March of the penguins

We speak to Lizzie Parker, owner of Penguin Ink, about her traditional letterpress printing

What made you decide to start Penguin Ink?

I wanted to design for myself and wanted to combine my passions for animals, design and letterpress.

I was on maternity leave when I started the designs, and by the time I returned to work, I had designed my first 16 cards, including four penguins I’d originally designed for our wedding invites (we got married at Bristol Zoo) and thank you cards two years before.

March of the penguins: Image 1 What was your background when you started up the business?
I'd been a commercial graphic designer for about eight or nine years.

How has the business grown since you began?
I started working on it in my spare time (not that you have a lot of that with small children) and got 17 stockists from 17 walk-ins. I now have more than 230 stockists worldwide, a number that is increasing every week, four agents, and am stocked in wonderful independents, small multiples and Liberty. I'm thus able to work for myself full time.

Describe your product offering.
Luxury letterpress blank greetings cards on 100 per cent recycled card stock. I used to say animals, but I have opened up into decorations, deck chairs and beach huts! I'm also looking into adding notebooks to my offering soon.

Where did the company name come from?
After Jay and I got married at Bristol Zoo and I designed our wedding stationery with penguins on, people have associated me with penguins and the ink because of the letterpress ink. Many of my stockists refer to me as the Penguin Lady.

What are your favourite designs from the collection?
This is a hard question, as my favourites are always changing. I do really enjoy coming up with new designs, but my favourites at the moment are my Barn Owl cards and my new Christmas decorations collection.

What are your bestsellers?
Penguins in Love, puppies and pussycats and the baby penguin – two of which are from the original 16 designs!

How often do you add new designs?
As often as I can. I'm aiming for two main launches this year, but I'll probably do a few new ones soon. I'm always reinvesting in new designs.

March of the penguins: Image 2 How do you market your business? Do you attend any trade shows?
I'm putting most of my marketing budget into trade shows at the moment. Penguin Ink is doing three or four this year. I have done Spring Fair and Top Drawer Spring this year and am signed up for Autumn Fair. I also have four agents, a trade website and use Instagram and marketing emails as a way to keep people up to date with what's new and on the way. I have also invested in print advertising.

What's your proudest achievement to date?
Giving up my job to go full time with my business. It was scary but it's been the best decision of my career. I couldn't have done it without the support of my husband Jay.

What values are important to you as you continue to grow your business?
Making sure I stay true to myself with my design and making my business sustainable, as well as my products. I also always want to work with and continue to work with other businesses that have similar principles.

What are your hopes for the future?
To launch other products with my designs to complement my offering and to spend more time on design!

Joe Davies (Manchester) Ltd
Gift Focus Magazine
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