24 Jul 2017 | 02.04 pm
Donegal Mum Makes A Living From Her Doodles
Gift cards from Shelley Leslie's Ruby Doodle
24 Jul 2017 | 02.04 pm
Shelley Leslie knows her business will never give Hallmark’s owners sleepless nights, but that hasn’t stopped her from building a niche in greeting cards from her home in Donegal.
The mumrepreneur behind Ruby Doodle designs cards marking birthdays, weddings, christenings and other occasions. She draws the designs, gets them printed locally in Donegal town and then hand finishes the printed products. The cards are sold from the Ruby Doodle website and in shops around the country.
Shelley (pictured) studied fine arts in college before going into retail and visual merchandising. She worked with companies such as Laura Ashley and Magee before hatching a plan for her card-making business. She launched Ruby Doodle in 2013, shortly after she had her first child.
Selling a few cards at a time through the website isn’t financially feasible so the mainstay of the business is wholesale customers. “Trade shows are crucial for me,” she explains. “I started off attending small fairs and worked up, and this year I had a stand at Showcase in the RDS.”
Wedding and christening cards are Ruby Doodle bestsellers and Shelley has more than 100 different designs in her portfolio. Eyeing popular design trends can give Shelley ideas but trial and error is unavoidable. “If a design doesn’t work you just ditch it. Trade fairs are a good way of finding out from customers what works and what doesn’t. People like my designs because they’re colourful and upbeat. I keep away from the wordy, aspirational trend.”
In theory the world is Ruby Doodle’s oyster but it doesn’t work like that. “England is saturated with sole traders like myself so it’s a very competitive market. I’ve had some inquiries from US craft shops but I think they find my designs too quirky – they want cards with leprechauns. Pharmacies are a promising new growth area for me. They’re a different kind of buyer – more strategic and deliberative. This sort of business grows slowly and organically, so you just have to be patient.
Shelley says she is relieved to find a solid business use for her fine arts qualifications. “It would be a good idea to have some business element to art/design courses, where you can learn simple business skills to help you build something from the course,” she suggests. “Business isn’t rocket science but it helps when you know the basics.”