For a mere 28 years now, David Hicks has been designing stuff that we all like to send.
"I started with £200, a rusty Datsun Cherry, and black and white postcards (because they were cheaper) under my bed and just about everywhere actually" says David. "I used to fill the boot of the car up with stock, then drive to different parts of the country everyday. If somebody bought some cards, I'd fetch them from the car, write the invoice, and trot back into the shop with them, much to their surprise! I'd even go back to the car and write a statement out so it was done!"
Trading as The Really Good Card Company then, a name he came up with in a dream, his first big break was trading in the then Athena chain. "That really grew the business, and my confidence, but also nearly broke us when they went bust."
Having narrowly survived that, the business moved on with their first big card range called Happy Hefalumps, and David started dabbling with non card product such as notebooks, wrapping paper, and invitations. "I licensed other gift and clothing products to other companies as I just didn't have the cash to do everything" he says, and somewhere around that time he shortened the company name to just Really Good, as it was clear their future would involve more than just cards.
In 1997 he set up a second company called Soul. The obvious question is why?
"We were very much in the fun and humour sector with Really Good, but I had so many more ideas for other looks and ranges. The only way forward was to start something else off with a separate identity."
Not only that, but a separate sales force was deemed crucial.
"There's only so much that a customer would spend with one face in front of them. We launched 9 new ranges when Soul started, so a different sales team was a vital component," says David. "Even now we discover that some people don't realise that we're effectively the same company".
He's very excited about the giftware he's designing now.
"After so many years of designing two dimensional cards, it's refreshing to get my teeth into giftware. We have a really talented design team, and of course we've learnt some lessons, but we're really enjoying the challenges. There's not many companies that can do what we can do, which is to take a concept and develop it into cards, gifts and stationery".
So what's the story behind what you're doing now? The product seems to have gone a little retro/vintage.
"I guess this all started with me noticing the whole move to industrial vintage in terms of interiors for homes, shops and commercial use. Any look at certain shows on TV, like Salvage Hunter for instance, and you'll know exactly what I mean" he says.
"Then, I noticed that vintage has actually become the new push on the high street. In up and coming trend areas, the streets seem to evolve through the start up of vintage shops, followed by cafes, followed by reasonably expensive trend shops, which could be gifts, clothes, shoes etc. Then along comes the mainstream. Now of course, I can't hand on heart say this happens everywhere, but it has been a significant development to how the shopping streets are evolving.
So, I started snooping in these vintage shops. I got hooked, and started going to well attended vintage markets. So the influence is a real reflection from events that are shaping modern shopping, and I've reacted to this by hunting down and designing some interesting gift ranges".
So with both Really Good and Soul now producing so much giftware, has he forgotten his card roots?
"Not at all" says David. "It would be fair to say we took our eye away for a little while as we had to concentrate on how to produce giftware, but we've recently taken on a new in house artist just to design cards, and this year will see some new and exciting designs coming onto the market".
And the future? Well, as David says, "we're going back to the future....in a good way."
11-Sep-2017PANEL: LICENCING YOUR BRAND 101