On the up · 14 February 2018

Tinder inspired this Scottish entrepreneur to launch her greeting card venture

Sharon Caddie launched Text From A Friend in 2015

With Valentine’s Day upon us, Business Advice met one unconventional Glasgow-based greeting card company that found nothing said “I love you” quite like a swipe right.

Text From A Friend is an independent greeting card business that sells “anti-social” media for all occasions, featuring humorous phrases not for the easily offended.

Its top seller is a Valentine’s Day card proclaiming “I’m glad I swiped right for you”. However, the Tinder-inspired card is one of company owner Sharon Caddie’s tamer creations.

Profanity is no stranger in her collection, with other popular Text From A Friend cards including messages like “Sending you a ray of f****** sunshine” and “S*** you’re getting old”, printed in (contrastingly) soft rose gold foil.

In two years, the greeting card business has seen impressive growth, with more than 4,000 cards purchased and sales increasing by 230 per cent annually.

Text From A Friend sells products via online platforms Etsy and Not on the High Street, as well as 15 independent retailers across Scotland and its own website.

Caddie’s Tinder-inspired best seller

Staying true to her background as a qualified designer from the Glasgow School of Art, Caddie hand-makes each greeting card.

Despite her growing list of orders, the entrepreneur still hand-draws all her text designs, then uses a traditional technique with a hot foil press to print the finished products.

Business Advice spoke to Caddie as she prepared to expand her brand into the wedding market, developing ideas for a range of wedding and engagement cards.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Sharon Caddie, an art director, and my business is Text From A Friend which produces sometimes “anti-social” media in the form of luxury greeting cards and prints.

(2) How long have you been around for?

I founded the business in November 2016 as a side hustle to fulfil a little creative idea I had in the hope that I could manage it in my spare time.
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(3) Where did the idea for your business come from? 

I began to scribble funny text messages from friends, take photos of them and post them on social media –  never naming anyone – and I would just write underneath ‘Text From A Friend’.

People began to ask for them to be turned into cards, and that’s when I thought I would do a small range to start with but make them quite luxurious, with posh paper and foil. Being an art director, I have a massive love of paper, so they had to be exceptional quality and something that I would buy myself.

(4) What was key in terms of getting started? 

Being brave enough to do it and to test the waters, not to mention deciding on the paper stock and foil colours and paying for everything from my own pocket.

I didn’t go all out and spend loads as I wasn’t sure of what reactions would be like, or which phrases would be popular. Now I’m in control, as I hand print everything myself.

(5) Any major setbacks along the way? 

No major setbacks yet. I’ve let the business grow organically to a certain extent, but last year I decided to push things a little bit more and invest in my own traditional hot foil press.

(6) Describe your marketing technique. What strategies have you used? 

Social media has been a key factor in gaining sales, especially Instagram. There’s a large friendly community on there of like-minded people all doing it for themselves.

There are also a lot of independent retailers you don’t see on the high street, allowing people to buy something a little bit different.

Capturing email subscribers on my own website has also given us great growth, as I share special offers on it that aren’t available elsewhere.

(7) What’s been the key to securing clients like Etsy and Not on the High Street? 

Etsy has been overwhelmingly popular for me and I send cards and prints all over the world through them. The key is to use the tags and titles to your advantage, which means you can seek out exactly how customers search.

As for NOTHS, I applied and didn’t hear for a while, then was over the moon to when they invited me to become a partner. They have a completely different market to Etsy, and it’s always interesting to see which cards sell better than others on each of the sites.

(8) What one tip would you give another young entrepreneur just starting out? 

Go for it! But do your research and always ask how this will make money and is it viable.

You can always start out with the idea as a side hustle and gauge it from there too. I think everyone should and can do it. What’s the worst that can happen?

(9) In five years’ time, I will be…? 

Still building the business and the brand. I have already started working on a kid’s brand that will produce cool paper products, so hopefully both brands will become well known household names.

(10) What’s the secret to creating a memorable brand? 

Know your customers and the market you’re entering into. Be unique, but more importantly be yourself. I’ve worked with many new businesses and startups over the years and always use the quote “people buy people”.

I tell them to be themselves, as it’s exactly what customers resonate with. You are your brand after all.

Read more: Entrepreneurial couples now co-own more than 1.4m UK businesses

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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