Papier founder Taymoor Atighetchi’s business advice is simple but powerful - "Do something better than everyone else.” Wise words from a man who can be likened to Mark Zuckerberg thanks to his diverse and disruptive digital career, albeit a slightly more creative and artistic version...
Specialising in personalised paper products, children’s books and photo books, Papier is bringing back the art of communication in its most traditional form with the ease and sophistication of a prestigious digital product. “Personalisation offers you the chance to make a design or product your own – I think that’s increasingly more important. In a world where everyone can end up having the same thing, being able to put your unique mark on something is an appealing factor for any modern mum buying a children’s book, teen investing in a notebook for school or bride choosing her wedding invitations.” Taymoor’s approach to business has been honed and refined since he was a 17-year-old selling antiques at London’s Portobello Markets, and his insights into the importance of building relationships and making connections are still as relevant today. The recent Australian launch of the brand sees local designers Romance Was Born lend their skills to an eclectic mix of designs that take everyday stationery items to the next level, a collaboration that follows in the footsteps of international designers such as Matthew Williamson and Mother of Pearl, to name a few. In short? Papier is the answer to all your family paper needs with a much-needed focus on modern designs and fuss-free service. A lifesaver when you’re dealing with an endless need for birthday invites, calendar-updating and photo book printing… We quizzed Taymoor on his business smarts and how Papier stands out from the crowd and know you’ll love his tale of success and dedication as much as we do. Go to www.papier.com
You were once the youngest antique dealer on the Portobello Road market – you’ve said 'My Portobello Market stall was the most valuable business experience that I’ve had”. Why is this? What did the experience teach you about business?
At 17, it was a steep learning curve. Weekends working on the market taught me about the importance of making connections and building relationships and most importantly, how to sell. It also cemented a sense of confidence which led me to set up online student media platform The Tab with two friends while I was studying at university.
In September 2015, you launched Papier. Where did the idea come from and why was your offering so unique in the market?
The concept for Papier as a site where users can order personalised, design-led invitations and greeting cards came from a lack of choice in the marketplace. I felt that there was an opportunity to focus on quality, both in terms of design and materials, without compromising on speed of delivery or the shopping experience. Papier has grown in its product offering since then and we now offer custom stationery, including notebooks and diaries, as well as a personalised kids’ book and most recently, photobooks.
You’ve delivered more than one million products to 35 countries – how has the business achieved such phenomenal growth?
I think our technology has enabled us to deliver a great shopping experience – whether you are customising beautiful wedding invitations or personal stationery the process is simple and easy. Our diverse but curated offering has also enabled the business to grow so quickly by attracting new audiences. Instagram has also been a player in our early growth – for a really visual brand it’s the perfect medium to connect with our customers and reach new ones.
What’s your strategy with customer acquisition?
As an online business, we’ve naturally focussed on digital marketing for customer acquisition. In Australia, we’ve had great success in using Facebook and Instagram advertising to promote our brand and especially our kids’ book. Looking ahead, we’re keen to increase our brand awareness through more diverse acquisition channels, both online and offline.
What do you think makes a customer return to a brand?
Excellent customer service and a great product, but it’s also key for the brand to have a personality.
You launched a personalised children’s book – personalisation is a big trend. Do you think it will continue to be so?
Personalisation offers you the chance to make a design or product your own – I think that’s increasingly more important. In a world where everyone can end up having the same thing, being able to put your unique mark on something is an appealing factor for any modern mum buying a children’s book, teen investing in a notebook for school or bride choosing her wedding invitations. It’s been so popular that we have launched a second personalisable kids’ book called “The Great Alphabet Chase” by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Rose Blake – it’s beautiful & a great tool for learning.
You secured investment from the backers of UK success stories Deliveroo and Farfetch – how long does the process of investment take and what advice would you give to business owners seeking investment?
Be clear about what you are seeking, be determined and meet three times as many investors as you need. Be careful not to say yes to everyone – always understand what you can learn from them too and never say never – sometimes with investors the time isn’t right but it’s good to keep in touch for opportunities further down the line.
What are your top tips for pitching a business to investors?
Be clear and concise and understand what they are looking for and why they have invested in the businesses in their portfolios.
Talk us through some of the creative partnerships you’ve embarked on – how have they helped the brand to grow? Was this your strategy from day one?
Working with talented artists and designers was always something we planned to do, and working with other brands that we admire is inspiring for the team and keeps things fresh and interesting for our customers. It’s also a great way to reach new audiences. Taking our collaboration with Mother of Pearl as an example, it’s a brand with a loyal following, well-known in the fashion world but perhaps lesser known amongst our customer base – for us to be able to introduce such a cool and creative brand to our customers is exciting, and vice versa, Mother of Pearl fans can learn about Papier through the collaboration.
Is there a collaboration that is most memorable?
I love seeing a collaboration come together as I’m involved from the initial meetings right through to the end result. For me, our first partnership with an Australian brand – Romance was Born, which has just launched, was one I was particularly excited about as we took our time to find a fashion brand with a similar design ethos and beautiful patterns which look great on our stationery.
How do you disrupt a market/industry?
Do something better than everyone else.
Do you think writing a business plan is essential – and why?
Having a clear idea of where you see the business developing and how you see it working is crucial. For me it was all scribbled across notebooks right until my first meetings with investors. Even then, I don’t think it has to be complicated and it can always change/adapt.
What are your top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Take the first step, it’s always the hardest.
So many businesses fail – why do you think the ones that don’t, succeed?
Clarity of vision and great execution.
You’ve said: “getting good people is the difference between a great company and a good one”. Can you elaborate on this?
We have a great team and everyone shares the same level of ambition, entrepreneurial spirit and love of the brand that I have, which I think has strengthened the brand even further.
What’s your approach to discount codes/promotions – can this damage a brand?
Discounting is not something we have based Papier on – although a well-timed promotion to the right audience is something we do explore. Rather than being brand damaging, done well it can be a good thing. It’s not something we have to do often though as the nature of our business model means we don’t hold stock so there’s no need for a “clearance” of any kind.
Who is the Papier customer?
The Papier customer is someone who appreciates quality, great design, authenticity and is looking for individuality. Our customers are predominantly women in their 20s and 30s but we hope that the Papier brand grows with our customers and offer something for every timeline or milestone in their lives. Whether it’s a personalised notebook to combat first day nerves at a new job, new home cards for when you can’t afford a new sofa but you’re so excited that you bought a house, Save the Dates and wedding stationery for brides and grooms to be or the personalised kids’ books for a child’s first Christmas. It’s nice to be able to offer something at key moments in someone’s life.
How do you handle stressful times in business – what approach do you take to challenges?
Everyone handles stress differently, I find that exercise every morning is a great start to my day and it sets me in the right mood for when I get to the office.
If we could buy three things from Papier for the style-conscious mother, what would they be?
A diary – adding things to your phone is never as efficient as pen on paper. Photo thank you cards – chic and stylish – and a lovely way to say thank you to those you love. Photobook – for all of those special moments, it’s nice to have them kept somewhere rather than just on your phone or computer.
What’s in the works in 2019 for Papier?
We are already working with over 40 artists, designers and illustrators so for us it’s about continuing to work with amazing collaborators and add to our product range across further personalised products too.