Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
I’m Danielle and for 11 years I taught English in middle schools in Northumberland. After having my son in 2012, I begrudged the amount of time and emotional space even a part-time teaching job was taking in my life. I spent a long time looking at alternative careers but realised I was going to have to work a lot more hours or take a big pay cut so I decided to do both – whoops!
I set up Under the Rowan Trees initially as somewhere to show off items I had crocheted, knitted or embroidered and hopefully to sell a few bits and pieces to fund my yarn and fabric addiction. Crafting became my calm space when work was making me feel more anxious and progressively more miserable. I found peace in detangling yarn and complicated knitting patterns.
Tell us about your business
Under the Rowan Trees has evolved into an online stationery store full of quirky pens and pads that you won’t find on the high street. I also curate a monthly subscription box; Stationery Box is packed full of stationery-based goodies featuring UK artists and imported treats based around a different theme each month. As well as stationery, I have created a range of craft kits suitable for both children and adults and have plans to expand the variety of crafts on offer to satisfy ‘craftaholics’ like myself.
Initially, I sold only through Etsy and I’ve become a bit of a whizz. I now offer Etsy coaching sessions to help others who would like to dip their toes in the world of e-commerce on a user-friendly platform.
What are the most sparkly bits of what you do?
I get to shop for a living! I love sourcing stock; finding new designers in the UK or exporters in Japan and Korea makes me happy. Coming up with a new theme each month, then choosing the right items to include in the box feeds my creative side.
I also love getting feedback from happy customers when the parcels hit doormats.
What are the biggest challenges you face running your business?
The juggling act of wearing many hats in a growing business is hard work! I am the marketing department, warehouse manager, photographer, accountant, copywriter, web developer, cook and bottle washer (actually the last one is my husband!). I need to balance my creative side with being organised and running a business from my home amidst the challenges of family life. Working out of my dining room means it’s hard to switch off and step away but equally, I’m not sure that I want to!
What have been your biggest achievements and how have you celebrated them?
In 2018, I launched my first Stationery Advent Box which was a huge success! It took over my life and my home for six weeks but at the end of it all, I was able to afford to replace our sofa with a beautiful new one! I’ve never been so happy to hand over lots of money! Finally being able to pay myself at the end of each month was an amazing achievement and gave me a huge sense of pride in my ‘little’ business.
What are your goals – for yourself and your business?
I’m visiting The Stationery Show in London for the first time this year to look for new brands and designers to work with in order to grow Stationery Box and reach more subscribers each month.
I’d love to build a home office so that I can give my family their dining table back and so that I have a door to close when I finish work for the day.
What is your favourite place in the North East and why?
I live on the edge of Northumberland with views over the Tyne Valley. I love being able to walk out in the countryside but also being only 20 minutes out of Newcastle.
We have a little bit of Hadrian’s Wall in the village which we visit regularly. The connection to the history of the area, but also how the area has changed and evolved, makes it a really special place for me.
Who puts a Sparkle in your eye?!
Well, it has to be my family. I’m so lucky to have an incredibly supportive family who have enabled me to walk away from a ‘career’ and to transform my life. My husband’s rationality is an amazing balance to my full throttle personality and chaotic approach to stock organisation! My parents are always happy to put up shelves and help with seemingly endless stock takes.
I’m so proud of the little human we are raising. I have the pleasure of seeing his face when he comes out of school each day and being there when he needs a hug. Watching him learn to read and sharing his pleasure over his Lego creations makes working hard to be at home worth it!
A final Sparkly thought – what tips would you give to busy, hard-working entrepreneurs?
Do it! I spent my first six months faffing about and watching iPlayer. Once I got the ball rolling and found my niche there has been no stopping me. My growth year-on-year is fantastic and all I can put that down to is hard work and determination!
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