new business as shops and galleries follow us and then send messages over Twitter asking for catalogue and sample send outs.

Social media is such a brilliant way to stay in touch with the industry, both with suppliers and other publishers. It is a very open and friendly industry and so there will always be messages passing between us and other companies offering advice and solutions to shared problems.

Social media is also a great way to follow magazines and bloggers and allows us to communicate with them easily and quickly, leading to some great marketing opportunities. We also keep an eye on competitions that are often announced via Twitter and or Facebook and were shortlisted in 2014 by the Guardian’s Business Awards for Home Innovation, as a result of their tweeting its existence.

Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We’d love to see our business grow from strength to strength – more ranges in more shops and hopefully a few licencing opportunities, allowing our designs to move onto other products! We’re very lucky that Lonetree is a lifestyle business for us – it allows us to spend time with our kids and also have fulfilling careers, and so our ambitions are for steady growth that we can manage without compromising time with our families.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Be honest about your own skill set and if there are any gaps try to find a partner to work with who can fill them and of course….believe in yourself! When we first started talking about Lonetree it sounded like a crazy idea, but the more you break it down, think about it and move things forward in manageable steps, your business can soon become a reality!

What do you find most satisfying about running a business?

It’s incredibly rewarding running your own business, looking at what you have achieved and knowing that you have driven it yourself.

Lonetree is one of a number of small businesses being showcased as part of the Government’s Do More Online campaign which aims to help small businesses improve their digital skills to find more customers, be more efficient, and save money.