I feel like I should actually call this “my experience as a woman of trying to get a planner pad manufactured in the very male printing industry, and staying sane”.

Re-opening The Stationer

Ever since I opened The Stationer I’ve had grand plans to sell my own products and have a head full of ideas and half-designs but life (read: kids and a pandemic) got a bit in the way, and apart from my Work Books, I’ve had to be satisfied with predominantly selling other people’s stuff. But something shifted after my daughter was born (and if you haven’t followed me elsewhere recently, sorry it’s been a while, I had another kid!) I forgot the burst of creativity that having a baby can create, and this time I put it to good use. I took a good three months off, and then started using the then-still very sleepy days to plan the re-opening of The Stationer. I ordered lots of new stock (including Le Pens, which I had written about several times on here and had struggled to get hold of the company to order wholesale before now), and then set to work on the thing that had been niggling me for ages – I needed to make more of my own stuff!

Le Pen by Marvy Uchida
Le Pens

The idea

Initially I started out with quite a complicated idea. I have actually parked this idea until I have a bit more cash in the bank, but it was this idea that I approached several printing companies with. Coming at this as a complete novice, with almost no knowledge of the industry, I decided to put together a brief and send it to several printing companies to get an rough idea of cost. I had a couple of recommendations to work with and other than that it was all companies I’d found on Google that look like they did high quality work. So there I went shooting off emails and excitedly awaiting quotes to see how plausible my idea was… My excitement was quickly dashed as I was met with either eye-wateringly high quotes, or one line emails telling my idea “is not viable”. Now, I now I was sleep-deprived at this point but I actually cried after several of these came back. I felt like I so wanted this to work but it sounded unless I wanted to order thousands, I would never be able to make it work financially.

But I pulled myself together and kept trying. More patronising conversations telling me it wasn’t possible at the quantities I needed, including one person who told me they could google the product I wanted to make and get it for £1.63 so why was I bothering to try and do it myself. Deeeeep breaths. I was quite proud of myself for keeping calm and managing to respectfully explain that they have no idea about my target market and actually I was looking to make a high end version of this product. That company actually had fairly reasonable quotes but I decided they didn’t “get” me and the hunt continued.

Persistence pays off!

I got on Instagram Stories and had a bit of a moan and a few people recommended printers, so back I went. There was one company that had come up a few times and lo and behold, when I send through my brief I had a polite response with a reasonable quote! Someone that was not patronising or belittling or trying to tell me what my customers wanted – jackpot! I had finally found my printers 🙂

A new idea

At this point I realised that my initial idea wasn’t quite right to start out with. It would require a bigger outlay of money so it would be better to hold off until I had a bit more cash flow. So, to my next idea – a planner pad! I had sketched out a design and, working with Harry (my husband, who is a designer), we trialled and tweaked until we were happy with the planner pad layout.

Detail of The Stationer  Mini Shapes Planner Pad

On the hunt for the perfect paper

My next battle was paper… I had the perfect shade of pink in my head and after looking at lots of samples (too pink! Not good enough quality! Can’t handle fountain pen ink!), perusing the G.F. Smith and Fedrigoni paper books, and back and forth with the very patient quoter at the printers I finally found the perfect paper for the planner pad – just the right shade of pink (a subtle, plaster pink, passed my ink tests AND reasonably priced!)

So the order went in, the invoice was paid and I anxiously awaited delivery… And here it is!

Ta-da! The finished product

Mini Shapes Planner Pad

I hope you like it! I made an Instagram Reel here showing you how I envisage it being used. Let me know what you think. It’s A5, and has 50 sheets of 110gsm pale pink paper (which is 80% recycled, 20% FSC approved fibres), has a greyboard back, and is printed and glue bound in the UK.

You can get one here for £9.50.

And what’s next? Well, I’m about to put in an order for a To Do pad and am planning a meal planner/shopping list pad, a legal pad, and a re-run of Work Books. So more soon!