I get asked the same question every time I meet someone new or see an old friend… “How did Banter Cards start?” so I thought I’d share our story with you....
I’ve always wanted to work for myself. I’ve tried a few different companies that haven’t really worked out. Selling dog clothes online which I’d import from China (my bath is still full of dog jumpers if anyone needs any), making hand cut confetti with custom boxes (worst idea ever), then I taught myself to sew & set up an online shop called Franks Boutique – the girls & my little sister would help stuff cushions until 4am before we’d go to craft fares. I Googled every step of sewing, I didn’t even know how to set up the sewing machine. We were selling draught excluders, cushions & doorstops all over the world from my kitchen. As much as I loved sewing it just didn’t feel like something I could scale so I decided to learn how to use Photoshop & start an online card shop. I always bought so many cards so just thought it might save me some money plus I had so many ideas that I thought would sell so just thought… why not?
I spent the morning of June 17th 2015 on the sofa watching the Eastenders omnibus eating Nutella out of the jar Googling how to use Photoshop & that afternoon I set up a new Etsy shop called Banter Cards. I’d used Etsy for my other online businesses so I’d already spent a lot of time learning about how Etsy worked & mastering the ever changing algorithms. I registered the company & within the first day we had 2 sales. We didn’t even have any card. I popped to Tesco printed the most shoddy card you can imagine & sent it out in a hand written envelope, I also wrote a message to the customer on the envelope telling her how much I loved her. That carried on for a week until the first order arrived & the person complained about the quality.
My background is in Customer Service so I knew one of my main priorities within the new business would be to give the very best service. I sent the girl a refund then spent my lunch break in British Gas looking for a card supplier. I found someone who was happy to send me smaller batches rather than having to buy in bulk but for the same cost as I was working from home so didn’t have any where to store the card. The next day the card arrived & I resent out all the orders I’d already done with a sorry note in each one. I also sent the girl who complained an email thanking her for her feedback with a discount code for future orders. I just knew that if Banter Cards was going to work I would have to give the very best customer service I could & we’ve stuck by this from the start. To this day we still hand write on every single envelope & reply to every note left on an order.
So… I spent as much time as I could learning about how to run a business, how to code (to be fair I can only do very basic coding but it’s saved me so much money) and I’d watch YouTube videos on the running machine in the gym about SEO & Facebook Marketing. To this day I still listen to audio books in the car & when I run.
I was working as an analyst for British Gas Monday – Friday 8am -5pm then working for Banter Cards 7pm – 3am & I was working weekends designing & buying new stock. It got to the point where I was falling asleep at my desk & crying a lot so had to make the decision to leave British Gas & work for Banter Cards full time. Lots of people told me I was crazy to leave a well paid job to ‘just sell cards’ but I just thought if it fails I’ll do any job & work my way back up so really it was win win because I was leaving to work for myself or I’d end up having a new career with a new company & I’d meet new people or I’d probably think of a new business idea & try again.
In the January 2016 it was still just me working from home & spending every waking minute learning about social media, marketing, looking for suppliers & packing orders. I decided to spend any money we were making on Facebook ad’s which luckily, paid off. In our first month from the bedroom we made £17,000 which was a huge relief as I had £12 in my bank account on my last day at working at British Gas.
It was getting close to Valentine’s day so I launched a new range of cards & within a few days I needed to hire someone. My best friend Becky (we’ve been friends since playgroup) had not long had twins & was out of work as she was made redundant (lucky for me) so she started helping. We worked from the smallest room, we had 1 desk between us a laptop & a PC. We had to then squash in Matt, Patrick, Joe, Kim & my Sister into the room as we all packed orders. I still don’t know how we did it! We’d do shifts which meant some days working until 4am & being back up at 6am to carry on.
It got to March 2016 & the room was way too hard to work from my sister had joined the team (even though she already had a full time job so was working 6 days a week) my house was full of envelopes, balloons, notepads & pens. We couldn’t use the main bathroom & every delivery driver that delivered stock couldn’t get on our drive & kept trying to make us keep the pallets (our bin men hated us). I found lots of units which wanted us to commit to at least 3 years & I actually was quite scared to commit to that long. But luckily I found a crazy man called Derrick who was just like ‘Just take this unit for a year I trust you, you seem nice’. By the August 2016 we were in & packing orders.
A friend (Joe the genius) stream lined our packing process which is AMAZING! We now have a system which batches all of our orders for us, prints a picking list of stock & the locations for all the orders in the list, prints the customer envelopes & prints all the cards in order. This system allows us to print cards on demand which means we don’t have to hold any stock & we’re able to have a huge selection of cards online as they’re print to order so there’s no cost to adding a new design to the website. This is a huge advantage as we’re able to stay on top of trends online & bring out new cards every single day! We had a love island range which we altered on a daily basis based on the episode which aired the night before. Caroline Flack even shared one of our cards on Social Media! YAY.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though… & at one point I genuinely felt like the world was against us. We’ve had loads of obstacles to overcome due to the nature of the business which has been the hardest thing to deal with. We were part of the Accelerate to grow programme with the welsh government but after a few weeks they contacted me to let me know they could no longer help the business due to the swearing. I also applied for Entrepreneurial Spark, when they called to talk me through the interview they suggested changing the business asking us if we could remove the swear words. I genuinely believed in Banter Cards so didn’t want to change the business, I could have given up at the point but I just knew I had to keep going not just for me but for the team. We’ve had no funding or help since Banter Cards has launched. We’ve made this company grow as a team with our passion, dedication & hard work! We’re a really hard working team that’s driven by delivering amazing customer service that wants to continue to grow.
It’s all a bit of blur after our first year to be honest… we’ve had disasters, exciting things happen, fun & loads of tears. We scrapped our crappy printer (well we got ripped off by a shitty company who genuinely had no heart) – but found an amazing new company to work with who helped us buy all the printing equipment we needed & more. We’ve worked with social media influencers, celebrities & had our stock copied by so many bloody people including a huge company which we’re in the process of dealing with (they’re even trying to use our name) – C****.
Who’s in our Team?
Joe (Consultant – Genius – would die without him)
Social Media following:
- 160k Facebook followers: – www.facebook.com/bantercards/
- 79k Instgram followers: – www.instagram.com/bantercardsshop/
- Snapchat: 6k – Banter Cards
- Twitter – 1.4k Banter Cards